Not sure there’s a better Maundy Thursday jam out there than Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Sweet Cherry Wine”, their follow-up to “Crimson and Clover”. I’ll let the man speak for himself via this interview from Songfacts. (If you’ve never heard the story behind “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, it’s just as wild):

SF: Earlier you mentioned “Sweet Cherry Wine.” Is that a metaphor?

Tommy: Yes. It’s a metaphor for the blood of Jesus.

SF: I know you say you converted to Christianity. How did that transformation take place?

Tommy: Well, I don’t worship every Sunday; I worship every day. Every hour of every day. It’s just me, it’s part of me. I became a Christian in 1967. I was brought up Catholic, but I really didn’t know my faith very well, didn’t know what I believed, why I believed what I believed. And in 1967 I was listening to Billy Graham at Shea Stadium on television. And we were writing, as a matter of fact, and I put the guitars down and started listening. And he just gave the most amazingly lucid teaching on why Jesus came. I had never heard it put quite that way before. I had heard a lot of over-my-head sophisticated kind of things growing up, but I never really heard the gospel message quite like that. And there’s a moment, I equate it to hitting a champagne glass – a crystal champagne glass with a fork – you know how you get that pure tone? That’s kind of how I felt when I heard Billy Graham explain why Jesus came. And I knew I’d heard the truth. It’s too simple and too beautiful to not be the truth, and not be God, you know what I mean? And I was actually high at the time, it’s true. It just cut right through everything that was going on with me, and I got right up to the TV and put my hand on the TV and made my commitment right there.

SF: Do you find any disparity between religion and doing drugs?

Tommy: Oh, God, yes. I mean, the point was that the message of the gospel cut right through all that for me. And unfortunately I didn’t quit doing drugs for several more years, but the point was that God never let go of me. I just had my rear end pulled out of the fire, and I got rescued. And I’m very appreciative of that. I can’t tell you how appreciative of that I am. So to me it’s a very street level kind of thing. Everybody in the band converted at different times. But I certainly don’t recommend anybody do it that way. (laughing) I feel like I got saved in spite of the fact that I was doing it, not because of it.

Come on everyone we gotta get together now
Oh yeah, love’s the only thing that matters anyhow
And the beauty of life can only survive
If we love one another

Oh yeah yesterday my friends were marching out to war
Oh yeah listen now we ain’t a marching anymore
No we ain’t gonna fight
Only God has the right
To decide who’s to live and die

He gave us sweet cherry wine
so very fine
Drink it right down, pass it all around
So stimulating, so intoxicating
Sweet cherry wine
To open your mind
And everybody’s gonna feel so fine
Drinking sweet cherry wine
Yes they will

Watch the mountain turn
To dust and glow away
Oh Lord, you know there’s got to be a better way
And the old masquerade is a no soul parade
Marchin’ through the ruins of time
To save us He gave us sweet cherry wine

Sweet cherry wine, so very fine
Drink it right down
Pass it all around
So stimulating, so intoxicating
Sweet cherry wine
Drink it with your brother
Trust in one another, yeah, yeah
He gave us sweet cherry wine
Sweet cherry wine
Drink it right down
Pass it all around
People don’t you know the cup is running over