Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Is My Time Of Year 1976

1971 marked the year that was to be the last release of a Monkees single with the 45 of "Do It In The Name Of Love." The legal rights for them to use the name the Monkees had expired and it was released under the names of the two remaining monkees Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. For the next few years there would be unofficial Monkee reunions, mostly behind the scenes. Mike had a successful solo career in country music and Davy was trying to keep his career going as a teen pop star as well as on the stage. In 1976 Davy and Micky formed Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart. They had a successful tour of Japan and small venues in the USA as well as a well received album. Around this time Peter started to rejoin them by appearing in a couple of their concerts. Eventually they decided to release a Christmas single for their fans. 
Stories of Mike Nesmith being involved are as different as night and day. Some say that with Nesmith in a successful solo career that he didn't want anything to do with a Monkees reunion. Nesmith's solo career was starting on its downside at this time but maybe he just wanted to focus on getting it back on track. A different point of view is from Peter who said that Mike had not been asked to join in on any of the reunions at that point. Another rumor is that Mike was on this Christmas single playing the Steel Guitar but not credited when it was released. That is the one I like to believe but I have no idea if it is true.
The song was co-written by the Turtles Howard Kaylan and produced by former Monkees producer Chip Douglas. The B side is Davy Jones preforming White Christmas. Davy's version of White Christmas was re-released in 1986 after Chip Douglas did some additional over dubs. While the picture sleeve says We Three Monkees, it was officially released as Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork as they still couldn't call themselves the Monkees for legal reasons.  With the release of this song it was the first Monkees single to be released since 1971. While the Monkees version is the most popular it was done before in the 1960's by a group called Christmas Spirit.
Here is a video that has what I believe is the song by the group Christmas Spirit.
 

Chip Douglas' has a smooth and easy to listen to production style that is timeless. This song would fit well on any of the Monkees albums he produced in the 60's or any that they have done since. While it had limited release in 1976 it has been on many Christmas compilation albums over the years.
Here is the song that was relased in 1976. Have a Merry Christmas everybody.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Five star review for Last Train to Murder

Amazon.com has another five star review for Last Trahttp://www.amazon.com/Last-Train-To-Murder-Pb/dp/1458309215/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347126543&sr=8-1&keywords=last+train+to+murderin to murder.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Monkees Headquarters


This was the big one. The Monkees were now free of the supervision of Don Kirshner and able to do what they wanted. However, they needed a producer. They didn't go with Boyce and Hart, who did their first album and a few on their second album. Now they wanted someone who had little to no ties to Krishner. The obvious choice in the group would have been to go with Michael Nesmith who produced a few track s on the previous two lp's. But instead they went with Chip Douglas. Douglas, whose real name is Douglas Farthing Hatlelid , had been a bass player for the Turtles and did the arrangement on his first record with them. That record was their monster hit Happy Together. After seeing them play at the Whisky A Go Go, Michael Nesmith asked Douglas to be the producers for the Monkees.  He actually turned it down saying he had never produced a record before. Nesmith told him that if he would quit the Turtles to produce the Monkees then he would teach him all he needed to know to be a producer. So in a roundabout way Michael Nesmith did produce the albums.

Everyone involved with this album have a lot to be proud of as it was the first time that the cast of a TV show took control of their music and produced a first rate album. To this day people talk about how the Monkees had a situation handed to them and didn't let it go. It was even listed in the book of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

You Told Me


The album opens with the countrified rock that was starting to come to light in the mid to late sixties.  The Monkees and Mike Nesmith led the way with songs like this. The opening is a spoof of the Beatles song Taxman from their Revolver album. It includes the rare appearance of a banjo in a rock and roll song. All of this with superb lead vocals by Nesmith  and more combined together to make a first rate pop song and a great opening song to a first rate album.

I'll Spend My Life With You


This song was written by Boyce and Hart. It is the first lead vocal on the album by Micky Dolenz  which I find a bit odd. The song is actually a ballad. While Micky has a great voice for any song it is odd to hear him on some ballads as most of them were usually handed to Davy Jones.  The song itself is actually a remake of an earlier version that they did with studio musicians in hopes of it making one of the first two albums.

Forget That Girl


This song was written by the producer under his real name. It contains what I consider to be the best vocal performance ever by Davy Jones. The production is first rate. You can tell this was a labor of love for the producer. The song was originally presented to Don Kirshner when he was still supervising the Monkees music. He turned it down because he thought the song was too negative. The song is about a man who was dumped by his girlfriend. Douglas actually thought the song had a positive message as the man was getting advice to forget the girl and get on with his life.  The background vocal harmonies gave a wonderful added dimension to the song. However, Chip wasn't pleased with the outcome. He wanted the bass to have more of a Motown feel. He said that no one could get the right riff and it sounded more bubblegum then he wanted.

Band 6


Band 6 isn't really a song. It was an attempt to show the work process on the album as well as bring some humor to the LP that they showcased in their TV show. Douglas didn't really have much patience for the guys horsing around but put up with it since they were also a comedy troupe. So he wanted the comedy to come through on the records. Really the only Monkees on this are Micky and Mike. It started with Mike trying to play a tune on the guitar. Micky, not even listening to what Mike is playing, is attempting a different tune on the drums. Chip noticed that the two songs had a similar rhythm and gets them to play together.   It is the voice of Chip Douglas that you hear say, "I think you've got it now Micky!" When they join together you can hear the tune they are recording. It's the Merrie Melodies theme song.

You Just May Be the One


This is another Nesmith stand out that is actually a remake of an early production that had Mike only sing while backed up by studio musicians. As I believe I stated earlier on this blog, Kirshner would let Mike produce and sing on his songs but wouldn't allow him to play on his songs. So in the early days Mike had to use studio musicians. The earlier version featured Glenn Campbell on guitar and was the version that you heard on the first season of the TV show.  The group had been playing the song in concert and suggested the song for the album to Douglas. He jumped at adding it to the album. He heard Nesmith play it at the Troubadour in 1965 before he joined the Monkees and loved it. What really impressed him was the harmonies that Bill Chadwick did that night. When he asked about if they could do the same harmonies that Chadwick did that night Nesmith said, "Sure! Micky can do it."

Shades of Gray


Shades of Gray is a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was a cover of a version that was released a year earlier in 1966 by the group The Will-O-Bees. It is the first song on any of their albums to show they were growing up as men as well as serious musicians. It features the rare, at that time, vocal pairing of Davy Jones and Peter Tork on lead vocals. Micky comes in as the background harmony singer on this one. However, his background is so strong it is almost overpowering. He comes close to taking over and becoming one of the lead vocals.

The San Francisco based group Sons of  Champlin also recorded the song around that time. However, the Monkees version was release first. It is one of the more covered songs on the album. In 1970 it was recorded by P.K. Limited for the soundtrack of the film Getting Straight. In 1999 it was released by Big Beat UK who spelled the title Shades of Grey.

I Can't Get Her Off My Mind


A song written by one of the more frequent outside the group songwriters, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. It too is a remake of one of their early studio musicians only days. It has the feel of one from the early days of vaudeville. It was tailor-made for the vocal styling's of Davy Jones.  Not one of the best songs on the album and it pales in comparison to Shades of Gray as the follow up track on the LP.  Not bad for an acoustic or unplugged, as a few generations later would call it. The only instruments I hear on the song are the piano played by Peter and Micky keeping the rhythm  by tapping a wood block. Still it holds its own in this stellar company of pop tunes.

For Pete's Sake


Finally Peter Tork came into his own as a songwriter for the Monkees with this song. He co-wrote the song with his then roommate Joseph Richards. The lyrics pretty much summed up the flower power generation that was emerging at that time and showed the street credibility that Peter brought to the group. The producers of the show liked it so much that it became the closing theme song for the series in the second season.
Peter had a hard time deciding on the title. It was Mike Nesmith who suggested For Pete's Sake. Peter liked that and made it the title of the song.

Generations would later hear Mr. Tork himself sing the song in their reunion concerts. However, the first released recording of the song has Micky as the lead. He and Davy had proven they could deliver the vocals on hit tunes so they may have hoped for this to be a single when the album was released. Sadly that would not be but it is still a popular tune to this day.

Mr. Webster


Another good song that still kind of slows the album down a little bit. It too is a remake of  their Boyce and Hart productions that didn't make the cut for the first two albums.  Peter grabbed a moment here to shine as the arranger of this tune. The only spot that the fought over was when they stopped for a second when they sing "Sorry stop." They got to the original tempo and Peter really likes this tune. In some ways it almost sounds like a Paul Simon song.

Sunny Girlfriend


This song is a homespun country-rock tune with a little sarcastic bite to it. Much in the vein of a previous Nesmith tune on this album You Told Me. This is the song Peter says they were playing in Japan after the show was cancelled and they finally felt they had jelled together as a group. Davy looked at Peter and shouted to him over the music, "We're gonna form a group."

Zilch


Proving once again that the Monkees were a group a head of their time is Zilch. This is probably the first song that could qualify as the first rap tune. It started when they heard an announcement with someone paging "Mr. Dobalena, Mr. Bob Dobalena" at the airport. Each of them made suggestions till they decided to do it as a round and end with all of them saying Zilch. They didn't do it all in the same room. They each went into separate rooms to record their own parts and it was mixed together later. The whole thing was considered a comedy bit at the time. Today it comes off like an early rap song.

No Time


No Time came about because they wanted to do an old time rocker like Chuck Berry. They filled the song with pop culture references at the time. "Andy you're a dandy," was about Andy Warhol. The term "Hober reeber" is a tip of the hat to Bill Cosby who said that term in some of his comedy bits. Micky also says  "Let's do it for Ringo," meaning Ringo Starr of the Beatles whom they had just met in England. This song caused some problem for their engineer Hank Cicalo. They wanted everyone to have some monetary gain from this album and Hank gave them a lot of support. So they gave him credit as a songwriter for this tune when it was really written by the Monkees. They thought since Chip Douglas had a song on the album then Hank should too. It seems it was frowned upon for engineers to get groups they were helping to record, to record a song they wrote. Hank was called on the carpet and they had to tell the executives that he didn't write the song they just wanted to give him credit for it.  It also proved how well they were coming along as a group. There are other studio musicians on the album that played under the guidance of the group. The sessions of No Time with the studio musicians fell flat so the Monkees recorded it themselves and that is the version on the album.

Early Morning Blues and Greens


This song was written by Jack Keller and Diane Hilderbrand. The production style on this shows their growth much like Shades of Gray.  Jack Keller said that when he read Diane's lyrics about coffee steaming it got him into the right mood for the song. It wasn't written for the Monkees but they liked it and wanted to record it. Lester Sill called and asked him if it was ok if they made some changes to the music. He gave them the ok.  The change they made was that the song stayed at one level till they got to the bridge. The Monkees made it go higher before they got to the bridge. It made the song better by giving it a totally different feel.

Randy Scouse Git


In America there was no single released from this album even though it was full of potential hits. This was one of them. It is also one of the more infamous songs in the Monkees catalogue. It was released as a single in England. Micky Dolenz  wrote the song about his experience in England and gave it the title of a slang term that he heard on a British show called "Till Death Do Us Part." That show would later be brought to America as "All in the Family." Anyway it turned out that the term was considered vulgar and causing a stir as just an album cut. Not wanting to pass up the free publicity Colgems released the song as a single in England but was not allowed to put the title on the label. They asked Micky for an alternate title. His suggestion was "Alternate Title." The title was getting it the attention but not on the label anymore. The great sound that the song had got it to the #2 spot on the British charts.

The Monkees got the chance to be a real band. Pinocchio became a real boy. The Monkees created one of the best rock albums of the 1960's. Perhaps one of the best rock albums of all time. Decades would pass before they would get the chance again.   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Last Train to Murder on Kindle is Free on Free Comic Book Day

Today is free comic book day. In the spirit of the day I am offering my Monkee murder mystery Last Train to Murder for free on Kindle. Please click here to downloadLast Train to Murder.

Friday, May 4, 2012

on Saturday Last Train to Murder is free for download

Tomorrow for comic book fans is kind of a holiday. In the spirit of Free Comic Book Day I am offering Last Train to Murder for free on Kindle that day. Come back tomorrow to follow the link to the Monkee Murder mystery.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Last Train to Murder on Kindle

Fans of the Monkees and Kindle rejoice! Last Train to Murder is now on Kindle! YEA!
Sorry for no reviews for a while. I plan to do more soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Last Train to Murder Free Chapters Download

If you are interested you can download the first few chapters of the Monkees murder mystery Last Train to Murder for free at https://rapidshare.com/#!download|11p1|1947366724|Last_Train_to__Murder_rapidshare.docx|28 If you want the rest you can then get it at lulu.com or at amazon.com.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Micky Dolenz

Just able to get on her quickly with my wife's computer to wish Micky Dolenz a happy birthday. He doesn't look 67 does he.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rest in Peace Davy Jones

It is very sad to hear of the death of Davy. He isn't just Davy Jones to his fans or fans of the Monkees. This is a death in the family. It hurts and we all feel sorry for his real family and friends. I only met him once, just long enough to ask for his autograph but it was memorable to me. I just listened to a live version of of the song Every Step of the Way he preformed it with the energy of a true preformer that made you feel the energy while you just listened. One song that he wrote is one I like to sing to my wife. That song is I'll love you Forever. It is sad to know that we will never see or hear him act again.
Now please don't missunderstand this next part of this post. It is not an attempt for me to make any money and I will take back the offer if you think I am trying that. I don't want to cause any harm. I wrote a book in which the charater of Davy was one of the stars. It is called Last Train to Murder and the Monkees solve the crime. Any money that it generates that normally would go to me I will give to a mission or charity. I haven't heard if his family has designated a charity but I know of some Christian missions that need money and I will send it there unless his family designates a charity. You can get it at amazon.com or at http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/last-train-to-murder-pb/14445916?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/2 I recomend Lulu as the charity will get more money if you buy it from them.
This is a dark day for Monkee fans everywhere and for a while this sites background will be dark.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Monkee Music



I started this blog to do reviews on the Monkees albums much like Rolling Stone did for the Beatles this past summer in the publication ROLLING STONE SPECIAL THE BEATLES ULTIMATE ALBUM BY ALBUM GUIDE. I did it because no one was doing that for the Monkees.
Well I have to admit I was wrong. I saw this book, that was released in December of 2011, for sale before but didn't bother to read what it was about. I recently did and see that this book covers what I wanted to cover with this blog. It gives reviews of all of the Monkees albums. I will still be running on this blog but it hurts to know that I missed being the first with this idea by just a month. It's also nice to know I'm not the only one who respects their music enough to give it a more critical look.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Monkees: The Singles: A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You/She Hangs Out/The Girl That I Knew Somewhere






The pictures above are from this site. Except for the one labeled My Favorite Monkee Davy Jones Sings. I got it from http://forgottenhits60s.blogspot.com/
The above photo is a picture sleeve of the 45 from France after the B side of the record was changed. I got it from from this site.
Originally I did this site just to concentrate on the albums. However, if I have information on the singles that weren't on or suppose to be on an album then I will showcase them here as well.
In the fight for musical independence the album More of the Monkees was the first shot fired by Don Kirshner. At this point Kirshner didn't do anything wrong. He just felt that he was just doing his job. He was hired to create hit songs for the soundtrack of the TV show. But he was given orders after that album that the Monkees were to produce the music for the B side of the next single.
This got him hot under the collar. Don felt that when it came to the music that he was the boss. That he was at the very least on the same level of command as the TV producers. That isn't how it worked out in the chain of command. Columbia Pictures owned both Screen Gems and Aldon music. The TV show was the reason why the records were being made and not the other way around. This ment that Krishner was answerable to the TV producers.
But since he didn't agree with that he went around them. He tried to sneak out the next single in Canada. A Little Bit Me,A Little Bit You was released with Kirshner's production of She Hangs Out as the B side. He even issued it with a picture sleeve. That was something he normally wouldn't do with out authorization. Some promo copies were released as My Favorite Monkee - Davy Jones Sings. Kirshner liked Davy more as he was the easiest one to convince to record songs for him. Kirshner thought that if the single became the third hit with his producion on the songs it would solidify him as the musical boss. But before that could happen Rafelson and Schneider blew their stacks. They recalled the single and fired Kirshner for releasing an unauthorized Monkees single.
However, word was now out that A Little Bit Me,A Little Bit You was the new single. So they had to choose the B side song. The Monkees produced 2 songs. All of Your Toys was good but rejected as the song was not owned by their publishing company. So the Nesmith penned tune The Girl That I Knew Somewhere was pressed and released. This gave the Monkees their second double sided hit on the Billboard charts. The A side went to #2 and the B side went to #39. Eventually even the song She Hangs Out was released but that is the story for another post.
After the sixties the master tapes for A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You were lost. Anything that was released of the song for years came from dubs of earlier mixes. Eventually Rhino Records found the tapes when they got the rights to the Monkees.
Rumor has it that the background vocals were by the songs writer Neil Diamond.
This isn't a bad little song but it is far from the Monkees best. If any other group had recorded it I doubt it would have made it to #2. I even doubt it would have been released as a single. At best it would have been an album cut. Since the Monkees were able to feature there latest single each week on their TV show I believe that is what pushed it up the charts. The Girl That I Knew Somewhere would have been the better choice for the A side. Even All of Your Toys or She Hangs Out would have been good A sides but She Hangs Out, sung the way Davy did in the Kirshner production, was actually pretty suggestive for a bubblegum/pop group like the Monkees.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More of the Monkees

 More of the Monkees
The second album that the Monkees released came as a total surprise even to them. Their TV show was a huge success and they were getting offers to perform live. So during the television shows down time they would perform concerts across the country. In the meantime they were also, especially Mike, trying to get control of playing their own music on their records. At that time Mike was having even a hard time getting to play on his own songs that he produced for the albums. Nesmith was told that he could produce and sing on the records but he was not allowed to play his own guitar on the records.

During one of their concert tour's, the Monkees found out that a second album was released without their knowledge. This was more ammunition in their fight for control of their music. The way the album got released was that the group had recorded so much music that there was too much for the first album. If the group wasn't so successful it may have taken longer to release a second album and some of these songs may not have been released at all. But their executive music producer, Don Kirshner, put together these songs to make up the second album. There were so many producers on this album that, for a while, it held a record as the most producers on one album.

All of the Monkees, especially Mike and Peter, had been trying to get to play their own instruments on their records. They were upset that this album was released without telling them and they were not happy with some of the choices of what songs were put on the album. It was because of this that Mike lobbied successfully for the group to play their instruments on future records. The television producers were okay with this. However, Don Kirshner, was not. During a meeting with Mr. Kirshner and his entourage Mike was so upset that he threatened to quit. Someone in the group told him you better read your contract. It was then that Mike seemed to lose control and turned and put his fist through the wall then he turned and said, "That could've been your face." I recall reading several years later in an interview that Mike said he knew the wall was made of plaster and could see where the two by fours were so he wouldn't break his hand when he hit the wall. The producers of the show were really Mr. Kirshner's boss and told him that the B side of the next single would have the group playing their own instruments. Kirshner play a trick and released the next single, A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You, in Canada first but the B side had his production of She Hangs Out which only had Davy singing on the song  and no one else from the group. Once the television producers found out they recalled the single and released the correct version with the whole group playing on the song titled The Girl That I Knew Somewhere. Then they quickly fired Don Kirshner.
She
There first album nearly cemented the Monkees image as a pop rock or, as what it later became known as, bubblegum rock band. However, they start off this album with what at that time could have been a hard rock song. The song is kind of bleak, especially if you take the lyrics on their own. It’s about a man who has broken up with a woman. It isn’t clear if he initiated the break up or if she did. What is clear is that she had him wrapped around her finger. It starts with him singing “She told me that she loved me and like a fool I believed her from the start. She said she’d never hurt me but then she turned around and broke my heart. “ But, along the way in the song he still says he loves her.  In the middle of the song you kind of start to wonder if he has broken up with her because he sings, “and now I know just why she keeps me hanging round. She needs someone to walk on so her feet don’t touch the ground.” No matter if he broke up with her or not he is still in conflict as he knows he needs to end the relationship but he still cares for her. It ends with one of the best endings I have ever heard on a song as Micky sings, “Why am I missing her. I should be kissing her.”The song is about a man in conflict. He loves this woman but knows he is better off without her. The song was written and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. It is one of the best songs they did with the Monkees. It proves that they should have stayed as producers of the group. With songs like this they could have directed the group in a more mature direction with their music.
Around the time that the Monkees recorded the song it was also done by Del Shannon. It was on its way to being a hit but then stations stopped playing it. Why? Because the Monkees had released it on this album. They were huge and nothing could stop the Monkees juggernaut. I heard a rumor that the song was inspired by the movie She that starred Ursula Andress that was out in 1965. The song wasn’t released as an A side on a single in America but it was in other countries and did very well on the charts in those countries ,like Mexico, where it was a top 40 hit.
When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)

Not much to say about this song but it is one of those little gems that you won’t hear from a band if you only listen to their hits. Listen close and you will hear that there are no drums on the song. There are plenty of great guitar licks on the song but it sounds great when sung a cappella, which Davy, Micky and Peter have done in some concerts.


Mary, Mary

This song proved that Mike Nesmith had what it takes to be a top flight songwriter. Many people wrote in to their record label saying something like, “How dare Nesmith claim he wrote Mary, Mary. It was done earlier by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on their East West album.” They wrote some of them back telling them that he did write the song and they can see it if they looked at the writers credit on the album. The first CD version of the song when this album was released by Arista I believe in 1982, included the extended version of Mary,Mary. It sounded the same up till the last few seconds when you hear Micky scream “Wow! Mary where ya going to? Mary,Mary.” After that the regular version has been released ever since.

Hold on Girl

This song was written by Billy Carr, Ben Raleigh and Jack Keller. It was produced by Jeff Barry and Jack Keller. Jack Keller was already a hit songwriter with the songs "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "Venus In Blue Jeans" to his credit. In 1966 when Aldon music became part of Columbia Pictures he moved to Los Angeles, CA. Soon he became involved in writing and producing for the Monkees.  His contribution to the Monkees legacy didn’t include any hit songs in the USA but he did some great album cuts and Hold on Girl is one of them.  Later Mr. Keller wrote a couple of hits for Bobby Sherman. They were “Seattle” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.” He moved to Nashville where he wrote for performers like Crystal Gayle, Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes, Ray Charles and more. In 2005 he passed away at the age of 68 from leukemia.
This song isn’t a very fast song but an even slower version was released years later by Rhino records on the album Missing Lings Volume 2.
Your Auntie Grizelda
Jack Keller also co-wrote this song with Diane Hildebrand. The sad thing is that this is where the album takes a dip in quality. The song tries to come off like a pre-teen version of the Rolling Stones song 19th Nervous Breakdown. With the pedigree of the writers and being produced by Mr. Keller and Jeff Barry this should have been a pretty good song. Since it was Peter’s only solo lead performance fans wanted it to be good but let’s face it the song is terrible. Maybe one day a really great singer or group will do a cover and show how good it could be but till then I still say it is terrible. Peter is a fine singer but this song doesn’t show it. The part that sticks in my mind are the awful mouth noises that Peter makes.  I don’t know the reason why Peter was chosen to sing this song. Maybe they wanted to show him a little more since he usually sings background. Perhaps they wanted this song to appeal more to the very young fans and since Peter was the most approachable for the children they asked him.
. Whatever, the reasoning Peter should have respectfully passed on this song.
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
In the early days of the rock and roll era there was what came to be known as the double sided hit record. The A side was usually the song that the label had the most faith in becoming a hit. Sometimes the B side would get air play and show enough strength to score well on the charts. This song was the first B side for the Monkees that gave them a double sided hit. It went to #20 on the charts in the USA. The song was really a cover as it was recorded and released by Paul Revere and the Raiders on their album Midnight that was release earlier in the spring of 1966. More of the Monkees was released in November of 1966. Thanks to it being on the show and doing so well on the charts it has been and always will be seen as a Monkees song. The Monkees are known for being a light pop/bubblegum rock band but with songs like this, She and Mary, Mary on the album it could have been one of their heaviest rock band albums. Since that time many punk and heavy rock bands have released the song. The most popular of those bands was the Sex Pistols. For some reason it really strikes a cord with many bands in England. In 1996 it was a hit on the British charts for the musical/comedy duo PJ and Duncan. It reached the #11 position on the charts for them.
Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
Side two starts out with this upbeat tune written by Neil Diamond. It is positive sounding song about a tough decision for a young single man, choosing between two women, Sandra and Mary. The man can’t decide and sees nothing but sorrow when he makes his decision. It is a very good pop tune and if it were released as a single I think it would have done well. It may not have made #1 but I think it would have made the top 10 on the Billboard charts. Most of the Monkees are on the song as Davy sings lead and Micky and Peter are heard in the background. The song has been covered by the Canadian band Forgotten Rebels, Indie rocker Ben Gibbard and even Neil Diamond himself.
The Kind of Girl I Could Love
Here is an upbeat country/rocker written by Mike Nesmith and Roger Atkins. This would be the last time that Nesmith would be listed as a co-author on a Monkees tune except for tunes that were written by all of the Monkees. Vocally the whole group make appearances on this song as they had to stick to Krishner’s rule that they don’t play on the records. Kind of sad that Nesmith couldn’t play the guitar on songs he wrote and produced. That rule still didn’t stop Papa Nez from turning out a good country rock tune. Thanks to tunes like this the Monkees helped paved the way for groups like the Byrds and the Eagles. After the TV series ends their movie and TV special flop Nez tried to steer the Monkees into being a country rock band. They nearly became an R and B band on one of their last tours of the sixties when they were back by Sam and the Goodtimers.
The Day We Fall in Love
Here is where the album takes another dip in quality. A song where there is no singing. Normally a song like this would be saved for the member of the group that couldn’t sing. But this has Davy as the lead and we know he can sing. All of them can. It is just Davy reading what is basically a love poem with music in the background. This is the one song, if you can call it that, where they didn’t care if the little boys liked it at all. It was all for the little girls who had a crush on Davy. The thing is I think it fell flat even there. Over the years I have heard some female fans tell what their favorite Monkee songs are by Davy. The one I have never heard mentioned is this one.
Sometime in the Morning
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful ballads I have ever heard. In a departure from having Davy sing the love songs they had Micky sing this tune. It was a wise choice but if Davy had to choose between this song and The Day We Fall in Love he should have taken this one. Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the song but are also listed as co-producers of the song with Jeff Barry. Mainly because when Goffin and King produced a demo they did it so well that it was ready to be released as a single. That is how Carol King got her hit song in England It Might as Well Rain Until September. It was given to Don Kirshner as a demo but he liked it so much he released it as a single. With this song all Jeff Barry had to do was record Micky and dub his vocals over Gerry Goffin’s. If you listen real carefully you might be able to hear Miss. King singing in the background. Recently Micky covered the song again for his solo CD King for a Day, when he recorded some of his favorite Carol King songs.
Laugh
Another dip in quality but not nearly as bad as the last two. There isn’t much I can think of to say about this little innocent song. Since this is the cast of a sit-com making the record it isn’t hard to imagine them doing a song about laughing at silly things in life at that time. What I did find odd was to see that one of the great Bass players in session music, Carol Kaye, was on it. She started as a guitar player for the first 5 years of her career and only switched to bass when the original bassist didn’t show up for a session. I got that info from her bio on her site at http://www.carolkaye.com/. She has played with everyone from Ritchie Valens to Frank Sinatra, from the Beach Boys to Ike and Tina Turner. She has worked under the direction of Jeff Barry,Quincy Jones,Elmer Bernstein, Hugo Montenegro, John Williams, etc. She has written well received books on the Electric Bass and is the one responsible for actually changing the name of the bass. It was originally called the Fender Bass but with her book How to Play the Electric Bass the name was changed. She is perhaps the one musician who is on more hit records thean any other.
I'm a Believer
Here is the big one, and I do mean big one, on this album. By the time this album and the single was released the TV show was playing worldwide. In every country where the show played this song was #1 on the charts. It held the position for 7 weeks in the USA on the Billboard charts. It helped make a name not only for the Monkees but also Neil Diamond who wrote the song and was in the early stages of his long career. With this as #1 and (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone as the B side reaching #20 it is one of the greatest double sided hits in rock and roll history. With this song the Monkees became superstars in the music business. It became a signature song for the Monkees and Micky Dolenz himself as he sings it in his solo concerts.
Again the Monkees are represented well vocally here with three fourths of the group on the song. Micky is lead and Davy and Peter are in the background.
The album as a whole holds up pretty well. Nesmith said in an early interview that this was one of the worst albums in music history. I totally disagree. There are a couple of songs I would have left off but overall it is a good album. I have a feeling that Mr. Nesmith’s statement was really a way to vent his anger at not being told the album was coming out or being able to play on or choose what songs he wanted on the album. I understand that but there is no way this was the worst in music or even Monkees history.
If you ever thought that the album photo looked familiar there is a good reason for that. It was to look like a Monkees version of the Beatles album cover Rubber Soul. It was also an advertisement for a line of Monkees clothing that JC Penny was selling to kids at that time. The Monkees merchandising machine didn’t miss a trick with this album.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Monkees

The Monkees first album, while one of their better albums, has always seemed a bit uneven to me. Thanks to their connection to Don Kirshner they had access to some of the finest songwriters in the business. They may not have liked Mike Nesmith pushing to get his songs on the album but the ones they put on this album proved that he could hold his own with the more seasoned professionals.
(Theme From) The Monkees
First let’s talk about the opening song (Theme From) The Monkees. Boyce and Hart contributed a great up-tempo opening song for a sit-com and that alone deserves to place it on the first album. The session musicians are not perfect on the song and Micky Dolenz, the only Monkee on the song, shows for the first time his excellent pop vocals. Those vocals would eventually have many think of him as one of the best vocalist in rock and roll history.  Still this should be the last time the song would be on an album. It was never released as a single in the USA that would reach the top 100 of the charts. Yet every time they release a Greatest Hits album this is always the first track on the album.
Saturday's Child
Next is an early David Gates song called Saturday’s Child. The session musicians seemed to have gotten it all wrong here. They don’t sound professional at all. They sound like a garage band.  But maybe that is what they were going for with this song. After all on their show they were supposed to be a garage band trying for the big time. Still the background vocals sound like the singers are singing from a hole in the ground. The instrumentals don’t sound as full as they could have been. A good song but it could have been better produced.
I Wanna Be Free
Another song by Boyce and Hart is I Wanna Be Free. I don’t think a bad version of this song could be produced. A more upbeat version was produced with vocals by Davy and Micky and that version made it into the pilot episode of the series. The album version is slowed down more and makes the song a ballad. Davy does his usual excellent vocals on this and I am sure this song is what proved to them to hand over the love songs to him. It was produced as an acoustic song. The instruments are at a minimum but there are a few strings and Davy is backed by some beautiful guitar playing.
Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day
Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day is one of the songs that, while preformed by professional session musicians, sounds like a very good garage band. It’s songs like this that show Boyce and Hart knew what they were doing. The songs may not be considered hit material but they kept the feel of the TV show in mind. After all they were supposed to be a very good but struggling rock band. It has quite a bit of bluegrass twang in it and that makes me wonder if Nesmith had any influence in this one. I have read that he was so busy producing his own music in another studio that Boyce and Hart rarely saw him. But I can imagine him sticking his head in and making a couple of suggestions.
Papa Gene's Blues
Papa Gene’s Blues is a Nesmith composition that kind of was a harbinger of things to come with the relationship with Mr. Nesmith. As a matter of fact the album cover itself shows the tension as well. On the cover Nesmith seems to be saying something. Rumor has it that he was getting impatient with the photographer and said he had till the count of three to take the picture. Just as he said the number 3 the photographer took the picture and they used that for the cover. It actually makes the cover better then to see all four of them just smiling as you have the sense that something is going on. Next this song was misprinted on the cover of the album as Papa Jean’s Blues. The album was recalled and the cover was changed to Papa Gene’s Blues. The song itself was a good pop/country tune. Nez really wanted the cast to become a band and was usually successful at getting the others to join him in the audio studios. I’m sure Peter was the easiest to convince as he too wanted the cast to become a band. However, I think if Peter were in charge they would have headed in a pop/folk direction instead of the pop/country direction Nesmith took them in. Peter plays third chair guitar on this song but is hard to hear on the recording. Micky is also rumored to be singing some background vocals.
Take A Giant Step
If any song on the album, other than Last Train to Clarksville, could be a hit song it was, in my opinion, Take A Giant Step.  The record label must have thought it had possibilities as well as  it was the B side to Clarksville. Back then record companies tried to have hit songs on both sides. If DJ’s decided to play both sides then they had a double sided hit on their hands. After awhile this practice stopped and they started putting songs they knew wouldn’t be a hit on the B side so more attention would be given to the song on the A side. But the one thing that held this song back from being a hit is that the production wasn’t as polished as the sound for Last Train to Clarksville.
Last Train to Clarksville
Next on the album was the big hit song Last Train to Clarksville. What can I say about this song that hasn’t been said before? Not much actually. It was one of the best produced songs on the album and a wise choice for them to release as the first single for a new group. I say a new group as the single was released before the television series so few new this was part of a soundtrack to a new TV series with vocals by members of the cast. By now most fans know that Boyce and Hart wrote it as a war protest song.  A solider is calling his girlfriend to take the last train to Clarksville before he ships out to war. There is no mention of the military or war in the song so it could very well be sold as a pop tune to the little children who would think it was about puppy love. The song is a little bit of an odd mix. They lyrics are kind of a downer on their own. When he says “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home” he is talking about his possible death. But the tempo is upbeat and fast and breezy enough that you don’t think about that at the time. Of all the songs on this album this was the one most influenced by the Beatles. Bobby Hart turned on the radio and heard the end of the Beatles new song Paperback Writer. He thought they were singing “take the last train.” That misunderstanding was the inspiration for the song. The team also knew of the potential musical/comedy series that would become the Monkees and they were looking for songs for the show. At that time the Beatles were famous for saying the phrase “yeah, yeah, yeah” in most of their hits. So, in answer to that, they included the phrase, “Oh no, no, no” in this song. As you can see, it worked. Many think this was a huge hit worldwide. It was in America as it went straight to number one. It did well in other countries but didn’t top the charts worldwide. That would have to wait a few more weeks for another song when the show was playing in those countries.
This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day
This Just Doesn’t Seem To Be My Day is a fast breezy song for Davy that was perfect for almost any of their episodes were things went from bad to worse. Of course that fit almost all of their episodes. It was used for more than one musical montage in the first season.  Davy was the perfect choice for this song as it tells of a love gone wrong and Davy was on screen the heartthrob that fell in love at the drop of a hat. The instruments used were typical to use on a pop tune and kept the music flowing with its upbeat tempo but there was a sound that was out of the ordinary for a tune dedicated to younger children. There was an instrument that had recently been used by the Beatles, the Sitar. The Sitar wasn’t on this song but an instrument, I believe it was the Harpsichord, that sounds a little like a Sitar. You hear it more plainly when the singing stops. It gives an added dimension to the song and the story it tells.
Let's Dance On
Let’s Dance On is in the mode of the typical dance tunes of the day. It even mentions some of the dances that many teens were doing at local high school dances. The lyrics go “You’re doing the Pony. Now you’re doing the Jerk.  Come on baby. Let me see how you work.” The Monkees may have been televisions answer to the Beatles but to me this song sounds like an early Beach Boys tune. In some way it is kind of an answer song to their tune Dance, Dance, Dance. It was the B side of the single Warmth of the Sun in 1964 and included on their 1965 album titled Today. 
I'll Be True To You
I’ll Be True To You is the typical love song that Davy would quickly become known for as he handle those songs well and was being guided in the direction of becoming known as the cute Monkee in the same way that girls were referring to Paul as the cute Beatle. The song is well produced and typical of the love songs that many TV personalities were recording back then. It would be easy to hear someone like Paul Peterson or any other teen idol sing this song. What young girl wouldn’t love to have Davy proclaim how he would be true to them even when the other girls go by. The song was originally release by the Hollies under the title Yes I Will.
Sweet Young Thing
Sweet Young Thing, like Papa Gene’s Blues, is another song where Nesmith shows his innovation. Papa Nez could see Country Rock coming down the pike and produced a first class country rocker here. Rumors about this song did cause a stir but very briefly. The lines “I know that something very strange has happened to my brain. I’m either feeling very good or else I am insane,” was seen to be a reference to drugs and the title was a reference to a man attracted to an underage girl. If those rumors were true there is no way this song would have been on the album. Ever the one to strive for a unified group sound Nez has Peter playing one of the guitars and he also sings background with Micky.
I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog
The song that got on the album in a format other then intended was I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog. After long days spent filming their show, Boyce and Hart were happy to see any of the Monkees show up for their recording sessions. Micky and Davy were both present for this session but kind of slap happy at the end of the day. They started making jokes to see who could make the other laugh during the session. The jokes actually helped make the song memorable and brought the spirit of the television show to the record. It is the gentle humor of things like Micky asking Davy to not ruin his song and Davy replies that it was already ruined. Davy needles Micky in how he can’t train dogs he can only train elephants. This is gentle teasing to Micky’s days as a child star on the NBC series Circus Boy. At the end Davy says "They're Coming to Take Us Away, Ha Ha” referring to the then current hit novelty song by Napoleon XIV.
All in all this was an enjoyable first album. No matter if it was from a new garage band or from the cast of a TV show. While the producers of the series only saw it as a way to promote the show it is clear that Don Kirshner saw their albums as a way to make hit records.
When I started this review I said the album was uneven. I still stand by that statement as some songs sound professional and some just sound like a very good garage band. However, in the course of this review my appreciation for this album has grown as it was an inventive way to keep rock and roll available to the pre-teens that the Beatles had now outgrown.