Reviewing the Monkees

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  1. #1

    Reviewing the Monkees

    Hey, hey, it’s the Monkees! Yes, the Monkees are the latest victims of my reviewing series. That means I’ll also be making references to the TV show. We’ll also explore the frustrations that came with being cast as a rock band complete with recordings in their name, making them, perhaps, Milli Vanilli before Milli Vanilli. Yet, they would eventually get control and be able to record their own material. Of course, this is a pop band first and foremost and no one will confuse them, critically speaking, to the band they were meant to imitate, the Beatles. But they had their moments, especially in their original incarnation (1966-1968.) So, we’ll be covering that period, of course, as well as the Post-Peter Tork Monkees and the various reunion albums, for good and bad (and, yes, some of it will be bad ). But hopefully, it will also be affectionate for those that were fans of the band/TV show.

    So expect the first chapter in this saga very soon.


    POOL IT!
    Last edited by mrmustard615; February 19th, 2020 at 02:35 PM.
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  2. #2

    in the beginning

    Once upon a time, there was a mythical band known as the Beatles. No, this wasnít just some ordinary band. This band became so big, their leader announced on a flaming pie once that they were bigger than Jesus. They certainly were bigger than Elvis who was also, arguably, bigger than Jesus. Anyway, I digress.

    What does all this have to do with the Monkees? Well, if you give me a minute, Iíll tell you. Two young television producers named Bob Rafelson and Bert Schnieder had the brainstorm of doing a TV series based on The Beatlesí A Hard Dayís Night. Actually, they had the idea of a TV show about a musical group even before the Beatles, but it was after the Beatle phenomenon when production companies began to take notice.

    And so, Raybert Productions signed with Screen Gems and began the hunt for four insane boys ages 17-21. As it turned out, they already had two in mind in fledgling British actor/singer Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz, a one time child actor then best known for his role in Circus Boy. Jones had experience in musicals and had, in fact, appeared with the cast of Oliver on the same night of the Beatlesí appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He also had recorded an album on Colpix records in 1965. Dolenz, whose father was an actor, was singing and playing guitar in a garage band known as the Missing Links. So, naturally, they made him the drummer.

    How Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were hired was quite different. Nesmith was the only one of the four who actually had read the ad and thus, auditioned the way Raybert and Schneider had planned. Nesmith was a musician going by the name of Michael Blessing. He wrote and sang mostly country-folk tinged tunes and was, perhaps, the most musically talented, or at least the best songwriter of the Monkees.

    If Nesmith wasnít the most talented musician, then Peter Tork was. Tork was told about the audition by friend Stephen Stills, who had tried to get hired as a songwriter. Tork was a veteran of the Greenwich Village folk scene where he knew Stills and could play a variety of instruments, notably keyboards and banjo. He would ultimately be cast as the bass player.

    So, ultimately, Rafelson and Schnieder cast two actors and two musicians. This would make for some quite interesting developments as Tork and Nesmith would be frustrated by not being able to play on their own records as musical director Don Kirshner already had his musicians and songwriters in place. Nesmith, in particular, would be incensed, and even admitted to Melody Maker that the Monkees werenít allowed to record on their own records, only sing.

    One concession that was made was allowing Nesmith to be one of the stable of songwriters in the early days, joining such heavy hitters as Goffin-King, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart, and Barry and Greenwich among others.

    But Iím getting ahead of myself. We will cover the history as we cover the albums chronologically. From the Candy Store Prophets recordings (the first two albums) to when The Monkees themselves were playing the instruments to, finally, the albums post TV show and, ultimately, the reunion albums and unreleased packages (The Missing Links series).

    So stay tuned while we talk about the TV show next. Then we can actually get into the music.

    NOTE: Much of my information will be coming from The Monkeesí Tale by Eric Lefcowitz (1985)
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  3. #3

    Though the four cast members started working in early 1966, the Monkees TV series debuted on NBC-TV in September of 1966. Despite enormous popularity in its first season in particular and a career that was rivaling the Beatles for a short period, the show would only last two seasons. The concept was simple; four young musicians were trying to make it big as a rock band and would get into all sorts of trouble. Every episode played like a mini rock n roll movie though I sense they resembled more like a Herman’s Hermits movie than a Beatles one.

    It was certainly an interesting mix as Dolenz and Jones were happy to do their parts as actors, even though neither were established musicians. Dolenz could play guitar but wasn’t much of a drummer, even with some help from Tork. Jones was actually a better drummer, but it was decided no one could see him with a drum set in front (Jones was short and had once been a jockey) thus, Jones was relegated to marimbas or tambourine. Tork and Nesmith, meanwhile, were not exactly accomplished actors despite Nesmith having a natural presence as the folksy leader of the mythical band.

    Season One was pretty much the standard sitcom format as the boys would get into scrapes and have to find their way out of them. There was always a song interlude or two and The Monkees got instant promotion every time they performed a new song. It’s hard to imagine I’m a Believer being such a megahit had it simply been a Neil Diamond single as he was just starting out at the time.

    Season Two was a bit more surrealistic as The Monkees began to improvise a lot more, sometimes at the chagrin of the producers. The Monkees gained some independence, musically speaking, after Don Kirshner was fired in early 1967 (more on that later), and that would spill over into the TV show part of their career as well. The ratings took a nosedive and the show would ultimately not be renewed for a third season. Ironically, the second season show is now praised for its occasionally surrealistic approach.

    Had there been a season three, The Monkees had hoped to drop the sitcom format altogether and had talked about a musical variety show or a sketch comedy series, sort of like Sonny and Cher a few years later I would imagine. Instead, The Monkees would film the movie, Head, and Tork would leave the band at the end of 1968.

    Anyway, that’s the short, quick version of the TV part of the history. But it’s the music that I’m reviewing, and we’ll be starting with that in the next installment. Keep in mind that they weren’t allowed to play on their own records in the beginning, even on Nesmith’s songs. Still, Dolenz’ unique vocals in particular would establish the Monkees as a popular pop act in late 1966.

    So stay tuned, the debut album is coming soon.
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  4. #4
    'ts funny how my memory plays tricks. I can only remember snippets of beach scenes.

    Thanks for this Musty, I am intrigued by the 'manufacture' of this Boy Band.

  5. #5


    Released: 1966
    Producer: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Jack Keller, Michael Nesmith
    Label: Colgems

    You could argue this is actually The Candy Store Prophets, a studio band created by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. None of the Monkees were allowed to play on most of the tracks, only to sing. Tork was able to play on two tracks Nesmith produced (Nesmith’s written two tracks), but that was pretty much the extent of the Monkees’ involvement. Despite this, the result was a halfway decent pop album. Whatever criticisms one would have of Don Kirshner, the songwriting was quite good. Boyce and Hart were the primary writers on this album, but there are also songs written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin (probably the Monkees’ favorite songwriters), Nesmith, and one David Gates, who would later become famous with Bread in the early seventies. No, this album won’t remind anyone of Revolver, out at around the same time, but it isn’t a bad collection of songs. Anyway, let us review.

    Best Tracks: Theme From the Monkees, Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day, Last Train To Clarksville, Sweet Young Thing

    Weakest Tracks: This Just Doesn’t Seem To Be My Day, Gonna Buy Me a Dog

    Theme From the Monkees: Still one of the great TV themes along with the various Man From UNCLE themes, Batman, Mission Impossible, you get the idea. There is a certain breathiness in Dolenz’ vocals and there is a nice guitar break in between the verses. Not a bad piece of sixties pop.

    Saturday’s Child: This rocking piece was written by David Gates and it is probably one of the harder tracks on the album. Again, Dolenz' vocals sell the track and the lyrics are relatively clever considering the circumstances of the early Monkees being a manufactured pop group.

    I Wanna Be Free: There are really two versions of the Boyce-Hart composition. The first one, I believe, is in the pilot. That was is a faster pop-rock version than the one on this album. This is a Davy Jones led ballad, much slower and kind of lush. A great song but a lousy arrangement in my opinion.

    Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day: Tommy Boyce is co-writer on this one. This one rates as one of the better tracks on the album and has been covered by others trying to make it big. Again, Dolenz does the song justice in the vocals and it’s a solid arrangement with a subtle drive to it.

    Papa Gene’s Blues: The first of two Nesmith compositions. It gives you an idea of what Nesmith’s style will be like in the coming few years. It’s essentially a country rocker with some nice percussion to highlight the song. Not Nesmith’s best but not his worst either.

    Take a Giant Step: A Goffin-King track that I think falls flat a bit. It’s not especially saccharine like I Wanna Be Free for example (You’ll note a lot of Davy Jones led tracks fall into that category), but it isn’t typical of some of the great melodies the then married duo could come up with.

    Last Train To Clarksville: The Monkees’ first big hit and it is undoubtedly a classic. You may note that I find this song far superior to what would become the Monkees’ biggest hit, I’m a Believer, but more on that later. On this track, there is a nice jangly guitar. Dolenz’s unique vocals dominate the piece and it has a nice beat to it as well. Possibly one of Boyce and Hart’s best songs, second only to (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.

    This Just Doesn’t Seem To Be My Day: One of the weaker songs on the album in my opinion. It’s fast paced and Jones sings the song fine, but it isn’t a song that especially wow’s me, especially in what I guess you’d call the middle eight.

    Let’s Dance On: This was a popular track on the TV series. It’s kind of a silly dance track in a way and it sounds like Boyce and Hart wrote this in something like fifteen minutes. Still, it’s a decent arrangement and I guess it could have been worse.

    I’ll Be True To You: Another saccharine Davy Jones number that Goffin wrote with Russ Titleman. I still have to rate it better than I Wanna Be Free though even with the insipid lyrics simply because of a decent melody.

    NOTE: This was originally recorded by The Hollies as Yes I Will. Needless to say, their version is much more superior.

    Sweet Young Thing: Nesmith’s other track, co-written with Goffin and King. This one is a bit of a raver complete with a handful of fiddles. I think this comes close to hard edged country really. One of my favorite tracks on the album.

    Gonna Buy Me a Dog: Which leads to my least favorite track on the album. If Boyce and Hart wrote Let’s Dance On in fifteen minutes, this silly piece of drivel, they wrote in five. Even Dolenz is just being silly on this one. Kirshner must have been laughing all the way to the bank though. How now brown…, yeah, that bad.

    Overall Effect: So, it boils down to being a not so bad pop album. Like I said earlier, it’s not going to remind anybody of Revolver or Pet Sounds, but as far as pop albums go, it isn’t bad. Of course, it might have been better had they been allowed to do more than just sing, particularly in the case of Nesmith and Tork, who could have played most of the instruments. Nesmith already proved he could arrange a song quite nicely in the case of Sweet Young Thing. Anyway, it isn’t the worst debut in music history and it’s fairly listenable if you’re looking for some mindless fun.

    Musty’s Rating: ������

    The Word Has Spoken

    And that concludes album one. Stay tuned for the next installment as we review what I like to call Son of Monkees One. See you then.
    Last edited by mrmustard615; January 31st, 2020 at 11:23 PM. Reason: had to mention the Hollies
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  6. #6


    Released: 1967
    Producer: Various
    Label: Colgems

    They barely had time to market the debut album when Colgems released this sophomore effort in January 1967. This would be an interesting period, particularly after the release of this record, but we can talk about that after the review. For this album, itís probably best known for the megahit, Iím a Believer. This would be the bandís most successful album, commercially speaking, and it certainly does have its good moments. Will it top the debut album artistically? Well, letís see.

    Best Tracks: Mary Mary, (Iím not your) Steppin Stone, The Kind of Girl I Could Love

    Weakest Tracks: Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow, The Day We Fall in Love, Laugh

    She: The album starts with this Boyce and Hart burner. The combination guitar-organ riff starts off the album well and Dolenz sings with a bit of passion on this track. Not a bad start to the album.

    When Love Comes Knockin at Your Door: This is a Davy Jones wonker basically. Written by Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Sedeka of Brill Building fame, I think itís safe to say the two have written better.

    Mary, Mary: This one is a favorite and I believe was later covered, in part, by Run DMC. There is some nice guitar work on this track, written by Nesmith (originally recorded by the Butterfield Blues band), but sang by Dolenz, who does quite well with this. I think by now, itís established that, in many ways, Dolenz has become the most recognizable figure in the Monkees, at least from a musical standpoint, and maybe from an acting standpoint as well. Nesmith used the Wrecking Crew on this track which might explain the high quality.

    Hold On Girl: This track, written by one of the lesser known writers to be honest, has a bit of a soul vibe to it. Iím not sure Davy Jones is the one to sing white Northern Soul though. A nice keyboard riff on this.

    Your Auntie Grezelda: Jack Keller, who also wrote for Connie Francis, is one of the writers on this track as well. This silly little ditty is sung by Peter Tork, who rarely sings. Itís funny that the bandís best musician is also the worst singer, but what can you do? Anyway, itís a little psychedelic, if nothing else, at least.

    (Iím Not Your) Steppin Stone: This Boyce-Hart composition was originally recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders before it got to the Monkees. Somehow, maybe thanks to Dolenzí sneering delivery, the Monkees turned it into their own song. The flip of Iím a Believer and probably the better song, this is an absolute punker in the classic sense and one of the very best Monkee songs, easily the best pre-Headquarters, in fact.

    Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow): Side two starts out with the first of two Neil Diamond penned tunes. Diamond, of course, would become quite famous in his own right, and even had a pair of hits in 1966 already with Solitary Man and Cherry,Cherry. This isnít one of his stronger tracks however and Jones doesnít sound especially inspired on this track.

    The Kind of Girl I Could Love: This one is all Nesmith and it sounds straight from Texas. There is a certain Tex-Mex feel to this tune and, while it doesnít seem to mesh with the established Monkee sound, which, by now, was Dolenz with a bubble gum-like backing, it is a fun romp and one of the better tracks on the album.

    The Day We Fall in Love: Sorry, but this one just plain stinks. Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell are probably best known for writing some of the Four Seasonsí mid sixties hits. Maybe Frankie Valli rejected this spoken word diatribe that Davy Jones was forced to recite. You know, Davy Jones really was best at doing Broadway tunes really and never seemed to fit in as a rock star in my opinion. I donít even think he was all that good an actor (though I did like his performance in Head). Anyway, this is one piece of schmaltz you might want to wear ear plugs for.

    Sometime in the Morning: This one is a Goffin-King piece. Itís melodic as usual but not a song I can really get into. They would later write two absolute Monkee classics though as well as my favorite Byrds song that was yet to be recorded so Iíll give this one a pass.

    Laugh: Ha Ha Ha No. This one was written and originally recorded by The Tokens of The Lion Sleeps Tonight fame. Somehow, this one got to Kirschner and Jones got the displeasure of singing this one. This is way beyond bubble gum. Guess the pre-teen girls got it.

    Iím a Believer: And here we come to the other Neil Diamond composition. I think itís safe to say this is his most successful song. I never got into this though. I get that itís catchy but itís a bit too sugary for me. I guess this really is a precursor to Kirschnerís other big smash, Sugar, Sugar (which the Monkees were have reported to have turned down). I donít even think this is Diamondís best with The Monkees. Still, I guess Iíll have to rate it as fair though.

    Overall Effect: So, the Sophomore effort, to me, is a bit uneven. Yes, there are some good, even great tracks on this album such as Mary, Mary and Steppin Stone but there are also quite a few clunkers as well. I guess itís listenable like the debut album was, just not as good. Not that it matters. The fans loved the album and certainly the hit single, and I guess thatís all that mattered, well, to anyone but Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, who were about to have their legendary confrontation with the great Don Kirshner. Stay tuned.

    Mustyís Rating: 1/2

    The Word Has Spoken

    But first a single, and a little bit of history that will change not only the path of the Monkees, but of Don Kirshner as well.


    A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You: This is the third of the Neil Diamond songs and, in my opinion, the best. Itís even a pretty good one by Davy Jones standards. Of course, itís the typical Brill Building staple that the Monkees were forced to record at the time, but it comes off pretty well.

    And yet there is a bit of controversy to this song as this was about the same time as the great confrontation where Nesmith reportedly smashed a fist into a wall and announced to Kirshner that could have been his face. An agreement was made that the next single would actually recorded by the band members. Needless to say, this wasnít it. Originally released in Canada as the A side with She Hangs Out (also a house band recording) as the flip, the folks at Colgems dumped Kirshner and the Monkees would now have free reign over their recordings, for good or bad.

    The Girl I Knew Somewhere: And this was the result. A decent Nesmith penned, Dolenz sung tune called The Girl I Knew Somewhere. I think this is probably the better side actually. Dolenz, as usual, sings with gusto while Tork plays a nice electric keyboard on this. Somehow, Dolenz plays the drums adequately while Jones is wasted on tambourine (Nesmith is on electric guitar and new producer Chip Douglas is on bass, also a great addition). Overall, Iíd say this is a solid three star single.

    And thus, ends the Kirshner era of the Monkees. Some heady times are ahead for the pre-fab four as, for one thing, they will get to meet the real Fab Four, Nesmith even getting to view the Beatlesí recording of A Day in the Life. And they will be recording their first album on their own. It should be fun to listen to, so stay tuned for the next installment.
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  7. #7


    Released: 1967
    Producer: Chip Douglas
    Label: Colgems

    After the firing of Don Kirshner, the Monkees now had total creative control of their material and they would pull all the stops on this third effort. Mike Nesmith enlisted former Turtle Chip Douglas as the producer. Douglas would also play bass on the album as Tork played primarily keyboards and some guitar. The album would receive fairly mixed reviews though the consensus gave some respect of the pre-fab fourís efforts to make their own music. Nesmith was still the main Monkeesí songwriter though Tork managed to compose as track as did Dolenz, Rocky Scouse Git, which became a hit in England. Half the tracks were still written by the same songwriters Kirshner had used though. Like the first two albums, Headquarters raced to number one only to be dethroned after one week by the Beatlesí Sergeant Pepper. This was an interesting time as the Beatles had befriended the Monkees with Dolenz hanging with Paul McCartney and Nesmith staying with John Lennon. Peter Tork would record a quick banjo piece on George Harrisonís Wonderwall album late that year.

    Iíve heard this album more than a few times, so I already have my opinion on it, but you have to read the song reviews first, because Iím like that.

    Best Tracks: You Told Me, Shades of Gray, Sunny Girlfriend, Randy Scouse Git

    Weakest Tracks: I Canít Get Her Off My Mind, Zilch, No Time

    You Told Me: In some ways, this opening track sounds like something the Monkees might have done if they were recording their own version of Rubber Soul. Indeed, I think there are some comparisons to that landmark album, at least on this track anyway. One of my favorite Nesmith songs.

    Iíll Spend My Life With You: This countrified song is actually a Boyce-Hart composition. Itís actually pretty decent by Boyce-Hart standards. Nesmithís steel guitar is the dominant instrument on this and Dolenz has his usual solid vocals.

    Forget That Girl: Written by Douglas Farthing Hatfield (aka Chip Douglas), this Jones led track follows the Monkeesí general style for the most part. It doesnít sound all that different from the first two albums by the studio musicians, but it comes off as a pretty decent pop song. I like how the song moves, rhythm wise, in particular.

    Band 6: This is basically a quick jam session I guess, sort of something like the Beach Boys would do when they needed filler and felt like being silly. I wonít rate this since itís only forty-two seconds long, but letís just say itís a bit abstract.

    You Just May Be the One: Written by Nesmith, the original studio band version (Glen Campbell was one of the musicians) was played during the first season quite a bit. This version is all Monkees though and is a bit superior. I donít find this as strong as You Told Me, but it still is a pretty solid track.

    Shades of Gray: This one is Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and it sounds like this could have been a hit in the early sixties with a different artist. As it is, Dolenz and Tork compliment each other quite nicely on the vocals. The song is kind of haunting in its own way and rates as an album favorite for me.

    I Canít Get Her Off My Mind: A piece of Boyce-Hart pop essentially. It sounds like Davy Jones is doing his two step here. Not really a terrible song but seems kind of flat when compared to the other tracks so far.

    For Peteís Sake: Side two starts off with Torkís contribution, sung by Dolenz. This would be the song played in the closing credits in season two. Itís a solid driving track with some abstract vocals by Dolenz. Nice track.

    Mr. Webster: This Boyce-Hart composition sounds like a bit of psychedelic country. Itís even surprisingly topical by Boyce-Hart standards as itís a lament on an elderly bank teller. Some solid steel guitar by Nesmith.

    Sunny Girlfriend: Nesmith may have been at his peak on this album (though Circle Sky later will give some competition to that claim), and this track is comparable to You Told Me. This too is a favorite Nesmith track of mine.

    Zilch: This is basically a bunch of nonsense and, like Band 6, I have to wonder why this track was even pressed. The four Monkees are reciting some line over top of each other. Maybe it works for a silly episode, but for an album, especially a decent one like this one so far, itís kind of grating.

    No Time: This track honestly isnít one of my favorites. Dolenz yells a lot on this one. This was purportedly written by all four Monkees but they credited it to engineer Hank Cicalo out of appreciation so he could get royalties. I guess it proves the Monkees can be nice guys sometimes.

    Early Morning Blues and Greens: Written by Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller, this Jones led track seems to emit cool all over it. I especially like the cool organ bit on this track.

    Randy Scouse Git: Called Alternate Title in the UK and released as a single there, this is Dolenzí contribution and he pulls out all the stops on this one. The verse has basically an old timey vibes with some pointed lyrics (The four kings of EMI affectionately refers to the Beatles) while the refrain is pretty hard rock by 1967 standards. There is nothing bubble gum about this track and itís the best song on the album. Pity they didnít release it as a single in the States.

    Overall Effect: This is probably the Monkeesí best album. They wouldnít quite be as united as they were on this album as the strains of doing a TV series and being a pop phenomenon would start being a little too much for them, but, for the most part, you can feel the harmony on this piece. The Monkees are truly having fun here and it shows in the quality of their work. Yes, The Monkees would have some other solid moments like the upcoming Pleasant Valley Sunday single and the Head LP, but this is the one time they truly put it all together. So, with thatÖ

    Mustyís Rating:

    The Word Has Spoken

    And so, the Monkees have proven they can, indeed, do it all by themselves. Theyíll use studio musicians on their future albums (though Nesmith and Tork will continue to be factors from a musical standpoint and they all will contribute songs, even Jones). No, donít expect quite the same quality on the next album, but it will have its moments. So stay tuned as we review the third and last album from 1967.
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  8. #8


    Released: 1967
    Producer: Chip Douglas
    Label: Colgems

    The Monkees had a whirlwind year in 1967 with having met the Beatles and proving that they could indeed be responsible for their own material. No longer having the need to prove they could do it all by themselves, they again employed studio musicians with Dolenz and Jones often just employing vocals on many of the tracks. Strangely enough, Nesmith isnít all that prominent a songwriter on the album, writing or co-writing only two songs, though he sings lead on at least three songs. In any event, Iíd be tempted to call this Headquarters, the sequel, but that really wouldnít be accurate. Still, there are some nice tracks on here so letís give it a whirl, shall we?

    Best Tracks: Love is Only Sleeping, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Daily Nightly

    Weakest Tracks: She Hangs Out, Peter Percivalís Pet Pig Porky

    Salesman: Craig Vincent Smith was one of a couple songwriters who was tied up with Nesmith somehow and he contributed this ditty. It plays a bit like a countryfied version of Taxman and there is a cool vibe to this. Good way to start the album.

    She Hangs Out: The Jeff Barry tune sounds like standard Davy Jones fare. This is the song Kirshner infamously released in Canada with A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You. This version sounds a bit too bubble gum for my ears. Probably beats the flat Kirshner version though.

    The Door Into Summer: Supposedly written by Bill Martin and Chip Douglas (Douglas denies having any part of this), itís a basic folk-rock tune that Nesmith sings ably. No classic, but a decent track.

    Love is Only Sleeping: I was surprised to learn Nesmith didnít write this rather superior track. It was, surprisingly enough, written by Mann and Weil. This was bumped by Colgems for Daydream Believer and put on this album instead. Shame. Yes, Daydream Believer went straight to number one and this one would have been lucky to have made top ten, but this song is so much cooler. Love Nesmithís lead guitar on this one.

    Cuddly Toy: And welcome Harry Nilsson to the circle. Nilssonís style fits in quite well with Davy Jonesí style and it meshes into one of the better two step songs. Itís also a bit subversive as this is really a put down song about a rather promiscuous girl, something that may have gotten by the moguls in Monkeeland but probably not by the Monkees themselves.

    Words: The flip to Pleasant Valley Sunday is one of Boyce and Hartís better numbers. Dolenz and Tork complement each other on the vocals as Tork repeats Dolenzí lines. Itís a bit psychedelic in its own way and just misses my favorites slate.

    Hard To Believe: This is actually co-written by Jones and it strangely sounds a little like Bowie circa 1967. Thatís not necessarily a compliment as Bowie was terrible in 1967, but this is better than average by Jones standards, maybe because he got to do it his way for once.

    What Am I Doing Hangin Round: Travis Lewis and Boomer Clark are listed as the songwriters on this Nesmith led track but in reality itís Michael Murphey and Owen Castleman. Murphey is of particular interest as he would do quite well in the seventies with a smash hit in Wildfire. As it was in 1967, he was a friend of Nesmithís and he was partially responsible for this solid country-rock effort.

    Peter Percivalís Pet Pig Porky: A bit of stupid nonsense by Peter Tork. For Peteís Sake itís not.

    Pleasant Valley Sunday: I think I may have mentioned that Gerry Goffin and Carole King were perhaps the best songwriters in the Monkeesí stable. Indeed, they wrote at least two of the very best Monkee songs ever. This is the first and, probably, the best of the two. In fact, I donít think Iím giving away any secrets if I say this is my favorite Monkees song, period. Itís a nice set of lyrics and Nesmithís lead guitar and Torkís electric piano especially stand out on this classic.

    Daily Nightly: This might be the most ambitious track the Monkees ever did. Though written by Nesmith, itís Dolenz that turns this song into his own as he sings and plays the Moog synthesizer on this track. The Moog was still a relatively rare instrument, Dolenzí instrument being only the third or fourth in existence at the time. Strangely, Dolenz sounds a little like Grace Slick on this track for some reason, but it somehow works and is one of the best songs on the album.

    Donít Call On Me: This was a reworking of a pre-Monkees Nesmith song. There is an intentional loungey feel to this track. Itís a decent slow moving tune. Not particularly special, but nothing terrible about it either.

    Star Collector: Another Goffin-King track though not the second classic I hinted at as thatís later. This track, though, is quite solid in its own right, and it may be the best of the Davy Jones led tracks. The Moog is again used though not by Dolenz (why not I wonder). Itís a fun track and a great way to end the album.

    Overall Effect: I was tempted to rate this as highly as Headquarters and it comes very close for the most part, but I had to take points off for using more studio musicians, I guess. Still, there is less bubble gum on this effort and the Monkees seem to be doing well on their own. I think critics pay so much attention to Headquarters they forget that later Monkee albums too have their moments. Besides how can you trash an album that has Pleasant Valley Sunday on it? And with thatÖ

    Mustyís Rating: 😊😊😊 1/2

    The Word Has Spoken

    And thus, ends the heady year of 1967. 1968 will prove to be quite the interesting year as the TV ratings are sinking and the boys find themselves in a bit of disarray. Still, musically, a high quality year is ahead for them as well as a movie which weíll talk about in the near future. For the next installment though, weíll be talking about the last of the TV era albums, one that will include their last major hits, so stay tuned and weíll be seeing you.
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  9. #9


    Released: 1968
    Producer: The Monkees, Chip Douglas
    Label: Colgems

    The first half of 1968 was not a good period for the Monkees. The ratings for the TV series were sluggish at best and NBC made the decision to cancel the series after only two seasons. Ironically, the reruns would fare better on Saturday afternoons in the coming years but that wouldnít help the Pre-fab fourís fortunes much.

    Despite three album releases the previous year, Colgems was demanding yet another Monkees record. There wasnít much going outside of a couple singles however, and this album was basically a mish-mash of a couple singles with some previously unreleased material. The Monkees were listed as producers but, in truth, were produced by Lester Sill, Shorty Rogers, and Brendan Cahill. Few songs contained any Monkees outside of vocals and Tork is barely on the album at all. In retrospect, he was probably already feeling the burnout that would lead to his departure at the end of 1968.

    So, here is a mixed bag of sorts that still has its moments. Some songs I like that the critics didnít and vice versa. Anyway, should be an interesting debut.

    Best Tracks: Tapioca Tundra, Valleri

    Weakest Tracks: We Were Made For Each Other, Iíll Be Back Up On My Feet,

    Dream World: Davy Jones is co-writer on two tracks on this album so I think to say he has some input at least. That isnít necessarily a good thing as he tends to be a bit too pop oriented. Still, the song has a fairly decent melody. Vocally, he still sounds a little like David Bowie in some eerie way (keep in mind Bowie wasnít even famous yet, even in England).

    Auntieís Municipal Court: This is basically Nesmith country though Dolenz does the vocals. Nesmith liked Dolenzí vocals and has called him the voice of the Monkees. A fair track, nice middle eight.

    We Were Made For Each Other: This Carole Bayer Sager track is a bit of schmaltz basically. Davy Jones seemingly was already prepping for his next incarnation as a teen idol (though he never got beyond a guest appearance on the Brady Bunch). Yeah, pretty sappy.

    Tapioca Tundra: This song really got panned at the time, but this is one of my favorite Monkee songs and, arguably, the best thing Nesmith ever wrote. The lyrics are a bit nonsensical in a psychedelic sense and, indeed, this song is quite psychedelic. Donít think any Monkees outside of Nesmith is involved with this though.

    Daydream Believer: Now this is all of the Monkees and the only track on the album to feature Tork. This was a big hit for them in late 1967 and itís mostly a Davy Jones type pop song with some added arrangements. Not really one of my favorite Monkee songs but you canít argue the quality of the track. Written by John Stewart.

    Writing Wrongs: This is all Nesmith. It sounds like this might have fit in a little better with Head. I wonder what Nesmith could have done with a solo album circa 1968. He would have fit in quite well with the underground artists of the time, I think.

    Iíll Be Back Up On My Feet: This was resurrected from the ashes from one of the original cuts from the first season. Here they add some horns. And guess what? It isnít any better than the original recording. This track alone is a classic one puker to be sure. Ugh!

    The Poster: The other Jones co-penned track. Itís pretty much standard bubble gum though I do hear a hint of some paisley pop here at least. Not a great song, of course, but this fits Jones a bit better than most of the drivel here.

    PO Box 9847: Boyce and Hart are back and actually produced this psychedelic piece of bubble gum. Someone on Youtube compares this to Green Tambourine. Yeah, maybe. Itís fairly decent psychedelic pop, even if it is just Dolenz on the vocals.

    Magnolia Simms: Nesmith is doing a bit of the old time music here circa 1920s or 1930s. Itís not bad as these types of songs go. Not great, of course, but Nesmith might be a step above McCartneyís similar attempts which often sounded like barf fests (Honey Pie, a couple things with Wings, you get the idea). Interesting skips at the end.

    Valleri: There are actually two versions of this song. The original Candy Store Prophets version was a straight forward punker while the rerecorded version, released as a single, has a bit of added brass. I like the original version better, to be honest, as you donít hear the fuzz guitar as much here

    Zor and Zam: This was featured in the Monkeesí last episode so I guess itís fitting this is also the last track on the album. This is one of the heavier tracks on the album but it sounds too much like a Jefferson Airplane ripoff for me to get into it. I still think Dolenz sounds a little too much like Grace Slick. Itís also a bit cliched (What if they had a war and nobody came? Really?)

    Extra track: Goin Down: The flip side of Daydream Believer. Dolenz is at his best here as this comes of as a pretty decent scat jazz diatribe. Pity it wasnít on the album; it might have been enough to raise my overall rating a half point.

    Overall Effect: Yes, there are a couple decent tracks on this album but, overall, it isnít really very good. Nesmithís tracks, outside of Tapioca Tundra, are fair at best and Davy Jones led tracks just plain suck. Tork is virtually non-existent. Dolenz has some pretty solid vocals but thatís about it as far as he goes. Well, I hope Colgems at least got their moneyís worth.

    Mustyís Rating: 1/2

    The Word Has Spoken

    The Monkees were now done with the TV show and were actually in the process of making a film with Tork back in the fold. Colgems, no doubt, was anxiously awaiting the next album release, but I suspect they may have wished for something just a little too hard. It will be for some fun listening though, so stay tuned as we next review the Head album.
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  10. #10


    Released: 1968
    Producer: The Monkees, Gerry Goffin
    Label: Colgems

    In 1968, NBC cancelled the Monkees after two seasons for low ratings. This, technically, should have been the end of the Monkees, but the pre-fab four would have one last shot in the air thanks to a brainstorm by Rafelson and Schnider. They came up with a concept for a movie, sort of an anti-Hard Dayís Night if you will. He wanted to shatter the Monkee myth as teenybopper icons and the four eagerly agreed to it. Jack Nicholson co-wrote the screenplay and had much involvement in the project. In retrospect, this would be the precursor the Nicholsonís own breakout moment in the Rafelson-Schnider produced Easy Rider a year later.

    As for the Monkees, they would be subject to bizarre situations not unlike the TV series, only a bit more sinister. Scenes like Davy getting beaten up in a boxing match and Peter comforting Mickey by noting that heís supposed to be the stupid one. In the end, the four are chased by a mob and jump into the ocean where they essentially drown to the tune of Porpoise Song.

    The movie was universally panned at the time and it bombed at the box office (it was out at about the same time as the Beatlesí Yellow Submarine), but has since become something of a cult classic. It is amazingly surreal, and it really does shoot down the great Monkee myth in many ways.

    Musically, it is quite adventurous in its own way. The album also didnít do very well at the time though it has since become a collectorís item. Anyway, letís review the songs and Iíll give you my assessment in the end.

    Best Tracks: Porpoise Song, Circle Sky, Daddyís Song

    Weakest Tracks: Swami-Plus Strings,etc.

    Opening Ceremony: This is actually culled from the film as a ribbon cutting ceremony is about to take place. It is interrupted by Micky followed by the other three as they are being chased into the ocean. Canít rate this one because this isnít really a song.

    Porpoise Song: This, of course, is, and itís the other truly great Goffin-King composition as well as my second favorite Monkee song next to Pleasant Valley Sunday. It has a dreamy organ-based background with some solid vocals all around. Itís also arguably the most melodic of all Monkee songs. Incidentally, there is a great Carole King demo of this somewhere on YouTube.

    Ditty Diego-War Chant: This little spoken word ditty was written by Rafelson and Nicholson. Fits in well with the movies as all four speak a verse until leading into the war cheer. Interesting track to say the least.

    Circle Sky: This is one of Nesmithís best and maybe a little closer to how he wanted to sound in late 1968. There is nothing sappy about this Bo Diddley type piece. Another album favorite

    Supplicio: Another scene from the movie essentially. This one is less than a minute.

    Can You Dig It/Gravy: This is one of two songs penned by Tork. Dolenz does the lead vocals on this one, It sounds like something that would have been played on underground radio circa 1968. There are some psychedelic overtones on this track with a bit of an Arabian touch to it.

    Superstitious/As We Go Along: Carole King co-wrote this with Tony Stern. I think she may have been the end of her marriage with Gerry Goffin by this time. Anyway, another nice vocal by Dolenz on this slow paced acoustic number with some woodwinds in the background.

    Dandruff: Another scene from the movie. Pretty insignificant.

    Daddyís Song: This has to be my favorite out of the Davy Jones tunes. Iím generally not crazy about Jones led songs for the most part but this one has a rather sinister quality to it. Itís probably even a little superior to Nilssonís original version. One of my favorite tracks on the album and it is proof that Jones too was in on debunking the myth.

    Poll: Sort of a montage of key quotes from the film, fairly abstract.

    Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again: Torkís other written track and the only one where he sings. Like Can You Dig It, it has that late sixties vibe to it. Not the greatest vocals but then again, no one ever confused Tork with Sinatra.

    Swami-Plus Strings,Etc.: This ending track is essentially how the film ends. The first part reminds me a little bit of Revolution 9 while the second half is basically the closing credits. I guess it works in its own strange way.

    Overall Effect: So, in a way, I consider this the last true Monkees album as Tork would leave the band shortly after. On that basis, they certainly go out with a bang. Easily their best effort since Headquaters and probably more consistent. I could have done without the filler tracks from the film but I canít say I dislike any of the actual Monkee tunes. Some thought went into Porpoise Song and Circle Sky in particular, I think, and I love Jonesí take on Daddyís Song. There probably is some anger and resentment towards the powers that may have been on this album and it shows to be certain. This makes for a well above average album and itís the other Monkee album, along with Headquarters, that I wouldnít hesitate to put on my turntable.

    Mustyís Rating:

    The Word Has Spoken

    This was the last chapter with all four Monkees until 1996. Peter Tork gave his notice at the end of 1968 citing exhaustion while the others would continue on as a trio. Will it be worth it? Well, stay tuned for the next installment when we find out.
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