50 years ago today, The Monkees commenced work on "Pleasant Valley Sunday." Andrew Sandoval documented the June 10, 1967 session at RCA Hollywood, one day after The Monkees' triumphant concert performance at the Hollywood Bowl, in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
Gerry Goffin & Carole King's "Pleasant Valley Sunday" is one of Chip Douglas's most complex productions for The Monkees. Sadly, session tapes will not survive for this landmark date so it is impossible to follow this wonderful creation step-by-step. The basic track is most likely recorded with Chip Douglas and Eddie Hoh forming the rhythm section of bass and drums while Michael and Peter perform on electric guitar and piano. Union documents indicate Micky is also present for this session, and it is quite possible that he contributes some acoustic guitar to the track. Additional guitar overdubs will be recorded tomorrow.
Chip Douglas: "Mike played the lead guitar. That was my riff that I threw in there and taught to Mike. Not many guitar players can play it the right way. ... It's kind of an offshoot of the Beatles song 'I Want To Tell You' but in a different tempo and with different notes.
"I wish I could hear the original demo, because I can't recall if I got a [lyric] line right or not. It's in the bridge, 'creature comfort goals can only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see.' For 'make it hard for me to see,' for some reason I had the impression that I didn't do the right line in there, or changed it possibly. I couldn't understand that line, or something like that. One of those great mysteries.
"I do remember seeing Carole King up at the Screen Gems office from across the room after we did 'Pleasant Valley Sunday.' She kind of gave me this dirty look. I thought, 'Was it that line that I got wrong, perhaps? Or didn't she like the guitar intro?' It was faster, definitely, than the way she had done it. She had a more laidback way of doing stuff."
Michael Nesmith: "I remember that we went after the guitar sound. Everybody was trying to get that great big present guitar sound - Beatle [amplifiers] in the studio, playing really loud trying to get the sound, and it just ended up sounding kind of ... like it does. Kind of wooden. There was a tube-type of limiter/compressor called a UREI 1176, and boy you could really suck stuff out of the track. That was the first time that we really could do it. I think everybody got a little carried away with the 1176 on that record."
On June 11 and 13, 1967, "Pleasant Valley Sunday" was treated to overdubs, including backing vocals from all four Monkees.
In a 1982 interview with Bruce Pollack, Peter Tork discussed the blending of Micky and Michael's voices throughout "Pleasant Valley Sunday":
"A notion of mine that I was really pleased with took over at one point, and that was having two guys sing in unison rather than one guy doubling his own voice. So you've got Mike, who was really a hard-nosed character, and Micky, who's a real baby face, and these two voices blended and lent each other qualities. It's not two separate voices singing together, it's really a melding of the two voices. Listening to that record later on was a joy. "
"Pleasant Valley Sunday" was issued as Colgems single #1007 on July 10, 1967, right in the middle of The Monkees' ultra-successful summer tour that year. It was backed with "Words," written for the group by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The single is considered to be one of their most successful (certified Gold just four days after release), and it's worth noting that radio gave attention to both sides. As a result, "Pleasant Valley Sunday" peaked at #3 in Billboard while "Words" topped out at #11. The songs were later featured on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
Chip Douglas was the producer of The Monkees' two most acclaimed albums, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., along with some of their best single sides, including "Daydream Believer," "Goin' Down," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Words," and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere."
This article comes from the June 1967 issue of Teen Set and looks at Chip's time with The Turtles and the Modern Folk Quartet, along with where his pseudonym, Douglas Farthing Hatlelid, originated, and more.
This photo comes from the 1998 Monkees calendar:
Chip Douglas was the producer of The Monkees' two most acclaimed albums, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., along with some of their best single sides, including "Daydream Believer," "Goin' Down," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Words," and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere." The December 1995 issue of Monkee Business Fanzine covered Chip's latest projects, including an album he produced for Australian band Deep End. Chip is also interviewed by Colin Sherwood about his days with The Monkees.
"You Just May Be the One" was written by Michael Nesmith in the pre-Monkees days. Chip Douglas, who produced Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., remembered the song from when Nez would perform it with Bill Chadwick at The Troubadour in Hollywood. "That's when I kinda first got to know him," Douglas told Andrew Sandoval. "I saw him with Chadwick. In particular, they were doing 'You Just May Be the One.' That is the one song that I remember I was real impressed with because I remember those harmonies: Bill Chadwick hitting that high A note there [on the bridge]. So when the song came up for suggestion to put on the album, I said, 'Yeah, that's great. Can we do that same harmony on there and everything like you guys used to do it?' He said, 'Sure, Micky will do it.'" (Bill Chadwick later worked with The Monkees behind the scenes and wrote several songs for the group, including "Zor and Zam.")
Now take a moment to vote in the Live Almanac's latest poll (in the blog sidebar to the right): "What are your two favorite Monkees B-sides?"
Check out this video I recently viewed on YouTube. It features the killer backing track for "We Were Made For Each Other" that was produced by Chip Douglas on November 4, 1967, combined with Davy's vocal from the officially released version of the song that appeared on The Monkees' fifth LP, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in 1968.
The released version found on the Birds album featured a new (vastly different, non-Douglas) backing track, and the results paled in comparison.
Here's how Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval described the Chip Douglas-produced backing track of "We Were Made For Each Other" in his book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
Today's version of "We Were Made For Each Other" shows just how much the group [The Monkees] will lose when they part company with Douglas. In his hands this otherwise schmaltzy ballad is transformed into a dramatic pop stunner with some country flavor, courtesy of Henry Diltz's banjo...Sadly, no further overdubs will be made to this excellent track, which is left incomplete after today."
"All of Your Toys" is one of the most historically significant Monkees songs, recorded in January 1967 at the height of the group's simmering feud with musical supervisor Don Kirshner. Along with an early version of "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" and "She's So Far Out, She's In," the song represented The Monkees' first recordings as a fully functioning, self-contained band. But there's a rather complicated backstory leading up to its recording.
After a rigorous audition process that included more than 400 applicants, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork had been chosen as The Monkees in November 1965. Filming of the pilot episode had been completed by December, and the show was sold to NBC by February 1966. Music mogul Don Kirshner, known as "The Man With the Golden Ear," was brought into the Monkees project in the summer of 1966. Initial rehearsals by The Monkees to play their music on record and as a live act had progressed through the spring of 1966, but deadlines were fast approaching to meet the pending debut of The Monkees television series on NBC in September. The group's grueling schedule of filming, recording, and rehearsing caused Kirshner to streamline the process. He refused to allow The Monkees to play their instruments on record, instead having them provide only vocal work in the studio, and it was Kirshner who selected the songs The Monkees were to perform. Kirshner oversaw the first two Monkees singles and albums, which achieved incredible success in late 1966 and early 1967.
In January 1967, an unsettled Michael Nesmith, who along with his fellow bandmates had commenced performing live concerts, made his unhappiness over how The Monkees' music was being created clear in an interview with The Saturday Evening Post. "The music had nothing to do with us. It was totally dishonest. Do you know how debilitating it is to sit up and have to duplicate somebody else's records?" Peter, Micky, and Davy joined forces with Michael in the ensuing battle against Kirshner. During a tense meeting with the band and Kirshner in a Beverly Hills hotel room that same month, the situation between Kirshner and The Monkees, particularly Nesmith, escalated. "The incident when Mike Nesmith put his fist through the wall at the Beverly Hills Hotel is very vivid and near and dear to my heart," Kirshner told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval years later. "I had flown out to the Beverly Hills Hotel to give the boys a quarter of a million dollars apiece from some of the royalties on the first album. Mike had given me a lot of heat that he didn't like the records and he didn't like the albums. He wanted to do it his way. It was a little disconcerting to me because every album and single I put out was number one, but he had a right to his opinion." When Nesmith threatened to quit unless The Monkees were given some control over their musical output, Kirshner's attorney proceeded to remind Michael about his contract. Nez responded - by punching his fist through the wall - telling the attorney, 'That could’ve been your face.' "I was very impressed," Kirshner chuckled, "because I thought the Beverly Hills [Hotel] had pretty strong walls."
Despite these tumultuous events, Kirshner agreed to meet with Chip Douglas, recently selected by Michael as a potential producer for The Monkees. Douglas had been a member of the Modern Folk Quartet and later The Turtles, and despite never producing a record previously, he had arranged The Turtles' 1967 smash "Happy Together." Kirshner gave permission for Douglas to produce a session with The Monkees later that month.
Gathering together at RCA Hollywood on the morning of Monday, January 16, 1967, The Monkees conducted their first recording session under their own auspices. With Micky behind the drums, Davy on maracas and tambourine, Michael playing an electric 12-string guitar, and Peter handling bass, acoustic guitar, and harpsichord, the quartet tackled three songs that day. (John London, a friend of Michael's from Texas and his stand-in on The Monkees' TV show, played bass while Peter handled harpsichord duties.) The first song attempted was Baker Knight's "She So Far Out, She' In," which was performed live by The Monkees during their earliest concert performances and was later tracked during the sessions for the Headquarters album. (It was ultimately left unfinished.) The rest of the session was dedicated to songs that the group and Douglas hoped would make up both sides of the next Monkees single.
"All of Your Toys" was submitted to the group by one of Michael's friends from the pre-Monkees days, Bill Martin, and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" was a Nesmith original. "We thought ['All of Your Toys'] was going to be a great single," said Chip Douglas. "That was when I first became involved. I got real excited about the song when Bill Martin showed it to me. I didn't realize at the time that it didn't have a chorus." Described by AllMusic critic Matthew Greenwald as "a whimsical ballad with some dark undertones," the song, despite its promise, went unheard for twenty years. Unfortunately for The Monkees and songwriter Martin, Screen Gems was unable to acquire the publishing rights to "All of Your Toys" from its original holder, Tickson Music, for which Martin worked. As a result, Screen Gems nixed the song for single release. This landmark Monkees recording languished in the vaults until 1987 when Rhino Records compiled an album of previously unreleased Monkees songs.
Sadly, Bill Martin, who went on to have a successful career in music, film, and television, passed away on January 27, 2016.
In the aftermath of the sessions that produced "All of Your Toys," Kirshner coaxed Davy to fly to New York and cut a few tracks with studio musicians. In a hardball move, Kirshner selected two songs from those sessions, Neil Diamond's "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" along with the first recorded version of "She Hangs Out," and issued them as a single in Canada in February, without the approval of The Monkees or Raybert. This power play resulted in Kirshner being fired and the single withdrawn. "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" reappeared as a single in March, supported by a new version of "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," this time with Micky on lead vocals as opposed to Michael.
The hurdles surrounding The Monkees when recording "All of Your Toys" were numerous. A war for control over their own music against a kingmaker like Don Kirshner, the pressure of recording a hit song at the moment their careers were skyrocketing, and a watchful press looking to expose The Monkees as musical frauds because of their non-traditional origins, makes the history and legacy of "All of Your Toys" that much more vital. Today, The Monkees Live Almanac celebrates it as the Song of the Day.
The Monkees performed "All of Your Toys" live in concert for the first time during their highly successful 45th Anniversary World Tour in 2011.
A stereo remix of the song was made available in 2007 on a 2-disc expanded edition of The Monkees' third album, 1967's Headquarters:
The master backing track for "All of Your Toys" was included on the 2001 Headquarters Sessions box set:
Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation,
was referenced and quoted for this article.
The Monkees famously closed their second season Christmas episode with a performance of "Riu Chiu," a traditional Spanish carol dating from the 16th century.
An official studio version was recorded in October 1967, featuring Monkees producer Chip Douglas on vocals who was substituting for an absent Davy Jones. It went unreleased until 1990's Missing Links Volume Two.
It is likely that The Monkees learned the song from Chip Douglas, who himself performed it with his former band The Modern Folk Quartet on their 1964 album Changes.
Micky traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii on December 26, 1967 to vacation at Monkees producer Chip Douglas's parents' house. This article was originally published in the April 1968 issue of Tiger Beat.
This article was originally published in the April 1968 issue of Flip and is a continuation of the previous issue's interview with Chip.
Remember, the Live Almanac and Iain Lee recently conducted our own interview with Chip Douglas.
Check out Henry Diltz (on banjo), Chip Douglas (on bass), and company performing on the music variety show in 1965. That's Monkees session drummer Eddie Hoh on drums.
They are performing "Come On In," a song Peter tackled in 1968 as a member of The Monkees:
Chip Douglas is fondly remembered by Monkees fans as the producer of the group's two most acclaimed albums, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., along with some of their best singles, including "Daydream Believer," "Goin' Down," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere."
Chip was a noted musician even before Michael Nesmith approached him about taking over the production reigns for The Monkees after the dismissal of Don Kirshner. As a member of the Modern Folk Quartet and then later briefly with the Gene Clark Group, Douglas subsequently joined The Turtles, performing on and arranging their classic 1967 track, "Happy Together."
In this exclusive interview for the Live Almanac conducted by British broadcaster and longtime Monkees fan Iain Lee, Chip broaches a wide range of topics in relation to his history with the group. When formulating the questions, it was my goal to move beyond discussion of the Headquarters era, which has been chronicled in great detail. As a result, Iain gets Chip to talk about the inspiration behind his song "Steam Engine" and the expensive recording sessions that surrounded it, as well as his memories of "Today" and "I'm a Man," two tracks recorded during his tenure with The Monkees that never received a proper vocal. The 1976 Dolenz/Jones/Tork Christmas single, working with Davy and Micky in the early 1970s, Michael's recording sessions, Peter's reaction to Chip's role as Monkees producer, and much more are covered throughout the 30 minute conversation.
This interview has been in the planning stages since the summer of 2013, and I'm pleased that we are finally able to present it here on the Live Almanac's blog. I'd like to thank both Chie Hama, who played a key role in getting us in touch with Chip, and Iain for taking the time from his busy schedule to conduct the interview. And of course, thanks to Chip Douglas for being accessible to the fans and for all of his contributions to The Monkees and their recorded output.
Iain is currently working on another Monkees-related release, Micky Dolenz: The MGM Singles Collection, highlighting Micky's early 1970s solo singles. Be sure to check out the Facebook page for that project.
Enjoy the interview!
There have been a variety of mixes of "Steam Engine" issued over the years, but this rare 45 version has never seen an official CD release. Chip Douglas pressed this single and sold it at the 1983 Chicago Monkees convention. It features a unique vocal take from Micky (along with some weird stylings by Micky at the start of the song), as well as variations not heard on other mixes.
The B-side, "Rainbows," was another Chip Douglas song recorded by Davy sometime in the early 1970s.
Be sure to check out these informative links for more information about this release:
How about a hint? He produced these two Monkees albums...
Stay tuned as the Live Almanac pairs with British broadcaster and longtime Monkees fan Iain Lee to bring you a brand new audio interview with Chip Douglas!
British broadcaster and longtime Monkees fan Iain Lee is working on an upcoming vinyl/digital release centered around Micky's MGM singles in the early 1970s. Earlier today, Iain shared a previously unseen 1973 Henry Diltz photograph of Micky with Chip Douglas and Red Rhodes (who, of course, was a member of Michael's First National Band).
Here's Iain message from Facebook:
Thanks so much everyone for sharing this page and encouraging people to come and look and like and join.
I did promise that when we reached 1,000 likers I would post a never before seen pic from the collection of renowned rock photographer and Monkee friend Henry Diltz.
Henry and Gary Strobl have been incredibly generous and are allowing Glenn and myself to use, I think, 13 previously unseen pics of Micky from the early 70's. These will be on the back cover, the inside of the gatefold and in the 8 page booklet as well as a few other treasures (mustn't give TOO much away).
So, here you go. No one has EVER seen this before. It's a pic taken on March 16th, 1973 at Gold Star Studios and shows Chip Douglas, Micky and Red Rhodes. A pretty magical trio.
We've got more great pics and surprises. We still don't have a release date but it SHOULD be out by the summer. There are a few things that Glenn and I are chasing. We were about to press in January and then something cropped up. Also, I am interviewing Micky in the next couple of weeks (sadly over the phone) for this and the Keep Off My Grass project.
Do keep sharing this page and posting on it.
Thanks for your support and patience.