Here are the picture sleeves for all American Monkees singles released between 1966 and 2016. Some were produced in different variations ("A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and "Valleri" came with no picture sleeve at all), and countries outside of the United States often promoted their own singles that differed from US selections. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the UK release of Micky's "Randy Scouse Git" from the Headquarters album, which became a #2 hit there.
Fast forward to 2016, an era when physical singles are no longer produced in vast quantities, where the songs issued from The Monkees' latest studio album Good Times! were represented with digital images instead of actual physical sleeves.
In retrospect, there were many other Monkees songs that were more than suitable for single release, and it seems that The Monkees could have potentially had a few additional chart hits during their heyday. Think about the fact that in the spring of 1964 at the height of Beatlemania, The Beatles held each slot in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That's an incredible achievement that hasn't been topped, and likely won't be equaled.
That being said, The Monkees were an extremely hot commodity at the peak of their popularity, too. Consider the following chart statistics. The Monkees outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined in 1967. The Monkees had four #1 albums in 1967 alone. The Monkees belong to a small group of artists that have hit #1 simultaneously in the United States and the United Kindgom (in 1967 with "I'm a Believer" as well as the first two albums). Combined, The Monkees and More of The Monkees were at the top of the Billboard LP chart for an amazing 31 consecutive weeks, and by the time the group had disbanded in 1970 their albums had spent 37 weeks at #1. The Monkees' first LP held the record for the longest stay at #1 for a debut album (until 1982 when Men At Work's first, Business As Usual, broke that record). The Monkees had three #1 hits, six Top 10s, 12 Top 40s — 10 of which made it into the Top 20 — and a total of 20 Hot 100 singles. The Monkees were a chart juggernaut for a period of time, and perhaps the group could have added to their chart successes had more singles been released.
There was, of course, a major struggle occurring behind the scenes right as Monkeemania was taking off. The four Monkees joined forces against music supervisor Don Kirshner, a story that has been documented many times before. Perhaps the politics of the time and the uncertainty surrounding the situation as Micky, Davy, Mike and Peter fought for and ultimately won complete artistic and creative control of their music stifled single releases during this period. In fact, one single, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"/"She Hangs Out," was withdrawn during the Monkees/Kirshner feud. Another potential single, the group production "All of Your Toys," was shelved because of a publishing dispute.
We can't forget that The Monkees didn't just have great A-sides. The flipside to almost every Monkees single of the 1960s contains a song of merit, a testament to the amount of quality material made available by and for The Monkees. In fact, many of the B-sides would have made great A-sides. Look at "Steppin' Stone" (#20), "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" (#39), "Words" (#11) and "Tapioca Tundra" (#34) - they all received enough airplay to chart in the Top 40. And then there's "Goin' Down," "As We Go Along," "Take a Giant Step" and "Someday Man." And these songs were B-sides!
Despite the fact that Colgems was not issuing multiple singles from each of the Monkees albums, there were some creative minds who craved for exclusive Monkees material as the group's television and recording career began to soar. As a result, eager and anxious DJs often taped songs directly off the television show for radio play. For instance, the first recorded version of "Valleri" was showcased on the series during the first season even though the song had not yet seen official release on a Monkees single or album up to that point. Original fans have recalled hearing this version of "Valleri" on the radio so much at the time that it led them to think it was indeed the new Monkees single. Bobby Hart, who along with Tommy Boyce wrote the song, had high hopes for "Valleri." "It should have been the next single" [after "I'm a Believer"], Hart told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval years later. Kirshner, however, passed on it, and the song would later be revived and re-recorded for single release in 1968.
Hindsight is always 20/20, so what songs might have added to the successful chart run of The Monkees in the 1960s? Here are a few of my top picks:
1. She: A great pop-rocker from Boyce & Hart, perhaps it was this fact that hampered it from seeing release as a single. Kirshner largely considered Boyce & Hart as second stringers, despite the fact that they were monumental in the early recording stages of The Monkees. Featuring an excellent lead vocal from Micky and the "Hey!" shouts, it's almost always on the set list at a Monkees concert.
2. Love Is Only Sleeping: A psychedelic stunner from the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album, it was nearly issued as a single until someone thought the lyrics were a bit too suggestive for radio. "Daydream Believer" got the nod instead.
3. Mary, Mary: A Nesmith original, a barn burner in their early live shows, and boasting a catchy guitar riff, "Mary, Mary" is an easy sing-along and would have given credence to the notion of The Monkees as legitimate artists during the whole "they don't play their instruments" drama. Rap icons Run-D.M.C. covered it in the late 1980s and issued it as a single, sampling Micky's voice.
4. Dream World: This one might be more out of left field as Monkees fans seem to have strong opinions about it, but I've always thought that "Dream World" is a great, underrated track in The Monkees' canon. Co-written by Davy and leading off the group's fifth long player, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, it features a sprightly arrangement by Shorty Rogers. The song is every bit as good as another Jones lead vocal from this era, "It's Nice To Be With You." That track peaked at #51 as the B-side of "D.W. Washburn." But "Dream World" easily outpaces "It's Nice To Be With You" and it would have sounded great on AM radio. Gotta love Davy's semi-ominous deliveries of "You'll see..." throughout the song, too.
5. For Pete's Sake: An easy selection, this song became the closing theme during the second season of the group's TV series, thus making it instantly recognizable. Composed by Peter, the timely lyrics should have made it an obvious choice as the single from Headquarters during the Summer of Love.
6. What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?: Perhaps Nez put it best to Andrew Sandoval in an interview that appeared in the liner notes of the Pisces deluxe edition in 2007. "One of the things that I felt was honest was country rock," Nesmith said. "I wanted to move The Monkees more into that because I felt like, 'Gee, you know, if we get closer to country music, we’ll get closer to blues, and country blues, and so forth.' [The guys who wrote the song] Michael [Murphey] and Boomer Castleman – Boomer was his nickname – were writers at Screen Gems and they just wrote all kinds of really wonderful little songs, and 'Hangin' 'Round' was one of them. It had a lot of uncountry things in it: a familiar change from a first major to a sixth minor – those kinds of things. So it was kind of a new wave country song; [it] didn’t sound like the country of the time which was Buck Owens." The crossover potential could have opened up new audiences to the sounds of The Monkees in late 1967/early 1968.
7. Steam Engine: Famous for its ultra expensive (and all-around fantastic) production by its author and producer, Chip Douglas, this brassy-bluesy number features a killer lead vocal from Micky and would have made for a suitable follow-up to the "Listen to the Band"/"Someday Man" single. Touring that year with the all African-American rhythm and blues troupe Sam & The Goodtimers, "Steam Engine" seems to encapsulate the sounds and style of The Monkees as a live act in 1969. Not to mention the fact that this song features some great pedal steel guitar work by the late, great Red Rhodes.
8. All of Your Toys: This track 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. 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.
Did I miss a song that is on your list of fantasy Monkees singles? Or do you disagree with one of my selections? Feel free to leave a comment and chime in!
Some of the pictures sleeves found in this post are courtesy of Monkee45s.net.
These are the actual album covers in its unused, pristine state, before it was pasted onto the cardboard LP jacket
The new Monkees Blu-ray collection includes a bonus 45 featuring previously unreleased mixes of both "Star Collector" and "Goin' Down." The former is an alternate mono mix and the latter is a mono vocal mix, featuring Micky Dolenz singing live in the TV studio to the backing track. Both versions of these well-known Monkees songs were heard exclusively on the soundtrack of the second season of The Monkees. You'll also note the nod to Colgems, The Monkees' original record label.
The Monkees' debut single, "Last Train to Clarksville," was first recorded on this day in 1966 at RCA Victor Studio B in Hollywood. Written and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and released by Colgems on August 16 (backed with Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Take a Giant Step"), the song debuted on the Billboard charts on September 3 at #101. By November 5, The Monkees had scored their first #1 single, knocking off "96 Tears" by Question Mark & The Mysterians. The Recording Industry Association of America awarded "Last Train to Clarksville" (and The Monkees' debut album) a gold record on October 27.
This article concerning the power struggle between The Monkees and Don Kirshner most likely comes from a trade magazine (probably Billboard) in early 1967.
Longtime record executive Lester Sill was involved with the Monkees project from the very start. In the early days, Sill was the music coordinator for the group, overseeing the recording process under the helm of Don Kirshner. When Kirshner was sacked in early 1967, Sill took over as musical supervisor. He later became president of Colgems Records.
Don't forget to vote in the poll (in the blog sidebar to the right)! "What is your favorite Monkees album cover?"
Check out the entire '69 tour program on the 1969 tour page.
On January 27, 1967, the first 'Monkees Club' was opened in West Caldwell, New Jersey. New talent would be showcased in a "theatre environment" where teenagers could be easily admitted on Friday and Saturday nights. As the flyer below notes, the club would act as a "stage to stardom" and attendees were promised an evening of live entertainment in a "groovy" atmosphere, all in a place where they would feel "in, together, with it." Colgems (The Monkees' record label) was advertised as having first right of refusal on any talent discovered at the clubs. Record World magazine said "The Monkees themselves won attention after talent auditions [and] this Monkees discovery pattern will now be adapted at the Monkees Clubs."
This full-page ad appeared in the March 25, 1967 issue of Billboard.
The menu at the clubs would consist of "kooky soft-drink and ice cream concoctions," and auditions would be held on Sundays. Winners of the contests would play the circuit of other clubs. Over thirty more locations were planned, but it's unknown if they came into existence, and if any talent was ultimately discovered.
Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, was referenced for details appearing in this blog post.
When "Someday Man"/"Listen to the Band" was issued as a single on April 15, 1969, "Someday Man" (written by Paul Williams and produced by Bones Howe) was the designated A-side and the song that was being pushed for airplay. Events would quickly change that altered the course of The Monkees' second post-Peter Tork single in 1969.
Shortly after its release, Micky, Davy, and Michael performed both sides live (along with "I'm a Believer") on The Joey Bishop Show on April 24, 1969. For this appearance the trio were supported by Sam & The Goodtimers, The Monkees' backing band throughout their 1969 concert tour.
In short time many DJs decided that they preferred the B-side, Michael's own "Listen to the Band," and started to give it more airplay. As a result, a second picture sleeve was produced by Colgems designating it as the A-side.
Despite the artistic merit of both tracks, the single's performance with the record buying public was more than underwhelming. By 1969 the popularity of The Monkees had waned, and each side of the single languished on the Billboard charts. "Someday Man" placed for just three weeks, peaking at #81 on May 17, 1969. "Listen to the Band," however, proved to have more staying power, charting for 9 weeks and peaking at #63 on July 19, 1969.
Both "Listen to the Band" and "Someday Man" were mainstays in the set list on the 1969 North American Tour, and "Listen to the Band" has been played during every Monkees tour since the group reunited in 1986. "Someday Man," however, was not performed live again by The Monkees until 2011.
Today, "Listen to the Band" is considered one of The Monkees' most enduring songs, having become an anthem of sorts for the group over time. In a 1997 interview with the British publication Melody Maker, Michael Nesmith expressed his fondness for the song.
"We [The Monkees] were off the air and it was right at the end of everything when I delivered that record and everyone said, 'No, that is not a Monkees song. This won't work.' But, much to my satisfaction, it's proved to be one of our most enduring songs. I think I was able to get everything I wanted to say about The Monkees into it. And I love the way the music recurs, the way it rolls around on itself again so it can be played over and over and over."
Nez also offered his interpretation of the song and its lyrics:
"Well, it says, 'Plays a song and no-one listens.' That's the phrase that really says it and it's able to crystallize, still, everything I was feeling at that time. It's 'He plays a song and no-one listens, I need help, I'm falling again.' It's the feeling of falling backwards into this thing of nobody getting it. But it's also, 'Play the drums a little bit louder, tell me I can live without her,' so the only thing that's going to give me comfort here is what I'm doing. It takes the spirit of the idea and really conveys it and that's what makes me the most proud. I'd love to hear someone cover that song. I don't know who could."