"War Games" was composed by Davy Jones and Steve Pitts and was originally considered for inclusion on the soundtrack of The Monkees' 1968 feature film, Head. Pitts was a friend of Michael Nesmith's from Texas, and Nez introduced the pair to each other in late 1966. They eventually entered into a songwriting partnership, composing such tracks as "Dream World," "The Poster," "Smile," "Party," "I'm Gonna Try," and "Changes" (another song that was floated for Head, and at the time of its recording, the name of the film).
Two versions of "War Games" exist. The first was recorded in January 1968 under the supervision of Nesmith. Present at the initial sessions were Michael, Davy, Steve, and Bob Rafelson, who offered the visual image he was getting while hearing the track being produced. "It sounds to me like four spade chicks all dressed in American flags and all wigglin' their asses at the same time, goin' down the street," reported Andrew Sandoval in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, after listening to the session tapes. "You dig what I mean? If you just start thinkin' on that, it sounds awful good." Nez replied with some hesitation. "Thanks Bob. That's very groovy. That's what we are playin', right?"
Sandoval discussed the first version of "War Games" in the liner notes of Rhino's 2010 deluxe edition release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees:
(Sandoval notes in his book that Michael most likely overdubbed the Hammond organ part at a future recording session.)
In February 1968, Davy went back into the studio with Lester Sill and Shorty Rogers and remade "War Games" in a slower arrangement with horns and strings:
"War Games" wouldn't be heard until version 2 appeared on 1987's Missing Links. Version 1 would make its debut on the 2010 deluxe edition of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
Go ahead and take a moment to vote in the poll below to show your preference between the two versions of the song:
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.
Version One, recorded in July 1966 and produced by Nez, showcased ace session players like James Burton, Glen Campbell, and Hal Blaine. Peter is also featured in the mix, playing guitar. This version was only heard on the TV show during the first season, and didn't see an official release until 1990's Missing Links, Volume 2.
The second version, from the group's third LP, Headquarters, features The Monkees on the backing track and was produced by Chip Douglas.
Micky, Davy, and Michael performed Michael's song "Nine Times Blue" live during an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show in the summer of 1969.
Several different attempts were made recording the song, and each of them remained in the vault until years later. There's a version featuring Davy Jones singing the lead vocal (accompanied by Michael on acoustic guitar), recorded during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in early 1968:
Michael also tackled the song around the same time. Both of these attempts remained unreleased until the 2010 Rhino Handmade deluxe box set of the Birds album.
In the summer of 1968, Nez released his first solo album The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, an all-orchestral affair that included an instrumental take on"Nine Times Blue."
Nez actually demoed "Nine Times Blue" while recording Headquarters in early 1967:
Michael revisited the song once again in April 1968, accompanied by Red Rhodes on pedal steel and Chip Douglas on bass. It was this version that first saw the light of day on the 1987 compilation Missing Links:
Michael recorded "Nine Times Blue" once more in 1970, and it was featured on his initial solo album with The First National Band, Magnetic South.
"If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again" remained officially unreleased until its inclusion on the 1990 rarities package, Missing Links Volume Two.
Here's a photo of Davy, Micky, and Mike in RCA Studios with Jack Keller in January 1969:
Davy later demoed "If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again" at some point in the early 1970s:
Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval has previously featured unreleased mixes of Monkees songs on his internet radio show, Come to the Sunshine. Below are a sampling of some of those rarities.
Missing Links Volume Two was released in January 1990 on both cassette and compact disc. (No vinyl version was made available, and the track listings for the cassette and CD differed, with more songs made available on the CD.) Like the first Missing Links collection in 1987, the album is made up of songs that were left in The Monkees' vault in the 1960s.
Volume 2 contained tracks like "All The King's Horses" and "I Wanna Be Free" (fast version) which had been featured in the television series only and had been bootlegged for some time. Several songs that were also included on the TV show soundtrack in its earliest episodes but were later re-recorded by the group ("Valleri," "I'll Be Back Up On My Feet," "You Just May Be The One," "Words," "Mr. Webster") make up a large portion of the track list.
"Michigan Blackhawak" was mislabeled on this release and is actually called "Down the Highway," a track written by Carole King and Toni Stern and produced by Michael Nesmith. "Michigan Blackhawk" was a song attempted during sessions for The Monkees Present in 1969.
Monkees fans were also excited to see the live version of "Circle Sky" make its official release here, along with "Riu Chiu," the traditional Spanish carol performed by The Monkees on their 1967 Christmas episode.
Arriving in the winter of 1996, Missing Links Volume Three is the third and final volume (to date) in a series of Missing Links compilations by Rhino Records. Like the previous two collections (Missing Links and Missing Links Volume Two), the album is made up of unreleased material. Issued strictly on compact disc, this collection marks the first time that the television edit of the series' famous theme song had been available as part of a Monkees release (it was, however, released on the TeeVee Tunes Television Themes Volume 2 in 1986 and as part of a Rhino Monkees sampler in 1994). All previous Monkees CD releases of the theme song had featured the album version, which is more than twice as long but lacks the TV theme's final verse.
Andrew Sandoval, who co-produced this set with Bill Inglot, also wrote the liner notes.
Arriving in July 1987, Missing Links was the first ever collection to officially assemble unreleased Monkees songs long stored away in the vaults at RCA. Except for "Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears" and "If You Have the Time," both of which had been aired on the Saturday morning repeats in the early 1970s, and "Nine Times Blue," performed live by Michael, Micky, and Davy on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969, the remainder of the tracks were largely unheard (though some had floated around previously on bootleg tapes). Missing Links was released on LP, cassette, and compact disc.
The album was noteworthy for its inclusion of "All of Your Toys," the first song to feature all four Monkees playing on a single track. It was intended as the group's next single release in early 1967 until the tensions with Don Kirshner boiled over. Two of Michael's tracks, "Nine Times Blue" and "Carlisle Wheeling," were later re-recorded during the First National Band era (with the latter being renamed "Conversations").
The CD edition of Missing Links, released in 1988, featured four additional tracks: Micky's "Rosemarie," Michael's "My Share of the Sidewalk," Peter's "Lady's Baby," and "Time and Time Again," co-written by Davy with Bill Chadwick.
Two more Missing Links volumes followed; Volume 2 arrived in 1990 and Volume 3 in 1996. Volume 2 (available on cassette and compact disc only) included more previously unheard tracks as well as TV show versions of songs that were never officially released (the original takes of "You Just May Be the One," "Valleri," "Words," to name a few) but ultimately re-recorded by The Monkees under their creative control. Volume 3 (available on CD only) continued this same approach of unreleased material and alternate versions.
By the mid-1990s, Rhino Records was undertaking a massive Monkees reissue program, with each original album being remastered for CD release and featuring bonus tracks consisting of previously unreleased material, alternate mixes, and more. Perhaps because of this new approach, the Missing Links series had become redundant. However, a Volume 4 could possibly be sustained with material that still hasn't seen official release, as previously examined.
Peter Tork has long cited the influence of musician Pete Seeger, who passed away yesterday. Check out Tork's performance of "Seeger's Theme" below (from Missing Links Volume Two), which features Peter on guitar, bass, and banjo.
This article, from the September 1967 issue of Tiger Beat, discusses Micky's pre-Monkees band, The Missing Links. For easier reading, click on each image to enlarge.
Here is an ad from the November 1989 Rhino Records catalog advertising the release of Missing Links, Volume 2. (Volume 1 was released in 1987.)
Could we ever see a Volume 4? The last Missing Links collection was released in 1996, right after the original Monkees albums had been remastered for release on compact disc. Those 1994/1995 sets also featured bonus tracks, including alternate versions and unreleased material.
Fast forward to the mid-2000s when Rhino decided to release deluxe editions of the first four Monkees albums. By the time The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees came around for deluxe treatment, the series was turned over to Rhino Handmade. The Handmade division has produced the well received over-sized box sets for the Birds album along with Head, Instant Replay and soon, The Monkees Present. Combined, all of these releases have opened up The Monkees tape vault more than fans could have ever imagined, and arguably more so than other groups and artists.
There is still some material, however, that has yet to see the light of day and would fit nicely on a potential Missing Links, Volume 4 collection. Granted, I'm hoping Rhino restarts the Handmade boxes from the beginning, issuing the first four Monkees albums in that format. If they don't, another Missing Links compilation, via Rhino Handmade, would make sense.
Some unique alternate TV versions of Monkees songs still have not seen official release on CD, and would make a great start for a new collection:
1. "Saturday's Child" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
2. "Take a Giant Step" - alternate mono mix with a different Micky lead vocal
3. "Laugh" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
4. "She Hangs Out" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
5. "Love Is Only Sleeping" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
6. "Star Collector" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
7. "All the King's Horses" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
Other questions can be asked, too. Have more tapes been discovered in the archives? Andrew Sandoval has played multiple unique mixes of Monkees songs on his Come to the Sunshine internet radio program that have yet to see official release. Have the tracking session tapes been located for the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album? Perhaps one day the multitracks for Changes and the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee soundtrack will turn up. A dream find would be the recording sessions that The Monkees undertook with Snuff Garrett, the first producer chosen for the project. Then there's the ubiquitous questions surrounding the missing two songs from the Changes recording sessions, "Ride Baby Ride" and "Which Way (Do You Want It)." And finally, what material exists in private collections, whether it be backing tracks, acetates, demos, or completed songs that we have yet to hear?
Andrew Sandoval spoke about the Monkees tape library in two different interviews available on this site that can be found here and here. (And his book, the ultimate guide to the recording history of The Monkees, is available for purchase.)
If you're like me and enjoy the details of each Monkees song and seeing every mix it has been released, a must stop visit for you online would be the great Monkees Mixography website.
Be sure to watch this late 2011 interview with Andrew Sandoval where he discusses The Monkees, their tape library, and much more.
Here's something I haven't had a chance to scan but Troy submitted it and beat me to the punch...a 1987 Rhino Records promotional bill announcing the release of both the Live 1967 and Missing Links albums. I recall seeing this copied into fan club newsletters at the time...and how much of a surprise it was to read about these albums. Ahh, the pre-internet era!
Note the different early running order for tracks on the Missing Links LP.
Thanks, Troy, for submitting this to the Live Almanac...