On July 25, 1966 at Western Recorders Studio in Hollywood, California, Michael Nesmith oversaw his fourth recording session as a producer for The Monkees, cutting one of the group's most enduring hits, his very own "Mary, Mary."
Beginning at 8pm that evening, Michael led Peter Tork, one of several guitarists on the song, and members of The Wrecking Crew (including Hal Blaine on drums and Glen Campbell on guitar) through 9 takes, while also tackling the backing tracks for both "Of You" and "(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love," ultimately running overtime and finishing at 12:15 in the morning. Micky Dolenz added a doubled lead vocal for "Mary, Mary" two days later.
Long considered a highlight in The Monkees' canon, "Mary, Mary" was featured on their best selling album, 1967's More of The Monkees, and it's been a staple in the group's live show since its first performance in Honolulu, Hawaii in December 1966.
Nez spoke about "Mary, Mary" with Rolling Stone in 2016:
"This was an early song. I hadn't been writing long, but I was interested in finding a place that was between country and blues. At the time, I was working for Randy Sparks. He had started a publishing company after his success with the New Christy Minstrels, who were a folk-rock band. He hired me as a writer, and one day in his office I wrote 'Mary, Mary.' Frazier Mohawk took it to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and they recorded it. That was very encouraging.
Randy then sold my catalog to Screens Gems Columbia Music, which was the music catalog for the Monkees television show. They picked it to go on the second record. That was all fine, but they didn't want me to play or sing on it. 'They' being Screen Gems, which was run by Don Kirshner. Run-DMC covered it years later. I just loved their take on it. They changed around the lyrics some, but I didn't care. The song isn't exactly deep."
Here's Peter, Micky, and Davy in the studio during sessions for More of The Monkees:
Jeff Barry produced "I'm a Believer," a song that ultimately became The Monkees' signature hit. He's pictured below with Michael Nesmith at a recording session for the track at RCA Studios in Los Angeles on October 22, 1966.
Andrew posted the following photo on his Instagram account:
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the recording of "Your Auntie Grizelda, " Peter Tork's lone showcase on The Monkees' second album, More of The Monkees. The song was recorded at American Recording Company on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California on October 14, 1966, and Andrew Sandoval wrote about the session (which also included work on "Hold on Girl") in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
Jeff Barry is an award-winning songwriter and record producer. Among the most successful songs that he has co-written are "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Then He Kissed Me," "Be My Baby," "Chapel of Love," and "River Deep - Mountain High" (all composed with his then-wife Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector); "Leader of the Pack" (written with Greenwich and Shadow Morton); and "Sugar, Sugar" (written with Andy Kim).
In the 1960s, Barry would partner, both professionally and personally, with Ellie Greenwich to form one of the decade's most prolific songwriting and producing teams. By 1966, he was part of Don Kirshner's Brill Building team. Barry produced a plethora of tracks on The Monkees' second LP, More of the Monkees, along with their most successful single, "I'm a Believer," and its follow-up, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You." After The Monkees seized control of their musical output in early 1967, Barry wouldn't participate in a Monkees recording session until 1970 when he produced the group's final album, Changes, recorded with Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. The album included numerous songs written by Barry like "Oh My My," "Ticket on a Ferry Ride," "Do You Feel It Too?," and "Tell Me Love."
In this 1990 interview with Paris Stachtiaris and John Di Maio on the Headquarters radio program, Barry talks about his career in the music business, working with The Monkees, and his relationship with Michael Nesmith.
This is the second in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
The efforts of songwriters/producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart played a critical role in defining the sound of The Monkees. From the first beats of "(Theme From) The Monkees," their mark would forever be on the project. In addition to the theme song, the series pilot featured Davy Jones taking lead on the classic "I Wanna Be Free," while "Let's Dance On" featured Micky Dolenz, and both numbers were included on The Monkees' debut album. It was a California sound, appropriately reflecting on the characters of four young musicians living in a beach house.
The story behind the early Monkees music, however, was much more complicated. Musical supervisor Don Kirshner had attempted to lure a big name producer to helm the project, and had successfully recruited Snuff Garrett into the studio, which by all accounts, was a disaster. Sessions with Carole King also flamed out, and with a full television season on the horizon, options were growing slim.
Fifty years after the fact, the complications are revealed to be enormous. Andrew Sandoval, archivist, historian, and manager of The Monkees, spoke with Michael Nesmith in an interview for Rhino’s Handmade Edition re-issue of the debut album, The Monkees. "They asked if I would do some things. I said, 'Well, I can do some things, but if I was going to put together a rock 'n' roll band, I don’t know that I would put together a band with David, Micky, and Peter. You know, these are good guys to work with, but we all have very different musical tastes and sensibilities. I'm not that prolific or prodigious.' [They said] ‘Well maybe Tommy and Bobby and you can do it.'"
Time was running short, and by the beginning of July 1966, Boyce & Hart were in charge. Along with Jack Keller, the duo cranked out an enormous amount of material in a short time. Meanwhile, Nesmith produced additional Monkees tracks at a studio nearby. Between them, the entire debut album was recorded in that month's time frame.
Boyce and Hart’s "Last Train to Clarksville" became the choice for the first single. Its power propelled it up the charts in advance of the show, but once the series hit the air on NBC in September of 1966, its success skyrocketed. "Last Train to Clarksville" would eventually hit number one in November, knocking "96 Tears" by Question Mark and the Mysterians off the top.
The album proved to be even more of a triumph. The Monkees reached number one on Billboard's Top LPs chart, staying entrenched for a remarkable thirteen weeks, at the time a record for any debut.
Following such monumental success, it could be asked, why would musical supervisor Kirshner deviate from the formula of the first album? One of the answers is financial. The guaranteed sales of the follow-up would make landing a spot on a Monkees record a nice payday. Kirshner no doubt would feed the writers on his staff, at the expense of Boyce & Hart. Another reason was that he considered the duo as inferior writers and producers. Now that The Monkees' proverbial train had left the station and picked up speed, Kirshner intended to take another shot at steering. And one significant day in particular allowed Kirshner not only to press his case, but practically remove Boyce & Hart from their role as producers of the Monkees project.
August 23, 1966 was exactly one week after the release of "Last Train to Clarksville" as a single. The Monkees themselves were on a television sound stage shooting the season one episode, "Monkees at the Movies." Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart entered RCA Studio B that evening, working from 7pm until the wee hours of the morning on two novelty songs, "Kicking Stones" and "Ladies Aid Society." Following the well-liked "Gonna Buy Me a Dog" on The Monkees, one could see the appeal of more humor on the next disc. However, trying to reconcile that either of these songs would fit on the second album seems practically unimaginable.
"'Kicking Stones' was originally just a poem by Boyce & Hart's buddy and sometimes hairdresser Lynne Castle," wrote Andrew Sandoval in his book The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation. "The team's regular studio guitarist Wayne Erwin then set her words to music - and out came a fairytale-like creation." Andrew Hickey, author of Monkee Music, an in-depth look at every song The Monkees released, offers a critical assessment of "Kicking Stones." "To be fair to Boyce & Hart, they were producing a lot of material at this time," Hickey opines. "But there was clearly no way tracks like this could have ever been considered remotely releasable, and they must have known it." In his book Sandoval quotes a memo written by Bert Schneider, one half of Raybert Productions with Bob Rafelson that created The Monkees television series, who complains that both "Kicking Stones" and "Ladies Aid Society" were "of dubious value."
Mistakenly listed as "Teeny Tiny Gnome," "Kicking Stones" was eventually released in 1987 on the first edition of Rhino's Missing Links series of Monkees rarities. It can also be found on Rhino's deluxe edition of More of The Monkees.
"Ladies Aid Society," complete with off-key falsetto lyrics, pretends to be a protest song of sorts, with the sound of a brass band and would-be elderly women. The Monkees did choose to include the track on 1969's The Monkees Present.
Ironically, in the days just before and after these disasters, three Boyce & Hart classics would be laid to tape: "She," "Words," and "Valleri." Each would be featured prominently during the first season of The Monkees' television series. "She" eventually opened More of the Monkees. Although viewers would become familiar with the others, their releases would be significantly delayed. "Words," re-recorded under producer Chip Douglas and featuring a Monkees backing track, was chosen as the B-side to "Pleasant Valley Sunday" nearly one year later, and would climb to #11 on the charts. "Valleri" was also revamped and issued as a single in 1968, the band's last Top Ten hit.
Viewers of the TV show were also introduced to "I'll Be Back Up on My Feet." Composed by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, it was nowhere to be found on More of the Monkees, but was ultimately re-recorded for the band's fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. The song was brought out of mothballs by Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, showing up frequently on set lists during a series of concerts conducted by the duo in 2015.
Don Kirshner used Bert Schneider's skepticism of Boyce & Hart's latest productions to his full advantage. The competition for the second album heated up in October of 1966. While Boyce & Hart, and Michael Nesmith, toiled in Los Angeles, Don Kirshner's newest handpicked producer, Jeff Barry, worked out of New York, tackling tracks by Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, as well as Neil Sedaka & Carole Bayer. "I was very friendly with Boyce & Hart," Kirshner told Andrew Sandoval years later when explaining the move away from the pair in the recording studio. "But my fiduciary obligation to Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems is to get the best record, okay? My objective was one thing: not to show favoritism. I had a competitive environment, no different than, say, American Idol. The four finalists are there, you can only have one, and each of them could be a hit record star. And that's what I strive for."
Barry's productions included both "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and "Sometime in the Morning," while Sedaka and Bayer were at the helm for "When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)." All were fast tracked to the new album. The novelty song "Your Auntie Grizelda," featuring Peter Tork on vocals, "Laugh," and the sappy spoken word "The Day We Fall in Love," were soon added to the mix, and ultimately, the LP. Boyce & Hart's take on "Hold On Girl" (heard below) would later be substituted for a version produced by Barry and Jack Keller. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who produced ten songs on the debut album, were left with two on the follow-up, the same number as Michael Nesmith. The Don Kirshner takeover was complete.
More of the Monkees, as released on January 9, 1967, held the top spot on Billboard's album chart for an incredible eighteen weeks. The LP has been certified platinum five times over by the RIAA, a success that would never again be matched by the group. "I'm a Believer" would remain at #1 for seven weeks, the band's top selling single. For all its perceived weaknesses in its released form, it arguably furthered the Monkees project to dizzying levels of success.
But it still begs the question, what would a Boyce & Hart-produced second album have sounded like? We can take a pretty good guess.
The Monkees' second single, Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer," would be a given, as would the flip side, Boyce & Hart's "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," which peaked at #20 on the Billboard singles chart in its own right.
Sandoval’s book revealed an interview with Tommy Boyce, who spoke highly of "Tear Drop City," "Through the Looking Glass," and "Don’t Listen to Linda." "I always liked that song ['Through the Looking Glass']," Boyce told Andrew Sandoval. "I knew it was a fabulous song and we always thought it should have been a single, but it never was, of course. I think it was an imaginary song we wrote about a couple of girls we knew. Sort of like an Alice in Wonderland type of thing: you walk through the mirror, 'Through the Looking Glass'...and go through this glass into a different world." One can presume, had Boyce & Hart still been in charge, that these already completed songs would have found a place on More of the Monkees. Instead, they were shelved for roughly two and a half years, before finally being released on Instant Replay, the band's seventh album.
Michael Nesmith, who received two slots on both The Monkees and More of the Monkees, had several tracks to choose from for the LP. "Mary, Mary" and "The Kind of Girl I Could Love" were the ultimate choices, but "You Just May Be The One" (first recorded version) was featured several times on the television show, and could have been chosen just as easily. "Of You," written by John and Bill Chadwick, had also been tracked by this point. "All The King's Horses" and "I Don't Think You Know Me" were other options.
Considering both Boyce & Hart as well as Kirshner's team took a crack at "Hold On Girl," it stands to reason this song would also be given heavy consideration.
Here's my educated guess - the track listing for the unreleased Boyce & Hart-produced
More of the Monkees album:
The ultimate quality of this collection can only be judged by the ear of the beholder. It is heavy on tracks sung by Micky Dolenz, and includes only three leads by Davy Jones and one by Nesmith. It does stand to reason, however, that it would have also propelled the Monkees project in a significantly positive way. The lows in this collection seemingly don't sink to the levels exhibited by "Laugh" and "The Day We Fall In Love" that appeared on the actual released version of More of the Monkees. In a theoretically perfect world, several of these songs were deserving of a place on the album, and would have mixed well with some of Kirshner's preferred tracks.
But one critical lesson from The Monkees is that nothing was as simple as it seemed.
More of the Monkees, the group's second LP released in January 1967, became one of the two biggest selling original Monkees albums (certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA) and was the longest to stay at #1 on the Billboard chart (18 weeks). It contains their biggest hit, "I'm a Believer," and songs that have been forever associated with The Monkees since its release ("Mary, Mary" and "Steppin' Stone" to name two). Its track listing includes selections that have long been a part of the group's live show (even to the current day) and it features contributions from songwriters like Michael Nesmith, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Neil Sedaka and Diane Hildebrand. But in many ways it has always been the album I listen to least, feeling somewhat disjointed in areas and containing a couple of subpar tracks selected by Don Kirshner, who at the time of its assembly was clearly exercising his power as the group's musical supervisor.
How's about a little back-story:
Despite The Monkees beginning to find their own sound during initial rehearsals early in 1966, music publisher Kirshner was eventually brought in by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson to speed up the process of producing Monkees music. Though Schneider and Rafelson were supportive of The Monkees making their own music, deadlines had to be met and the day to day rigors of filming, recording and promotional appearances were becoming too much to maintain. Recording sessions began in June 1966 at RCA Hollywood. At this point, The Monkees were adding just their vocals to the recordings, with Kirshner refusing to allow the band to play on the tracks in order to streamline the process. Michael, however, produced his own separate sessions, promoting a more united atmosphere with the band providing group backing vocals as well as seeing both Michael and Peter adding guitar to several songs. Nesmith and Tork in particular were very interested in the musical aspect of the project, wishing to write, produce and arrange songs for the albums, but Kirshner was keeping a close eye on everything. Ruling with an iron fist when it came to which tracks were selected and which songs were released as singles, Michael and Peter, later joined by Micky and Davy, began to rebel against the process of how the music was being recorded.
Tensions continued to brew after The Monkees' debut album was released in October 1966 and stayed at #1 for an incredible 13 weeks (More of displaced it from the top spot). In the earliest stages, the idea of a Monkees album was merely to be a soundtrack to their television series. But to everyone's surprise, the music quickly became more successful than the TV show. "I'm a Believer" was released in December 1966 and quickly found its way to the top of the charts. The Monkees were becoming a recording juggernaut. However, Kirshner, and not The Monkees, was in charge of the music, but that was not to last.
When word leaked that The Monkees were not laying down the instrumental tracks on their albums, controversy brewed and Michael put the situation bluntly. While conducting their first live concert tour, Nesmith, in an interview with The Saturday Evening Post in January 1967, made the situation clear. "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?"
Looking back today, the 'controversy' seems silly as many of the top groups of the day were recording much like The Monkees, using ace studio musicians like The Wrecking Crew. But in 1967, along with the 'manufactured' criticisms already befalling the group, the "they don't play their own instruments" story line became one that has never fully dissipated. (This controversy is even more sillier to me since those playing on the early Monkees records weren't simply phoning it in on second rate songs. These were first rate musicians playing their hearts out with enthusiasm and vigor on first rate songs, and of course, the inspired vocal performances by The Monkees themselves made the entire exercise nothing short of first class.)
While on tour in January 1967, The Monkees discovered that More of the Monkees had been released and went to a record shop to pick up a copy. (Wow!) They disliked the cover image, Kirshner's self-congratulatory liner notes and the song selections. The group, led by Michael, eventually took their concerns to both Schneider and Rafelson, who sympathized with The Monkees. Shortly after a tense meeting with the band and Kirshner in a Beverly Hills hotel room in January 1967, where Nesmith put his fist through the wall, Kirshner was dismissed. Michael later told Melody Maker magazine that More of the Monkees was "probably the worst album in the history of the world."
It's with all these occurrences happening that More of the Monkees is released. An abundance of songs had been recorded for the album by various producers that included Boyce & Hart, Nesmith, Jeff Barry and Gerry Goffin & Carole King. Quality songs were leftover from sessions for the debut album, some which ended up on More of. When it came time to assemble More of's track list, there was seemingly no challenge in finding quality material for the LP. It's here where I question some of Kirshner's selections. Inevitably some of you will disagree as we all have our personal favorites, but songs like "The Day We Fall in Love," "Laugh" and "Hold on Girl" seem to me to be clearly weaker material than other songs left in the vault at the time. But in some cases, Kirshner was promising his stable of songwriters that their songs would appear on a Monkees album, and perhaps loyalties to his songwriters took precedence over the quality of the actual songs being selected.
So, with all of the previously mentioned success this album received, who am I to question its contents? Over the course of the last two Monkees tours in 2011 and 2012, eight (!) of its 12 songs were on the setlist. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of first rate material on More of the Monkees. "She," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," "Mary, Mary" and the ace single of "I'm a Believer"/"Steppin' Stone" more than speak for themselves. "The Kind of Girl I Could Love," a Nesmith original featuring some great steel guitar work by Nez, also shines. "Sometime in the Morning" is regarded as a Monkees classic. I recently heard "When Love Comes Knockin'" on a college radio station here where I live, and it sounded pleasant and poppy, two big themes of Monkees music.
In retrospect, I would have liked to have seen More of the Monkees be an album that represented the diverse type of music being recorded by The Monkees at that time and one with more group involvement. I would take less of the sappier love songs Kirshner was projecting to fit the 'television image' of The Monkees, especially Davy. But as we know, an artistic statement was not yet the purpose of a Monkees album...that would not come until their next release, Headquarters.
Using the superior tracks from More of the Monkees combined with songs that were recorded before or during the sessions for it, here is my revised track listing. (Click on each track to hear the song on YouTube. I've used the mono versions when available as I think More of is best heard in mono.)
2. When Love Comes' Knockin' (At Your Door)
3. Mary, Mary
4. I Don't Think You Know Me (Peter's vocal)
5. Valleri (First Recorded Version)
6. I Won't Be The Same Without Her
7. Steppin' Stone
1. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) - longer TV show mix with additional keyboards
2. The Kind of Girl I Could Love (using the alternate mix with the up-front group backing vocals)
3. I'll Be Back Up on My Feet (First Recorded Version)
4. (I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love (Davy's vocal)
5. Sometime in the Morning
6. Your Auntie Grizelda
7. I'm a Believer
This track listing gives greater representation to the Nesmith sessions by adding the excellent "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" and Davy's vocal take on "(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love." Peter is given a second track on the album with his turn on "I Don't Think You Know Me" (which also happened to be revived for the 2011 tour). A song that was featured during the first season of the series and deserved inclusion, "I"ll Be Back Up on My Feet," is also added. And, the original version of "Valleri," which I consider to be superior to the re-recorded 1968 single, is used for More of the Monkees. (The first take on "Valleri" that appeared in episodes during the first season received airplay on the radio when DJs around the country anxious for new Monkees material taped it off the TV show and played it on the air.) There are also 14 songs here instead of the 12 that appeared on the original release. With the plethora of material available at that time combined with the fact that both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had albums during this period featuring 14 tracks, it seems to make sense to me. And, with this track listing, you have multiple members of the group appearing on the same track (Side A: tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Side B: tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 7).
My revised More of track list would alter future releases like The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees and Instant Replay since songs like "Valleri," "I'll Be Back Up on My Feet" and "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" eventually appeared on them. But the story remains the same for those later albums, too. There was plenty of great material available and the songs that appear on this fantasy version of More of that ended up appearing on Birds and IR could easily have been replaced with songs recorded around the time of those LPs. (However, I do like the Birds version of "I'll Be Back Up On My Feet"!)
Drop me an email or add a comment below and let me know what you think.