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."
Bill Martin's "The Door Into Summer" is one of many standout tracks on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. "The title came from the Robert Heinlein book The Door Into Summer, which was about time travel," Martin told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval in the liner notes of the 1991 Listen to the Band box set. "The song is about the search for happiness, and is basically an anti-war song." Bill Martin also discussed the unique circumstances surrounding the recording of the song: "Micky tried singing it, and Mike tried it a couple of times also. They didn't like the echo at RCA, so they strung a mike from Studio A to the men's bathroom. Mike did his vocal in there to achieve the right effect."
The photo above was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Carmel Magazine and was denoted as being from Michael's personal collection. It seemingly shows Nez recording the vocal for "The Door Into Summer" in the men's room as Martin had recollected. (Michael's appearance also seems to match the August/September/October 1967 time frame in which the song was recorded.) However, in speaking with Andrew Sandoval about the story behind the photo, he neither confirmed nor rejected the idea that it was taken during the "Door" session, saying it was from Michael's archive and that he was unable to officially confirm its veracity.
An alternate mono mix of the song was made available on the 2007 deluxe edition of the Pisces album, which some believe features the men's room vocal take:
Here's Peter, Micky, and Davy in the studio during sessions for More of The Monkees:
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.
Over the years, I've heard different reports regarding the "dance remix" of "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere." I've been told it exists, but I've also heard it doesn't. Appearing first on the platinum-selling Then & Now...The Best of The Monkees in 1986, the song has never been performed live in concert. It was, however, resurrected for last year's The Monkees 50 compilation.
Take note of the session credits. Michael Lloyd worked previously with Micky Dolenz in the early 1970s under the Starship banner, and also produced The Monkees' 1986 Top 20 hit, "That Was Then, This Is Now." Laurence Juber was a member of Wings from 1978-1981, and Paul Leim played drums for Michael Nesmith on his 1979 LP Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma, and toured with Nez as recently as 2013.
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.
The Beatles community is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and REBEAT helps us find Nez during the sessions for the iconic track, "A Day in the Life":
"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:
In June 1968, Davy attended a Beatles recording session for "Revolution" with Lulu, who opened The Monkees' shows at Wembley in June/July 1967.