Here's the video with Micky's live vocal for "Goin' Down" that was featured in the second season 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.
A week before The Monkees was set to debut on NBC on September 12, 1966, The Monkees undertook a promotional tour that made stops in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. The group would be introduced to deejays, members of the press, and record dealers. The band's first single, "Last Train to Clarksville," had been released in August and was already quickly climbing the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The promotional tour was launched in Hollywood on September 1 with a private reception at Screen Gems. A "gigantic block party" was organized to commemorate The Monkees television series, and two episodes were screened during the festivities. The Monkees gave a brief performance in front of the gathered attendees, but it's not known which songs were played.
"Heart and Soul," the first single from The Monkees' album Pool It!, was released in July 1987. The music video, despite being banned by MTV, was played heavily on alternate cable outlets, including Nickelodeon's Nick Rocks:
The B-side, Peter Tork's own "MGBGT," was recorded live during one of the final stops on The Monkees' massively successful 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour in 1986:
The front and back of the picture sleeve:
Rhino Records issued a promo CD for "Heart and Soul," along with a limited edition pink vinyl version of the single, which came in a hard stock picture sleeve:
The Monkees have performed the song live over the years, debuting it on the 1987 summer tour, where it was featured prominently in the encore. It stayed in the set list for the group's 1988 visit to Australia. After those performances, "Heart and Soul" would not be aired again in a live setting until 1996 and 1997, and it made a few select appearances on the 50th Anniversary Tour in 2016.
The latest stellar release from 7a Records is a very limited edition (500 copies) 7" yellow vinyl single featuring two live cuts by Davy Jones. The single includes Davy and his band performing "Daydream Believer" and "I Wanna Be Free" during a tour of Japan in May 1981.
Be sure to purchase your copy today at Amazon (in the US or UK) or via Deep Discount! You can also hear audio samples of the tracks from a previous post here on the blog.
As always, thank you very much to Ben Belmares who shared the scans of his copy with the Live Almanac!
This article is a time capsule on the state of The Monkees heading into what turned out to be the very challenging year of 1969 for the group. Davy talks about the lack of success of their most recent singles and why he thinks they underperformed. He also discusses 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee (which had yet to air), songwriting (including Micky's "Mommy and Daddy"), what he thinks their 1969 tour should encompass, and much more.
Thanks to 7a Records for giving The Monkees Live Almanac an exclusive sneak peek at their next release, and their first Davy Jones-related product! "Daydream Believer" b/w "I Wanna Be Free" was recorded live in Japan during a concert performance by Davy in 1981. This 7" single will arrive on yellow vinyl and be limited to 500 copies. Details on how to order appear below. Thanks again to 7a!
Pre-orders in the United States are now being taken by Deep Discount and Amazon with a release date of March 3, 2017. The single will be available in the United Kingdom on February 24 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK.
UPDATE 1/30/2017: 7a Records has provided a sample of both sides of the single:
And check out the great photo of The Monkees from the Justus era, taken in Santa Monica, California in late 1996.
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.
The drowsy melancholy of "Me & Magdalena," Ben Gibbard's contribution to a new album by the Monkees, featuring the particular beauty of Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz, their tenor voices weathered but still vital, harmonizing.
Famed studio musician Louis Shelton, who played the famous guitar lick on "Last Train to Clarksville" and was featured on numerous Monkees songs in the 1960s, guested with Micky, Peter, and the band last night during the group's final show of their 50th Anniversary Tour in Gold Coast, Australia.
Andrew Sandoval marked the occasion in a message on Facebook:
A cool moment featuring the wonderful Louie Shelton, a Candy Store Prophet and a key component of the Boyce & Hart sound. What was really a thrill was how Micky & Peter performed "Last Train To Clarksville" tonight, like they were doing it for the first time in 1966. This was in fact the first time they had ever performed with the man who played guitar on so many of their classic recordings from 1966-1969.
Of note, this is the song they've played the most since they started performing in December 1966 (pre-"I'm A Believer"). We shared so much great history this year, and this along with the appearances of Michael and hearing Davy's voice every night brought home that there is still very much a real group called The Monkees.
Off Good Times!, the Monkees' first album in 20 years, "Me and Magdalena" is a gentle, folk-y ballad that lets Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith's tender harmonies shine. Ben Gibbard wrote the track, and the album itself features writing contributions from artists like Rivers Cuomo, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Noel Gallagher and more.
Earlier this month, a very limited edition (500 copies) 7" colored vinyl single featuring two live cuts by Micky Dolenz was released by 7a Records. The single includes Micky singing "Sunny Girlfriend" and "Zor & Zam" on his brief Japanese tour in 1982. A CD release of the entire concert is forthcoming.
A big thanks to Ben Belmares for sharing the scans of his copy with the Live Almanac!