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."
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.
Peter's "Gettin' In" was featured on the 1987 Monkees album, Pool It!
"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:
One of several songs Peter wrote and recorded during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, "Tear the Top Right Off My Head" was relegated to the vaults in the late '60s, finally receiving an official release in 1991 on the Listen to the Band box set. I've always liked this song and feel it should have made the cut for the Birds album in 1968.
Lance Wakely, who played guitar and harmonica on the track, was a friend of Peter's from his days in Greenwich Village before The Monkees. He was also featured as a session musician on some of Peter's other early 1968 recordings, contributing guitar and bass to "Lady's Baby" and "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again." Dewey Martin, who drums on "Tear the Top," was a member of Buffalo Springfield at the time.
Micky Dolenz also took a turn with a lead vocal for this song:
Andrew Sandoval discussed "Tear the Top Right Off My Head" in the liner notes of the 2010 deluxe edition release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees by Rhino Handmade:
"Tear The Top" was first previewed on the second season episode, "Hitting the High Seas."
It made its live debut during Micky and Peter's brief run of shows in 2015:
A backing track for Jeff Barry and Joey Levine's "Gotta Give It Time" was originally recorded in January 1967 and, 49 years later, it was finally given a vocal by Micky Dolenz (with backing vocals by Michael Nesmith) for The Monkees' 2016 album, Good Times! Andrew Sandoval discussed its original '67 attempt for an entry in his Day-By-Day book:
"...The studio musicians next settle in to recording Joey Levine's promising 'Gotta Give It Time,' not coincidentally co-written with today's session producer Jeff Barry. Only four takes are made of this garage-styled rock number, the final one being marked as the master. Had The Monkees ever completed the recording it could have been another '(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone.'"
Here's a homemade video for the song from YouTube, splicing "Gotta Give It Time" into the first season episode "The Chaperone":
Davy's song "Smile" was recorded in Hollywood in May 1968. The backing track featured Neil Young on guitar along with members of the Wrecking Crew. It remained unreleased until first appearing on Rhino's 1995 compact disc reissue of Instant Replay.
Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart's "Gonna Buy Me a Dog" played a key role in the episode, and this article highlights an attempt Michael Nesmith made at the song when he produced a backing track for it on July 7, 1966 at RCA Hollywood. That session featured multiple guitarists including Peter Tork, along with Wrecking Crew aces Glen Campbell, James Burton, Al Casey, and Jim Helms. The bassist was Bill Pitman, while Hal Blaine played drums and Billy Preston handled organ duties.
Nesmith's backing track never received a vocal and went unheard until 2006 when it was released on a deluxe edition of The Monkees' debut album. Boyce & Hart later cut their own (drastically different) version, and it was this take that was ultimately included on The Monkees.
"Rainy Jane" (written by Howard Greenfield & Neil Sedaka) was a single taken from Davy's 1971 album for Bell Records and became a modest chart hit that year, reaching #52 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and #32 in Cash Box).
Below is a demo for the song, courtesy of the Live Almanac's YouTube channel. The picture in the video is a promotional image used by Bell to promote Davy and the album during that time period.
This promotional ad, courtesy of Monkee45s.net, appeared in the July 10, 1971 issue of Cash Box:
Davy performed "Rainy Jane" on The Roger Whittaker Show in the UK on June 22, 1971:
In 2012, "Rainy Jane" was paired with "Girl" (made famous by its inclusion in an episode of The Brady Bunch) for a double-A side 7" single on green vinyl. A Rhino.com exclusive released in the months after Davy's passing, this collector's item, strictly limited to 1,000 copies and not made available in stores, sold out in one day.
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.
"While I Cry," written by Michael Nesmith and recorded in January 1968, is one of my favorite Monkees songs. It was featured on The Monkees' 1969 album Instant Replay.
"It has kind of a rolling guitar intro," Michael told Andrew Sandoval. "It's slow. It's a ballad. It's me playing guitar, a guitar lick that I was just foolin' around with and wrote a song around the lick. Not an uncommon move."
Michael Nesmith's "Good Clean Fun" was The Monkees' 13th U.S. single and final as a trio, released in September 1969. The song peaked at #82 on the Billboard charts, and later appeared on The Monkees Present LP. As with many other Nesmith compositions (like "Papa Gene's Blues," "Tapioca Tundra," and "Daily Nightly"), the title of the track doesn't appear in the lyrics.
"That’s poetic license," Nesmith remarked to Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval in the liner notes of The Monkees Present deluxe edition. "That was a direct insult to a music publisher who told me that in order to have successful tunes I had to write music that was, 'Good clean fun,' and that had a recurring theme or hook line. Of course, I just rejected that out of hand. So what that was was just, 'Okay, I'll write a song called "Good Clean Fun." I just won't put it in there anywhere.'"
"All of Your Toys" 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. But there's a rather complicated backstory leading up to its recording.
After a rigorous audition process that included more than 400 applicants, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork had been chosen as The Monkees in November 1965. Filming of the pilot episode had been completed by December, and the show was sold to NBC by February 1966. Music mogul Don Kirshner, known as "The Man With the Golden Ear," was brought into the Monkees project in the summer of 1966. Initial rehearsals by The Monkees to play their music on record and as a live act had progressed through the spring of 1966, but deadlines were fast approaching to meet the pending debut of The Monkees television series on NBC in September. The group's grueling schedule of filming, recording, and rehearsing caused Kirshner to streamline the process. He refused to allow The Monkees to play their instruments on record, instead having them provide only vocal work in the studio, and it was Kirshner who selected the songs The Monkees were to perform. Kirshner oversaw the first two Monkees singles and albums, which achieved incredible success in late 1966 and early 1967.
In January 1967, an unsettled Michael Nesmith, who along with his fellow bandmates had commenced performing live concerts, made his unhappiness over how The Monkees' music was being created clear in an interview with The Saturday Evening Post. "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?" Peter, Micky, and Davy joined forces with Michael in the ensuing battle against Kirshner. During a tense meeting with the band and Kirshner in a Beverly Hills hotel room that same month, the situation between Kirshner and The Monkees, particularly Nesmith, escalated. "The incident when Mike Nesmith put his fist through the wall at the Beverly Hills Hotel is very vivid and near and dear to my heart," Kirshner told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval years later. "I had flown out to the Beverly Hills Hotel to give the boys a quarter of a million dollars apiece from some of the royalties on the first album. Mike had given me a lot of heat that he didn't like the records and he didn't like the albums. He wanted to do it his way. It was a little disconcerting to me because every album and single I put out was number one, but he had a right to his opinion." When Nesmith threatened to quit unless The Monkees were given some control over their musical output, Kirshner's attorney proceeded to remind Michael about his contract. Nez responded - by punching his fist through the wall - telling the attorney, 'That could’ve been your face.' "I was very impressed," Kirshner chuckled, "because I thought the Beverly Hills [Hotel] had pretty strong walls."
Despite these tumultuous events, Kirshner agreed to meet with Chip Douglas, recently selected by Michael as a potential producer for The Monkees. Douglas had been a member of the Modern Folk Quartet and later The Turtles, and despite never producing a record previously, he had arranged The Turtles' 1967 smash "Happy Together." Kirshner gave permission for Douglas to produce a session with The Monkees later that month.
Gathering together at RCA Hollywood on the morning of Monday, January 16, 1967, The Monkees conducted their first recording session under their own auspices. With Micky behind the drums, Davy on maracas and tambourine, Michael playing an electric 12-string guitar, and Peter handling bass, acoustic guitar, and harpsichord, the quartet tackled three songs that day. (John London, a friend of Michael's from Texas and his stand-in on The Monkees' TV show, played bass while Peter handled harpsichord duties.) The first song attempted was Baker Knight's "She So Far Out, She' In," which was performed live by The Monkees during their earliest concert performances and was later tracked during the sessions for the Headquarters album. (It was ultimately left unfinished.) The rest of the session was dedicated to songs that the group and Douglas hoped would make up both sides of the next Monkees single.
"All of Your Toys" was submitted to the group by one of Michael's friends from the pre-Monkees days, Bill Martin, and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" was a Nesmith original. "We thought ['All of Your Toys'] was going to be a great single," said Chip Douglas. "That was when I first became involved. I got real excited about the song when Bill Martin showed it to me. I didn't realize at the time that it didn't have a chorus." Described by AllMusic critic Matthew Greenwald as "a whimsical ballad with some dark undertones," the song, despite its promise, went unheard for twenty years. 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.
Sadly, Bill Martin, who went on to have a successful career in music, film, and television, passed away on January 27, 2016.
In the aftermath of the sessions that produced "All of Your Toys," Kirshner coaxed Davy to fly to New York and cut a few tracks with studio musicians. In a hardball move, Kirshner selected two songs from those sessions, Neil Diamond's "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" along with the first recorded version of "She Hangs Out," and issued them as a single in Canada in February, without the approval of The Monkees or Raybert. This power play resulted in Kirshner being fired and the single withdrawn. "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" reappeared as a single in March, supported by a new version of "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," this time with Micky on lead vocals as opposed to Michael.
The hurdles surrounding The Monkees when recording "All of Your Toys" were numerous. A war for control over their own music against a kingmaker like Don Kirshner, the pressure of recording a hit song at the moment their careers were skyrocketing, and a watchful press looking to expose The Monkees as musical frauds because of their non-traditional origins, makes the history and legacy of "All of Your Toys" that much more vital. Today, The Monkees Live Almanac celebrates it as the Song of the Day.
The Monkees performed "All of Your Toys" live in concert for the first time during their highly successful 45th Anniversary World Tour in 2011.
A stereo remix of the song was made available in 2007 on a 2-disc expanded edition of The Monkees' third album, 1967's Headquarters:
The master backing track for "All of Your Toys" was included on the 2001 Headquarters Sessions box set:
Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation,
was referenced and quoted for this article.
This song (not to be confused with "You and I" from The Monkees' Instant Replay LP) was written by Davy Jones & Micky Dolenz and appeared on the 1996 Monkees album, Justus, the last to feature all four Monkees.
"You and I" was originally released on the Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart LP in 1976 in a different arrangement with Micky singing the lead vocal. It was also the B-side to the "I Remember the Feeling" single.
Michael talked about "Tapioca Tundra" (the B-side of "Valleri," reaching #34 on Billboard) with Goldmine in 2013:
"It was one of those 'deep cuts' from a later album and had grown in approval and acceptance over the years, until the time when we decided to go on tour [in 2012], and it had become one of the most requested songs for us to do. The song itself is about the moment when the performer realizes that the songs he/she sings belong to the
people — the fans and the crowds — that love the song, and the performer is only there in service to that relationship. 'It cannot be a part of me — for now it's part of you.'"
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.
When the 3-CD deluxe edition of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released in 2010, fans were treated to a previously unheard alternate mix of "Auntie's Municipal Court," this time with Michael on lead vocals:
There are also two versions of "Zor and Zam." An early mono mix appeared on the last original episode of The Monkees television series ("The Frodis Caper") but wasn't officially released until the 1996 Missing Links, Volume Three collection:
An embellished production of "Zor and Zam" courtesy of arranger Shorty Rogers appeared on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in April 1968:
The drummer on the studio version (Micky is the drummer on the live take) is Eddie Hoh, who played on a number of Monkees sessions throughout 1967 and 1969. Eddie recently surfaced on Facebook.
"Words" was the B-side of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" in the summer of 1967 and later appeared on the group's fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
The song, written by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, was originally recorded in August 1966 under their supervision. It was this version that was aired during an episode of the first season, "Monkees in Manhattan," but it would remain unreleased until the Missing Links Volume 2 compilation arrived in 1990.
"Words" was re-recorded in June 1967 with Chip Douglas as producer and featuring The Monkees as the musicians on the track. It was this version that appeared on the "Pleasant Valley Sunday" single and the Pisces LP. On its own merits, "Words" peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.