"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'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 version was recorded in January 1968 under the supervision of Michael 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, who listened 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.
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.
Michael was the lead singer on the first recorded version of his own "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" in January 1967. This take of the song remained unreleased until 1995:
The single version, recorded one month later, featured Micky on lead vocals along with a different arrangement. Davy was absent from these sessions as he was on holiday in England.
Here's a stereo remix of the second recorded version that was showcased on the Headquarters 2-CD deluxe edition, released in 2007:
Peter's friend, Karen Harvey Hammer, had a son named Justin who became the inspiration for Peter's song "Lady's Baby."
Here's a page of Andrew Sandoval's liner notes from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees deluxe edition box set detailing the complicated recording history of the track:
Davy Jones spoke of his fondness for "Lady's Baby" in 1994 when The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released on compact disc by Rhino Records:
"They laugh and joke about that ["Lady's Baby"] – it cost as much to do as 'Good Vibrations,' that record. But that was a true-to-life thing. He was living with a woman at the time, and she had a little baby, and that changed his life, you know? That gave him something to think about. He was being downtrodden by the studio in regards to his recording, his playing, his songs and everything else. But Peter Tork was the salt of the earth. It wasn't just Hari Krishna, waterbeds, and brown rice – that guy was a very accomplished musician. It's a nice song, it's true, it's got the warmth and everything of what he was living. I remember it so well – it's a real tune. I love it."
Peter performed "Lady's Baby" during his 'In This Generation' solo tour in 2013:
"Rainy Jane" was released on Davy's 1971 album for Bell Records and became a modest chart hit that year. Below is a demo for the song, courtesy of the Live Almanac's YouTube channel. The picture in the video (and below) is a promotional image used by Bell to promote Davy and the album during that time period.
It's so odd to hear this without the bits from the TV show! And does anyone else think that this song definitely should have made the track list of the debut album?
This long sought after TV version of "All The King's Horses" is, by the way, featured on the upcoming super deluxe edition of The Monkees, courtesy of Rhino Handmade.
While we are on the subject, here's a history of the various mixes of "All The King's Horses," courtesy of the great Monkees Mixography website.
Don't forget that Michael demoed this song in 1965 (before The Monkees):
"Writing Wrongs" appeared on the fifth Monkees LP, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, in 1968. A Nesmith original where he plays guitar and keyboards, he's joined by bassist Rick Dey and Eddie Hoh on drums and percussion. That's Nez you hear on the Hammond organ during the song's psychedelic instrumental interlude. "Writing Wrongs" was recorded at RCA Victor in Hollywood on December 3, 1967.
Interview with Wayne Avers