In March, Rhino Records announced that The Monkees' eponymous debut album would receive the super deluxe treatment in the form of a 3-CD box set. No details have been announced, but that hasn't stopped fans from speculating as to what will be included on this latest Monkees collection. There are demos in existence, including Davy singing "I Wanna Be Free." Several songs from the first Monkees album appeared in different (and heretofore unreleased) mixes on the TV show, including "Saturday's Child" and "Take a Giant Step." Don't forget about the alternate TV take of "All the King's Horses," too. Andrew Sandoval has played multiple unique mixes of songs from the early era of The Monkees on his Come to the Sunshine internet radio program, including "This Just Doesn't Seem to Be My Day," "Papa Gene's Blues," "I Wanna Be Free," and "Sweet Young Thing." How about the Boyce & Hart demos for the pilot episode (and others)? Then there are acetates for songs like "All the King's Horses," which was heard during the pre-concert show on the 2012 tour and featured a double tracked lead vocal by Mike and no vocals from Micky.
A dream find for the upcoming super deluxe edition would certainly be the session that The Monkees undertook in June 1966 with Snuff Garrett, the first person to officially produce The Monkees in the studio. In the months after the pilot was sold in early 1966, Don Kirshner hired Garrett (temporarily sidestepping Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart), who then signed a contract stating he alone would produce every Monkees recording. Garrett was best known for his work with Gary Lewis & The Playboys, and he brought along arranger Leon Russell to the Monkees sessions. "Snuffy was my guy because I thought he was a fabulous producer," Kirshner later told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval. "Snuffy had a great feel, a great personality. Terrific producer; a fun guy. I figured with his personality and sense of humor that he could do amazing things with The Monkees." Garrett didn't share in Kirshner's enthusiasm. "Donnie started calling me at home, saying, ‘We got this group. They're gonna be on television,'" Garrett recalled of his introduction to The Monkees. "He said, 'I want you to make an exclusive deal to produce them.' Then I said, ‘Donnie, I really don’t want to. I’m busy as hell right now.' I had a group called Gary Lewis & The Playboys, and I was doing a few other things, but that's really what I was concentrating on. So I just told him. 'Don, I appreciate it.' [He said], 'No, you gotta do it. This is perfect for you.'" Little did the parties involved realize that the relationship between Garrett and The Monkees would not be an enduring one.
On June 10, 1966 at RCA Hollywood, ace session musicians were on hand for the first (and ultimately last) Monkees recording session with Snuff Garrett. Sonny Curtis (guitar), Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (piano and organ), Ray Pohlman (eight-string bass), and Glen Campbell and James Burton (both 12-string electric guitar) cut two songs, Boyce & Hart's "Let's Dance On" and Goffin & King's "Take a Giant Step." Sandoval spoke with Garrett about his one day of work with The Monkees for the liner notes of the 2006 deluxe edition release of The Monkees, and noted how the group's zany antics didn't go over well with their new producer. "I do remember that night very well," Garrett said. "I had 'em each on mic, and it was kinda like that show you got now, American Idol, you know, lettin' each of 'em sing. I was not happy at all...Then I announced the little guy there, Davy, was going to be the lead singer. They went #?!*ing berserko."
The session came to a halt, and The Monkees quickly expressed their dissatisfaction with Garrett. The feeling was, apparently, mutual. "I told [Music Supervisor] Lester [Sill], 'Tell Donnie it's not working out worth a damn," Garrett recalled to Sandoval. "They were tellin' me how the guys didn't like me, and they would never go for Davy being [lead singer]. [I said], 'Hey, I don't particularly give a #?!* what they go for...I got a contract with you. I'm runnin' it.' In his book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, Sandoval says the Snuff Garrett session tapes are lost, but reported that those who had heard the results "described them as sounding rather like Gary Lewis outtakes." In a 2006 interview that I conducted with Andrew, he was asked about the status of the Garrett sessions and if they had been found since the publication of his book in 2005. "We have not found many things since my book was published," he replied. (I'm not aware of any recent comments by Andrew on whether or not the Garrett tapes have been located or even if there have been fresh attempts to find them. UPDATE 1/10/2015: In a podcast interview, Sandoval confirms that the Garrett tapes still have not been located. You can hear his remarks at the 26:30 point of the interview.)
Although Snuff Garrett ultimately didn't produce The Monkees, a group that quickly became an international success, he didn't make out too bad from the deal. When relations broke down between Garrett and The Monkees, Garrett was almost immediately asked to leave the project. "I didn’t want it in the first place...So they named a number, and I don't even remember now – it was 50, 75 thousand, 100 – it was a considerable amount of money," he told Andrew Sandoval. "Whatever the hell it was, I accepted and walked out and I used to laugh about how I did real good out of that one terrible session."
In the aftermath of the Garrett/Monkees debacle, Michael Nesmith produced a tracking session on June 25, 1966 that yielded very admirable results. Recorded that day were backing tracks for "The Kind of Girl I Could Love," "All the King's Horses," and "I Don't Think You Know Me." Kirshner, however, would leave these songs off the group's debut LP. Recording sessions resumed on July 5, 1966 with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart at the helm. The Monkees' debut single, "Last Train to Clarksville," would soon be cut, and subsequent sessions produced the songs that ultimately made up The Monkees, released in October 1966.
Rhino Records has announced a November 2014 street date for the super deluxe edition of The Monkees. Keep checking back with the Live Almanac for an official track listing.