What's everyone think of this article?! The Monkees being lumped in with "boy bands" is a personal pet peeve of mine!
This morning I debuted a new design for The Monkees Live Almanac website. There have been a few improvements along the way, and hopefully everything is intact! What do you think of the new look? Please feel free to leave a comment. And do let me know if you find any issues around the site because of the new design.
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Coco has a long history with The Monkees. She provided harmony and background vocals on such Monkees tracks as "Shortly Blackwell," "Little Girl," "Midnight Train," and "Mommy and Daddy." She wrote for teen magazines in the 1960s at the height of her brother's fame, and in the late 1970s, she toured with Micky and Davy after the dissolution of Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. In 1987, Coco released her own album, One Voice.
Coco has been a part of The Monkees' touring band since 2012, providing background vocals, harmonies, and percussion. You can hear Coco at Micky's solo shows, too, where she often duets with her brother on "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Crying in the Rain" while taking over on lead vocals for Michael Nesmith's own "Different Drum."
In comments left on the post Coco also noted that Micky was present at the session, which saw work completed on "Love's What I Want" and "A Better World."
In March 1997, all four Monkees embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom to promote their 1996 album, Justus. The quartet appeared on numerous UK television talk shows to hype the concerts. The tour played to full venues at almost every stop in England, Scotland, and Ireland, including two sold-out appearances at Wembley Arena. The group was enthusiastically greeted by fans, but the British press was another story.
Though they widely documented the tour, most coverage was negative and unflattering. Nonetheless, fans were thrilled with the show and the chance to see all four Monkees performing an entire concert tour together for the first time since 1968. Michael Nesmith, on the other hand, decided to cease live concert appearances with The Monkees after the UK tour. "The UK shows were fun enough," Nesmith told Record Collector in August 1997. "It's always fun to play at an arena level. And Monkees fans being what they are, they had a good time. So there wasn't anything unpleasant about that side of it. But on a global level, it's understood that the UK press is the worst in the world. So I knew I was walking into the absolutely worst possible place I could go. Even so, I had forgotten how mean-spirited the press could be. I knew that it was substandard and unintelligent and tied to what advertisers want, but I didn't realize it was mean-spirited. And that was devastating, to see that operating as the voice of the public. It put me right off. I walked right into that and thought, 'My God, this is a terrible thing to be involved in.'"
Despite mostly negative reviews in the UK, the reception by the fans, management, and some of the band members remained upbeat. "We had a great time and got a fabulous reaction," Micky told Monkee Business Fanzine after the tour was completed. "I enjoyed seeing the fans," Michael enthused to Melody Maker. "We came because of a mandate from the fans and that was satisfying." Ward Sylvester, The Monkees' manager, said the UK tour was "just great, well-attended, lots of sellouts and near sellouts." Asked about some of the less than stellar assessments, Sylvester shrugged it off, saying "The British press tends to be unpleasant. They do a lot of posturing to sell newspapers." Q, a popular British music magazine, spoke to The Monkees during the tour. When the interviewer said to the group that "journalists hope you'll say you hate each other and you're just doing it for the money," Nesmith responded with "We're all rich and we all like each other."
Here's a particularly bruising review of one of the Wembley Arena concerts (despite ending on somewhat of a positive note) from the British publication Melody Maker. Thanks to Rosemary Reedman for submitting this article to The Monkees Live Almanac.
This piece comes from the January 4, 1969 issue of the British publication Record Mirror. In it, Brian Auger, who starred in The Monkees' 1969 television special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, discusses Peter's exit from the group. Thanks to Rosemary Reedman for submitting this clipping to the Live Almanac!
A big thanks to Rosemary Reedman who submitted this interview with Michael Nesmith that was published in the summer of 1967 in the British music magazine New Musical Express. Nez discusses the recording of The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (along with his idea on what the cover of the LP should look like), The Beatles, the L.A. and London pop scenes, and much more.
In his book, Andrew Sandoval writes that Michael's conversation with Keith Altham likely took place on June 23, 1967 as the The Monkees prepared to depart for Paris, France. For easier reading, click each image to enlarge.
This is the fifth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
Like many, my Monkees obsession began with the group's revival in 1986 during their 20th Anniversary. On my 13th birthday, I watched the MTV marathon and was immediately hooked. I began grabbing everything I could find of The Monkees' recorded work. My first purchase came in March 1986 when I picked up the Arista Greatest Hits (the hasty reissue of Refocus from the '70s), quickly followed by a Spanish version of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. on LP, causing my father to nearly evict me when I paid $30 for it at a flea market!
What puzzled me most as a teenager in the '80s was the fact that Peter, and later Mike, weren't involved in certain albums, until I discovered more information after reading The Monkees Tale by Eric Lefcowitz. I loved Instant Replay but found The Monkees Present to be a bit dismal. Changes was fun, but a few tracks drove me nuts, particularly "I Never Thought It Peculiar." And thus, my inspiration for this article.
As I grew older and the Missing Links series was released, it baffled me how many great songs were left in the Monkee vaults in the 1960s. Despite this sort of exercise having been attempted countless times before by other fans like me, I have created three "fantasy" albums of The Monkees' recorded work between 1969 and 1971.
Let's start with The Monkees Present, my least favorite album in its original format.
You can check out the LP's track listing as issued in October 1969 below:
Today I envision it as a more sophisticated collection featuring the following line-up:
Side 1: The Monkees Present (Reimagined)
1. Someday Man
A fantastic song co-written by Paul Williams, it should have become the second "Daydream Believer."
2. If I Ever Get To Saginaw Again
Nez does Glen Campbell! This song was intended for single release at one point but was shelved, perhaps because of its subject matter of unwed pregnancy.
3. Steam Engine
Famous for its ultra expensive production by its author and producer, Chip Douglas, this brassy-bluesy number also features Red Rhodes on pedal steel. Micky Dolenz at his wailing best!
4. If I Knew
A gorgeous Davy Jones ballad, it was co-written with Bill Chadwick.
5. Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye
A unique Dolenz original (co-written with his longtime friend and stand-in Ric Klein), it also featured Davy on backing vocals.
6. Nine Times Blue
Advertised by Micky during an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show as a song "off our new album," the inclusion of this Nesmith classic on The Monkees Present would have made that statement true.
Side 2: The Monkees Present (Reimagined)
7. Listen To The Band
No explanation needed! It was also performed by the original quartet on their 1969 NBC television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.
This is another lovely ballad composed by Davy, and it features guitar work by Neil Young.
I'm going with the Missing Links version - it's funky Dolenz and very underrated.
10. St. Matthew
Like "Rosemarie," there are various mixes of this song, but the Missing Links Volume 2 version without the fuzz vocal is superior. Nez does Dylan - a fantastic anthem!
11. French Song
An atmospheric Davy ballad - always loved this one!
12. Pillow Time
I'll end my reimagined Present LP with this one - a lullaby composed by Micky's mom, Janelle.
Some great songs from The Monkees Present (like "Good Clean Fun") were omitted in my reworked version of the album, but don't worry, Parts 2 & 3 of this article will shed more light. Stay tuned for my fantasy take on Changes, where Davy completes his songwriting partnership with Bill Chadwick and Nez hangs around, along with my alternate universe final Monkees album (featuring Dolenz & Jones), a 1971 Jeff Barry-produced affair entitled Do It In the Name of Love.
The Wichita Train Whistle Sings was the first solo album by Michael Nesmith, recorded during weekend sessions on November 18-19, 1967 at RCA Hollywood while he was still a member of The Monkees. The album comprises instrumentals of Nesmith originals that were performed by a full orchestra, including members of the Wrecking Crew, Los Angeles's top session musicians. Shorty Rogers, who scored "Daydream Believer" and other tracks for The Monkees, handled the arrangements, and Hank Cicalo, engineer on numerous Monkees recordings, was also on hand. Michael acted as producer and co-arranger. Here's the track listing of the LP:
Several of the songs had been previously aired on Monkees albums or would be heard on subsequent releases, while two others ("Carlisle Wheeling" and "Nine Times Blue") remained unreleased in their original form until Nesmith re-recorded them with the First National Band (with the Monkees-era versions remaining in the vaults until the Missing Links series in the late 1980s).
Michael spoke about the Wichita sessions with Keith Altham of New Musical Express. "I've been writing for a year and a half and I did not want to be blinded by dollar signs or tied down to what is commercially acceptable. I wanted to find something new. This is it. It cost me approximately $50,000 to do it."
True to his word, Nez spared no expense. Not only did he hire the best musicians (who would be paid double time due to the weekend booking), Michael had the whole event catered by Chasen's, a top tier restaurant in Los Angeles. Over 50 musicians contributed to the Wichita project, including Red Rhodes (pedal steel), Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer (drums), Larry Knechtel (piano), Tommy Tedesco (guitar), and Doug Dillard (banjo). "Earl Palmer and I were on cloud nine, because it was a drummer's dream to be able to kick this gigantic band in the butt," wrote Blaine in his 1990 autobiography. "The town was buzzing with excitement about the session. Shorty Rogers was doing the arrangements...It sounded like World War III. In fact, Nesmith was going to call it that, but changed it to The Pacific Ocean and ultimately called it The Wichita Train Whistle."
The weekend recording fest was also famous for an incident that occurred at the end of the sessions. The lead sheet for the final track attempted ("Don't Call On Me") included an instruction that called for the players to improvise a cacophony of sound. As the track concluded, Tommy Tedesco took off his Fender guitar (which was still plugged into the amplifier), and threw it high into the air. The guitar hit the floor and smashed into pieces. "He had the pieces mounted and framed," Blaine later recalled. Members of the Wrecking Crew reminisced about that infamous moment in a recent documentary centered around L.A.'s top players:
Hal Blaine had nothing but fond memories of the Wichita sessions. "The Nesmith dates came off without a hitch. It was the greatest party I've ever been invited to. Two days of Chasen's food, and more music than you could expect in a lifetime. Gene Cipriano, the saxophonist/oboist, got his reeds jammed with caviar. We were like kids in a candy store."
The Wichita Train Whistle Sings was released in 1968 by Dot Records. The final issue of Monkee Spectacular covered Michael's first solo endeavor:
A party was held to mark the occasion. Nez cut a cake in the likeness of the LP's front cover:
An advertisement for The Wichita Train Whistle Sings appeared in the June 8, 1968 issue of Billboard:
The UK publication Monkees Monthly noted positive reviews for Wichita, including one from the Los Angeles Times:
Music journalist Leonard Feather wondered if the sounds heard on The Wichita Train Whistle Sings were a preview of what contemporary popular music would be like in the early 1970s:
"Don't Cry Now" was selected as the LP's first and only single, backed with "Tapioca Tundra." The A-side is noteworthy as it never appeared on a Monkees album or any of Nesmith's later solo efforts, nor was it ever given a vocal treatment (though Michael has confirmed that lyrics existed for the song).
The Wichita Train Whistle Sings peaked at #144 on the Billboard charts. Michael talked frankly about the reaction to the album with Flip in its December 1968 issue:
FLIP: From what we've seen, everyone liked Wichita Train Whistle, but few bought it, despite the fact that your being a Monkee is supposed to be a big selling factor and the fact that it was a good album. Any idea what happened?
Nesmith: You overestimate the selling power of The Monkees. They don't sell.
FLIP: The Monkees records sell. Every album they've put out has been a million seller.
Nesmith: Yeah, but that's the Monkees records, and they don't sell that much now. Now that we're off television they're not selling worth a darn, not anymore. The album (Wichita Train Whistle) sold very well actually, where it was played. In Los Angeles alone it sold over 22,000 albums. And if the rest of the country'd played it, it would have been alright, but the rest of the country didn't.
FLIP: Any idea why?
Nesmith: There were a lot of managerial problems. It wasn't promoted right, it wasn't distributed right, and couple that with the fact that being a Monkee has with it the stigma of being a bull artist, and nobody gave a damn. Nobody cares what we play or say or think or anything, 'cause they think, "well, you're just a bunch of plastic weirdos," except the kids, you know, and the kids aren't old enough to do anything yet, but when they're old enough then you'll see something.
FLIP: You'd think this album would have done away with a lot of that and that a lot of people would have realized that at least you are a legitimate musician.
Nesmith: Yeah, but a lot of people didn't, a lot of people didn't want to mess with it, just refused to accept it, just because of the fact I am a Monkee.
FLIP: You think that hurt more than it helped?
Nesmith: Yeah, I'm convinced of it.
FLIP: Any plans to do it again?
Nesmith: Oh yeah, you know we made some good money off the album, so we'll probably do another one, probably just one more though, no more.
FLIP: Will you collaborate with Shorty Rogers again?
Nesmith: Yeah, I'm sure I'll go with Shorty again.
Over time, an urban legend developed (mentioned by Wichita musician and renowned drummer Hal Blaine in his autobiography) that Michael recorded The Wichita Train Whistle Sings as a tax write-off, a notion that Nez has disavowed over the years. "I made the record to make the record," he told Andrew Sandoval in the mid-2000s. Listen below to the Wichita version of "Nine Times Blue."
Lindsay Planer of AllMusic broke down the sounds of Wichita in a part of her assessment of the album:
Immediately evident is the big-band style in which these sides were physically documented -- incorporating an open microphone placement which is used when recording larger orchestration. The resulting effect lends a natural-sounding warmth that closely miked and/or amplified techniques often lack. The music itself reflects Nesmith's left-of-center attitude and often unpredictable sense of humor. For instance, the full-bodied and otherwise bombastic arrangement of "Nine Times Blue" is speared right through the middle with a Doug Dillard banjo solo. He throttles up the tempo as the full orchestra breaks into a double-time mambo for the second half of the song. Other reinventions include the once psychedelic "Tapioca Tundra" into a freewheeling escapade replete with a soaring string section that remains amazingly agile throughout. The Wichita Train Whistle Sings project also allowed Nesmith the opportunity to record a few songs that he would revisit during his solo career, such as the pseudonym-esque "Carlisle Wheeling." The strict, if not somewhat lumbering, 4/4 time signature performed here is the antithesis of the easy country-rock sound most synonymous with the tune. He would eventually issue it under the name "Conversations" on his second solo album, Loose Salute. Also worthy of note is "Don't Cry Now," as it is the only track on the album to have never been issued by either The Monkees or Nesmith. Wichita Train Whistle Sings is much more of a timepiece or cultural artifact than an album designed to express artistic achievement or in any way reestablish Nesmith's post-Monkees direction. Fans of his quirky and offbeat sense of humor as well as his delicious melodies will find much to enjoy.
A big thanks to Ben Belmares for sharing his scans of The Wichita Train Whistle Sings LP with
The Monkees Live Almanac:
I'd also like to acknowledge JD at Monkee45s.net, who is responsible for some of the scanned images appearing in this piece.
Original Monkees tunesmith and producer Bobby Hart is contributing to the upcoming Monkees album, Good Times!, and the latest track to be recorded is another Andy Partridge contribution, "Love's What I Want," produced by Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval, who also contributed guitar! And check out the guest musicians mentioned by Andrew!
Thanks to Fred Velez who submitted this photo of a poster of Micky and Davy included inside the Japanese release of the Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart album.
Live in 2021