In its December 27, 1966 issue, Look magazine published a feature on The Monkees with quotes from each member of the group as well as Raybert co-founder Bert Schneider. The article also includes photos from an October 18, 1966 recording session at RCA Hollywood staged for reporter Betty Rollin. With Michael in the producer's chair flanked by Don Kirshner and Lester Sill, an attempt was made to add Micky, Davy, and Peter's backing vocals to Michael's song, "Mary, Mary," but things quickly unraveled. Andrew Sandoval documented this event in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, and audio from it will finally see the light of day on the upcoming super deluxe edition box set for the group's sophomore album, More Of The Monkees:
"The Monkees wisecrack their way through a series of rehearsals - labeled 1A-4A and noted on the box as 'no good' - and seven 'real' takes. The antics of Davy and Micky are legitimately funny, but after 20 taped minutes, Nesmith says, "Honest to God, no shit - let's cool it."
The overdub session would eventually come to a halt, and no group backing vocals for "Mary, Mary" would be included in the final take of the song.
Nez also talks about The Monkees' 1968 film, Head:
“It was an attempt to do harm. I knew that these guys, Bert [Schneider] and Bob [Rafelson], were up to no good. And I don’t mind it being in the public record,” he says. “But the thing that I did love about it was the way that it recovered, the way it redeemed itself. It had something in it that was never gonna die, that wacko absurdity, and it remains compartmentalized. You open the silo that Head lives in and there’s no other movie in there.”
In 2010, Head was included in a Criterion Collection box set, America Lost & Found: The BBS Story, which highlighted the films of Bob Rafelson & Bert Schneider and Steve Blauner. This poster was created to promote the DVD and Blu-ray releases, as well as a screening of Head at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in New York.
Peter Mills, author of The Monkees, Head, and the '60s, was recently contacted by none other than Bob Rafelson, who praised his work! (And it looks like Jack Nicholson is reading, too.) Jawbone Press, the publisher of the book, tweeted the following account earlier today:
Be sure to check out an excerpt from the book that was published on this blog last year.
"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:
Andrew Sandoval wrote about the November 6, 1968 premiere in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
The Monkees travel to New York City to attend the premiere of their movie Head, which is held not in a cinema but rather at the Columbia Pictures studio on West 54th Street. A party is thrown afterwards for guests including Janis Ian, Andy Warhol, Boyce & Hart, Carole Bayer, Lester Still, Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, Peter Fonda, Peter's brother Nick Thorkelson and his grandma. A discotheque is set up and a room that includes small television sets playing portions of the movie. (The group stay at the Hilton Hotel.) Bob Rafelson: "The night Head opened they arrested [Jack Nicholson and myself]. Our opening - and there we were slapping stickers all over New York about the movie. The producer and director on 57th and 5th Avenue. I see a guy about to get arrested for selling chestnuts on the street without a license. So I went over and said, 'How much for the chestnuts?' and the cop said, 'He can't sell you the chestnuts.' And I said, 'I'll just give you the money and you give me the nuts and then no one breaks the law.' "Now, while I'm having this dialectic with the cop, who has a white helmet on, Jack is standing behind the cop trying to slap a Head sticker on the helmet. And like a Laurel & Hardy comedy, man, this cop turns around just at the right moment and Jack nails him on the side of his face. Bam! We're handcuffed and up against the walls. A squad car takes us away. We've got a flick opening in an hour. I just wanted to call everybody and tell them we're in jail. And to get on the radio and sell tickets - because Jack and I had this feeling that no one was going to see Head."
This is a must watch interview with Bob Rafelson that was filmed for the Criterion Collection release of Head in 2010. Rafelson starts at the beginning, talking about the audition process that led to the selection of Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, all the way through the making of the movie Head in 1968.
This article, written by Richard Warren Lewis and originally published in the January 28, 1967 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, quite possibly gave credence to the "Monkees don't play their own instruments" tagline that quickly enveloped The Monkees as they rose to superstardom. Michael Nesmith holds nothing back, voicing his displeasure with how the earliest Monkees records were made (under the watchful eye of musical supervisor Don Kirshner), while also defending the group's NBC television series as something genuine and valid. The article contains a few errors and half-truths, nearly implying that The Monkees had almost nothing to do with the recording process from the start, which of course, is factually inaccurate.
As this piece enters circulation in early 1967, The Monkees were fresh from their explosive confrontation with Don Kirshner at the Beverly Hills Hotel (where Nez put his fist through the wall), and the first Monkees recording session under their complete creative control (with producer Chip Douglas at the helm) had yielded both "All of Your Toys" and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" with the hope these tracks would comprise both sides of the next Monkees single.
"When Four Nice Boys Go Ape!" covers a lot of different topics and people, including Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, early group names before "Monkees" was chosen, improvisational training with Jim Frawley, and much more.
In September 1965, Hollywood television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider placed an ad in The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety that read, "Madness!! Auditions. Folk & Roll musicians-singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running parts for 4 insane boys, age 17 - 21. Want spirited Ben Frank's-types. Have courage to work. Must come down for interview." By November 1965, after over 400 potential applicants were screened, the audition process had been completed. Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork were now The Monkees.
Ben Frank’s was a 24 hour restaurant and coffee shop on the Sunset Strip. It was a favorite hangout of young people, musicians, and nearby club patrons, who'd stop by for late night food and drink.
Today, the structure still stands, except it's now Mel's Drive-In.
In September 1965, Hollywood television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider placed an ad in The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety. By November 1965, after over 400 potential applicants were screened, the audition process had been completed. Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork were now The Monkees.
Steve Blauner, former partner of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, passed away earlier this week. In Davy's 1987 autobiography, They Made a Monkee Out of Me, he remembered some pranks exchanged between the pair in the 1960s. (For context, the story being told by Davy at the start of the page below concerns some financial issues he was experiencing with a former manager.)
After producing Five Easy Pieces in 1969, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the team who created The Monkees television series, took on a third partner, Stephen Blauner, changing the name of their company from Raybert Productions to BBS Productions (for Bert, Bob, and Steve). Blauner, a Columbia Pictures executive who green lighted The Monkees' TV show (even getting a name-check in one episode, as a gangster), moved on to films like The Last Picture Show; Drive, He Said; and The King Of Marvin Gardens. In the mid-1980s, Blauner produced The New Monkees under the name Straybert Productions.
"It is far and away my favorite Monkees song."