Here are the picture sleeves for all American Monkees singles released between 1966 and 2016. Some were produced in different variations ("A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and "Valleri" came with no picture sleeve at all), and countries outside of the United States often promoted their own singles that differed from US selections. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the UK release of Micky's "Randy Scouse Git" from the Headquarters album, which became a #2 hit there.
Fast forward to 2016, an era when physical singles are no longer produced in vast quantities, where the songs issued from The Monkees' latest studio album Good Times! were represented with digital images instead of actual physical sleeves.
In retrospect, there were many other Monkees songs that were more than suitable for single release, and it seems that The Monkees could have potentially had a few additional chart hits during their heyday. Think about the fact that in the spring of 1964 at the height of Beatlemania, The Beatles held each slot in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That's an incredible achievement that hasn't been topped, and likely won't be equaled.
That being said, The Monkees were an extremely hot commodity at the peak of their popularity, too. Consider the following chart statistics. The Monkees outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined in 1967. The Monkees had four #1 albums in 1967 alone. The Monkees belong to a small group of artists that have hit #1 simultaneously in the United States and the United Kindgom (in 1967 with "I'm a Believer" as well as the first two albums). Combined, The Monkees and More of The Monkees were at the top of the Billboard LP chart for an amazing 31 consecutive weeks, and by the time the group had disbanded in 1970 their albums had spent 37 weeks at #1. The Monkees' first LP held the record for the longest stay at #1 for a debut album (until 1982 when Men At Work's first, Business As Usual, broke that record). The Monkees had three #1 hits, six Top 10s, 12 Top 40s — 10 of which made it into the Top 20 — and a total of 20 Hot 100 singles. The Monkees were a chart juggernaut for a period of time, and perhaps the group could have added to their chart successes had more singles been released.
There was, of course, a major struggle occurring behind the scenes right as Monkeemania was taking off. The four Monkees joined forces against music supervisor Don Kirshner, a story that has been documented many times before. Perhaps the politics of the time and the uncertainty surrounding the situation as Micky, Davy, Mike and Peter fought for and ultimately won complete artistic and creative control of their music stifled single releases during this period. In fact, one single, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"/"She Hangs Out," was withdrawn during the Monkees/Kirshner feud. Another potential single, the group production "All of Your Toys," was shelved because of a publishing dispute.
We can't forget that The Monkees didn't just have great A-sides. The flipside to almost every Monkees single of the 1960s contains a song of merit, a testament to the amount of quality material made available by and for The Monkees. In fact, many of the B-sides would have made great A-sides. Look at "Steppin' Stone" (#20), "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" (#39), "Words" (#11) and "Tapioca Tundra" (#34) - they all received enough airplay to chart in the Top 40. And then there's "Goin' Down," "As We Go Along," "Take a Giant Step" and "Someday Man." And these songs were B-sides!
Despite the fact that Colgems was not issuing multiple singles from each of the Monkees albums, there were some creative minds who craved for exclusive Monkees material as the group's television and recording career began to soar. As a result, eager and anxious DJs often taped songs directly off the television show for radio play. For instance, the first recorded version of "Valleri" was showcased on the series during the first season even though the song had not yet seen official release on a Monkees single or album up to that point. Original fans have recalled hearing this version of "Valleri" on the radio so much at the time that it led them to think it was indeed the new Monkees single. Bobby Hart, who along with Tommy Boyce wrote the song, had high hopes for "Valleri." "It should have been the next single" [after "I'm a Believer"], Hart told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval years later. Kirshner, however, passed on it, and the song would later be revived and re-recorded for single release in 1968.
Hindsight is always 20/20, so what songs might have added to the successful chart run of The Monkees in the 1960s? Here are a few of my top picks:
1. She: A great pop-rocker from Boyce & Hart, perhaps it was this fact that hampered it from seeing release as a single. Kirshner largely considered Boyce & Hart as second stringers, despite the fact that they were monumental in the early recording stages of The Monkees. Featuring an excellent lead vocal from Micky and the "Hey!" shouts, it's almost always on the set list at a Monkees concert.
2. Love Is Only Sleeping: A psychedelic stunner from the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album, it was nearly issued as a single until someone thought the lyrics were a bit too suggestive for radio. "Daydream Believer" got the nod instead.
3. Mary, Mary: A Nesmith original, a barn burner in their early live shows, and boasting a catchy guitar riff, "Mary, Mary" is an easy sing-along and would have given credence to the notion of The Monkees as legitimate artists during the whole "they don't play their instruments" drama. Rap icons Run-D.M.C. covered it in the late 1980s and issued it as a single, sampling Micky's voice.
4. Dream World: This one might be more out of left field as Monkees fans seem to have strong opinions about it, but I've always thought that "Dream World" is a great, underrated track in The Monkees' canon. Co-written by Davy and leading off the group's fifth long player, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, it features a sprightly arrangement by Shorty Rogers. The song is every bit as good as another Jones lead vocal from this era, "It's Nice To Be With You." That track peaked at #51 as the B-side of "D.W. Washburn." But "Dream World" easily outpaces "It's Nice To Be With You" and it would have sounded great on AM radio. Gotta love Davy's semi-ominous deliveries of "You'll see..." throughout the song, too.
5. For Pete's Sake: An easy selection, this song became the closing theme during the second season of the group's TV series, thus making it instantly recognizable. Composed by Peter, the timely lyrics should have made it an obvious choice as the single from Headquarters during the Summer of Love.
6. What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?: Perhaps Nez put it best to Andrew Sandoval in an interview that appeared in the liner notes of the Pisces deluxe edition in 2007. "One of the things that I felt was honest was country rock," Nesmith said. "I wanted to move The Monkees more into that because I felt like, 'Gee, you know, if we get closer to country music, we’ll get closer to blues, and country blues, and so forth.' [The guys who wrote the song] Michael [Murphey] and Boomer Castleman – Boomer was his nickname – were writers at Screen Gems and they just wrote all kinds of really wonderful little songs, and 'Hangin' 'Round' was one of them. It had a lot of uncountry things in it: a familiar change from a first major to a sixth minor – those kinds of things. So it was kind of a new wave country song; [it] didn’t sound like the country of the time which was Buck Owens." The crossover potential could have opened up new audiences to the sounds of The Monkees in late 1967/early 1968.
7. Steam Engine: Famous for its ultra expensive (and all-around fantastic) production by its author and producer, Chip Douglas, this brassy-bluesy number features a killer lead vocal from Micky and would have made for a suitable follow-up to the "Listen to the Band"/"Someday Man" single. Touring that year with the all African-American rhythm and blues troupe Sam & The Goodtimers, "Steam Engine" seems to encapsulate the sounds and style of The Monkees as a live act in 1969. Not to mention the fact that this song features some great pedal steel guitar work by the late, great Red Rhodes.
8. All of Your Toys: This track 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. 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.
Did I miss a song that is on your list of fantasy Monkees singles? Or do you disagree with one of my selections? Feel free to leave a comment and chime in!
Some of the pictures sleeves found in this post are courtesy of Monkee45s.net.
These are the actual album covers in its unused, pristine state, before it was pasted onto the cardboard LP jacket
The new Monkees Blu-ray collection includes a bonus 45 featuring previously unreleased mixes of both "Star Collector" and "Goin' Down." The former is an alternate mono mix and the latter is a mono vocal mix, featuring Micky Dolenz singing live in the TV studio to the backing track. Both versions of these well-known Monkees songs were heard exclusively on the soundtrack of the second season of The Monkees. You'll also note the nod to Colgems, The Monkees' original record label.
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.
This article concerning the power struggle between The Monkees and Don Kirshner most likely comes from a trade magazine (probably Billboard) in early 1967.
"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 true group recording session. 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 for consideration 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 untraditional 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.
Longtime record executive Lester Sill was involved with the Monkees project from the very start. In the early days, Sill was the music coordinator for the group, overseeing the recording process under the helm of Don Kirshner. When Kirshner was sacked in early 1967, Sill took over as musical supervisor. He later became president of Colgems Records.
Listen to this 1969 Monkees single in the video featured below:
And check out this alternate mix of "Someday Man" from the Instant Replay deluxe edition:
Check out the entire '69 tour program on the 1969 tour page!
On January 27, 1967, the first 'Monkees Club' was opened in West Caldwell, New Jersey. New talent would be showcased in a "theatre environment" where teenagers could be easily admitted on Friday and Saturday nights. As the flyer below notes, the club would act as a "stage to stardom" and attendees were promised an evening of live entertainment in a "groovy" atmosphere, all in a place where they would feel "in, together, with it." Colgems (The Monkees' record label) was advertised as having first right of refusal on any talent discovered at the clubs. Record World magazine said "The Monkees themselves won attention after talent auditions [and] this Monkees discovery pattern will now be adapted at the Monkees Clubs."
This full-page ad appeared in the March 25, 1967 issue of Billboard.
The menu at the clubs would consist of "kooky soft-drink and ice cream concoctions," and auditions would be held on Sundays. Winners of the contests would play the circuit of other clubs. Over thirty more locations were planned, but it's unknown if they came into existence, and if any talent was ultimately discovered.
Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, was referenced for details appearing in this blog post.