Ward Sylvester, a pivotal figure in the career of The Monkees, their television series, live performances, and more, passed away on June 11, 2017. He was 77. Ward managed a pre-Monkees Davy Jones, served as an associate producer for The Monkees television series, oversaw the first Monkees concert tour, acted as executive producer for their 1969 television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, and later collaborated with Michael Nesmith on various projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s. All four Monkees selected Sylvester as their manager in 1995 in preparation for the group's 30th Anniversary festivities.
Ward was born on October 1, 1939. In the early 1960s, he was Vice President of Columbia Pictures and would play a key role in the burgeoning career of a young Davy Jones. In his 1987 autobiography, They Made a Monkee Out of Me, Davy remembered visiting with Sylvester in 1964 during his stint as 'The Artful Dodger' in the Broadway production of Oliver! "Ward Sylvester, a Screen Gems executive, had come to see Oliver! After the show he came backstage and said he'd like me to come to Hollywood and do some tests - was I interested? Was I interested? ... Meeting Ward and doing those screen tests was the beginning of the ideas and connections that led to The Monkees — though no one knew it then."
The Hollywood Reporter announced the partnership between Jones and Screen Gems (Columbia's television division) in September 1964, two years before the debut of The Monkees, saying that Davy "has been signed to a long-term contract by Screen Gems. In addition to appearing in future TV series for Screen Gems, Jones will also record for the firm's Colpix Records and make features for Columbia Pictures."
With Davy Jones now affiliated with Screen Gems, the company searched for a vehicle for his talents, and as fate would have it, the Monkees project ultimately provided his pathway to success. Years later, Davy recalled the earliest days in the casting process for The Monkees television series. "To get things rolling, Ward and I would go around to different clubs looking for prospective members for the TV show. We saw Sonny and Cher and The Byrds on one bill, and across the street was little Stevie Wonder. We went to see Authur Lee and Love - this is all in one night. The guitar player from Love, a tall, good-looking blond guy, we thought would be good for the show. The Monkees vests and yellow shirts that we wore in our pilot came from what Sonny Bono was wearing."
"We saw the MFQ - the Modern Folk Quartet - with Chip Douglas," Davy continued. "We looked at Jerry Yester as a potential candidate. Word was getting around, and people like Paul Peterson and Paul Williams, and actors from across the country were buzzing about this. They decided to have open auditions, so they put the Madness ad in 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.
In February 1966, The Monkees TV series, led by its creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, was officially sold to NBC by Screen Gems. Sylvester acted as associate producer.
Years later, Ward discussed his initial encounters with Micky, Michael, and Peter with Harold Bronson, co-founder of Rhino Records, in his 1996 book Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees. "We saw Mike first, hosting New Talent Night at The Troubadour, a folk rock club that still exists. The job required a great deal of grace because the quality of the acts was very uneven. They more or less let anybody who wanted to come up and perform. He did it with a marvelous amount of poise and wit and was able to walk that very narrow line between allowing the audience to understand the humor of it without really putting down the performers. Michael has always had a lot of class, and a maturity, even at that age, in his very early twenties...I first saw Micky performing in a bowling alley with a group called the Missing Links. Micky did seem to me to be the Jerry Lewis-like clown we were looking for. He was always on. He was very inventive and clever with a wonderful mind twist. And he was the only one who had episodic television experience, with Circus Boy, which we thought would be a plus. Peter was the most interesting one in the sense that the character he played was the least like himself. I think that the other guys played characters very close to who they really were. Peter's character had a gentle innocence and a little slow-wittedness about him. Peter has the gentle innocence, but he is not at all slow-witted. It's interesting, even though Huntz Hall was the prototype for Peter, what most reminds me of his character is Norman Drabble of the Kevin Fagen comic strip. It's called Drabble and is about a college student who is well meaning but a little fumbling. He's always embarrassed and always says the wrong thing. And Peter was able to play that. Peter is very intelligent and very well-educated. He always surprises me with allusions to classical music and to classical literature. He's very spiritual and very insightful. He had to suppress an awful lot of that to be the Peter that we know from television."
The Monkees debuted on NBC on September 12, 1966, and their first single, "Last Train to Clarksville" had already been climbing the charts that summer. While The Monkees enjoyed near instant success on TV and at radio, they were soon criticized by the press and some members of the rock community for being "manufactured." Ward Sylvester later championed the group's desire to perform on their own records and to have more creative control, especially since industry mogul Don Kirshner, who had been tapped to produce music for the show, refused to allow The Monkees to play a larger role in the making of the music for the series and albums. "When the criticism started coming through that The Monkees weren't really a group, it seemed bizarre to me that anybody would think they were," Sylvester relayed to Harold Bronson. "It's like somebody saying, 'Do you understand that Barbara Eden doesn't sleep in a bottle at night?' Of course she doesn't, she's an actress playing a part on television; she's not a genie. We lacked the foresight that the guys would start to feel that 'That's supposed to be us playing and not only is it not, but it's not something we might want to play or sing.'" Sylvester also expressed frustration with Kirshner. "I think Kirshner exacerbated it. There were a couple reasons why it got worse. Kirshner would not fly, so he didn't want to leave New York. He was always the eminence back in New York who would be mailing things to Los Angeles. Secondly, he had a great taste for personal publicity. He wanted the credit for The Monkees. Now, he certainly deserved it at the beginning. I mean, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were songwriters he worked with and he helped them pick the music that they produced on the first album. But he wanted the world to know it was him, and it came out as if, 'Those four kids on the screen really don't have anything to do with it,' which was really hard on us. I think there was also a lack of respect from Kirshner. He was not dealing with them on a daily basis so it was like, 'Oh, well, they're just those four kids on the show and any four kids would do.'"
Sylvester told Bronson that The Monkees felt more at home with their musical peers than acting ones. "They also were traveling in more music than television circles because there weren't many television stars their age in those days, and their interests were more bohemian. The happening scene in Hollywood then was a music scene...The hip twenty-five-year-olds with the money and the Jaguars were in the music business. So those were the peers and the contemporaries that The Monkees would see socially. And they would see The Monkees as musicians. It became very uncomfortable, particularly for Mike, who took his own music very seriously, and for Peter, who had been a musical performer...The cumulative weight of it quickly became intolerable, and they wanted to do their own music."
When the demand emerged for The Monkees to perform as a true live act, Ward played a vital role in The Monkees' arrival on the concert stage, acting as manager during their earliest dates. Monkees historian Andrew Sandoval, in his book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation, noted that Peter Tork traveled to San Francisco in late 1966 with Sylvester to attend concerts at venues like The Fillmore to gather ideas for The Monkees' live show. Along with choreographer David Winters, The Monkees and Ward spent time creating a diverse, fast-paced concert act, one that included a projection screen behind the band and an elaborate light show, as well as costume changes, individual solo segments, and bits of comedy between songs that emulated the group's TV series. In the final episode of the first season, "The Monkees On Tour," which documents The Monkees' January 21, 1967 appearance in Phoenix, Arizona, Ward can be seen (at 9:57) clowning around with Michael Nesmith on an escalator:
Ward continued traveling with The Monkees on the road during their ultra-successful 1967 summer tour, which featured the Jimi Hendrix Experience as the opening act on early dates as well as multiple sold-out appearances at Wembley Pool in London. He acted as 'Production Executive' for most of the second season of The Monkees, but his influence seemingly expanded and he was credited as producer for nine episodes in the latter half of the season. "During the second season, I think people's attention was wandering," Sylvester told Harold Bronson. "Bob Rafelson really wanted to make feature films. Bert [Schneider] was becoming increasingly radicalized, very interested in revolutionary politics. Each of the guys had developed more of their own aspirations, which were increasingly divergent from The Monkees. While we now see the second season of the show as having more character, I think the network perceived it as getting weirder and wondered what a third year would look like."
As The Monkees' career came to a close in the late '60s, Ward served as executive producer for the group's 1969 NBC television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. He went on to become the manager of teen idol heartthrob Bobby Sherman while also producing various television movies. "He managed The Monkees and all of that," Sherman said in a 1997 interview. "And our contract was a handshake. I met him when I did a guest shot on The Monkees, and I said, `Lookit, I think I'm gonna have some success here. I need help.' And from that day to this day, we've been in business." In the 1980s, Ward collaborated with Michael Nesmith on both Televison Parts and Dr. Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce and was the executive producer for the 1992 Nesmith concert video release, Live At the Britt. He was interviewed on the Headquarters radio program in 1989 about his experiences in show business and with The Monkees.
In July 1995, during the run-up to The Monkees' 30th Anniversary, Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter signed a management deal with Ward Sylvester. Micky told Monkee Business Fanzine that Sylvester was the only choice of all four Monkees. "He has a good history with us," Dolenz said. "He was there right at the beginning, and we all trust him." Sylvester told Monkee Business Fanzine that he was happy to take the reins. "Much of the music and film The Monkees produced was groundbreaking," he said. "Their artistry got overlooked in the bedlam. Now with some perspective, I think people are going to appreciate them all the more." Ward managed the group throughout 1996 and 1997, which saw The Monkees release their first studio album as a quartet since 1968, Justus, while also filming a brand new TV special for ABC. A tour of the United Kingdom in early 1997 (including two sold-out nights at Wembley Arena) would be the final time all four Monkees would perform together live in concert.
The Monkees Live Almanac salutes Ward Sylvester, a true icon in the long and storied history of The Monkees.
Magnetic South was the first solo album released by Michael Nesmith after his departure from The Monkees. Arriving in June 1970, the LP featured The First National Band: Red Rhodes (pedal steel), John Ware (drums), and John London (bass). It was the first in a trilogy of albums by the group, containing brand new material along with many songs that were recorded during the Monkees era but ultimately passed over for release on Monkees albums. Tracks like "Calico Girlfriend," "Nine Times Blue," "Little Red Rider," and "Hollywood" were re-recorded and reinterpreted during sessions for Magnetic South.
The first single, "Little Red Rider," failed to chart, but "Joanne" became a hit, peaking at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite this success, Magnetic South would only reach #143 on the Billboard Top LPs chart.
Loose Salute followed in late 1970, and the trilogy was completed with Nevada Fighter in 1971.
Note the dedications made by Nez on the back cover: to his fellow Monkees, Lester Sill, Bert Schneider, Jack Nicholson, and Mimi. The "Tomorrow Man" is thought to be a sly reference to Don Kirshner, who was producing a group named Toomorrow at the time (which featured Olivia Newton-John as one of its members).
Last year, Monkees fans voted Magnetic South as their favorite Nesmith solo album.
As always, thanks a lot to Ben Belmares for providing the front and back cover images, along with the labels, that are seen above!
This article concerning the power struggle between The Monkees and Don Kirshner most likely comes from a trade magazine (probably Billboard) in early 1967.
This is the third in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
In the spring of 1967, The Monkees, ostensibly a make-believe band vilified as the antithesis of rock 'n' roll, turned around and committed one of the most rock 'n' roll acts in history—an astonishing act of mutiny against the manufacturing machine that gave them life. The monster had turned on its creator and stumbled out of the lab.
"Once The Monkees took control of their recording career it got steadily worse," said Lester Sill, Don Kirshner's replacement as music supervisor, on the Headquarters radio show in 1988. "Mike [Nesmith] was the catalyst in destroying the group." On the surface, yes; sales figures do support this. Nothing after More of the Monkees (Nesmith's candidate for Worst Album Ever) met its dizzying total of 5 million records sold. Nor did any single match the astonishing success of "I'm a Believer." "That ain't no hit," Nesmith is alleged to have said prior to its recording.
But can this be attributed directly to the group taking charge of their own destiny? It can be argued that the phenomenon had already peaked by the time Nesmith's fist met drywall, and a steady decline was inevitable no matter who was behind the wheel of the Monkeemobile.
With a few exceptions, pop stardom generally has a short half-life; chart and radio success even shorter. The notion of "One Hit Wonder" is a snarky and unfair condemnation, as most artists who even manage to have one hit usually fade after the follow-up doesn't catch on. The Monkees achieved astonishing success in a very short time because all the stars were aligned. They were the right guys at the right time; they had TV exposure, the best writers, the best producers, and the Man with the (usually) Golden Ear.
But putting money on the the group hitting anywhere near those More of the Monkees/"I'm a Believer" sales figures again, under continued supervision by Kirshner or on their own, wouldn't be tempting to even the most adventurous gambler.
"We can play 'Happy Birthday' with a beat and it would sell a million records," Nesmith claims to have told Kirshner during the palace revolt. And in January 1967 this was absolutely true. Kirshner's chosen follow-up to the "I'm a Believer"/"Steppin' Stone" knockout punch was "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"/"She Hangs Out." While the former is a decent song it is nowhere near the quality of its predecessor. Even Kirshner himself described the song as "ordinary." However, he had promised Diamond the follow-up to "I'm a Believer" without hearing it first, a case of loyalty clouding judgment. Despite its relative flatness, the single shot to number two well after Kirshner was escorted out of his office in the company of security guards, somewhat proving Nesmith's "Happy Birthday with a beat" declaration. In stark contrast, Nesmith's own "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," which replaced "She Hangs Out" on the B-side, proved that the group was capable of producing an excellent pop record on their own. It was more catchy, organic, and energetic than Diamond's offering. Though the playing was nowhere near as accomplished as that of the Wrecking Crew, the overall feel is one of the sheer joy of a group of boys creating something that is truly their own. One would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks that first rendering of "She Hangs Out" was a superior cut. Kirshner's last gasp of control came in a series of tracks cut only with Davy Jones in New York, and these are largely the epitome of what Mike (as Frank Zappa) would dismiss as "banal and insipid" in the legendary TV show bit.
As if to ram the point home, The Monkees' later rearrangement of "She Hangs Out" also blew away Jeff Barry's original flat production. Barry may have had a chuckle at Nesmith's prediction regarding "I'm a Believer," but he himself was the one who produced those lifeless last Kirshner sessions, the worst tracks on More of The Monkees, and nearly all of the barely noteworthy Changes album in 1970. He infamously (and rather ridiculously) likened The Monkees' taking control as "a guy playing Superman thinking he could fly." But his own later Monkee productions never soared anywhere near the heights of "I'm a Believer."
If there were any true mistakes in the history of The Monkees' recording legacy, they lie in who was in the producer's seat. Kirshner took the initial production duties away from Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart after one album, robbing the "fake group" of their original sound. This was ironically echoed later by The Monkees parting ways with Chip Douglas, which destroyed the somewhat cohesive sound of the now "real" group. That said, by 1969, with the TV show gone and their utter rejection by both their early fans and the "serious" rock enthusiasts they were trying to court, no decision good or bad was going to matter. The excellent likes of "Porpoise Song," "Listen to the Band," "As We Go Along," and "Someday Man" had little chance on the charts or the airwaves when you checked the 45 and saw the name of the band. And returning to the original sound and formula wasn’t likely to provide a miraculous resurgence of any kind ("Tear Drop City").
Nesmith's primary interest was having a group he could lead and control with the country-rock sound that he loved. And if rumors that he was actually verbally promised this by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson after they saw him perform are true, his frustration was justified. Peter Tork was less concerned about autonomy and more about he and his bandmates actually being the musicians in the chairs. Jones and Micky Dolenz, the two that were happy with the status quo, joined in solidarity and rose to the occasion. The differing agendas of Nesmith and Tork really blended only twice, on Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. — ironically, the two albums that most fans and critics would point to as their best work. The album sales combined didn't reach the heights of More of the Monkees at the time. But 50 years later, they're the primary reason we're here talking about a group that was supposed to only be characters on a TV show. It's doubtful that Nesmith, Tork, or Dolenz had any notion at the time of preserving a long-term legacy, but as they prepare to come together on record once more with Good Times!, I'd like to think they know it now.
This is the second in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
The efforts of songwriters/producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart played a critical role in defining the sound of The Monkees. From the first beats of "(Theme From) The Monkees," their mark would forever be on the project. In addition to the theme song, the series pilot featured Davy Jones taking lead on the classic "I Wanna Be Free," while "Let's Dance On" featured Micky Dolenz, and both numbers were included on The Monkees' debut album. It was a California sound, appropriately reflecting on the characters of four young musicians living in a beach house.
The story behind the early Monkees music, however, was much more complicated. Musical supervisor Don Kirshner had attempted to lure a big name producer to helm the project, and had successfully recruited Snuff Garrett into the studio, which by all accounts, was a disaster. Sessions with Carole King also flamed out, and with a full television season on the horizon, options were growing slim.
Fifty years after the fact, the complications are revealed to be enormous. Andrew Sandoval, archivist, historian, and manager of The Monkees, spoke with Michael Nesmith in an interview for Rhino’s Handmade Edition re-issue of the debut album, The Monkees. "They asked if I would do some things. I said, 'Well, I can do some things, but if I was going to put together a rock 'n' roll band, I don’t know that I would put together a band with David, Micky, and Peter. You know, these are good guys to work with, but we all have very different musical tastes and sensibilities. I'm not that prolific or prodigious.' [They said] ‘Well maybe Tommy and Bobby and you can do it.'"
Time was running short, and by the beginning of July 1966, Boyce & Hart were in charge. Along with Jack Keller, the duo cranked out an enormous amount of material in a short time. Meanwhile, Nesmith produced additional Monkees tracks at a studio nearby. Between them, the entire debut album was recorded in that month's time frame.
Boyce and Hart’s "Last Train to Clarksville" became the choice for the first single. Its power propelled it up the charts in advance of the show, but once the series hit the air on NBC in September of 1966, its success skyrocketed. "Last Train to Clarksville" would eventually hit number one in November, knocking "96 Tears" by Question Mark and the Mysterians off the top.
The album proved to be even more of a triumph. The Monkees reached number one on Billboard's Top LPs chart, staying entrenched for a remarkable thirteen weeks, at the time a record for any debut.
Following such monumental success, it could be asked, why would musical supervisor Kirshner deviate from the formula of the first album? One of the answers is financial. The guaranteed sales of the follow-up would make landing a spot on a Monkees record a nice payday. Kirshner no doubt would feed the writers on his staff, at the expense of Boyce & Hart. Another reason was that he considered the duo as inferior writers and producers. Now that The Monkees' proverbial train had left the station and picked up speed, Kirshner intended to take another shot at steering. And one significant day in particular allowed Kirshner not only to press his case, but practically remove Boyce & Hart from their role as producers of the Monkees project.
August 23, 1966 was exactly one week after the release of "Last Train to Clarksville" as a single. The Monkees themselves were on a television sound stage shooting the season one episode, "Monkees at the Movies." Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart entered RCA Studio B that evening, working from 7pm until the wee hours of the morning on two novelty songs, "Kicking Stones" and "Ladies Aid Society." Following the well-liked "Gonna Buy Me a Dog" on The Monkees, one could see the appeal of more humor on the next disc. However, trying to reconcile that either of these songs would fit on the second album seems practically unimaginable.
"'Kicking Stones' was originally just a poem by Boyce & Hart's buddy and sometimes hairdresser Lynne Castle," wrote Andrew Sandoval in his book The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation. "The team's regular studio guitarist Wayne Erwin then set her words to music - and out came a fairytale-like creation." Andrew Hickey, author of Monkee Music, an in-depth look at every song The Monkees released, offers a critical assessment of "Kicking Stones." "To be fair to Boyce & Hart, they were producing a lot of material at this time," Hickey opines. "But there was clearly no way tracks like this could have ever been considered remotely releasable, and they must have known it." In his book Sandoval quotes a memo written by Bert Schneider, one half of Raybert Productions with Bob Rafelson that created The Monkees television series, who complains that both "Kicking Stones" and "Ladies Aid Society" were "of dubious value."
Mistakenly listed as "Teeny Tiny Gnome," "Kicking Stones" was eventually released in 1987 on the first edition of Rhino's Missing Links series of Monkees rarities. It can also be found on Rhino's deluxe edition of More of The Monkees.
"Ladies Aid Society," complete with off-key falsetto lyrics, pretends to be a protest song of sorts, with the sound of a brass band and would-be elderly women. The Monkees did choose to include the track on 1969's The Monkees Present.
Ironically, in the days just before and after these disasters, three Boyce & Hart classics would be laid to tape: "She," "Words," and "Valleri." Each would be featured prominently during the first season of The Monkees' television series. "She" eventually opened More of the Monkees. Although viewers would become familiar with the others, their releases would be significantly delayed. "Words," re-recorded under producer Chip Douglas and featuring a Monkees backing track, was chosen as the B-side to "Pleasant Valley Sunday" nearly one year later, and would climb to #11 on the charts. "Valleri" was also revamped and issued as a single in 1968, the band's last Top Ten hit.
Viewers of the TV show were also introduced to "I'll Be Back Up on My Feet." Composed by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, it was nowhere to be found on More of the Monkees, but was ultimately re-recorded for the band's fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. The song was brought out of mothballs by Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, showing up frequently on set lists during a series of concerts conducted by the duo in 2015.
Don Kirshner used Bert Schneider's skepticism of Boyce & Hart's latest productions to his full advantage. The competition for the second album heated up in October of 1966. While Boyce & Hart, and Michael Nesmith, toiled in Los Angeles, Don Kirshner's newest handpicked producer, Jeff Barry, worked out of New York, tackling tracks by Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, as well as Neil Sedaka & Carole Bayer. "I was very friendly with Boyce & Hart," Kirshner told Andrew Sandoval years later when explaining the move away from the pair in the recording studio. "But my fiduciary obligation to Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems is to get the best record, okay? My objective was one thing: not to show favoritism. I had a competitive environment, no different than, say, American Idol. The four finalists are there, you can only have one, and each of them could be a hit record star. And that's what I strive for."
Barry's productions included both "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and "Sometime in the Morning," while Sedaka and Bayer were at the helm for "When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)." All were fast tracked to the new album. The novelty song "Your Auntie Grizelda," featuring Peter Tork on vocals, "Laugh," and the sappy spoken word "The Day We Fall in Love," were soon added to the mix, and ultimately, the LP. Boyce & Hart's take on "Hold On Girl" (heard below) would later be substituted for a version produced by Barry and Jack Keller. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who produced ten songs on the debut album, were left with two on the follow-up, the same number as Michael Nesmith. The Don Kirshner takeover was complete.
More of the Monkees, as released on January 9, 1967, held the top spot on Billboard's album chart for an incredible eighteen weeks. The LP has been certified platinum five times over by the RIAA, a success that would never again be matched by the group. "I'm a Believer" would remain at #1 for seven weeks, the band's top selling single. For all its perceived weaknesses in its released form, it arguably furthered the Monkees project to dizzying levels of success.
But it still begs the question, what would a Boyce & Hart-produced second album have sounded like? We can take a pretty good guess.
The Monkees' second single, Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer," would be a given, as would the flip side, Boyce & Hart's "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," which peaked at #20 on the Billboard singles chart in its own right.
Sandoval’s book revealed an interview with Tommy Boyce, who spoke highly of "Tear Drop City," "Through the Looking Glass," and "Don’t Listen to Linda." "I always liked that song ['Through the Looking Glass']," Boyce told Andrew Sandoval. "I knew it was a fabulous song and we always thought it should have been a single, but it never was, of course. I think it was an imaginary song we wrote about a couple of girls we knew. Sort of like an Alice in Wonderland type of thing: you walk through the mirror, 'Through the Looking Glass'...and go through this glass into a different world." One can presume, had Boyce & Hart still been in charge, that these already completed songs would have found a place on More of the Monkees. Instead, they were shelved for roughly two and a half years, before finally being released on Instant Replay, the band's seventh album.
Michael Nesmith, who received two slots on both The Monkees and More of the Monkees, had several tracks to choose from for the LP. "Mary, Mary" and "The Kind of Girl I Could Love" were the ultimate choices, but "You Just May Be The One" (first recorded version) was featured several times on the television show, and could have been chosen just as easily. "Of You," written by John and Bill Chadwick, had also been tracked by this point. "All The King's Horses" and "I Don't Think You Know Me" were other options.
Considering both Boyce & Hart as well as Kirshner's team took a crack at "Hold On Girl," it stands to reason this song would also be given heavy consideration.
Here's my educated guess - the track listing for the unreleased Boyce & Hart-produced
More of the Monkees album:
The ultimate quality of this collection can only be judged by the ear of the beholder. It is heavy on tracks sung by Micky Dolenz, and includes only three leads by Davy Jones and one by Nesmith. It does stand to reason, however, that it would have also propelled the Monkees project in a significantly positive way. The lows in this collection seemingly don't sink to the levels exhibited by "Laugh" and "The Day We Fall In Love" that appeared on the actual released version of More of the Monkees. In a theoretically perfect world, several of these songs were deserving of a place on the album, and would have mixed well with some of Kirshner's preferred tracks.
But one critical lesson from The Monkees is that nothing was as simple as it seemed.
"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 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.
Take note of the announcement of the 'new single,' "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"/"She Hangs Out." This single (released only in Canada, briefly), was scrapped after musical supervisor Don Kirshner was fired. The resultant 45, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," backed with Michael's own "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," arrived in record shops in March 1967.
The original version of "She Hangs Out" (produced by Jeff Barry under Kirshner's reign) differed greatly from the one that appeared on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
The Pisces version featured The Monkees on the backing track and was produced by Chip Douglas:
This was originally published in Harold Bronson's book, Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees.
Gerry Goffin and Carole King authored a plethora of Monkees songs, including "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Porpoise Song," "A Man Without a Dream," "Sometime in the Morning," "Star Collector," "Take a Giant Step," and "I Won't Be the Same Without Her." Michael Nesmith worked with Goffin and King in composing "Sweet Young Thing."
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.
In this mid-2000s interview with Michael Nesmith conducted by Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval, Nez discusses his personal Monkees playlist, the first time hearing "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" on the radio, the power struggle with Don Kirshner, the demos for "Nine Times Blue" and "Propinquity," the rare quad mix of Magnetic South, and more. Be sure to listen for some rare audio in the background! (This podcast was originally available on Monkees.com.)
In this interview, published in the July 22, 2005 issue of Goldmine, Micky discusses a broad range of topics about The Monkees, including filming the television show, his work as a songwriter, the group's battles with Don Kirshner, the Headquarters era, Jack Nicholson, Head, the recording sessions for The Monkees Present and Changes, and more. Also featured are reviews for Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation as well as Total Control: The Michael Nesmith Story by Randi Massingill. A complete Monkees U.S. Discography, including 2005 estimated dollar values for each album and single, rounds out the Monkees features in the issue.
For easier reading, click on each image and then click on it again.
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