Check out this fantasy album artwork that appeared in the Live Almanac's Facebook feed today, courtesy of Frank Jason Rhoden. Inspired by the cover of the Live 1967 LP, Frank took a shot at creating album art for a Live 1968 release, which would have documented a 1968 Monkees concert in Japan.
Here's what Frank wrote on Facebook:
I have great nostalgia for the "Live 1967" album, and its cover that just screams 1987 retro reissue. I never liked the commonly seen low-res yellow cover for the 1968 Japan boot, so I decided to use the 1967 album as a template to make something that looked like 1988 vomited all over 1968 - a tacky explosion of color and neon using images from that tour. I’m mostly happy with it, so I thought I’d share.
Take a moment to listen to The Monkees live in Japan in October 1968, courtesy of the Live Almanac's YouTube channel:
By Justin Rakowski
Salt Lake City – December 6, 1969. As The Monkees walked off stage, nothing would ever be the same. At least in terms of their original run as a quartet, that was unceremoniously reduced to a trio earlier in the year. Apart from a few contractual obligations, Michael Nesmith was no longer a Monkee. This left Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones to continue on in some capacity. In addition to making a few promotional appearances under the guise of The Monkees throughout 1970, Micky and Davy undertook what would be the final Monkees album of the original Colgems era. Released in June of 1970, Changes unfortunately did nothing to bolster their fading popularity. While the single "Oh My My" barely cracked the Billboard Hot 100, Changes failed to grab the attention of what remaining fans they had and did not chart in its initial production run.
As decades passed and different waves of Monkees reunions cropped up, leading to more positive reevaluations of their career and musical output, Changes still held a somewhat “black sheep” quality when compared to The Monkees' other Colgems records. Growing up in the 1990s, I was too young to remember the massive resurgence in popularity the group experienced during their 20th Anniversary in 1986. Luckily, I discovered the "Pre-Fab Four" through Nick at Nite reruns during the mid-90s, leading me to hunt down every album released through the Rhino Records reissues on CD. Even as a young Monkees fan, Changes carried a stigma like no other Monkees LP had and initially I barely gave it a listen. Over the course of the ensuing years, my appreciation of the album grew slightly, but it still never reached the level of importance as their other albums.
In 2012, I met the woman who I would fall in love with and ultimately marry a few short years later. On one of our first dates, I discovered that she was quite familiar with a good number of Monkees songs, albeit the ones that were featured on the show, as she too watched the Nick at Nite reruns. Naturally, I gave her copies of all their albums, excited to see which one she would hold dear to her heart. After making her way through everything, I was shocked to find that she adored Changes and had memorized the lyrics to every song featured on the album in only a few short days. Her love for the album was contagious and I now started to listen with a different set of ears and appreciate it for what it was – a solidly written and performed set of catchy bubblegum songs that acted as a perfect bookend to a period that started with an album (The Monkees) that was essentially a solidly written and performed set of catchy bubblegum songs.
Through all of this, as many Monkees fans know, the multitrack recordings for all of the Jeff Barry-produced songs from the 1970 sessions are missing. Unfortunately this also includes two tracks, "Which Way Do You Want It" and "Ride Baby Ride," that were recorded but ultimately left off the final pressing of Changes. Given all these facts, we’ve been told time and time again that a Super Deluxe set of the album would be impossible given the lack of content. Once a Super Deluxe set of Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. is released in the coming years, the journey that Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval started nearly a decade ago will have ended. As a fan of both The Monkees and Andrew, I am incredibly grateful for the amount of dedication from them to bring us such wonderful sets and can’t wait to have a shelf with all the Super Deluxe sets next to each other, providing us with perhaps the most complete auditory history of a band’s output. But, the set will feel quite lonely if Changes isn’t there in some capacity to bookend everything as it did almost 50 years ago when it was first issued.
With all of that in mind, I propose a solution. When the time comes to make a decision on the merits of a Super Deluxe set of Changes and the missing tracks that still have not been found, here is a track listing that could fill three CDs and properly tell the story of The Monkees' Colgems-era output, including Davy’s final contractual obligation for Colgems that resulted in his self-titled album released on Bell Records in 1971. With that being said, I present you with…
CHANGES (SUPER DELUXE EDITION)
23. Oh My My (Mono Promo Film Mix)
24. 99 Pounds (Stereo Remix)
25. Midnight Train (Demo)
26. I Never Thought It Peculiar (No Strings and Backing Vocals)
27. I Never Thought It Peculiar (Mono Mix without Overdubs)
28. I Never Thought It Peculiar (Mono Mix with Overdubs)
29. I Never Thought It Peculiar (Stereo Remix)
30. Time And Time Again (Take 1)
31. Time And Time Again (Mono Mix)
32. Time And Time Again (Stereo Mix)
33. Post Cereals "Monkees Cereal Box Records" Commercial
34. Kool-Aid "Nerf Ball" Commercial
35. Kool-Aid "Buzzer" & "Snake In A Can" Commercial
36. Together (Davy Jones With Sam & The Goodtimers - Live on Music Scene - December 22, 1969)
37. Interview With Davy Jones on Music Scene (December 22, 1969)
38. Oh My My (Live At The Palace Theater - Cleveland, Ohio - July 27, 1997)
39. Midnight Train (Live At The Mayo Performing Arts Center - Morristown, New Jersey - Aug. 27, 2015)
BONUS VINYL 45
"Acapulco Sun" EP by The Monkees
Oh My My
Do You Feel It Too?
Thank you very much to Justin Rakowski for submitting his essay to The Monkees Live Almanac! I would also like to acknowledge John McCutcheon's wonderful website Monkee45s for some of the scans seen above.
While prepping this piece for the Live Almanac's blog, I contacted longtime Monkees fan, collector, and author Ed Reilly to see if he could share some unique Changes-era pieces from his collection to complement Justin's work. The items below come from Ed's collection - thanks, Ed!
Bell Records released the original Monkees albums in Japan throughout 1973 and 1974:
Thanks a lot to SirQ for sharing his fantasy album artwork and track listings for the first eight original Monkees LPs with The Monkees Live Almanac. Alternate reality Monkees albums are always a lot of fun to think about, especially since there are so many gems in the group's catalog that never made it on to their albums in the 1960s.
"I’ve spent an absurd amount of time cleaning up my album collections, fixing slight syncing issues, stereo imaging for the later stuff, and EQ problems that usually come with older tape-based music," SirQ told the Live Almanac. "The Monkees’ releases have definitely been a great exercise in detecting and cleaning such problems. I’m particularly happy with the custom edits of 'Carlisle Wheeling' and 'Mommy and Daddy' (uncensored) that I have now.
"On the album covers side, that Pisces cover took far longer than I thought it would to clean up. I used my own LP copy as a reference to fix the highest resolution version I could find online. I was getting tired of it by the end, so I added the red to the guitar logo to make it look interesting to me again!
"I don’t know entirely why I like doing this stuff, but it sure is a lot of fun to listen to and look at."
The Monkees (mono)
More of The Monkees (mono)
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (mono)
The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (mono)
HEAD (custom cleaned up stereo)
The Monkees Present
Episode #4! How Could HEADQUARTERS Have Been Different? "You Just May Be The One" Re-Mix! Super-Rare 2000 "Daydream Believer" by Davy Jones!
This is the eleventh in a series of guest articles (and in this instance, a podcast) that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
Earlier this year, the host of the Where's That Sound Coming From? podcast, Brian Marchese, contacted me after I had solicited contributions from guest authors to celebrate The Monkees' 50th Anniversary. Brian was knocking around a few ideas, and after several starts and re-starts, he settled on a podcast presentation that proposes an "alternate" history of The Monkees, largely centered around the group's fifth LP, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. Here's Brian's description of the podcast:
Truth is at least as strange as fiction. Fact intertwines with my flights of fancy in this episode. At its core is an analysis of the fifth album The Monkees SHOULD have released. I was asked to contribute something to the excellent blog, Monkees Live Almanac, back in May of this year to help celebrate the band's 50th Anniversary. I thought about it intermittently for two months, wrote it sporadically over the course of the next two months, and recorded/produced it in fits and starts over the last two months. And here it is.
Monkees fans are really going to enjoy this podcast, and the Live Almanac would like to say a big thank you to Brian for all of his hard work and dedication in presenting this project!
Be sure to visit the Where's That Sound Coming From? podcast on Facebook, too!
I posted this a couple of years ago, but thought it was worth revisiting. The photograph above, taken by Bernard Yeszin, inspired the cover art for the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album in 1967. Andrew Sandoval wrote the following in the liner notes of the Pisces deluxe edition in 2007:
When cover artist Bernard Yeszin came to illustrate The Monkees’ fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., he took a brave step. The group would be drawn in silhouette only, with just their respective astrological signs hinting at their identities. “The Monkees were so popular and so hot at the time,” says Yeszin of the concept, “that I could do just about anything that reminded you of The Monkees. I could do an album cover and just show their outline and people would identify them. People would know they were The Monkees.
Thanks a lot to SirQ for allowing the Live Almanac to share these images! The first two designs are for albums that didn't originally exist, and the last three are reimaginations of the LP covers for Head, The Monkees Present, and Changes. Enjoy, and look for more of SirQ's work here on the blog.
For years it has been debated whether or not a concert from the 1969 Monkees tour was recorded. Conflicting reports and recollections from members of The Monkees, their backing band from that era, and others have added to the intrigue. All this time later, however, no tapes have ever surfaced. One concert, thought to be the May 10, 1969 performance in Wichita, Kansas does exist as a bootleg, but it’s an absolutely horrible recording usually sought after for historical purposes only.
Both Micky Dolenz and Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval have seemingly confirmed that there is no audio to be heard from the 1969 tour. "We never recorded that," Micky Dolenz said in a 2005 online interview. "I recorded Sam & The Goodtimers [the supporting band on the 1969 tour] as an act, and was trying to sell them to a record company. But we never recorded - I wish we had, it was funny, it was really great having that band, they were a great band."
Sandoval agreed with Micky about the nonexistence of 1969 live audio. "Certainly there’s no tape of a 1969 show in the Monkees vault. What Micky says…that he taped them (The Goodtimers) at that Souled Out Club in Los Angeles…makes a lot of sense," Sandoval said in a 2005 interview. "I tried to do research about that club. I found out where it was but there were never any advertisements or listings of who played there in that time period, so it was hard to say when the Goodtimers played there or when The Monkees might have come to see them. It seems more and more that if there had been a recording it would have shown up by now. It’s been a long time, you know?”
Even with these statements, curiosity still surrounds potential live recordings from the 1969 tour today. The year, after all, was more than challenging for the group, who were now a trio after the departure of Peter Tork. With their weekly television series off the air (but revived in syndication in the fall of '69), along with the disastrous box office returns of their feature film Head, and the lukewarm reception to their 1969 NBC television special, The Monkees' concert show proved a hard sell to ticket buyers. To their credit, The Monkees were experimenting with new sounds in their music as well as in their live performances, developing an act that was revue-like in its presentation and supported onstage by Sam & The Goodtimers, a seven-piece rhythm and blues band. Despite some positive vibes from the critics, the 1969 tour, Micky later said, "was like kicking a dead horse. The phenomenon had peaked." "We all had a good time on the tour," Michael Nesmith told Sandoval in the 1990s, but "it was tough out there." Documentation of The Monkees in concert from this era would reveal a unique period in the history of the group like never before, and is a main factor in why fans still hold out hope that tapes will materialize.
Historical evidence survives to keep those hopes alive. Below is a radio spot that was aired in Oakland, California in advance of The Monkees' appearance there on November 30, 1969.
You'll note that the advertisement mentions the fact that the concert will be recorded for "their next album," but once again, no tapes seem to exist.
Monkees fan Justin Rakowski decided to create his own album artwork for such an LP as if it had been released in the aftermath of The Monkees' 1969 tour. Check out Justin's creations below!
Great job, Justin! Fantasy artwork like this and others are always a lot of fun to examine. Now if only those tapes would emerge!
Here's the promotional handbill for the Oakland Coliseum concert that Justin used on the back cover of his LP:
A big thanks to Derek Miner who shared his awesome reimagination of The Monkees' last original album Changes, based on the premise that Michael Nesmith was still a member of the group at the time of its release in June 1970.
Before you check out the images below, there is some backstory about the photo used for the cover of Changes, and the fact that Michael was cropped out of it:
Here's Derek's take on the front cover:
The back cover, complete with Derek's own track listing for a Nesmith-infused Changes:
Derek's artwork without the title treatment:
And finally, the actual cover art for Changes as released on Colgems Records in 1970. "There is the theory that the color background image was done with Mike originally and he was just cropped off," Derek said, adding that "the evidence being a small purple spot on the left that could have been Mike's guitar headstock."
This is the seventh in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
When the Missing Links albums appeared in the late 1980s and 1990s, showcasing songs The Monkees recorded during their original incarnation but were never issued, it baffled me how many great tracks were left in the Monkee vaults in the 1960s. And although we've now heard all of those songs thanks to subsequent archival releases through the years, I was still inspired to take another look at the 1969-1971 era of The Monkees' recorded history and put my own spin on it.
Having been pleased with Instant Replay (the first post-Peter Tork Monkees album), I constructed a new version of The Monkees Present (the second LP issued after Peter's departure) in Part 1 of this series. In doing so, I created a track listing that combined songs which appeared on the album in its original form in 1969, but then substituted some of what I considered to be weaker tracks with those that were available at the time, but remained unreleased. With a revamped Present LP now complete, I proceeded to tackle Changes in Part 2 of this series.
And now, I will submit the third and final edition of this "fantasy album" examination. Perhaps it is the most unique of the bunch because the album profiled below never actually existed. Let me explain.
By all accounts Davy Jones strongly disliked the experience of recording the real Changes LP in New York City in early 1970, and was critical of its producer, Jeff Barry. "That was not an album," Davy said about Changes to Andrew Sandoval in 1994. "It was just Jeff Barry and Andy Kim doing an Andy Kim album. Andy Kim couldn't get it sold, so they took his voice off it, and they put us on it. That's how that came about. That was such a con. That was a way of keeping Micky Dolenz and me out of the studio so they could sell Partridge Family albums. I have very bad memories about that trip to New York." Micky expressed a different point of view to Sandoval. "By that time it was pretty obvious that The Monkees were over. Davy and I were still getting along, but we were mainly fulfilling a contractual obligation to the record company – that's what Changes is all about. I was quite happy to do it as long as somebody wanted to record me."
Before the end of 1970, Micky and Davy conducted one more recording session in September with Jeff Barry. The bubblegum-esque single "Do It In The Name of Love" (backed with "Lady Jane") would be credited to Dolenz & Jones and not to The Monkees. Issued in April 1971 on Bell Records (which had absorbed Colgems, The Monkees' now defunct record label), the single failed to make a dent in the charts.
So, in keeping with my fantasy Changes LP and its track list, what if Barry used both sides of the one-off Dolenz/Jones '71 single, picked through "leftovers" from the Changes sessions, utilized his unfinished Davy Jones productions recorded pre-Headquarters, and turned it into the last original Monkees album sometime in 1971? Throw in a couple of Boyce & Hart goodies and boom! I call this LP Do It In The Name Of Love. It's mostly pure Scooby Doo bubblegum (but I'm not saying that's a bad thing). And here goes:
Side 1: Do It In The Name Of Love
1. Do It In The Name Of Love
(Written by Bobby Bloom & Neil Goldberg / Produced by Jeff Barry)
2. It's Got To Be Love
(Written by Neil Goldberg / Produced by Jeff Barry)
3. You Can't Tie a Mustang Down
(Written and Produced by Jeff Barry)
4. Acapulco Sun
(Written by Steven Soles & Ned Albright / Produced by Jeff Barry)
5. 99 Pounds
(Written and Produced by Jeff Barry)
6. Shake 'Em Up
(Written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller / Produced by Lester Sill)
In the same vein of my fantasy albums presented in this series, Michelle_66 created her very own picture sleeve for "Do It In The Name Of Love" (since it was not issued with a picture sleeve in the United States upon its release in 1971).
Side 2: Do It In The Name Of Love
7. Lady Jane
(Written by Bobby Bloom & Neil Goldberg / Produced by Jeff Barry)
8. Love To Love
(Written by Neil Diamond / Produced by Jeff Barry)
9. Ticket On A Ferry Ride
(Written by Jeff Barry & Bobby Bloom / Produced by Jeff Barry)
10. Looking For The Good Times
(Written and Produced by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart)
11. All Alone in the Dark
(Written by Steven Soles & Ned Albright / Produced by Jeff Barry)
12. Storybook of You
(Written and Produced by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart)
This is the sixth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
In Part 1 of this series, I constructed a new version of The Monkees Present, the second LP released after the departure of Peter Tork. In doing so, I created a track listing that combined songs which appeared on the album in its original form in 1969, but then substituted some of what I considered to be weaker tracks with those that were available at the time, but remained unreleased.
When the Missing Links albums appeared in the late 1980s and 1990s, showcasing songs The Monkees recorded during their original incarnation but were never issued, it baffled me how many great tracks were left in the Monkee vaults in the 1960s. And although we've now heard all of those songs thanks to subsequent archival releases through the years, I was still inspired to take another look at the 1969-1971 era of The Monkees' recorded history and put my own spin on it. Having been pleased with Instant Replay, (the first post-Tork Monkees album), and with a revamped Present LP now complete, next up is Changes, released by Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones in 1970. The sessions for Changes also marked the return of Jeff Barry, the producer of "I'm a Believer" and most of More of the Monkees.
When reimagining Changes today, let's say Michael Nesmith decided to soldier on as a Monkees instead of leaving the group as he did in early 1970. Let's also allow the songwriting partnership between Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick to play out, too. (Their songs "If I Knew" and "French Song" appeared on The Monkees Present, and "You and I" on Instant Replay.) Unlike my version of The Monkees Present, the newly retooled Changes is meant to be more rollicking and less serious.
Perhaps this mock cover of Changes with Nez included (created by Michelle_66 in her series of Alternate Reality Monkees albums) will help you get ready for a fresh look at an old album.
Side 1: Changes (Reimagined)
1. Oh My My
(Written by Jeff Barry & Andy Kim / Produced by Jeff Barry)
2. You're So Good To Me
(Written by Jeff Barry & Bobby Bloom / Produced by Jeff Barry)
3. Little Red Rider
(Written & Produced by Michael Nesmith)
4. If You Have the Time
(Written & Produced by Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick)
5. Down the Highway
(Written by Carole King & Toni Stern / Produced by Michael Nesmith)
("Down the Highway" was mislabeled upon its release on Missing Links Volume 2 in 1990 as "Michigan Blackhawk.")
6. Tell Me Love
(Written & Produced by Jeff Barry)
In the same vein of my fantasy track listings, Michelle_66 created her very own picture sleeve for "Oh My My" (the first and only single from Changes), with Nez still a part of the group at that time:
Side 2: Changes (Reimagined)
7. I Love You Better
(Written by Jeff Barry & Andy Kim / Produced by Jeff Barry)
8. Do You Feel It Too?
(Written by Jeff Barry & Andy Kim / Produced by Jeff Barry)
9. Good Clean Fun
(Written & Produced by Michael Nesmith)
10. Midnight Train
(Written & Produced by Micky Dolenz)
11. Oklahoma Backroom Dancer
(Written by Michael Martin Murphey / Produced by Michael Nesmith)
12. Time and Time Again
(Written & Produced by Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick)
Stay tuned for Part 3 which imagines an album that never existed: a final Jeff Barry-produced Monkees LP featuring Dolenz & Jones that was released in 1971.
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.
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.
Here's a really fun project that Monkees fan Michelle66 has undertaken for the last several years: putting her own unique spin on Monkees LP and single releases, complete with revised track listings and artwork! Michelle recently unveiled her "alternate reality" singles on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Be sure to visit Michelle's Flickr page (linked below) to see the entire works, and to read her mini-stories that go behind each "alternate reality" album and single. And a big thanks to Michelle for allowing the Live Almanac to share her work!
Here's a sampling of Michelle's "alternate reality" Monkees albums:
Michelle reimagines Changes as if Michael was still in the group at the time of its release in the summer of 1970:
And check out Michelle's inspired track listing for Changes:
Here's a sampling of Michelle's "alternate reality" Monkees singles:
Below is one fan's interpretation of the picture sleeve had Peter still been a member of The Monkees at the time of the single's release on February 8, 1969.
The Monkees have not released an album of original material since 1996. That year, all four members of the group recorded a dozen new songs that ultimately became Justus. In interviews during the lead-up to the 2013 tour, however, Michael and Micky both alluded to the potential for a fresh Monkees album. "I'd love to make a new one," Micky told Rolling Stone last April. "We haven't had any discussions about that beyond, 'Wouldn't it be cool to have a new one?' We're just taking this whole thing one step at a time." When asked about the possibility of returning to the recording studio with Micky and Peter, Michael was upbeat. "I'm always open. I would not say 'no' without giving it a good look." At the same time, Nez seemed unsure as to where The Monkees would fit in today's pop music landscape. "It's a weird time for the music business, and particularly a weird time for us. I don't even know what a song is these days. I mean, it doesn't look like a pop song of the Sixties. It doesn't look like a pop song of the Seventies. And so it would be hard to understand what to do and how to play it and how to put together the team to produce that sort of stuff."
While it still remains to be seen if The Monkees will record a new album, perhaps they could consider other options in the recording studio. Over the course of the last two Monkees tours, several warhorses in the group's canon have undergone some changes, which in turn has given a fresh spin on the old classics. "Sweet Young Thing," for instance, was completely rearranged. Other songs had more subtle nuances. A lot of fans enjoyed the reworkings, and I've heard more than a few calls to re-record these songs in their new arrangements.
If The Monkees are indeed thinking about a new album, what better way to get the creative juices flowing than by recording new versions of classic songs that were revamped during the last two tours. Admittedly, some would cringe at the thought of re-creating songs that have been a part of their collective conscious for years, but everyone from Paul McCartney to Bruce Springsteen and more have done it. Even U2, after performing cuts from their 1997 album Pop on the road, re-recorded several of the album's songs that were hammered out to better results after playing them onstage night after night. In McCartney's case, his reworkings of Beatles tunes like "Yesterday," "Good Day Sunshine," and "For No One" on the 1984 Give My Regards to Broad Street soundtrack were near universally disdained. How, people asked, could Paul improve upon perfection? But McCartney didn't offer anything new. If The Monkees were to go this route, they've already shown in their live concert show that they can put a new spin on the original take. In addition, various members of The Monkees have re-recorded the group's songs over the years; Micky recently rearranged "Randy Scouse Git" (and a couple other Monkees cuts) to great effect on his album Remember.
Below are some Monkees songs that were reinterpreted in some fashion over the last two years by the group in concert, along with a couple I think would make interesting choices to revisit. And if Michael, Micky, and Peter aren't thinking about a new album, this alternate approach of revisiting past classics with a new twist could help satisfy the desire in the fanbase for new music from The Monkees.
"Sweet Young Thing"
A song Nez co-wrote with Gerry Goffin and Carole King from the group's debut album, "Sweet Young Thing" became a slow, brooding, banjo-laden stunner on the 2012 Monkees tour. With Nez strumming his trusty Gretsch, Micky banging a beat box, and Peter providing the ace banjo work, this version would be a prime choice for a studio re-recording.
"Mary, Mary" has always been a rollicking highlight at Monkees concerts over the years, but it has just smoked on the last couple of tours. Micky beats the drums with a controlled reckless abandon and everyone else comes along for the ride. On the 2013 tour, you may have noticed the addition of some bluesy backing vocals (led by Micky's sister Coco) and some "Oooooo's" during the climax of this Nesmith classic. A new studio version of this song could combine all of these elements and also let Nez take the familiar "Mary, Mary" guitar riff to task on the Gretsch. It's bound to be a winner.
"Early Morning Blues and Greens"
"Early Morning Blues and Greens" was played live for the first time on the 2012 tour with Peter thoughtfully taking Davy's place as the lead vocalist. Peter has played this one in his solo show for quite some time, and it's known to be one of his favorites. The song seems to serve as the perfect outlet for him, and he was able to respectfully make his own mark on this Headquarters track in a live setting.
"As We Go Along"
Micky's performance of this classic from the Head soundtrack seems to get better with each passing tour. First performed live in 1989, "As We Go Along" as heard on both the 2012 and 2013 tours was definitely a high point at each show. And though the arrangement was true to the original, a new studio version could incorporate both Michael and Peter in the backing track along with Micky's soaring vocal.
"The Kind of Girl I Could Love"
One of the treats for fans attending shows on the 2013 tour was hearing this long lost Nez tune from the group's second album, More of the Monkees. Its new arrangement featured some smooth slide guitar work from Peter, making it an early showstopper in the set. Peter's guitar work, coupled with Micky's harmonizing with Michael, makes "The Kind of Girl I Could Love" 2.0 deserve a studio version in its own right.
Monkees fan, collector, and author Ed Reilly recently shared these images with the Live Almanac of a mock-up cover for the 1969 greatest hits album. Artist and Monkees associate Neko Chohlis designed this prototype for the project, with inspiration from Micky Dolenz. The concept was scrapped by The Monkees' label, Colgems, for budget reasons and for the fact that it would be too difficult to manufacture.
Thanks again, Ed, for sharing!
Here's the track listing on the mock-up cover:
The final released version of the album art appears below and was also designed by Neko Chohlis.
Neko's work can also be seen on the cover of The Monkees Present LP, as well as the picture sleeves for "Tear Drop City" and "Good Clean Fun."
More of the Monkees, the group's second LP released in January 1967, became one of the two biggest selling original Monkees albums (certified quintuple platinum by the RIAA) and was the longest to stay at #1 on the Billboard chart (18 weeks). It contains their biggest hit, "I'm a Believer," and songs that have been forever associated with The Monkees since its release ("Mary, Mary" and "Steppin' Stone" to name two). Its track listing includes selections that have long been a part of the group's live show (even to the current day) and it features contributions from songwriters like Michael Nesmith, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Neil Sedaka and Diane Hildebrand. But in many ways it has always been the album I listen to least, feeling somewhat disjointed in areas and containing a couple of subpar tracks selected by Don Kirshner, who at the time of its assembly was clearly exercising his power as the group's musical supervisor.
How's about a little back-story:
Despite The Monkees beginning to find their own sound during initial rehearsals early in 1966, music publisher Kirshner was eventually brought in by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson to speed up the process of producing Monkees music. Though Schneider and Rafelson were supportive of The Monkees making their own music, deadlines had to be met and the day to day rigors of filming, recording and promotional appearances were becoming too much to maintain. Recording sessions began in June 1966 at RCA Hollywood. At this point, The Monkees were adding just their vocals to the recordings, with Kirshner refusing to allow the band to play on the tracks in order to streamline the process. Michael, however, produced his own separate sessions, promoting a more united atmosphere with the band providing group backing vocals as well as seeing both Michael and Peter adding guitar to several songs. Nesmith and Tork in particular were very interested in the musical aspect of the project, wishing to write, produce and arrange songs for the albums, but Kirshner was keeping a close eye on everything. Ruling with an iron fist when it came to which tracks were selected and which songs were released as singles, Michael and Peter, later joined by Micky and Davy, began to rebel against the process of how the music was being recorded.
Tensions continued to brew after The Monkees' debut album was released in October 1966 and stayed at #1 for an incredible 13 weeks (More of displaced it from the top spot). In the earliest stages, the idea of a Monkees album was merely to be a soundtrack to their television series. But to everyone's surprise, the music quickly became more successful than the TV show. "I'm a Believer" was released in December 1966 and quickly found its way to the top of the charts. The Monkees were becoming a recording juggernaut. However, Kirshner, and not The Monkees, was in charge of the music, but that was not to last.
When word leaked that The Monkees were not laying down the instrumental tracks on their albums, controversy brewed and Michael put the situation bluntly. While conducting their first live concert tour, Nesmith, in an interview with The Saturday Evening Post in January 1967, made the situation clear. "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?"
Looking back today, the 'controversy' seems silly as many of the top groups of the day were recording much like The Monkees, using ace studio musicians like The Wrecking Crew. But in 1967, along with the 'manufactured' criticisms already befalling the group, the "they don't play their own instruments" story line became one that has never fully dissipated. (This controversy is even more sillier to me since those playing on the early Monkees records weren't simply phoning it in on second rate songs. These were first rate musicians playing their hearts out with enthusiasm and vigor on first rate songs, and of course, the inspired vocal performances by The Monkees themselves made the entire exercise nothing short of first class.)
While on tour in January 1967, The Monkees discovered that More of the Monkees had been released and went to a record shop to pick up a copy. (Wow!) They disliked the cover image, Kirshner's self-congratulatory liner notes and the song selections. The group, led by Michael, eventually took their concerns to both Schneider and Rafelson, who sympathized with The Monkees. Shortly after a tense meeting with the band and Kirshner in a Beverly Hills hotel room in January 1967, where Nesmith put his fist through the wall, Kirshner was dismissed. Michael later told Melody Maker magazine that More of the Monkees was "probably the worst album in the history of the world."
It's with all these occurrences happening that More of the Monkees is released. An abundance of songs had been recorded for the album by various producers that included Boyce & Hart, Nesmith, Jeff Barry and Gerry Goffin & Carole King. Quality songs were leftover from sessions for the debut album, some which ended up on More of. When it came time to assemble More of's track list, there was seemingly no challenge in finding quality material for the LP. It's here where I question some of Kirshner's selections. Inevitably some of you will disagree as we all have our personal favorites, but songs like "The Day We Fall in Love," "Laugh" and "Hold on Girl" seem to me to be clearly weaker material than other songs left in the vault at the time. But in some cases, Kirshner was promising his stable of songwriters that their songs would appear on a Monkees album, and perhaps loyalties to his songwriters took precedence over the quality of the actual songs being selected.
So, with all of the previously mentioned success this album received, who am I to question its contents? Over the course of the last two Monkees tours in 2011 and 2012, eight (!) of its 12 songs were on the setlist. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of first rate material on More of the Monkees. "She," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," "Mary, Mary" and the ace single of "I'm a Believer"/"Steppin' Stone" more than speak for themselves. "The Kind of Girl I Could Love," a Nesmith original featuring some great steel guitar work by Nez, also shines. "Sometime in the Morning" is regarded as a Monkees classic. I recently heard "When Love Comes Knockin'" on a college radio station here where I live, and it sounded pleasant and poppy, two big themes of Monkees music.
In retrospect, I would have liked to have seen More of the Monkees be an album that represented the diverse type of music being recorded by The Monkees at that time and one with more group involvement. I would take less of the sappier love songs Kirshner was projecting to fit the 'television image' of The Monkees, especially Davy. But as we know, an artistic statement was not yet the purpose of a Monkees album...that would not come until their next release, Headquarters.
Using the superior tracks from More of the Monkees combined with songs that were recorded before or during the sessions for it, here is my revised track listing. (Click on each track to hear the song on YouTube. I've used the mono versions when available as I think More of is best heard in mono.)
2. When Love Comes' Knockin' (At Your Door)
3. Mary, Mary
4. I Don't Think You Know Me (Peter's vocal)
5. Valleri (First Recorded Version)
6. I Won't Be The Same Without Her
7. Steppin' Stone
1. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) - longer TV show mix with additional keyboards
2. The Kind of Girl I Could Love (using the alternate mix with the up-front group backing vocals)
3. I'll Be Back Up on My Feet (First Recorded Version)
4. (I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love (Davy's vocal)
5. Sometime in the Morning
6. Your Auntie Grizelda
7. I'm a Believer
This track listing gives greater representation to the Nesmith sessions by adding the excellent "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" and Davy's vocal take on "(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love." Peter is given a second track on the album with his turn on "I Don't Think You Know Me" (which also happened to be revived for the 2011 tour). A song that was featured during the first season of the series and deserved inclusion, "I"ll Be Back Up on My Feet," is also added. And, the original version of "Valleri," which I consider to be superior to the re-recorded 1968 single, is used for More of the Monkees. (The first take on "Valleri" that appeared in episodes during the first season received airplay on the radio when DJs around the country anxious for new Monkees material taped it off the TV show and played it on the air.) There are also 14 songs here instead of the 12 that appeared on the original release. With the plethora of material available at that time combined with the fact that both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had albums during this period featuring 14 tracks, it seems to make sense to me. And, with this track listing, you have multiple members of the group appearing on the same track (Side A: tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Side B: tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 7).
My revised More of track list would alter future releases like The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees and Instant Replay since songs like "Valleri," "I'll Be Back Up on My Feet" and "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" eventually appeared on them. But the story remains the same for those later albums, too. There was plenty of great material available and the songs that appear on this fantasy version of More of that ended up appearing on Birds and IR could easily have been replaced with songs recorded around the time of those LPs. (However, I do like the Birds version of "I'll Be Back Up On My Feet"!)
Drop me an email or add a comment below and let me know what you think.
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