In 2016, Patrick Zappi penned a three-part series, "Reimagining The Post-Peter Albums." And now Patrick has contributed another piece to The Monkees Live Almanac, featuring a retrospective playlist of Peter Tork's musical career that not only includes his time in The Monkees, but also highlights Peter's work as a solo artist, his musical partnership with James Lee Stanley, and his stint in Shoe Suede Blues.
"Come On In: The Best of Peter Tork (1966-2016)" by Patrick Zappi
Since 1966, the press and purported "serious" music critics have reveled in stories about The Monkees and their musical prowess. But after the group's triumphant 45th Anniversary Tour in 2011, progressive journalists have reassessed The Monkees' musical catalog and many now choose to celebrate this cast of actors, singers, and musicians and their metamorphosis into an authentic recording and touring project.
As longtime fans already know, and contrary to urban legend, the individual members of The Monkees all played multiple instruments with varying degrees of skill. Peter Tork cut his teeth in the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, gigging with the likes of a then unknown Stephen Stills in The Buffalo Fish and jamming onstage with Mama Cass in her pre-Mamas and Papas project, The Mugwumps. Tork was a multi-instrumentalist who mastered the banjo, guitar, bass, piano, and even the French horn with exuberance. His stunning instrumental contributions are undisputed highlights of the Monkees catalog: the beloved piano lick from "Daydream Believer," the ominous organ solo on "Words," the breezy harpsichord on "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," the propulsive banjo on "You Told Me," the aggressive bass on "You Just May Be The One," the majestic piano on "Shades Of Gray," the rolling keyboards on "The Door Into Summer," the tense electric piano solo on "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and the famous guitar-intro to his own composition, "For Pete's Sake," which became the closing theme for The Monkees television series in its second season. The list goes on and on!
Peter's singing and songwriting however, were met with a different response. With a questionable pitch and a lovable but infrequently utilized voice, Peter became the Ringo Starr of The Monkees, an ace in the hole who was lucky to score a single lead vocal on any given album. In his heyday, Tork was an inspired but seemingly frustrated songwriter. Overshadowed by the prolific and somewhat dominant Michael Nesmith (who just happened to title Peter's signature composition "For Pete's Sake"), some of Peter's quirky, folksy, and bluesy gems were initially left unreleased until The Monkees' incredible resurgence in 1986 that ultimately opened the studio vaults. After that unprecedented commercial resurgence, Tork was able to spread his wings as a solo artist, exploring his folk roots with longtime friend and musical partner James Lee Stanley, tackling the roadhouse blues with the tongue-in-cheek titled band Shoe Suede Blues, and finally bringing his peculiar vision to life with 1994's Stranger Things Have Happened.
In February of this year, we lost Peter Tork to a longtime battle with cancer, but his music survives. The following is a retrospective of his career for fellow fans to enjoy. As Peter wrote, "To say that you can dig it, is to make your soul to fly . . . to heaven."
"Pleasant Valley Sunday" (With James Lee Stanley, Two Man Band, 1996)
"Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" (The Monkees, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., 1967)
"Your Auntie Grizelda" (The Monkees, More Of The Monkees, 1967)
"Words" (The Monkees, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., 1967)
"Shades of Gray" (The Monkees, Headquarters, 1967)
"Cripple Creek" (The Monkees, Live 1967)
"Alvin" (The Monkees, Originally Unissued, 1968)
"Tear the Top Right Off My Head" (The Monkees, Originally Unissued, 1968)
"Come On In" (The Monkees, Originally Unissued, 1968)
"Seeger's Theme" (The Monkees, Originally Unissued, 1968)
"Lady's Baby" (The Monkees, Originally Unissued, 1968)
"Prithee" (The Monkees, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, 1969)
"Can You Dig It" - Peter's lead vocal originally unissued (The Monkees, 1968)
"Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again" (The Monkees, Head, 1968)
"MGBGT" (The Monkees, B-side to "Heart & Soul," Live 1986)
"Gettin' In" (The Monkees, Pool It!, 1987)
"Since You Went Away" (The Monkees, Pool It!, 1987)
"Milkshake" (With Micky Dolenz & Michael Nesmith, Stranger Things Have Happened, 1994)
"Sea Change" (Stranger Things Have Happened, 1994)
"Giant Step" (Stranger Things Have Happened, 1994)
"Tender Is" (Stranger Things Have Happened, 1994)
"I Believe You" (The Monkees, Justus, 1996)
"I Remember Christmas" (With James Lee Stanley, A Beachwood Christmas, 2003)
"Saved by the Blues" (Shoe Suede Blues, Saved by the Blues, 2003)
"Slender Tender and Tall" (Shoe Suede Blues, Saved by the Blues, 2003)
"She Belongs To Me" (Shoe Suede Blues, Cambria Hotel, 2007)
"Vagabond John" (Live 2012)
"Little Girl" (The Monkees, Good Times!, 2016)
"Wasn't Born to Follow" (The Monkees, Good Times!, 2016)
"Early Morning Blues and Greens" (The Monkees, Live 2013)
"For Pete's Sake" (Shoe Suede Blues, Cambria Hotel, 2007)
"Daydream Believer" (With James Lee Stanley, Once Again, 2001)
"Higher and Higher" (Stranger Things Have Happened, 1994)
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 audit