In the summer of 1987, Rhino Records delighted Monkees fans when it delivered Missing Links, the first album to officially assemble unreleased Monkees songs long stored away in the vaults at RCA. Except for "Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears" and "If You Have the Time," both of which had been aired on the Saturday morning repeats in the early 1970s, and "Nine Times Blue," performed live by Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Davy Jones on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969, the remainder of the tracks were largely unheard (though some had floated around previously on bootlegs). Missing Links also featured what at the time was widely considered The Monkees' most famous lost song, "All of Your Toys," recorded during the Headquarters era and later shelved because of a publishing dispute. Initially available on LP and cassette, the collection was expanded in compact disc form in December 1988 with bonus tracks.
Two more Missing Links volumes followed: Volume Two arrived in 1990 and Volume Three in 1996. Volume Two, issued on cassette and compact disc only, included more previously unreleased tracks as well as versions of songs originally heard only on The Monkees TV show that were ultimately re-recorded by The Monkees under their creative control (the first recorded takes of "You Just May Be The One," "Valleri," and "Words," to name a few). Volume Three, available on CD only, continued this same approach of unreleased material and alternate versions. Bill Inglot and Andrew Sandoval's deep dive of the vaults that resulted in these finely crafted collections remain fan favorites.
All these years later, the original Missing Links trilogy is now slated to make a comeback for an exclusive, limited edition release on July 17 as part of a pandemic-adjusted Record Store Day 2021. Friday Music, which has previously tackled various Monkees reissues, announced today that all three Missing Links albums will be available on 180 gram audiophile vinyl in multiple color variations, limited to 2,000 copies for each volume. Of note, Volume 1 will contain the CD bonus tracks that were not part of the original vinyl and Volume 2 will feature the CD bonus tracks not found on the original cassette. This release also marks the premiere appearance of the second and third Missing Links installments on vinyl. Notably, the original cover of Volume 2 has been altered.
Record Store Day was founded in 2007 and has become an annual tradition. With a stated purpose of celebrating the culture of the independently owned record store, bands and labels will press unique items that are distributed exclusively to shops participating in the event. Thanks to Rhino Records, The Monkees have had several Record Store Day releases, all of which are collected in the archives of The Monkees Live Almanac. Be sure to search a list of this year's participating stores where you can pick up your selections, but be aware that the color of the vinyl inside your Missing Links copy will be a surprise.
Missing Links Volume Two
Missing Links Volume Three
Missing Links Volume Two was released in January 1990. Like the first Missing Links collection in 1987, the album consists of songs that were left inside The Monkees' vault in the 1960s.
This past weekend on Facebook, Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval recalled his work on Volume Two, which happened to be a seminal moment in his career.
Thanks to Sherri Hansen for uploading this great rendition of a Nez classic!
Nez demoed "Propinquity," a song he wrote for his first wife, Phyllis, in 1966:
He later recorded it during the famed Nashville sessions in 1968, but this version remained in the Monkees vaults until its appearance in 1996 on Missing Links Volume Three:
The song was given its first official release in 1971 on The First National Band's third album, Nevada Fighter:
A reworked version appeared on Live at the Palais in 1978:
Finally, this performance of "Propinquity" is taken from Live at the Britt Festival, a video and compact disc recorded on June 19, 1992 at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon:
"War Games" was composed by Davy Jones and Steve Pitts and was originally considered for inclusion on the soundtrack of The Monkees' 1968 feature film, Head. Pitts was a friend of Michael Nesmith's from Texas, and Nez introduced the pair to each other in late 1966. They eventually entered into a songwriting partnership, composing such tracks as "Dream World," "The Poster," "Smile," "Party," "I'm Gonna Try," and "Changes" (another song that was floated for Head, and at the time of its recording, the name of the film).
Two versions of "War Games" exist. The first was recorded in January 1968 under the supervision of Nesmith. Present at the initial sessions were Michael, Davy, Steve, and Bob Rafelson, who offered the visual image he was getting while hearing the track being produced. "It sounds to me like four spade chicks all dressed in American flags and all wigglin' their asses at the same time, goin' down the street," reported Andrew Sandoval in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation, after listening to the session tapes. "You dig what I mean? If you just start thinkin' on that, it sounds awful good." Nez replied with some hesitation. "Thanks Bob. That's very groovy. That's what we are playin', right?"
Sandoval discussed the first version of "War Games" in the liner notes of Rhino's 2010 deluxe edition release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees:
(Sandoval notes in his book that Michael most likely overdubbed the Hammond organ part at a future recording session.)
In February 1968, Davy went back into the studio with Lester Sill and Shorty Rogers and remade "War Games" in a slower arrangement with horns and strings:
"War Games" wouldn't be heard until version 2 appeared on 1987's Missing Links. Version 1 would make its debut on the 2010 deluxe edition of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
Go ahead and take a moment to vote in the poll below to show your preference between the two versions of the song:
At the conclusion of the second season episode "The Christmas Show," which aired on December 25, 1967, The Monkees performed "Riu Chiu," a traditional Spanish carol dating from the 16th century.
An official studio version was recorded in October 1967, featuring Monkees producer Chip Douglas on vocals who was substituting for an absent Davy Jones. It went unreleased until 1990's Missing Links Volume Two.
It is likely that The Monkees learned the song from Douglas, who himself performed it with his former band The Modern Folk Quartet on their 1964 album Changes.
In a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Peter Tork revealed his admiration for "Riu Chiu."
"I would say my favorite song we ever did was 'Riu Chiu.' It's an a cappella song, all in Spanish, that we did only once before TV cameras, and the harmony blend was perfect. It's totally crackerjack!"
In the February 1969 issue of Monkees Monthly, a couple of readers posed questions about Micky and Michael's messages found on the back cover of The Monkees' fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees:
Here's Michael's message on the back of the LP, signed "Carlisle Wheeling":
Michael attempted several versions of the song "Carlisle Wheeling" during various Monkees sessions in 1967 and 1968. The song, however, was never issued on a Monkees album or collection until Rhino Records released Missing Links in 1988:
Nez later tackled the song with The First National Band and ultimately included it on their 1970 album Loose Salute:
Another fan asked about Micky's inscription of "MIJACOGEO":
Here's Micky's message on the back of the Birds LP:
In his youth, Micky's family had a dog named Mijacogeo. Coco Dolenz explained his name in the June 1968 issue of Fave, which was the subject of much family debate:
"We talked a long time on what to name him, and we just couldn't agree! Finally, Micky suggested 'Let's name him a combination of all our names!' So here's how Dad figured it out. The entire name is the dog's name, and the capital letters are the letters from our names: MI (is for Micky), JA (for Janelle, my mother), CO (for Coco, me of course), and GEO (for George, my father)! So the poor puppy's outasite name turned out to be MI-JA-CO-GEO, Mijacogeo!"
"Mijacogeo" was also one of two titles attributed to the last episode of The Monkees television series, also known as "The Frodis Caper."
Version One, recorded in July 1966 and produced by Nez, showcased ace session players like James Burton, Glen Campbell, and Hal Blaine. Peter is also featured in the mix, playing guitar. This version was only heard on the TV show during the first season, and didn't see an official release until 1990's Missing Links, Volume 2.
The second version, from the group's third LP, Headquarters, features The Monkees on the backing track and was produced by Chip Douglas.
Micky, Davy, and Michael performed Michael's song "Nine Times Blue" live during an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show in the summer of 1969.
Several different attempts were made recording the song, and each of them remained in the vault until years later. There's a version featuring Davy Jones singing the lead vocal (accompanied by Michael on acoustic guitar), recorded during sessions for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees in early 1968:
Michael also tackled the song around the same time. Both of these attempts remained unreleased until the 2010 Rhino Handmade deluxe box set of the Birds album.
In the summer of 1968, Nez released his first solo album The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, an all-orchestral affair that included an instrumental take on "Nine Times Blue."
Nez actually demoed "Nine Times Blue" while recording Headquarters in early 1967:
Michael revisited the song once again in April 1968, accompanied by Red Rhodes on pedal steel and Chip Douglas on bass. It was this version that first saw the light of day on the 1987 compilation Missing Links:
Michael recorded "Nine Times Blue" once more in 1970, and it was featured on his initial solo album with The First National Band, Magnetic South.
"If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again" remained officially unreleased until its inclusion on the 1990 rarities package, Missing Links Volume Two.
Here's a photo of Davy, Micky, and Mike in RCA Studios with songwriter Jack Keller in January 1969 as referenced in the Instant Replay deluxe edition liner notes above:
Davy Jones later demoed "If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again" at some point in the early 1970s:
Peter's friend, Karen Harvey Hammer, had a son named Justin who became the inspiration for Peter's song "Lady's Baby."
Here's a page of Andrew Sandoval's liner notes from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees deluxe edition box set detailing the complicated recording history of the track:
Davy Jones spoke of his fondness for "Lady's Baby" in 1994 when The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released on compact disc by Rhino Records:
"They laugh and joke about that ["Lady's Baby"] – it cost as much to do as 'Good Vibrations,' that record. But that was a true-to-life thing. He was living with a woman at the time, and she had a little baby, and that changed his life, you know? That gave him something to think about. He was being downtrodden by the studio in regards to his recording, his playing, his songs and everything else. But Peter Tork was the salt of the earth. It wasn't just Hari Krishna, waterbeds, and brown rice – that guy was a very accomplished musician. It's a nice song, it's true, it's got the warmth and everything of what he was living. I remember it so well – it's a real tune. I love it."
Peter performed "Lady's Baby" during his 'In This Generation' solo tour in 2013:
Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval has previously featured unreleased mixes of Monkees songs on his internet radio show, Come to the Sunshine. Below are a sampling of some of those rarities.
Missing Links Volume Two was released in January 1990 on both cassette and compact disc. This collection of Monkees rarities and more has never been issued on vinyl, and the track listings for the cassette and CD versions differed, with more songs made available on the compact disc. Like the first Missing Links collection in 1987, the album consists of songs that were left inside The Monkees' vault in the 1960s.
Volume Two contained noteworthy tracks like "All The King's Horses" and "I Wanna Be Free" (fast version), both of which were featured in the television series only and had been bootlegged for some time. Several songs that were also included on the TV show soundtrack in its earliest episodes but were later re-recorded by the group ("Valleri," "I'll Be Back Up On My Feet," "You Just May Be The One," "Words," "Mr. Webster") makeup a large portion of the track list.
"Michigan Blackhawk," a Michael Nesmith original, was mislabeled on this release and is actually titled "Down the Highway," written by Carole King and Toni Stern and produced by Nez. "Michigan Blackhawk" was a song attempted during sessions for The Monkees Present in 1969.
Monkees fans were also excited to see the live version of "Circle Sky" make its official release here, along with "Riu Chiu," the traditional Spanish carol performed by The Monkees on their 1967 Christmas episode.
Listen to the CD version of Missing Links Volume Two:
Arriving in the winter of 1996, Missing Links Volume Three is the third and final volume (to date) in a series of Missing Links compilations by Rhino Records. Like the previous two collections (Missing Links and Missing Links Volume Two), the album is made up of unreleased material, alternate mixes, and in the case of "Zor and Zam," versions of songs heard strictly on The Monkees television series.
Issued only on compact disc, this collection marks one of the first times that the television edit of The Monkees theme song had been available (it was, however, released on the TeeVee Tunes Television Themes Volume 2 in 1986 and as part of a Rhino Monkees sampler in 1994). All previous Monkees CD releases of the theme song had featured the album version, which is more than twice as long but lacks the TV theme's final verse.
Andrew Sandoval, who co-produced this set with Bill Inglot, also wrote the liner notes.
Arriving in June 1987, Missing Links was the first-ever collection to officially assemble unreleased Monkees songs long stored away in the vaults at RCA. Except for "Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears" and "If You Have the Time," both of which had been aired on the Saturday morning repeats in the early 1970s, and "Nine Times Blue," performed live by Michael, Micky, and Davy on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969, the remainder of the tracks were largely unheard (though some had floated around previously on bootlegs). Missing Links was initially released on LP and cassette, and later in December 1988 on compact disc with bonus tracks.
The album was noteworthy for its inclusion of "All of Your Toys," the first song to feature all four Monkees playing on a single track. It was intended as the group's next single release in early 1967 until the tensions with Don Kirshner boiled over. Two of Michael's tracks, "Nine Times Blue" and "Carlisle Wheeling," were later re-recorded during the First National Band era (with the latter being renamed "Conversations").
The CD edition of Missing Links featured four additional tracks: Micky's "Rosemarie," Michael's "My Share of the Sidewalk," Peter's "Lady's Baby," and "Time and Time Again," co-written by Davy with Bill Chadwick.
Two more Missing Links volumes followed: Volume 2 arrived in 1990 and Volume 3 in 1996. Volume 2, available on cassette and compact disc only, included more previously unheard tracks as well as TV show versions of songs that were never officially released but ultimately re-recorded by The Monkees under their creative control (the original takes of "You Just May Be The One," "Valleri," and "Words," to name a few). Volume 3, available on CD only, continued this same approach of unreleased material and alternate versions.
By the mid-1990s, Rhino Records was undertaking a massive Monkees reissue program, with each original album being remastered for CD release and featuring bonus tracks consisting of previously unreleased material, alternate mixes, and more. Perhaps because of this new approach, the Missing Links series had become redundant. However, a Volume 4 could possibly be sustained with material that still hasn't seen official release, as previously examined.
Peter Tork has long cited the influence of musician Pete Seeger, who passed away yesterday. Check out Tork's performance of "Seeger's Theme" below (from Missing Links Volume Two), which features Peter on guitar, bass, and banjo.
This article, from the September 1967 issue of Tiger Beat, discusses Micky's pre-Monkees band, The Missing Links. For easier reading, click on each image to enlarge.
Here is an ad from the November 1989 Rhino Records catalog advertising the release of Missing Links, Volume 2. (Volume 1 was released in 1987.)
Could we ever see a Volume 4? The last Missing Links collection was released in 1996, right after the original Monkees albums had been remastered for release on compact disc. Those 1994/1995 sets also featured bonus tracks, including alternate versions and unreleased material.
Fast forward to the mid-2000s when Rhino decided to release deluxe editions of the first four Monkees albums. By the time The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees came around for deluxe treatment, the series was turned over to Rhino Handmade. The Handmade division has produced the well received over-sized box sets for the Birds album along with Head, Instant Replay and soon, The Monkees Present. Combined, all of these releases have opened up The Monkees tape vault more than fans could have ever imagined, and arguably more so than other groups and artists.
There is still some material, however, that has yet to see the light of day and would fit nicely on a potential Missing Links, Volume 4 collection. Granted, I'm hoping Rhino restarts the Handmade boxes from the beginning, issuing the first four Monkees albums in that format. If they don't, another Missing Links compilation, via Rhino Handmade, would make sense.
Some unique alternate TV versions of Monkees songs still have not seen official release on CD, and would make a great start for a new collection:
1. "Saturday's Child" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
2. "Take a Giant Step" - alternate mono mix with a different Micky lead vocal
3. "Laugh" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
4. "She Hangs Out" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
5. "Love Is Only Sleeping" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
6. "Star Collector" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
7. "All the King's Horses" - alternate mono mix unique to the TV show soundtrack
Other questions can be asked, too. Have more tapes been discovered in the archives? Andrew Sandoval has played multiple unique mixes of Monkees songs on his Come to the Sunshine internet radio program that have yet to see official release. Have the tracking session tapes been located for the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album? Perhaps one day the multitracks for Changes and the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee soundtrack will turn up. A dream find would be the recording sessions that The Monkees undertook with Snuff Garrett, the first producer chosen for the project. Then there's the ubiquitous questions surrounding the missing two songs from the Changes recording sessions, "Ride Baby Ride" and "Which Way (Do You Want It)." And finally, what material exists in private collections, whether it be backing tracks, acetates, demos, or completed songs that we have yet to hear?
Andrew Sandoval spoke about the Monkees tape library in two different interviews available on this site that can be found here and here. (And his book, the ultimate guide to the recording history of The Monkees, is available for purchase.)
If you're like me and enjoy the details of each Monkees song and seeing every mix it has been released, a must stop visit for you online would be the great Monkees Mixography website.
Be sure to watch this late 2011 interview with Andrew Sandoval where he discusses The Monkees, their tape library, and much more.
Monkees Farewell Tour