On November 14, 1967, Colgems Records issued Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.:
Only a few seconds of video has ever surfaced for the clip filmed at Chicago's Fred Niles Studios (better known to Monkees fans as the Rainbow Room) for "Salesman," the lead-off track from The Monkees' fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Those shots, seen below, can be viewed in the second season episode "The Devil and Peter Tork."
I was hoping more footage had been unearthed for last year's Blu-ray set, but unfortunately, it seems nothing survives. The Rainbow Room sessions on August 2, 1967 were featured throughout many second season episodes, showcasing songs like "Randy Scouse Git," "Daydream Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?" and more.
Bill Martin's "The Door Into Summer" is one of many standout tracks on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. "The title came from the Robert Heinlein book The Door Into Summer, which was about time travel," Martin told Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval in the liner notes of the 1991 Listen to the Band box set. "The song is about the search for happiness, and is basically an anti-war song." Bill Martin also discussed the unique circumstances surrounding the recording of the song: "Micky tried singing it, and Mike tried it a couple of times also. They didn't like the echo at RCA, so they strung a mike from Studio A to the men's bathroom. Mike did his vocal in there to achieve the right effect."
The photo above was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Carmel Magazine and was denoted as being from Michael's personal collection. It seemingly shows Nez recording the vocal for "The Door Into Summer" in the men's room as Martin had recollected. (Michael's appearance also seems to match the August/September/October 1967 time frame in which the song was recorded.) However, in speaking with Andrew Sandoval about the story behind the photo, he neither confirmed nor rejected the idea that it was taken during the "Door" session, saying it was from Michael's archive and that he was unable to officially confirm its veracity.
An alternate mono mix of the song was made available on the 2007 deluxe edition of the Pisces album, which some believe features the men's room vocal take:
Thanks a lot to Peter Mills for sharing this vintage review of The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. And if you haven't already, make sure to check out Peter's excellent book, The Monkees, Head, and The '60s.
The Monkees filmed two unique segments that were featured on various episodes during the second season, highlighting two key tracks from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. - Daily Nightly" and "Star Collector."
UPDATED @ 8pm EST: A great show by Andrew, and be sure to listen to Barry Mann's demo for "Love Is Only Sleeping" (at 5:26), a song The Monkees recorded in 1967, and appearing on their fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
50 years ago today, The Monkees commenced work on "Pleasant Valley Sunday." Andrew Sandoval documented the June 10, 1967 session at RCA Hollywood, one day after The Monkees' triumphant concert performance at the Hollywood Bowl, in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
Gerry Goffin & Carole King's "Pleasant Valley Sunday" is one of Chip Douglas's most complex productions for The Monkees. Sadly, session tapes will not survive for this landmark date so it is impossible to follow this wonderful creation step-by-step. The basic track is most likely recorded with Chip Douglas and Eddie Hoh forming the rhythm section of bass and drums while Michael and Peter perform on electric guitar and piano. Union documents indicate Micky is also present for this session, and it is quite possible that he contributes some acoustic guitar to the track. Additional guitar overdubs will be recorded tomorrow.
Chip Douglas: "Mike played the lead guitar. That was my riff that I threw in there and taught to Mike. Not many guitar players can play it the right way. ... It's kind of an offshoot of the Beatles song 'I Want To Tell You' but in a different tempo and with different notes.
"I wish I could hear the original demo, because I can't recall if I got a [lyric] line right or not. It's in the bridge, 'creature comfort goals can only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see.' For 'make it hard for me to see,' for some reason I had the impression that I didn't do the right line in there, or changed it possibly. I couldn't understand that line, or something like that. One of those great mysteries.
"I do remember seeing Carole King up at the Screen Gems office from across the room after we did 'Pleasant Valley Sunday.' She kind of gave me this dirty look. I thought, 'Was it that line that I got wrong, perhaps? Or didn't she like the guitar intro?' It was faster, definitely, than the way she had done it. She had a more laidback way of doing stuff."
Michael Nesmith: "I remember that we went after the guitar sound. Everybody was trying to get that great big present guitar sound - Beatle [amplifiers] in the studio, playing really loud trying to get the sound, and it just ended up sounding kind of ... like it does. Kind of wooden. There was a tube-type of limiter/compressor called a UREI 1176, and boy you could really suck stuff out of the track. That was the first time that we really could do it. I think everybody got a little carried away with the 1176 on that record."
On June 11 and 13, 1967, "Pleasant Valley Sunday" was treated to overdubs, including backing vocals from all four Monkees.
In a 1982 interview with Bruce Pollack, Peter Tork discussed the blending of Micky and Michael's voices throughout "Pleasant Valley Sunday":
"A notion of mine that I was really pleased with took over at one point, and that was having two guys sing in unison rather than one guy doubling his own voice. So you've got Mike, who was really a hard-nosed character, and Micky, who's a real baby face, and these two voices blended and lent each other qualities. It's not two separate voices singing together, it's really a melding of the two voices. Listening to that record later on was a joy. "
"Pleasant Valley Sunday" was issued as Colgems single #1007 on July 10, 1967, right in the middle of The Monkees' ultra-successful summer tour that year. It was backed with "Words," written for the group by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The single is considered to be one of their most successful (certified Gold just four days after release), and it's worth noting that radio gave attention to both sides. As a result, "Pleasant Valley Sunday" peaked at #3 in Billboard while "Words" topped out at #11. The songs were later featured on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
Thanks to Jennifer Winkle for these pictures from the final show on The Monkees' 2012 tour at New York City's Beacon Theatre on December 2, 2012.
Craig Smith wrote "Salesman," the opening track on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Smith was a friend of Michael Nesmith's and a member of The Penny Arkade, a group Nesmith produced in the recording studio. Nez talked about the Arkade and "Salesman" with Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval: "I really liked the way they sang," he said in the liner notes of Rhino's 1995 compact disc release of the LP. "I was drawn to record 'Salesman' because it reminded me of Sir Douglas and the Tex-Mex oompah."
The song was later used to great effect in the second season episode "The Devil and Peter Tork," but not before stirring controversy at NBC. The January 1968 issue of Hit Parader reported that the episode had been rejected by the network because of the inclusion of "Salesman," which was thought to have been about drug use. "NBC said we're not putting that song out," Peter Tork recalled in Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation. "They said, 'Because "Salesman's" got drug references in it.' In fact, it sort of does, but it's not direct and it's not approving by any stretch of the imagination. What it really says is, 'Salesmen are so sleazy, they'll sell anything.'"
By the time the episode aired on February 5, 1968, the song remained in the final cut of the show. Ultimately, Bert Schneider, one half of Raybert Productions that created The Monkees series, was convinced that the network's real problem was the use of the word 'hell' throughout the episode. Peter agreed with this assessment. "Bert felt that they didn't want to put the show on because they were pissed off directly and personally at having their idea of what's right and wrong challenged. They said it was centered on 'Salesman,' but he thought it was a red herring."
Shortly after experiencing success with "Salesman," Craig Smith fell on hard times by the 1970s. Abusing drugs and dropping out of society, Smith's life spiraled alarmingly. He's been the subject of writers previously, and now author Mike Stax has delved into his life in a new book, which was released last fall.
Here's a highlight from the Live Almanac's YouTube channel: a live version of "Salesman," a track from The Monkees' fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. It was most likely recorded during one of the shows at Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on October 3 or 4, 1968. One of the concerts in Tokyo was filmed and later aired on Japanese television, complete with Japanese overdubs introducing each song.
Mike Nesmith: lead vocal/guitar; Micky Dolenz: drums/backing vocals; Davy Jones: bass; Peter Tork: keyboards
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.
Here's "Cuddly Toy" live in Japan in 1968:
And check out this version of "Cuddly Toy" by Ben Gibbard (who composed "Me & Magdalena" for The Monkees' new album, Good Times!) and Zooey Deschanel.
A big thanks to Rosemary Reedman who submitted this interview with Michael Nesmith that was published in the summer of 1967 in the British music magazine New Musical Express. Nez discusses the recording of The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (along with his idea on what the cover of the LP should look like), The Beatles, the L.A. and London pop scenes, and much more.
In his book, Andrew Sandoval writes that Michael's conversation with Keith Altham likely took place on June 23, 1967 as the The Monkees prepared to depart for Paris, France. For easier reading, click each image to enlarge.