After a flurry of albums with the First and Second National Bands in the early 1970s, Michael Nesmith began to broaden his artistic scope. In 1972, Nez formed Countryside Records, a subsidiary of Elektra Records, to produce and promote country and western artists including Red Rhodes, Tom Holbrook, Steve Fromholz, and Garland Frady. One of Michael's most noteworthy projects from this era included his collaboration with British musician and singer-songwriter Ian Matthews on the album Valley Hi. Matthews had previously been a member of the folk rock band Fairport Convention, and Nez acted as producer for his 1973 LP on Elektra.
Valley Hi is noteworthy for Matthews' version of "Seven Bridges Road," a song later made famous by The Eagles on their 1980 album Eagles Live. Rhino Records highlighted the track earlier this week in an article entitled "5 Things You May Not Have Known About Mike Nesmith" while celebrating Michael's recent birthday:
He produced, sang, and played on Ian Matthews’ version of "Seven Bridges Road." Written by Steve Young and arguably made most famous by the Eagles, Nesmith recorded Matthews’ version of the song in 1973 for Matthews’ VALLEY HI album, and if you listen to that version first and then listen to the Eagles’ version, what you will notice is that the tempo and arrangements are pretty much identical. Like, to the degree that Nesmith later said of that similarity, "Son of a gun if Don or somebody in Eagles didn’t lift [our] arrangement absolutely note for note for vocal harmony. If they can’t think it up themselves [and] they’ve got to steal it from somebody else, better they should steal it...from me, I guess."
Matthews also covered Nesmith's classic "Propinquity" on Valley Hi.
And now, this period of Michael Nesmith's career and his work with Ian Matthews has been examined in much greater depth by Peter Mills, author of The Monkees, Head, and the '60s, in his new blog Pete Sounds. Peter relayed to the Live Almanac that he had to leave an abundance of material for his book on the cutting room floor, but now fans can enjoy his research about this often overlooked period of Nesmith history. Click the image below to visit Peter's blog!
After releasing Justus, an album of all-new material in late 1996, The Monkees began work on an original one-hour prime time TV special in January 1997, and it eventually aired in the United States on ABC on February 17, 1997.
The special included re-recorded versions of some of The Monkees' greatest hits in medley form, and producer Misha Segal recently posted what appears to be the master recording of the medley (which has never been officially issued) on YouTube. The video included the following description by Segal:
"One of my very fun projects in the late 90s. It was The Monkees Reunion and I was asked to be music director. Peter and I became especially good friends until his recent, unfortunate passing."
"Early Morning Blues and Greens," written by Jack Keller and Diane Hildebrand, originally appeared on The Monkees' third LP, Headquarters, in 1967. Peter was known to be fond of the song and delivered an inspired rendition of it with Shoe Suede Blues on their 2013 album, Step by Step:
The Monkees' version featured a lead vocal by Davy Jones with Peter providing the harmony vocal:
Peter talked about the March 1967 recording sessions for the song in Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation:
"Early Morning Blues and Greens" made its live concert debut on The Monkees' 2012 tour, and here Peter performs the song at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey in July 2013:
Legendary Wrecking Crew member Hal Blaine played drums on a number of Monkees songs in the 1960s, including "Papa Gene's Blues," "Mary, Mary," and "Someday Man." He passed away on Monday at age 90.
Adam Schlesinger, producer of The Monkees' two most recent albums Good Times! and Christmas Party, breaks down the tracks on the group's new holiday LP and much more on The Nightfly with Dave Juskow podcast. Thanks to Tracy Robison for the heads-up!
Here's a great photo of Micky with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5. Buck and McCaughey co-wrote the title track of The Monkees' forthcoming holiday album, Christmas Party.
On a personal note, I'm a longtime fan of R.E.M. and am thrilled that Peter is working with The Monkees. Scott is also closely aligned with R.E.M. as he was an auxiliary musician in the studio and on stage with the group from 1994 until their their breakup in 2011.
Scott's band The Minus 5 released Of Monkees and Men in 2016, described as "an imaginative tribute to the Monkees’ legacy in music and popular culture."
Thank you very much to John Hughes of Rhino Records for providing The Monkees Live Almanac with an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek in the studio when Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5) joined Micky Dolenz to record the tracks "Christmas Party" and "Jesus Christ" for the upcoming Monkees holiday album, Christmas Party. John is the executive producer of this latest Monkees project.
Left to right are guitarist Jody Porter, producer Adam Schlesinger, John Hughes, Mark Pinkus (President, Rhino Records), Micky Dolenz, drummer Brian Young, Peter Buck, and Scott McCaughey:
In July 1968, The Monkees recorded "Ditty Diego," a parody of the theme song to their television show, for inclusion in the feature film, Head.
Click each photo below to listen to some interesting and informative discussions about The Monkees' 1966 recording sessions: