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)
"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:
Relax Your Mind, the latest studio effort by Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues, is now available to download on Amazon. The compact disc version can also be ordered from CDBaby, but it's currently sold out (with more copies on the way).
Earlier today, Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues issued their third studio effort, Relax Your Mind, as a digital download via CD Baby. (A physical compact disc release is coming shortly.) The album was inspired by American folk and blues musician Lead Belly, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Peter's brother, Nick Thorkelson, features as a guest on Relax Your Mind, playing piano while also providing lead vocals on "He Never Said a Mumblin' Word" and "On a Monday." Thorkelson also composed "A Better World," a bonus track originally featured on the exclusive f.y.e. CD of The Monkees' 2016 album, Good Times!
Peter has released three other albums under the Shoe Suede Blues banner: Saved By The Blues (2003), Cambria Hotel (2007), and Step By Step (2013).
Below are Peter's liner notes as posted on CD Baby, where you can preview and download the album:
Huddie Ledbetter, known as Leadbelly, (or Lead Belly as his family prefers to spell the name), was a singer-guitarist of unusual power and authenticity. His legendary adventures and his collection of field hollers, chain gang songs, blues, children's ditties, and, yes, pop songs, brought him eventually to live and perform in and around New York City among a crowd of folk singers and minstrels of various stripes, including Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Josh White, and, maybe most notably, Woody Guthrie.
My brother Nick and I grew up with Lead Belly records, and these songs have been a part of our musical lives and inspiration for us since we were in our early teens. When we get together, whether family gatherings or performances, we still play Lead Belly songs.
I dived into the Lead Belly archives this year picking out favorites for a tribute CD with Shoe Suede Blues, and we even got to include Nick for a day during our recording. That's him, in case you couldn't tell, singing “On a Monday” and “He Never Said a Mumblin' Word,” and on keys throughout; any piano and organ you hear is him.
As I worked on the demos for the songs, I paid a lot of attention to the rhythm. So in some cases songs of hardship, heartbreak, mayhem, and death are pretty upbeat. Incidentally, on one of Lead Belly’s standards, “Irene,” we think we’ve done something original. None of the band members had heard, or even heard of, reggae in three quarter time.
I'm sorry I couldn't include more Lead Belly songs. There are so many he wrote or collected and arranged, and so many stories he could tell, that there will never be a satisfactory short collection. He was a giant in the folk and blues world.
Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues performed live in concert last evening in Westbury, New York at NYCB Theatre. The group opened an evening of entertainment dubbed "Hot Autumn Nights" on a bill that included Peter Noone, The Grass Roots, and The Buckinghams. This marked Peter's first concert appearance since the conclusion of The Monkees' 50th Anniversary Tour last December, and his first public event since early May, where he took part in Wizard World Comic Con in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Peter and the band performed the following songs:
A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
Bring It With You
Cross Cut Saw
I’m a Believer (with Peter Noone)
Pleasant Valley Sunday
Jennifer Winkle was in attendance and shared her photos on Facebook, along with audio of Peter's set:
Peter Noone made a surprise appearance and performed "I'm a Believer" with Peter:
And here's more footage from Westbury courtesy of YouTube:
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Micky Dolenz welcomed Michael Nesmith and friends back to the stage during his concert at The Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. Previously on Friday night, Nez had joined Micky at The Canyon in Agoura Hills, California for their first concert appearance together since September 2016.
Jodi Ritzen shared video from the show on Facebook, which includes the duo's performance of "Me & Magdalena" and the encore selections of "Listen to the Band" and "I'm a Believer."
Kiefo Nilsson, son of Harry, once again joined Micky for "Good Times" just as he had during Friday night's debut of the song at the Agoura Hills show.
Mary Cherry posted this video of "I'm a Believer" and final bows:
Peter's Facebook page announced three dates in Pennsylvania and Maryland for this coming October:
Friday, October 2, 2015: Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, Pennsylvania
Saturday, October 3, 2015: Club 66, Edgewood, Maryland
Sunday, October 4, 2015: FAN PARTY, Club 66, Edgewood, Maryland
This past March, Peter's band Shoe Suede Blues released a new album called Step by Step. Previously only available as a download, Peter's Facebook page recently announced that a compact disc version has arrived.
To order your copy and sample the album's tracks, click here.
Peter covers a wide variety of topics in this April 25 interview on WNPR in Connecticut, including his relationship with Stephen Stills, fame, Shoe Suede Blues, his upcoming solo tour, The Monkees and more.
Peter's band, Shoe Suede Blues, has just released a new album called Step by Step. You can download songs here, and Peter says a CD version is on its way. Peter recently posted the following message on his Facebook page about the album:
It’s been great to see so many of you lately at our various outings, and I’m looking forward to more good times ahead. What with a couple of convention appearances, a solo tour coming up, and some serious blues with my lads in Shoe Suede Blues, I am all revved-up.
I’d like to introduce you to our latest disc: “Step by Step.” We’re putting out the album online to start with, and we’ll follow-up with a shrink-wrap version for the collectors shortly.Listen/Purchase/Download here. The track “Your Molecular Structure” is available as a FREEdownload (just click “Buy Now” and enter $0 in the price box. It’s yours! Enjoy).
Thanks as always for your support at the shows and on The REAL Peter Tork (Offficial) Facebook page.
See you on the road. Be good to yourselves and each other,
Live in 2021