A member of the extended Monkees family has passed away from natural causes in California at the age of 79. Keith Allison was a friend of Michael Nesmith's from Texas who acted as a session musician on several Monkees recordings, including "Auntie's Municipal Court," "Zor and Zam," "D.W. Washburn," "Rosemarie," the studio version of "Circle Sky," and "Through the Looking Glass."
Mr. Allison composed "Auntie's Municipal Court" with Nez, and this enduring track from The Monkees' fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, was performed at every stop on the recently completed Monkees Farewell Tour. "I came up with the intro and I played two guitars on the track - one tuned down a full step," recalled Allison in an interview with Monkees historian Andrew Sandoval. "We broke for lunch and Mike had written most of the lyrics. He said, 'I'd better call Micky [Dolenz],' and he came down from Horseshoe Canyon and did the vocal right then and there. We finished the whole thing in one afternoon."
Ultimately enjoying a prolific career in music, Mr. Allison appeared on recordings by Sonny & Cher, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, and many others. Keith also toured with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart in the mid-1970s and played on the group's eponymous album.
Multiple media outlets have noted Mr. Allison's passing, including the Hollywood Reporter, and their tribute can be read via the link below:
By the time The Monkees' fifth million-seller album The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was issued by Colgems in April 1968, stereo had become the preferred listening experience and albums issued in mono were quickly being phased out of production. As a result, the mono mix of the Birds album was extremely limited in quantity and today is a highly, highly sought-after collectible due to its exclusive mixes and all around unique listening experience. The mono mix of The Monkees' eclectic 1968 LP was finally issued on compact disc in 2010 as part of Rhino's 3-CD deluxe edition.
To delve further into the uniqueness of the mono mix of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, check out this recent episode of Mixology: The Mono/Stereo Mix Differences Podcast hosted by Frederick James French-Pounce:
Thanks much to Bill Weimer for submitting this vintage piece examining The Monkees' 1968 album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, as published in the June 23, 1968 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Some clichés abound, but author Robb Baker provides an interesting examination of the group's fifth million-seller.
Listen to The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees courtesy of The Monkees' official YouTube channel:
Seen below is the the cover of The Monkees' fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, in its unused, pristine state, before it was pasted onto the cardboard jacket. According to Monkee45s.net, "The first 5 Monkees LPs were pressed in stereo and mono, however all slicks were printed exactly the same. If, for example, the vinyl was a mono pressing, the word 'STEREO' on the front cover slick would be folded over the back of the LP and covered by the rear slick."
In 1994, Rhino Records began issuing the original Monkees albums on compact disc, digitally remastered with bonus tracks. Overseen by Andrew Sandoval and Bill Inglot, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was part of the first wave of the campaign, released on September 20, 1994, along with The Monkees and Changes. The package featured informative liner notes written by Monkees archivist Sandoval, along with detailed session credits for each song.
In 2010, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was once again reissued, this time by Rhino Handmade as a phenomenal 3-CD super deluxe edition box set in another project overseen by Andrew Sandoval. You can read much more about the album and its various editions in the archives of the Live Almanac, including the LP's original track listing.
In an August 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Peter talked about The Monkees' third #1 single, 1967's "Daydream Believer":
"This comes from what I called the 'mixed-mode' period. The first one was the Don Kirshner mode where he oversaw the records and everything was under his control. Then we did Headquarters where it was just us. 'Mixed' was us and some pros in the studio. With 'Daydream Believer,' I was on the piano and I came up with this opening lick which I thought was just sparklingly original. When you play it today, everyone thinks of 'Daydream Believer.'
"What really makes the song work, I think, is the chord change on 'Jean' in 'Cheer up sleepy Jean.' It goes from a IV chord to a V chord to a III. That's a very unexpected and sweet chord change. It really grabs your attention. Then there's the line, 'What can it mean to a daydream believer and a homecoming queen.' It doesn't go right in your face, but when you think about it you figure it out. You're like, 'Okay, the guy is in a workaday world and he's got his head in the clouds. His girlfriend was a homecoming queen, but they're still scratching.' You don't get all that until you think about it for a long time.
"Davy sings this one, and he was such a talented guy, and a good actor. He was probably the best actor among us. He probably had the best musical mind, too. The best brain and maybe the best heart. "
Congratulations to Ken Mills & Company...keep up the great work.
"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:
Recap: Monkees Farewell Tour
Dolenz sings Nesmith