For all those fans that missed it the first time around, I'm a big proponent for the reissue of this Rhino Handmade deluxe set of 1968's The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. A limited edition release in 2010, the box commands outrageous prices on eBay and other second-hand markets. I've often read that some collectors oppose a reissue because it lessens the value of their box. But in a world of downloads, YouTube, and torrent sites, the value of a "limited edition" doesn't have the same meaning it used to...
"Writing Wrongs" appeared on the fifth Monkees LP, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, in 1968. A Nesmith original where he plays guitar and keyboards, he's joined by bassist Rick Dey and Eddie Hoh on drums and percussion. That's Nez you hear on the Hammond organ during the song's psychedelic instrumental interlude. "Writing Wrongs" was recorded at RCA Victor in Hollywood on December 3, 1967.
Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and recorded during two sessions at RCA Studios in Hollywood in August 1966, the original version of "Valleri" features Davy Jones on lead vocals.
Noted session musician Louie Shelton provided the ace guitar work, and he was joined on guitar by Wayne Erwin and Gerry McGee, along with Larry Taylor (bass), Billy Lewis (drums), and Gene Estes (tambourine).
Andrew Sandoval wrote the following about the first recorded version of "Valleri" in the More of The Monkees deluxe edition liner notes:
Another Boyce and Hart session on August 6 produced the similarly anthemic “Valleri.” As Bobby Hart remembers, “‘Valleri’ was specifically written for them. We actually wrote it in the car going up Mulholland from Woodrow Wilson and Laurel Canyon over to the house that [Don Kirshner] was renting in the suburbs.” Written at Kirshner’s request, “Valleri” followed one of Donnie’s formulas for success: using a girl’s name in the title line. “I knew with the right lyric line it would be a hit for The Monkees,” says Kirshner of the results. “Because every Valleri would buy it, and every girl would relate…I was very hot and high on getting a girl’s song, ‘cause the formula had worked for me with [Neil] Sedaka.”
Even so, Kirshner passed on “Valleri” as the group’s next single, and only after he exited The Monkees project was the song revived for a surefire hit. “It should have been the next single,” remarks Hart. “When they needed a single a couple singles down the line, they had us go back into the studio and re-cut. We couldn’t use the original for some unknown reason, but they let us go back in without credit and try to duplicate it. [The original recording] was a better version.”
Sandoval also wrote about the circumstances that led to the song being revived and officially released. The second attempt of "Valleri" became a hit in early 1968. From the liner notes of the 1994 CD release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees:
“Valleri” was The Monkees’ final Top 10 placing, and like many of their recordings, the song was featured on the group’s show far in advance of its official release. Notably, “Valleri” achieved near-legendary status when regional DJs who pirated the song from the television show, aired their homemade recordings, creating public demand for the song’s release. The main reason the song was not originally issued was The Monkees’ concern that all future tracks bear their collective production credit. Bobby Hart recalls..."We originally cut ‘Valleri’ just prior to the point when we were dismissed as producers. Over a year later Lester Sill came back to us and said that they wanted to recut ‘Valleri,’ but we couldn’t use the original track because we were the credited producers on it. They wanted us to go back in and make it sound as close to the original as possible and not take producer’s credit on it.”
One of the highlights of The Monkees' 2012 tour was the inclusion of Michael Nesmith's song, "Tapioca Tundra," which appeared on the group's fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, and was also the B-side to "Valleri" in 1968. On its own merit, "Tapioca Tundra" peaked at an impressive #34 on the Billboard chart that year.
In a recent interview with Goldmine magazine, Michael talked about the meaning of the song and how it ended up in the set list:
A highlight of those shows was your performance of "Tapioca Tundra," which was also a song you performed on your 2012 solo U.K. tour. It's a beautifully wacky song. What inspired it, and what led you to play this one live?
It was one of those "deep cuts" from a later album and had grown in approval and acceptance over the years, until the time when we decided to go on tour, and it had become one of the most requested songs for us to do. The song itself is about the moment when the performer realizes that the songs he/she sings belong to the people — the fans and the crowds — that love the song, and the performer is only there in service to that relationship. "It cannot be a part of me — for now its part of you."
Michael had the following to say about "Tapioca Tundra" in the liner notes of the 1994 CD release of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees:
"I have always enjoyed writing poetry – standalone poetry . . . As a matter of fact one of the ways I got into song-writing was to find poems and see if I could put them to music. I did that in high school and college – in English class I would set some of the poems we were studying to music. By the time that 'Tapioca Tundra' came along I had been writing my own poetry for a while. The poems tended to be fairly complex, because I realised I couldn’t continue to write pop tunes of the type that Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin, Carole King, and Boyce and Hart were writing. I thought I probably ought to go ahead and put my own imprimatur on things."
Isn't this a cool photo? I'm presuming that it was taken in the '60s. And how about that awesome poster of the Birds album hanging on the wall?!?!
Check out this great new interview with Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval. He talks about the Rhino Records deluxe box for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the most challenging part in writing his book, the Criterion version of Head and the fact that outtakes from the movie exist, his work with Rhino, Michael Nesmith's songwriting and his days at the Troubadour, Monkees projects that were started but not finished, and much more.