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)
Live in 2021