Monkees didn't come together as most bands do; that is, by having
common interests and musical tastes. So what makes their albums so
interesting are the vast differences in musical styles they brought to
each album, especially after they gained control of what they were going
to record. What began as a folk-rock tinged sound prevalent on their
first two albums quickly changed into an intricate blending of Mike
Nesmith's alt-country, Davy Jones' lush romantic and broadway styles,
Micky Dolenz's experimental pop and R&B leanings, and Peter
Tork's laid-back avant-guard noodlings. Add to this their
unlimited resources in the studio, and you have a vast collection
of songs as varied as the individual personalities that made up the
group. The Monkees sound was truly unique - and will probably never
Albums, Part I (1967-1968)The Monkees (Oct. 1966) Colgems 101 [LP] / Rhino CD R2
1. (Theme From) The Monkees (Boyce/Hart) -
2:21 2. Saturday's Child (Gates) - 2:45 3.
I Wanna Be
Free (Boyce/Hart) - 2:27 4. Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another
Day (Boyce/Venet) - 2:39 5. Papa Gene's Blues (Nesmith) - 2:00 6. Take a Giant Step (Goffin/King) - 2:31 7. Last Train to
(Boyce/Hart) - 2:47 8.
Doesn't Seem to Be My Day (Boyce/Hart) -
2:09 9. Let's Dance On (Boyce/Hart) -
2:32 10. I'll Be True to You (Goffin/Titelman) -
2:49 11. Sweet Young Thing (Goffin/King/Nesmith) - 1:58 12.
Me a Dog
(Boyce/Hart) - 2:44 bonus tracks: 13. I Can't Get Her off My
(Boyce/Hart) - 2:55 14.
Think You Know Me (Goffin/King) -
2:18 15 (Theme From) The Monkees (Boyce/Hart) -
debut album, overseen by Don Kirschner and featuring tracks by some
of the best songwriters in the business, including Tommy Boyce &
Bobby Hart, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, David Gates and an
insistant Mike Nesmith is a memorable introduction to the Pre-fab
four. America gets to hear the amazing pop voice of Mickey
Dolenz, the pixie cuteness of Davy Jones, and the folk-rock
sensibility of the aforementioned Mike Nesmith. Unfortunately,
Peter Tork gets left out in the cold, despite believing that he
would in fact be contributing to the album sessions. "(Theme
From) The Monkees" kicks things off in high style, with a special
studio version which differs from the theme heard on TV, but none
the worse for it. Following this with the wonderful, anthemic
"Saturday's Child," and the wistful pining of "I Wanna Be Free"
leaves the listener immediately impressed with not only the songs,
but the singing chops on the performers. Mike Nesmith's "Papa
Gene's Blues" is a welcome change in style, and also introduces
the listener to Nesmith's dry wit, which would become more apparent
on subsequent releases. The huge hit single "Last Train To
Clarksville" leads off side two of the album, and has rightly become
one of the Monkees most played songs. What's remarkable about
the whole album is the seemingly jelling of so many styles and
personalities. The loose, jangle-pop blends with the
tongue-in-cheek humor (listen to the goofy, but endearing "Gonna Buy
Me A Dog" for evidence of the latter) and prepare yourselves to
marvel at the sheer fun these guys seem to be having. The only
down point on the album is the too-sappy "I'll Be True To You"
which pointed the way to more Davy Jones sentimental mush to
come. A fine, funny album, and a classic of the times.
More Of The
Monkees (Jan. 10, 1967) Colgems COM
102 [LP] / Rhino CD R2
2:40 2. When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your
1:49 3. Mary, Mary (Nesmith) - 2:16 4.
Girl (Carr/Keller/Raleigh) - 2:29 5.
Auntie Grizelda (Hildebrand/Keller) -
2:30 6. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce/Hart) - 2:25 7. Look Out (Here Comes
(Diamond) - 2:16 8.
of Girl I Could Love (Nesmith) -
1:53 9. The Day We Fall in Love (Linzer/Randall) -
2:26 10. Sometime in the Morning (Goffin/King) -
2:30 11. Laugh (Margo/Margo/Medress/Siegel) -
2:30 12. I'm a Believer (Diamond) - 2:50 bonus tracks: 13. Don't Listen to
(Boyce/Hart) - 2:28 14. I'll Spend My Life With
You (Boyce/Hart) - 2:30 15. I Don't Think You Know
Me (Goffin/King) - 2:19 16. Look Out (Here Comes
(Diamond) - 2:53 17. I'm a Believer (Diamond) -
all reports, this is the album that got the pot boiling between Mike
Nesmith and Don Kirchner, leading directly to the firing of Kirshner
and the Monkees taking over the creative reigns of power for all
subsequent albums. Kirchner apparently threw this album
together without any input from the Monkees (they didn't even know
about its release and had to go buy it at the store to hear it!) But
upon listening, it's clear it's not because of the material.
Although "More of the Monkees" is saddled with a couple of lesser
songs, there are more than just a handful of classic numbers
here to satisfy fans of sixties pop music. As with their
debut, the first three numbers are all gems: "She" is a punchy
opening, with Micky Dolenz wailing it out like he's really suffering
from a broken heart (pays to have a singer who can act as well,
huh?) Then Davy Jones belts out the swinging "When Love Comes
Knocking" which although doesn't have the knock-you-over-the-head
intensity of the opening number, is also instantly memorable.
Nesmith's "Mary, Mary" has been covered by alt and punk fans for
years, and with good reason: it's the closest to straight-out rock
that the Monkees have tackled yet, and they make it sound
easy. Davy again alternates on lead on the next single, the
pleading "Hold On Girl," which is another showcase for his
over-the-top broadway sensibility. Peter Tork also makes his
first appearance on a Monkees album here, but unfortunately he gets
sidelined with the gag track "Your Auntie Grizelda." For this
reason alone, Kirshner deserved to be sacked. Peter Tork was
in fact a fine guitarist and songwriter, but in order to appease the
gods of television, he is cast as "The Dumb One" not only on the
tube, but on vinyl as well. Next comes the Monkees next paen
to the gods of acid-rock: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" which
would turn into a full-out raver in the Monkees live shows.
The next song "The Kind of Girl I Could Love" is a real piledriver
from Mike Nesmith, a great song, but Davy's spoken-word "The Day we
Fall In Love" is either sheer torture or a kitchy throw-back to more
innocent times. "Sometimes In The Morning" - although a little too
sweet, is ultimately disarming, and one of my personal
favorites. Next comes the strange "Laugh" with it's bizarre
twisting of broadway and dance-hall sensibilities making it a
stand-out cut. Finally, the Monkees #1 hit "I'm A Believer"
closes the album in stellar
(May 22, 1967) Colgems COS 103 [LP]
/ Rhino CD R2
1. You Told Me (Nesmith) -
I'll Spend My Life With You (Boyce/Hart) - 2:23 3. Forget
That Girl (Farthing-Hatlelid) - 2:21 4.
:38 5. You Just May Be the One (Nesmith) -
2:00 6. Shades of Gray (Mann/Weil) -
3:20 7. I Can't Get Her off My Mind (Boyce/Hart) - 2:23 8. For Pete's Sake (Richards/Tork) - 2:10 9.
(Boyce/Hart) - 2:02 10.
Girlfriend (Nesmith) -
2:31 11. Zilch
1:05 12. No
Time (Cicalo) - 2:09 13. Early Morning Blues and Greens (Hildebrand/Keller) - 2:00 14. Randy Scouse Git (Dolenz) -
2:35 bonus tracks: 15.
All of Your
Toys (Martin) - 3:02 16. The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith) - 2:38 17.
Gun (Mancini) - 3:38 18. Jericho
(Traditional) - 2:02 19.
Nine Times Blue
(Nesmith) - 2:07 20. Pillow Time [demo
version] (Scott/Willis) -
Kirshner had been unceremoniously dumped by the band, something very
strange happened. These four guys, who had nothing in common,
thrown together to act like a band, decide to actually record their
own album. It should have proven to be a disaster, but
instead, the album they made, "Headquarters," became one of the
finest of their careers, and a contender for one of the best albums
of the sixties. Adopting a sound between jangle-pop and folk
(thanks to the influence of Mike Nesmith), they selected songs (many
of which they wrote), and played and co-produced everything here as
a cohesive unit; something they wouldn't do again until 1996's
Justus. It produced no hit singles, yet the album is full of
fine songcraft, and some remarkable surprises for the fans,
including revelatory songwriting turns by Peter Tork ("For
Pete's Sake"), Mickey Dolenz ("Randy Scouse Git"), and the still
inimitable Mike Nesmith ("You Told Me.") Sprinkled in with
these fine songs were their trademark comedy bits, with "Band 6"
showcasing Mickey's determination to master the drums which he had
faked on TV so long, and the mesmerizing patter of "Zilch,"
which is a tour-de-force of cyclic wordplay. The band was
still dependent on other songwriters though, and hand-picked several
tracks from associates Boyce & Hart ("I'll Spend My Life With
You," the haunting "Mr. Webster," and "I Can't Get Her Off My
Mind"), and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (the stunning "Shades of
Grey.") But I don't think I can overstate how unprecedented
this album is: for one brief, shining moment the Monkees lived and
breathed as a musical force, instead of just voices in the
studio. Headquarters is worth checking out by everyone, not
just for the sheer audacity of the project, but because it worked so
Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. (Nov. 16, 1967) Colgems COS 104 [LP] / Rhino CD R2
1. Salesman (Smith) -
2:03 2. She Hangs Out (Barry) - 2:33 3. The Door into
(Douglas/Martin) - 2:50 4.
Only Sleeping (Mann/Weil) -
Toy (Nilsson) - 2:45 6. Words (Boyce/Hart) -
Hard to Believe (Brick/Copli/Jones/Rockett) -
What Am I
Doing Hangin' 'Round? (Castleman/Murphey)
- 3:02 9. Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig
(Tork) - :17 10. Pleasant Valley Sunday (Goffin/King) - 3:13 11. Daily Nightly (Nesmith) - 2:26 12.
Don't Call on
Me (London/Nesmith) - 2:28 13. Star Collector
3:30 bonus tracks: 14. Special
Announcement - :36 15. Goin' Down (Dolenz/Hildebrand/Jones/Nesmith/Tork)
- 4:46 16. Salesman (Smith) - 2:37 17.
The Door into
(Douglas/Martin) - 2:52 18.
Love Is Only
(Mann/Weil) - 2:32 19. Daily Nightly (Nesmith) - 2:31 20.
Collector (Goffin/King) -
after their creative and personal triumph of creating Headquarters,
the Monkees tossed in the towel on working together as a recording
group, and decided to go their separate ways, each recording their
own tracks individually, then choosing the best sides for their next
several albums. PAC&J was the first of these
conglomorations, and it laid the groundwork for the rest of the
Monkees albums through the end of the decade (until Justus brought
the group back together in 1996.) A good album, with many fine
individual songs, PAC&J begins with the honky-tonk twang of
"Salesman," which, although not written by Nesmith, is strongly
suited to his style. A better song, "She Hangs Out" gives
Davy Jones the chance to get a little down 'n' dirty (in fact,
between this song and the later "Cuddly Toy," Davy Jones really
shows his seamy side beneath that squeeky teen-idol exterior.)
As a matter of course, Nesmith, Dolenz, and Jones all get their
chance to shine on this album, while Peter Tork once again gets the
short shrift, having only the novelty sketch "Peter Percival
Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" allowing fans to know that he's still a
part of the group. But for fans, this is one of the Monkees
strongest albums, with the powerhouse "Words," the ultra-lounge of
"Hard To Believe," the wistful "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round," the
trippy "Daily Nightly," the biting rebuttal of "Star Collector" and
the subversive hit single "Pleasant Valley Sunday" all combining to
create one of the Monkees finest offerings.
The Bees & The Monkees. (Apr. 22, 1968) Colgems COM 109 [LP] / Rhino CD R2
1. Dream World (Jones/Pitts) -
3:16 2. Auntie's Municipal Court (Allison/Nesmith) - 3:55 3. We Were Made for Each
Other (Fischoff/Sager) - 2:24 4. Tapioca Tundra (Nesmith) - 3:03 5. Daydream Believer (Stewart) -
2:58 6. Writing Wrongs (Nesmith) - 5:06 7.
I'll Be Back up
on My Feet (Linzer/Randell) - 2:16 8. The Poster (Jones/Pitts) - 2:21 9. P.O. Box 9847 (Boyce/Hart) - 3:16 10. Magnolia Simms (Nesmith) - 3:48 11. Valleri (Boyce/Hart) -
2:15 12. Zor
and Zam (Chadwick/Chadwick) - 2:10 bonus tracks: 13.
Alvin [#/*] (Tork) - :27 14.
I'm Gonna Try
2:44 15. P.O.
Box 9847 [#/*]
(Boyce/Hart) - 3:15 16. The Girl I Left Behind
Me (Sager/Sedaka) - 2:40 17. Lady's Baby (Tork)
For the follow
up to the successful PAC&J, the Monkees kept strictly to the
formula set by the previous album: working separately, each recorded
tracks using their own session players, and then brought their work
together to form the album. In fact, The Birds, The Bees &
The Monkees could be considered PAC&J part II, but this time the
album felt like leftovers. Davy continued on his songwriting
skills, getting the lead-off track, "Dream World," which is a
catchy, memorable song, but not strong enough for a single;
"Auntie's Municipal Court" is a lazy country pop ditty with Mike
purposely choosing a title that had nothing to do with the
lyrics. Next comes Davy Jones warbling the lush, overly
sentimental pap of "We Were Made For Each Other." Mike pulls
the albums' biggest surprise out of his hat with what sounds like
psychedelic country rock: "Tapioca Tundra" begins in a swirling haze
before coalescing into a fairly straightforward pop song.
The huge hit single "Daydream Believer" is next, which
seemed to strike a chord with many people despite it's inpenetrable
lyrics (even Davy didn't know what they meant), but it's
anthemic chorus, memorable alarm-clock opening, and perpetually
cheery mood instantly made it a classic. The rest of the album
runs hot and cold: from the finely-tuned pop of "I'll Be Back
Upon My Feet," "P.O. Box 9847," and "Valleri" lifting up the second
half of the album, while Davy's "The Poster" is charming light pop,
"Magnolia Simms" is a retro-1920's novelty piece, and "Writing
Wrongs" begins like a drug-induced stupor, dragging itself from
an underproduced, lethargic opening then switching to a
skittish instrumental jam. The album closes with the dull,
allegorical "Zor and Zam" which unfortunately never rises to the
heights of inspiration that the writer seemed to intend.
Overall a middling album, with the best cuts being
found on various
Head (Dec 1, 1968) Colgems COM 5008 [LP] / Rhino CD R2
1. Opening Ceremony - 1:20 2.
(Theme from "Head") (Goffin/King) -
Diego -- War Chant (Nicholson/Rafelson) -
Sky (Nesmith) - 2:31 5. Supplico - :48 6.
(Tork) - 3:23 7. Gravy - :06 8. Superstitious - :07 9. As We Go Along (King/Stern) -
Dandruff? - :39 11.
Song (Nilsson) - 2:30 12. Poll
- 1:13 13.
Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over... (Tork) - 2:39 14. Swami -- Plus
Strings (Thorne) -
5:21 bonus tracks: 15.
Ditty Diego -- War Chant (Nicholson/Rafelson) - 4:30 16. Circle Sky (Nesmith) -
Birthday to You -
1:02 18. Can
You Dig It?
(Tork) - 3:25 19. Daddy's Song (Nilsson) - 2:06 20. Head Radio Spot -
I heard the
music to HEAD before I saw the movie, and I think
that was a good thing. The soundtrack album is a
masterpiece of psychedelia, with each member of the band finally
getting their due. Interspersed throughout the tracks are
snippets of dialogue taken from the film, which only increases the
sense of giddy weirdness of the album. But aside from that,
it's the songs here that really shine, beginning with the
transcendent and peaceful "Porpoise Song" written by the Goffin/King
duo. The thick, wall-of-sound-ish production is perfect:
dreamy and surreal while Micky sings with a detachment that's still
captivating. Also his singing on the dreamy "As We Go Along"
is some of the best he's ever done. I've heard it said that
not enough credit has been given to Micky for the tremendous pop
voice that has graced so many of the Monkees hits, and here is the
proof. One listen, and you'll understand the depth of his
talent. Next comes the thunderous "Circle Sky" which is a
studio take that Nesmith objected to; he favored the more propulsive
live concert recording that was featured in the film (it's included
here as a bonus track.) But it's Peter Tork who finally and
fully comes into his own with this album: the mystical and winding
"Can You Dig It?" with it's ticking guitars leading off is to my
mind the best song he ever wrote, and it's one of my favorite
Monkees songs of all time as well. And Peter's whimsical "Do I
Have To Do This All Over Again?" is also worth checking out.
More's the pity that he soon left the Monkees after the movie
was completed. Finally, Davy Jones also gets to shine: his
song-and-dance number "Daddy's Song" proving that Davy's heart and
soul belong to pop music of the thirties and that he is the true
precursor of later artists such as Rufus Wainwright. A
remarkable album, and one of my personal