A quick request for anyone who’s read my Beatles book…

I’ve had a couple of reviews on Amazon of my Beatles book which are outright lies – specifically, one says
“The author is obviously not much of a McCartney fan, and seems to dismiss much of his work up through Sgt. pepper, and beyond, claiming Lennon superior to McCartney.”, while another says:
“However, his disdain for Paul McCartney is frankly ridiculous. Throughout the book, Hickey regularly informs the reader of Paul’s inferiority to Lennon on almost every level; he gives only occasional, grudging credit to Paul for his contributions to the Beatles as a creative force, while frequently dismissing McCartney tracks as being generally overrated. Most serious Beatle fans recognize that while McCartney was certainly capable of superficial banality, particularly during the group’s later period, both he and Lennon relied on one another for not only direct assistance with each other’s songs, but also for the positive effect the competitive nature of their working relationship had upon the quality of their respective compositions. Hickey never seems to recognize this crucial dynamic.”

I’m absolutely certain that no-one who’s actually bothered to read the book I wrote, rather than go in with their own strange ideas about it, could have come to that conclusion, unless parts like

As will so often be the case with this album, though, McCartney makes all the difference on this track. While Harrison and Starr both turn in exemplary performances, just listen to McCartney’s bass triplets under the middle eight. NOBODY was playing like that back then. Rhythmically his bass part is actually quite close to McCartney’s One Drum Idea, but the way it bubbles and twists is astonishing. Add in his Indian-flavoured guitar solo, and you have a track that shows McCartney to be one of the great musicians of his generation.

suggest that I don’t like McCartney or

And we move from a Lennon song vastly improved by McCartney to a McCartney song vastly improved by Lennon

suggests that I don’t recognise the two relied on each other, or

He later tried to exaggerate the differences between McCartney and himself, saying of this album “Paul said ‘come and see the show’, while I said ‘I read the news today, oh boy'” – but in fact, McCartney’s song merely hopes you’ll enjoy a show you’re already attending, while Lennon’s lyrics here (taken in large part from a poster for a circus performance in Rochdale in the mid 19th century) are actually exhorting you to come to a show you’re not at yet. On the other hand, the previous track, McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home, was based on a story McCartney read in the newspaper

is taking Lennon’s side in a dispute with McCartney or… well, you get the idea.

Anyway, it’s extremely bad form for an author to comment on reviews, but my worry here isn’t that the reviews are *bad* (everyone gets good and bad reviews, and that’s fine), but that they’re *inaccurate*. I worry that people are going to read those reviews (one of which, strangely, is from someone who’s never reviewed anything on Amazon before) and not buy the book because they think it’s something it’s not.

So could anyone who’s actually read the book and thinks I have a relatively balanced view of Lennon and McCartney go to the Amazon US page for the book and post a review? I don’t care much if it’s good or bad, just so long as it’s *accurate*, so if people are put off buying my book it’s for the right reasons. Say it’s not detailed enough, or that my writing style is poor, point out factual errors or problems with the proofreading (or, of course, say it’s a masterpiece and everyone should own twelve copies), just don’t say I slag off Paul McCartney in the book when I blatantly, obviously don’t.

Incidentally, according to my last.fm profile, Paul McCartney is my joint-11th most-listened to musician in the last year, while Lennon is 39th. Not that that proves anything…

Complete Smile Sessions Box Set Tracklisting

Courtesy the Smiley Smile board

Disc: 1
1. Our Prayer
2. Gee
3. Heroes And Villains
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
5. I’m In Great Shape
6. Barnyard
7. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine)
8. Cabin Essence
9. Wonderful
10. Look (Song For Children)
11. Child Is Father Of The Man
12. Surf’s Up
13. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop
14. Vega-Tables
15. Holidays
16. Wind Chimes
17. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow)
18. Love To Say Dada
19. Good Vibrations
20. You’re Welcome (Bonus Track)
21. Heroes And Villains (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
22. Heroes And Villains Sections (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
23. Vega-Tables Demo (Bonus Track)
24. He Gives Speeches (Bonus Track)
25. Smile Backing Vocals Montage (Bonus Track)
26. Surf’s Up 1967 (Solo version) (Bonus Track)
27. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Piano (Bonus Track)

Disc: 2
1. Our Prayer “Dialog” 9/19/66
2. Our Prayer 10/4/66
3. Heroes And Villains: Verse (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Session: 10/20/66]
4. Heroes And Villains: Barnyard (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Session: 10/20/66]
5. Heroes And Villains: I’m In Great Shape 10/27/66
6. Heroes and Villains Intro (Early Version) circa 12/66
7. Heroes And Villains: Do A Lot [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
8. Heroes And Villains: Bag Of Tricks [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
9. Heroes And Villains: Mission Pak [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
10. Heroes And Villains: Bridge To Indians [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
11. Heroes And Villains: Part 1 Tag [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
12. Heroes And Villains: Pickup To 3rd Verse [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
13. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
14. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 (Cantina track) [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
15. Heroes And Villains: Whistling Bridge [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
16. Heroes And Villains: Cantina [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
17. Heroes And Villains: All Day [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
18. Heroes And Villains: Verse Edit Experiment [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
19. Heroes And Villains: Prelude To Fade [Heroes And Villains Session: 2/15/67]
20. Heroes And Villains: Piano Theme [Heroes And Villains Session: 2/15/67]
21. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
22. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 (Gee) (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
23. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 Revised [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
24. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 Revised (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
25. Heroes And Villains: Part 3 (Animals) (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
26. Heroes And Villains: Part 4 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
27. Heroes And Villains: Part Two (Master Take) 2/27/67 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/27/67]
28. Heroes And Villains: Fade 2/28/67 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/27/67]
29. Heroes And Villains: Verse remake [Heroes And Villains Session: 3/1/67]
30. Heroes And Villains: Organ Waltz / Intro [Heroes And Villains Session: 3/1/67]
31. Heroes And Villains: Chorus Vocals [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
32. Heroes And Villains: Barbershop [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
33. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (Remake) [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
34. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (Master Take Overdubs Mix 1) [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
35. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (Master Take A Capella) [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
36. Heroes And Villains Piano Demo (incorporating “I’m In Great Shape” and “Barnyard”) Brian with Van Dyke Parks and “Humble Harve” Miller, KHJ Radio 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
37. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Microphone 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
38. Psycodelic Sounds: Moaning Laughing 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)

Disc: 3
1. Do You Like Worms: Part 1 [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
2. Do You Like Worms: Part 2 (Bicycle Rider) [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
3. Do You Like Worms: Part 3 [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
4. Do You Like Worms: Part 4 (Bicycle Rider) [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
5. Do You Like Worms: Bicycle Rider Overdubs (Heroes And Villains Part 2) 1/5/67 [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
6. My Only Sunshine: Parts 1 & 2 11/14/66 [MY ONLY SUNSHINE (THE OLD MASTER PAINTER / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE)]
7. My Only Sunshine: Part 2 (Master Take With Vocal Overdubs) 2/10/67 [MY ONLY SUNSHINE (THE OLD MASTER PAINTER / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE)]
8. Cabin Essence: Verse [Cabin Essence Session: 10/3/66]
9. Cabin Essence: Chorus [Cabin Essence Session: 10/3/66]
10. Cabin Essence: Tag [Cabin Essence Session: 10/3/66]
11. Wonderful (Version 1) 8/25/66
12. Wonderful (Version 2) [Wonderful (Version 2 “Rock With Me Henry”) Session: 1/9/67]
13. Wonderful (Version 2 Tag) [Wonderful (Version 2 “Rock With Me Henry”) Session: 1/9/67]
14. Wonderful (Version 3) 4/10/67 ? [Wonderful (Version 2 “Rock With Me Henry”) Session: 1/9/67]
15. Look 8/12/66 [LOOK (SONG FOR CHILDREN)]
16. Child Is Father Of The Man (Version 1) 10/7/66
17. Child Is Father Of The Man (Version 2) 10/11/66
18. Surf’s Up: 1ST Movement 11/4/66
19. Surf’s Up: Talking Horns 11/7/66
20. Surf’s Up: Piano Demo (Master Take) 12/15/66
21. I Wanna Be Around 11/29/66 [I WANNA BE AROUND / WORKSHOP (FRIDAY NIGHT)]
22. Vegetables: Verse (Master Take Track) 4/4 – 4/11/67 [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
23. Vegetables: Sleep A Lot (Chorus) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
24. Vegetables: Chorus 1 (Master Take) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
25. Vegetables: 2nd Chorus (Master Take Track And Backing Vocals) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
26. Vegetables: Insert (Part 4) (Master Take) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]

Disc: 4
1. Vegetables: Fade 4/12/67 [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) (continued)]
2. Vegetables: Ballad Insert 4/14/67 [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) (continued)]
3. Holidays 9/8/66
4. Wind Chimes (Version 1) 8/3/66
5. Wind Chimes (Version 2) [Wind Chimes (Version 2) Session: 10/5/66]
6. Wind Chimes (Version 2 Tag) [Wind Chimes (Version 2) Session: 10/5/66]
7. The Elements: Fire 11/28/66 [THE ELEMENTS: FIRE (MRS. O’LEARY’S COW)]
8. Da Da (Taped Piano Strings) [LOVE TO SAY DADA / COOL, COOL WATER; Da Da Session: 12/22/66]
9. Da Da (Fender Rhodes) [LOVE TO SAY DADA / COOL, COOL WATER; Da Da Session: 12/22/66]
10. Love To Say Dada: Part 1 5/16/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
11. Love To Say Dada: Part 2 5/17/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
12. Love To Say Dada: Part 2 (Master Take) 5/17/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
13. Love To Say Dada: Part 2 (Second Day) 5/18/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
14. Cool, Cool Water (Version 1) 6/7/67
15. Cool, Cool Water (Version 2) 10/26/67 & 10/29/67
16. You’re Welcome 12/15/66 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
17. You’re With Me Tonight 6/6-6/7/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
18. Tune X (Carl Wilson) 3/3/67-3/31/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
19. I Don’t Know (Dennis Wilson) 1/12/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
20. Three Blind Mice 10/15/65 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
21. Teeter Totter Love (Jasper Dailey) 1/25/67 & 2/9/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
22. Psycodelic Sounds – Underwater Chant 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
23. Hal Blaine Vega-Tables Promo Session 11/11/66 (Bonus Track)
24. Heroes And Villains: Early Version Outtake Sections 1/67 – 2/67 (Bonus Track)

Disc: 5
1. Good Vibrations: Gold Star 2/18/66 (The Pet Sounds Session)
2. Good Vibrations: Gold Star 4/9/66
3. Good Vibrations: Western 5/4/66 (First Chorus)
4. Good Vibrations: Western 5/4/66 (Second Chorus & Fade)
5. Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 5/24/66 (Part 1)
6. Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 5/24/66 (Parts 2 & 3)
7. Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 5/24/66 (Part 4)
8. Good Vibrations: Western 5/27/66 (Part C)
9. Good Vibrations: Western 5/27/66 (Chorus)
10. Good Vibrations: Western 5/27/66 (Fade Sequence)
11. Good Vibrations (Inspiration): Western 6/2/66 (Part 1)
12. Good Vibrations (Inspiration): Western 6/2/66 (Part 3)
13. Good Vibrations (Inspiration): Western 6/2/66 (Part 4)
14. Good Vibrations: Western 6/16/66 (Part 1)
15. Good Vibrations: Western 6/16/66 (Part 2 & verse)
16. Good Vibrations: Western 6/16/66 (Part 2 continued)
17. Good Vibrations: Western 6/18/66 (Part 1)
18. Good Vibrations: Western 6/18/66 (Part 2)
19. Good Vibrations (Persuasion): Western 9/1/66
20. Good Vibrations: Western 9/1/66 (new bridge)
21. Good Vibrations: Session Masters
22. Good Vibrations single version stereo track
23. Good Good Good Vibrations (first version with overdubs) 3/66
24. Good Vibrations: Alternate Edit 8/24/66

Disc: 6
1. Our Prayer (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
2. Gee (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
3. Heroes and Villains (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock) (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
5. I’m In Great Shape (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
6. Barnyard (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
7. The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
8. Cabin Essence (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
9. Wonderful (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
10. Look (Song for Children) (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
11. Child Is Father of the Man (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
12. Surf’s Up (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]

Disc: 7
1. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
2. Vega-Tables (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
3. Holidays (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
4. Wind Chimes (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
5. Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (Fire) (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
6. Love to Say Dada (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
7. Good Vibrations (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
8. Your Welcome – Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
9. Vega-Tables – Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
10. Wind Chimes – Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
11. Cabin Essence – Session Highlights and Stereo Backing Track (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
12. Surf’s Up – Session Excerpt and Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]

Disc: 8
1. A side: HEROES AND VILLAINS Part One [Vinyl 45]
2. B side: HEROES AND VILLAINS Part Two [Vinyl 45]

Disc: 9
1. A side: VEGA-TABLES [Vinyl 45]
2. B Side: SURF’S UP [Vinyl 45]

Monkee Music 3: Headquarters

A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book Monkee Music, available as paperback, hardback, PDF, Kindle (US), Kindle (UK) and ePub (all DRM-free).

A brief note for this one, I will be dealing with the Headquarters Sessions box set in the book, but won’t be posting that chapter here, because several pages of “yet another aimless jam session” don’t make for a good blog post…

After More Of The Monkees was a huge commercial success but (in the opinion of at least some of the Monkees, most vocally Nesmith) an artistic failure, the working relationship between the band (other than Davy Jones) and Don Kirshner, Screen Gems’ music supervisor reached breaking point.

The band were growing increasingly embarrassed by attacks on them for not playing the instruments on their records (attacks which ignored the fact that this was true for the majority of successful American bands of the time) and Nesmith intensely disliked the bubblegum music the band had been producing up until this point. Tork, meanwhile, had auditioned for the TV show because he wanted to be in a proper rock band, and wanted the four of them to play together, while Dolenz wanted to show solidarity with his colleagues.

The resulting rows, with Kirshner wanting the band to shut up and take the money and do as they were told, and the Monkees insisting on making their own music, led to Kirshner losing his job with Screen Gems and the Monkees being allowed to record as a band.

Headquarters was the first – and as it turned out, the only – album the band produced as a band. With producer Chip Douglas (who had never produced before, having previously been bass player in The Turtles), the band cut the basic tracks live, with Tork and Nesmith handling all guitars and keyboards (with a little help from Dolenz), Dolenz on drums, and Jones on hand percussion.

The only parts of the rhythm tracks that were performed by other musicians were the bass parts, which were mostly handled by Douglas but with Jerry Yester (a well-known LA musician who’d previously been in the Modern Folk Quartet and would later be in the Lovin’ Spoonful, as well as working with Tim Buckley, The Association and others) and Nesmith’s friend John London sometimes stepping in.

The band also, for the first time, provided all their own backing vocals.

The result was a huge success. While commercially the album did less well than its predecessors – it ‘only’ went to number one for one week, though it stayed at number two for the rest of the summer after being knocked down by Sgt Pepper – artistically it’s a fascinating work. It’s patchy, but the highs are higher than anything the band had previously released, while the lows are at least of the ‘interesting experiment’ type, rather than being nakedly manipulative. This was the start of a run of four albums that’s up there with the great runs of albums of the 60s, and the next two years would see the Monkees go artistically from strength to strength, even as their commercial career began its inevitable downward slide.

Unless otherwise noted, all tracks on this album feature all the Monkees, so the “Other Monkees Present” credit will be left off for this album. Likewise, Chip Douglas produced every track, so the “producer” credit is absent. The generic credits are:

Michael Nesmith: vocals, pedal steel guitar, 6-string guitar, organ

Davy Jones: vocals, percussion

Micky Dolenz: vocals, drums, guitar

Peter Tork: vocals, keyboards, 12-string guitar, bass, banjo

Chip Douglas: bass

Produced By: Chip Douglas

You Told Me

Writer: Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist: Michael Nesmith

The first song we hear to feature all the Monkees instrumentally (though as on many songs on this album Jones’ instrumental contribution is limited to some token bits of hand percussion, buried in a bass-heavy mix) shows that Kirshner’s worries about them as instrumentalists were unfounded.

Dolenz is clearly the most limited of the bunch as a musician (unlike Tork and Nesmith, he was an actor first, a singer second and a musician a distant third) but even so his drumming here is perfectly competent. He’s a tad stiff at moments, and the tempo varies a little (only a very small amount, mostly due to getting excited at the good bits, so it ends up having a more organic feel anyway), so he’s clearly not up to the standards of Hal Blaine or Jim Gordon, but he’s playing with genuine energy, and his zither playing is an interesting addition.

Nesmith, on twelve-string guitar, turns in a good performance, but truth be told this would be a hard song to mess up on guitar, being just four major chords.

But Tork’s banjo playing is an absolute revelation, and the start of a brief period where Tork is truly allowed to shine as a musician. The song itself is a clear attempt to sound as much like George Harrison as possible – the bass-line is from Taxman (which is nodded to in the intro, parodying Taxman‘s “one, two, three, four” intro), while the melody line is a slightly more rangey version of the melody to Harrison’s I Need You, but Tork’s double-time bluegrass picking adds an incongruous, but perfect, element. (In fact Tork would shortly add banjo to a Harrison recording, the Wonderwall film soundtrack).

Other than a few production tricks (what sounds like backwards reverb on the backing vocals) and minimal overdubs, this is the sound of a very good Beatles-inspired garage band with an excellent vocalist, who’ve somehow managed to get a virtuoso banjo player to play along with them.

It’s a world away from the sound of the first two albums, but still an excellent piece of country pop music.

I’ll Spend My Life With You

Writers: Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart

Lead Vocalist:
Micky Dolenz

And this track shows that the Monkees (or at least Tork, who appears to have done much of the heavy lifting with the arrangements on this album) were also better arrangers than the professionals they’d been working with.

A pleasant Boyce and Hart mid-tempo ballad, this had originally been recorded with its writers producing during the More Of The Monkees sessions (and that version is available as a bonus track on the More Of The Monkees CD), but had, rightly, been turned down. That original version sounds like little more than a demo, with a badly double-tracked Dolenz backed by a couple of strummed acoustic guitars.

The version here, though, as well as having a much more sensitive performance from Dolenz, is much more subtly arranged. Rather than a drum kit, we have Dolenz providing Johnny Cash style boom-chicka-boom rhythm guitar and Jones adding tambourine. Nesmith adds subtle colouring on pedal steel, and Tork provides faint organ tones, a gentle celeste solo, and most importantly some technically quite demanding ragtime twelve-string guitar.

Tork’s musicianship gets neglected when people discuss the Monkees’ music – partly because he was allowed to display it so briefly – but his ability to play in a variety of folk and classical idioms added hugely to the band’s stylistic range. And more importantly, in a band full of huge egos, he seems to have had no problem at all with playing subtle, difficult parts that get almost buried in the mix but which add enormously to the finished product.

Forget That Girl

Writer: Douglas Farthing Hatfeild (Chip Douglas)

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Written by producer/bassist Chip Douglas, and originally intended to have a feel similar to Rescue Me by Fontella Bass, this ended up being the closest thing on the album to the sound of the first two albums, with a much softer, acoustic pop sound.

It’s also a genuine group performance of the type the band would mime on the TV – other than Douglas’ bass, this is the band all playing the instruments they were known for. Dolenz on drums, Nesmith on guitar, Tork on electric piano and Jones singing and playing maracas.

A lightweight song, with some slightly jazzy chords, this is lifted above mediocrity by a truly exceptional vocal performance by Jones. Usually the weakest of the band’s lead vocalists, here he manages to turn in a light, almost-whispered vocal right at the top of his range, shading into falsetto at several points.

Band 6

Writers: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist:
instrumental

A forty-second snippet, edited together from several sections of in-studio messing about, this consists of about twenty-five seconds of Dolenz on drums and Nesmith on pedal steel playing totally unrelated parts, before coming together to play a brief burst of The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (the Looney Tunes theme).

You Just May Be the One

Writer: Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist:
Michael Nesmith

Another full-group performance, this time with Tork on bass (double-tracked, with one bass sounding like a Danelectro bass – a trick Nesmith had used to give a country sound to several of his recordings over the previous year) this Nesmith song had originally been recorded with members of the Wrecking Crew and used in the TV show (that version is on The Monkees deluxe edition).

A catchy Beatlesque pop song, this is full of hooks, from the two extra beats dropped into the first line of the verses (which can be broken down into a bar of four, a bar of six and a bar of four), to the way the instruments drop out for the start of the title line, to the way the backing vocals all hold the same high note on the middle eight while the lead vocal descends down the scale.

Had there not been a de facto ban by the record label on releasing singles with a lead vocal by anyone other than Dolenz or Jones, this would have been an obvious hit single. Written by Nesmith before the Monkees formed, it manages perfectly to straddle the boundaries between country music and jangly powerpop in a way that few others could, pointing the way forward to bands like Big Star or mid-period REM, but with a lighter touch. Sublime.

Shades of Gray

Writers:
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill

Lead Vocalists:
Davy Jones and Peter Tork

The only track on the album to feature instrumentalists other than the Monkees (plus a friend on bass), this has folk-rocker Jerry Yester providing bass, but also features ‘cello and French horn parts performed by session musicians (but arranged by Nesmith and Tork).

A clear attempt at being this album’s I Wanna Be Free, like that song this is hugely popular among Monkees fans, and also like that song I dislike it intensely. It’s a fundamentally callow song, the kind of thing best left to teenage poetry, written by people who clearly think they were being terribly profound.

Tork does, however, get to share the lead vocals with Jones on this one, making it only his second lead to be released.

I Can’t Get Her Off Of My Mind

Writers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Another song that had been recorded and rejected in the band’s early sessions (that version is available on The Monkees deluxe edition), this is a rather insipid music-hall style song of the type Jones seemed to enjoy doing.

This track has very little to recommend it, other than that it’s better than the original version, thanks to some nice barrelhouse piano from Tork. Jerry Yester again adds bass.

For Pete’s Sake

Writer: Peter Tork and Joey Richards

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Tork’s first attempt at songwriting, this later became the closing theme for series two of the Monkees’ TV show. A simple, naive song of hippy hope (“in this generation, we will make the world a shine”), it’s a very strong construction as a recording and arrangement, with a powerful vocal by Dolenz and some simplistic but effective Hammond from Nesmith (and some surprisingly dodgy guitar playing, that’s buried quite far in the mix).

The combination of the great guitar hook at the beginning and the build from D to E to Fmaj7 on “we must be what we’re going to be” mean the record ends up being quite effective, but it’s still ultimately rather empty of content as a song.

Mr. Webster

Writers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Another Boyce/Hart song, this had originally been recorded in a rather overwrought pseudo-baroque harpsichord-driven version (that version can be heard on the More Of The Monkees). This version is recorded in the same style as I’ll Spend My Life With You, though with Chip Douglas rather than Yester on bass. Otherwise it’s the same line-up – Tork on piano, Dolenz on rhythm guitar, Nesmith on pedal steel and Jones on tambourine.

One of Boyce and Hart’s better songs, this was their attempt to write a song like Eleanor Rigby, but in fact it sounds far more like some of Paul Simon’s early efforts – A Most Peculiar Man or Richard Corey. It tells the story of a bank employee (inspired by a security guard they saw at their local bank, but the employee’s job is not mentioned), constantly passed over for raises, who steals all the money in the bank on the day of his retirement.

Once again the Monkees and Douglas show themselves to be more effective arrangers than Boyce and Hart, with every element perfectly placed, and with a wonderful start-stop rhythm that works most effectively on the line “sorry STOP, cannot attend.”

Sunny Girlfriend

Writer:
Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist: Michael Nesmith

A full-band performance with long-time Nesmith collaborator John London joining on bass, this simple Nesmith country-pop song is enlivened by some great bluegrass-esque harmonies from Dolenz from the second verse on, and some backwards reverb on the cymbals on the intro. Tork provides the lead guitar.

Zilch

Writers: Peter Tork, David Jones, Micky Dolenz, & Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist:
Peter Tork, David Jones, Micky Dolenz, & Michael Nesmith

A simple spoken round, with each band member repeating a single phrase over and over. In order we have Tork saying “Mr. Dobalina, Mr Bob Dobalina” (a phrase Dolenz had heard over an airport tannoy, later sampled by rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien for the song Mistadobalina), Jones saying “China Clipper calling Alameda” (a line from the Humphrey Bogart film China Clipper), Dolenz saying “Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self-defence” (a line from Oklahoma! – “It was self-defence, and furthermore…” “Never mind the furthermore. The plea is self-defence.”), and Nesmith saying “It is of my opinion that the people are intending” (apparently from a political speech).

On the Headquarters Sessions box set, these spoken tracks can be heard isolated.

No Time

Writer: Hank Cicalo (Peter Tork, David Jones, Micky Dolenz, & Michael Nesmith)

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Built around a jam session variously reported as being on a Chuck Berry or Little Richard song (given that the piano break is a very sloppy attempt at the guitar part from Berry’s Johnny B Goode that was probably the song they were attempting – the resemblance is closer on the early instrumental version that can be heard on the Headquarters Sessions set), this was given lyrics, mostly by Dolenz and Nesmith, referencing various counterculture-ish things (Andy Warhol, drug busts and so on), with the first verse being Bill Cosby nonsense words (“Hober reeber sabasoben/Hobaseeba snick/Seeberraber hobosoben/What did you expect?”)

Almost all the point of this track comes from the energy of the performance – not just from Dolenz’s screaming vocal but also from the backing vocals (Jones sounds permanently on the point of hysteria).

While the song evolved from a jam, the band decided to give the songwriting credit to engineer Hank Cicalo, in thanks for his work on the album.

Early Morning Blues and Greens

Writers:
Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Strangely, after the Monkees disliked Your Auntie Grizelda, they accepted another song by the same writers. Luckily, this is much, much better than that. A meditative piece detailing Hildebrand’s impressions while drinking a cup of coffee, this actually bears a slight resemblance to Nesmith’s contemporaneous The Girl I Knew Somewhere.

And much like that track, much of the power of this comes from Tork’s musicianship. The song is driven by his soft electric piano arpeggios and Hammond playing, with the rest of the instrumentation coming from some simple muted twelve-string guitar from Nesmith, a simple, repetitive bass riff from Chip Douglas and a percussion part which seems to consist just of hi-hat from Dolenz and maracas from Jones.

The most interesting feature of this is the crashing sound every two bars in the later part of the song. This is actually two different instrumental parts, sometimes playing together and sometimes separately – one of them is the organ part, the other sounds like very heavily reverbed guitar, possibly with the strings being hit with a drumstick.

And Jones, in one of only two solo lead performances on this album, the fewest he would ever do, more than justifies his presence, providing some gorgeous harmonies with himself. Jones is generally the weakest of the four Monkees as a vocalist, but on this album he rises to the occasion.

Hildebrand later used this song as the title track of her only solo album.

Alternate Title (aka “Randy Scouse Git”)

Writer: Micky Dolenz

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Dolenz’s first songwriting contribution to the band is also the highlight of the album, and maybe of the band’s career. Based on a simple four-chord progression (a broken up version of the standard doo-wop I-vi-ii-V progression) in the sixteen-bar verses, with a one-chord eight-bar chorus, this track is proof, if proof be needed, that harmonic sophistication is not needed to create a complex, rewarding piece of pop music.

The structure of the song breaks down as follows:

Intro by Dolenz on tympani, playing a rhythm – roughly five quavers followed by a beat and a half of silence, repeated over and over, that will later be heard in the chorus (we’ll call this the intro rhythm). The tympani then fades out.

Tork then repeats the intro rhythm on piano, twice, with Douglas adding comical single-note bass interjections in the silences, before playing a variation of the rhythm that leads into the first verse.

In the first verse we have just Dolenz on vocals, Tork playing syncopated piano chords, and Douglas adding a simple descending scalar bassline, leading to a ragtime feel.

In the second verse, Nesmith comes in, doubling the piano part on guitar, while Dolenz adds some woodblock percussion. Towards the end, the tympani becomes audible again, almost subliminally.

For the chorus, the piano all but drops out, and it turns into a guitar-led rave-up, with a full drum kit playing a fairly straightforward rock part while the tympani play the intro rhythm. Douglas meanwhile is playing a country bass part (similar to that of, for example, Rawhide). Jones allegedly joins in on backing vocals here.

We get another verse, with the same instrumentation as the second verse, but with added cymbals in the second half and an altogether looser feeling, and another chorus.

We then get a verse, taken at the same fast tempo as the choruses and with the same guitar-led instrumental, but Dolenz scatting wildly over the top, in a manner that was almost certainly influenced by the band’s friend Harry Nilsson (of whom much more later). We briefly get a tympani reprise of the intro rhythm before going into another, double length chorus.

This last chorus has a prominent organ holding the chord down, on top of the rest of the instrumentation, and has Dolenz multi-tracked singing both the first verse and the chorus at the same time (possibly inspired by the similar effect on When Love Comes Knocking At Your Door). We then get a repeat of the piano part of the intro, ending on a guitar dischord and what sounds like drumsticks dropping to the floor, and then the tympani fades in, and back out again, playing the intro rhythm. (Oddly, an early mix of the song, available on the Headquarters Sessions box set, features instead of the tympani fade, a hard edit into Tork and Dolenz singing the folk song I Was Born In East Virginia to banjo accompaniment. The box set also features the full performance of that song).

The whole thing lasts just two minutes and thirty-five seconds, and remarkably manages to stand up well against the great experimental singles of the period, like Good Vibrations or Strawberry Fields Forever, even though the Beatles and Beach Boys were moving towards greater use of studio musicians and trickery at precisely the point where the Monkees were, briefly, being a ‘real rock band’ (though Headquarters ended up being the only album on which all the Monkees performed on every track, and on which Dolenz was the only drummer).

Lyrically, the song is an elliptical description of Dolenz’s experiences visiting England, with lyrics referencing Dolenz’s first wife (the Mancunian Samantha Juste, then a TV host on BBC 1’s Top Of The Pops), the Beatles, and hotel doormen (“he reminds me of a penguin, with few and plaster hairs”). Unfortunately for Dolenz, the song’s title, another reference to his British trip (an overheard line from the sitcom Til Death Us Do Part), was considered obscene in the UK at the time, and so the song was given the alternate title Alternate Title for its release as a single in those countries that speak British English.

Bonus Tracks

All of Your Toys

Writer: Bill Martin

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

A bouncy, harpsichord-driven track written by a friend of Chip Douglas. A wonderful arrangement with a descending scalar bassline, harpsichord chords and 12-string arpeggios, with Dolenz singing lead and answering vocals, and a wonderful vocal harmony break, this sounds like an attempt to do something similar to the work Brian Wilson was doing at the time, but actually comes out slightly closer to soft-pop classics like Jan & Dean’s Carnival Of Sound or the contemporaneous work by Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher.

Unfortunately, this was never released at the time because of contractual problems – Martin was signed to a publisher other than Screen Gems, and so this had to wait two decades for release.

The Girl I Knew Somewhere

Writer: Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist: Michael Nesmith/Micky Dolenz

One of Nesmith’s better pop songs, this story of a man who’s been betrayed before and is wary of getting together with someone similar was intended for single release – to the extent that Nesmith’s orginal vocal was replaced with one by Dolenz, because at this point only Dolenz or Jones vocals were considered for release on singles.

This was in most ways a shame – Nesmith’s original vocal is a more mature, stronger performance than Dolenz’s – but it did allow the wonderful touch in the last verse where Dolenz’s lines are echoed by Nesmith.

With a wonderful harpsichord break by Tork and its Beatlesque backing vocals, this is a sophisticated, strong piece of music that should have been a huge hit single. As it was, it ended up as the B-side of A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.

Peter Gunn’s Gun

Writer: Henry Mancini

Lead Vocalist: instrumental

A studio jam, based loosely round a rather incompetent rendition of the riff from Mancini’s Peter Gunn. This was never intended for release, and other than Tork’s spoken interjection “What are you, kidding me? Psycho Jello!” probably should have stayed in the can. This sort of thing is how every band in the world lets off steam, and it’s fun for the band, but not really for the listeners.

Jericho

Writer: trad.

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork

A bit of studio chatter – Dolenz attempts to play the French horn, and this reminds him of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. Dolenz and Tork then break into an impromptu a capella rendition of the gospel song Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho. It’s actually quite an extraordinary performance, and shows the musicality of both men, with Tork’s folk sensibilities combining to great effect with Dolenz’s James Brown inspired gospel shrieking. It’s only studio tomfoolery, but is much better than the previous track.

Nine Times Blue

Writer: Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist:
Michael Nesmith

A contender for greatest song ever written, this has the simple, sparse, heartbreaking elegance of a You Don’t Know Me or I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and Nesmith here matches John Lennon or Brian Wilson in the portrayal of an angry, jealous man humbled by a woman who’s clearly better than him but loves him anyway.

Nesmith clearly realised it was good. He attempted it multiple times – a bizarre instrumental version on the tax write-off solo album The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, versions with both himself and Jones on lead vocals during the The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees sessions, and a version for a TV performance with Jones and Dolenz providing harmonies during the last days of the band’s career – before finally releasing it on his solo album Magnetic South.

Still, though, I think the best version is the acoustic demo version here, partly because the simplicity of the arrangement (two guitars, what sounds like one twelve-string and one six-string, and vocals) works well for the song, but also because between this and the later versions he changed the line “the lessons I’ve learned here is worth it all” to “the lessons I’ve learned here are worth it all”.

The latter is, of course, more grammatically correct, but the earlier version sounds more honest, like the product of a man who’s too overcome emotionally to bother about grammar.

But in every version, this is one of the truly great songs, and deserves much wider recognition.

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

Writer: Neil Diamond

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producer:
Jeff Barry

The Monkees’ third single, this was cut in New York at the insistence of Don Kirshner, who had promised Neil Diamond the next Monkees single after the success of I’m A Believer. Jones, who was the only Monkee still on speaking terms with Kirshner, cut several vocals on a trip to New York, of which this and its original B-Side She Hangs Out were two.

Unfortunately for Kirshner, he insisted on putting both tracks out on the same single, after the record company had agreed with the band that every single would have at least one track on which the Monkees themselves played, so the single was pulled, She Hangs Out replaced with The Girl I Knew Somewhere, and Kirshner lost his job supervising the band’s music. The single, the first not to feature Micky on lead, sold 1.5 million copies before it came out, and went gold on the day of release.

Not up to the standard of the band’s previous singles, this is still a pleasant, vaguely Latin-infused track, driven by acoustic guitars and handclaps . Jones’ vocal is not one of his most convincing, though, and he fails to sell the “oh no, hey now girl…” supposed ad lib ending.

Love To Love

Writer: Neil Diamond

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producer: Jeff Barry

Another song from the same sessions, this is a slower, more moody Diamond song in the manner of Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon or Solitary Man, driven by a prominent bass and Hammond organ part. This would probably have been a better choice for single, had it not been for Jones’ rather flat vocals (he rerecorded them in 1969, and that version has been released, too, but the two performances are almost identical). The chorus, in particular, which is based on the standard Hang On Sloopy/Twist And Shout/Louie, Louie changes, is very effective.

The track remained unreleased until 1979, when the version with 1969 vocals came out. Of the different mixes of this available, by far the best is the stereo mix on the Headquarters Deluxe Edition, which has a boosted bass sound compared to the other mixes.

You Can’t Tie a Mustang Down

Writers: Jeff Barry, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producer: Jeff Barry

Another song from the same New York sessions, this is a rare misstep from Leiber and Stoller, who wrote some of the best songs of the 1950s and 60s. This song about being a young, powerful man who can’t be tied down by women might possibly have passed muster for Elvis Presley, who could have infused it with a swaggering sexuality, and who had enough humour in his phrasing that he could even have sold the clunky last chorus line “You can’t keep an ocean in a cup/You can’t tie a mustang down…or up!”

Davy Jones, however, is far closer to a Shetland pony, or possibly a seaside donkey ride, than to a mustang. This song was wisely left unreleased until a cheap hits compilation in 1998.

If I Learned to Play the Violin

Writer: Joey Levine and Artie Resnick

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producer: Jeff Barry

Yet another song from the New York session, this was clearly another attempt at an I Wanna Be Free-style ballad showcase for Davy, who does easily his best vocal of this bunch of tracks here, especially with his Everly Brothers style harmony on the line “take up more discreet ways” in the middle eight (this harmony part is unaccountably mixed down on the version on the Headquarters deluxe edition, but can be heard on the original mix).

The main problem here is the lyric, from the point of view of a young, rebellious man offering to become respectable instead of a long-haired guitar-playing beatnik, so his girlfriend’s parents will accept him. It’s just, frankly, terrible – it’s hard to know which to dislike more, the sentiment or the execution (with some appalling scansion, stresses falling all over the place but rarely where they naturally should). It’s also, as mentioned above, quite difficult to imagine Davy Jones as a rebellious firebrand who needed taming.

The song, wisely, remained unreleased until it was sneaked out on a CD-ROM in 1996.

She’ll Be There

Writer: Unknown

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: None

One of several demos recorded early in the Headquarters sessions, this is Micky Dolenz and his sister Coco, backed by a single acoustic guitar, singing a close-harmony ballad very clearly modelled after those Felice and Boudleaux Bryant wrote for the Everly Brothers. A lovely, lovely performance of what is quite a slight song.

Linkblogging For 27/08/11

I’ll have a Monkees post up in a few hours, and a Doctor Who one up on Mindless Ones either tonight or tomorrow.

Before I start, a quick apology to all the people who I currently owe emails to – Alex, Plok, David Summers and others. I can see them all there, telling me to answer, but I’ve been too exhausted even to look at my emails once I finish work. (This also goes for interesting comments on Google Reader I’ve not yet replied to…)

The biggest news today is that The Smile Sessions is now available for pre-order from Amazon US (not yet from UK) and will be released in November. There’s a two-CD version, but I’m going for the five-CD, two-vinyl-albums, two-vinyl-singles, poster, repro booklet and 60-page hardback book version. The tracklisting for the first CD of both has been announced as:

1. Our Prayer
2. Gee
3. Heroes And Villains
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
5. I’m In Great Shape
6. Barnyard
7. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine)
8. Cabin Essence
9. Wonderful
10. Look (Song For Children)
11. Child Is Father Of The Man
12. Surf’s Up
13. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop
14. Vega-Tables
15. Holidays
16. Wind Chimes
17. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow)
18. Love To Say Dada
19. Good Vibrations
20. You’re Welcome (Bonus Track)
21. Heroes And Villains (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
22. Heroes And Villains Sections (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
23. Vega-Tables Demo (Bonus Track)
24. He Gives Speeches (Bonus Track)
25. Smile Backing Vocals Montage (Bonus Track)
26. Surf’s Up 1967 (Solo version) (Bonus Track)
27. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Piano (Bonus Track)

Unfortunately, looking at the second CD, it looks like they’ve *not* found the rumoured Surf’s Up Part 2 backing track. Oh well.

Tim at the Hurting on why we will read Cerebus. I must start my look at Cerebus back up again, it really is the best comic ever by some margin.

Alex Wilcock has been back writing again recently (for which we all give thanks). Here he talks about Tory entitlement.

A history of Bayes’ theorem on LessWrong
.

Bruce Byfield on the ways the Free Software community fails to live up to its ideals.

Nick Clegg talks sense on human rights after Cameron made an arse of himself.

And Rosamicula reflects on being invited onto the media to discuss the riots, and the media’s reaction to them.

My preciousss....

Linkblogging For 22/08/11

Blogging’s going to be light for a little while as I’m working overtime, but I can at least do linkblogs… I’ll have a Monkees post on Friday and I’m starting a series of reviews of the new series of Doctor Who on Mindless Ones on Saturday, and I’m going to *try* to write another short story this week, but other than that don’t expect much.

ATOS, the evil bastards who turn down people for ESA (disability benefits) by just lying (my wife was born blind but ‘has no difficulty seeing’ according to them. Bastards.) are shutting down websites that criticise them, making them doubly evil bastards.

Bob Temuka looks at Brendan McCarthy’s recent Dredd work.

My post about how Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear might be the worst book in history has been getting linked to a lot this week, as a result of what I can only conjecture is a mass delusion among the Hugo voters leading to her winning. Because of this, I’ve seen a lot of other posts about how bad that book is. Here’s one.

If the news media were a person…

And You Are Not So Smart on The Illusion Of Asymmetric Insight.

Linkblogging For 21/08/11

Apologies for the lack of longer posts recently – I’ve been pretty much burned out. If you look back at my archives, I’m always rubbish in July and August. I’ll be back at full strength soon. In the meantime, links:

Jonathan at Liberal England asks “David Cameron: Is That All There Is?”

A conversation in the Guardian about whether new Doctor Who is actually any good
. I tend to agree with every word said by the great Chris Weston here, especially about the current lack of moral compass, even though I do think the current version of the show has some redeeming qualities.

Buckminster Fuller explains the theory of relativity in a telegram.

Two free Doctor Who audio stories from Big Finish – Cuddlesome and The Ratings War.

Bob Temuka on the Kirby decision

Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison discuss comics.

Wisse Words on the ‘sausage fest’ that is the Hooded Utilitarian best comics list.

And Rick Veitch has been putting up many of his old dream comics on his blog (typical example).

Monkee Music 2: More Of The Monkees

A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book Monkee Music, available as paperback, hardback, PDF, Kindle (US), Kindle (UK) and ePub (all DRM-free).

With the huge success of The Monkees and Last Train To Clarksville, the Monkees’ music became a battleground. The Monkees (or at least Nesmith and Tork) wanted more control over their own music, but Don Kirshner wanted them to have less. He also wanted to move their music away from Boyce and Hart, who he regarded as second-rate, and away from California, to his New York base.

Boyce and Hart seemed, at first, to be unaware of this, and so recorded more than another album’s worth of material, much of which would be released on subsequent albums, as well as a lot of…experimental…material that seemed to be mostly for their own amusement. [FOOTNOTE Much of this material is available as bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of More Of The Monkees, but as most of the songs were later released on other albums, they will be dealt with there..] Meanwhile Kirshner had given primary responsibility for the Monkees’ music to Jeff Barry, who produced tracks with the Wrecking Crew in LA and with unknown session musicians in New York.

On top of this, various of Kirshner’s other writers were producing their own tracks for the Monkees, using LA musicians, and Nesmith was still producing tracks.

The result is a much less focused album than the previous collection, with no sort of coherent artistic vision, not even the sort that comes from just having a single journeyman team produce the bulk of the material. The only vision here is Kirshner’s rigid plan for what he believed an album needed to include – a hit single, a comedy track, a song with a girl’s name in the title and so on.

The Monkees themselves had no input into the final song choices, the cover (featuring them modelling J.C. Penney clothes in a marketing tie-in) or the liner notes (by Kirshner, almost an autohagiography), and weren’t impressed with the final result, which they famously had to buy from a shop, having not been properly informed of its release – Nesmith actually described it in an interview at the time as “probably the worst record in the history of the world”.

This is unfair. The album is clearly packed with filler, but at least six of the twelve tracks are excellent by any standard (though as Nesmith had no taste for pop music he would possibly disagree about some of them). It doesn’t match the more inventive, experimental music that was being made by other bands at the same time – this is no Pet Sounds, Revolver or Freak Out! – but as a collection of pop music, intended to be ephemeral and disposable, this stands up rather well.

Even so, it’s the next four albums, rather than this one, that their artistic reputation rests on, even as this marks their commercial peak.

She

Writers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: None

Producers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

After dominating the previous album, Boyce and Hart this time only get to provide two tracks for More of the Monkees, but both are far above the weak average of their work on the previous album. She is a stomping garage rocker with a two-chord verse (with a single passing chord), which becomes more interesting harmonically as it goes along, by adding an augmented chord in the bridge and having a Pet Sounds-esque minor third key change to the middle eight.

Despite this, however, She remains fundamentally a garage rock track, driven by fuzz guitar and Hart’s Hammond organ stabbing out chords. While Boyce and Hart may have been journeyman songwriters who would turn their hand to anything, they were definitely at their best with this kind of proto-punk, and Dolenz manages to get across the adolescent lust and frustration of the lyrics perfectly.

Inspired by bands like Love and The Leaves (to whom Boyce and Hart gave Words when the Monkees’ release of that track was put on hold), the sneery punk feel of this song would easily have fit on Love’s first, eponymous album, with lines like “And now I know just why she keeps me hanging round/she needs someone to walk on, so her feet don’t touch the ground.”

I have been critical of Boyce and Hart’s work at several points in this book, but when they were good they were extremely good, and here they were excellent.

When Love Comes Knockin’ (At Your Door)

Writers: Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producers: Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer

One of several songs on this album recorded in New York, rather than in Los Angeles, this track by Neil Sedaka (then in a post-Beatles career slump that would see him able to write hits for others but not to have any himself) and lyricist Carole Bayer (later known as Carole Bayer Sager) is a typically jaunty Sedaka piece of fluff.

Harmonically more sophisticated than much of the more simplistic music on these early albums, it rather unusually changes key down a tone for the coda, and repeats the trick Sedaka used in his own hit Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by having Jones sing two separate counter-melodies, with different lyrics, over the second half of the song.

Lyrically, though, it’s a little more disturbing, with Jones urging an unnamed girl who’s afraid of loving him to stop fighting and “open up and let him in”…

A precursor to the “Broadway rock” style Jones would use on several later albums, this is inventive enough, and at 1:46 short enough, not to outstay its welcome, but is still a comparatively weak track.

Mary, Mary

Writer: Michael Nesmith

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: Peter Tork (guitar)

Producer: Michael Nesmith

The Monkees were having to produce so much material for their TV show that this track was actually recorded at the same time as Last Train To Clarksville, in a different studio – Nesmith using his usual Wrecking Crew members while the Candy Store Prophets were recording with Boyce and Hart.

This Nesmith track seems to have been written in an attempt at compromise with Don Kirshner, whose set formula for albums included as many songs as possible with girls’ names in the title (so the girls with that name would buy them).

Based around simplistic two-chord riffs (I-IV in the verses and IV-V in the bridges), this was intended as a bluesier track than it became, as Glen Campbell’s attempts at playing the distinctive riff came out more country than blues. Nesmith had previously given the song to the Paul Butterfield Band, and claims their rougher version is closer to his intention.

Nonetheless, of all Nesmith’s songs this is probably the closest to the Monkees formula, with a Dolenz lead vocal, a simple hook, and simplistic, easily-learnable lyrics (though lines like “this one thing I will vow ya” and “I’ve done more now than a clear-thinking man would do” are still distinctively Nesmith), as well as being another one with vaguely creepy sexual politics (“Where you go I will follow/Til I win your heart again/I’ll walk beside you, but until then…”).

Of the non-single tracks on the album, this is definitely the one that most deserved more exposure.

Hold On Girl

Writers: Ben Raleigh, Billy Carr and Jack Keller

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: Micky Dolenz (backing vocals)

Producers: Jeff Barry & Jack Keller

After having been an experienced studio hand helping Boyce and Hart with their early Monkees sessions, Jack Keller was granted two songs on More Of The Monkees on condition that he co-produce with Jeff Barry, who had been put in charge of the hit-making portion of the Monkees juggernaut by Kirshner. The first, and better, of the two Keller tracks is this baroque-flavoured pop song with Davy on lead.

A very pleasant, but rather generic, pop song livened up by a nicely inventive keyboard break, and driven by what sounds like a sped-up electric piano (an earlier, slower take of the song, available as a bonus track, had a harpsichord playing the same part and a more authentically baroque arrangement), this is a decent piece of album filler that would never even have been considered as a single.

Your Auntie Grizelda

Writers: Jack Keller and Diane Hildebrand

Lead Vocalist: Peter Tork

Other Monkees present: None

Producers: Jeff Barry & Jack Keller

The second of Keller’s tracks, this time co-written with Diane Hildebrand, who would go on to collaborate on several further Monkees tracks, was this three-chord song modelled very closely on the Rolling Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown.

However, while the music was a fair approximation of that track, lyrically Keller and Hildebrand were aiming at a “protest song” and missed completely.

As a result, Tork, who was completely contemptuous of the song even though it was his first solo lead vocal (and one of only two he would get released during the Monkees’ original career), and Barry decided to play it for laughs. Tork did a single take of the vocal, and spent most of the instrumental break making a variety of funny noises, squawks, screeches and clicks.

This saved the song, which was now given the I’m Gonna Buy Me A Dog Ringo-style novelty song place in Kirshner’s album formula, and it’s at least more imaginative than that track.

(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone

Writers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: None

Producers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Originally given to Paul Revere and The Raiders, this became the B-side to I’m A Believer and charted separately at number 20 in the US.

Another proto-punk number like She, and again driven by Hart’s organ playing, this is if anything even simpler, being just a four-chord riff, all major chords, repeated over and over, except for the double-time bridge/coda, which reduces the number of chords to three.

One of the catchiest of the Monkees’ early records, as well as one of the best-sounding, this shows that Boyce and Hart – and the Candy Store Prophets – were at their best as garage rockers. This especially goes for Larry Taylor whose simple, prowling bass-line drives this song, and who would later go on to play with Canned Heat and Tom Waits.

Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)

Writer: Neil Diamond

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: Micky Dolenz & Peter Tork (backing vocals)

Producer: Jeff Barry

Neil Diamond had already had two hit singles, Solitary Man and Cherry, Cherry when he was asked by Kirshner if he had any songs which could be used for the Monkees. One of the songs he provided, I’m A Believer, became the band’s second number one single, but this one was destined to be just an album track.

A simple four-chord song, based on a variant of the three-chord trick substituting ii for IV in the verses, with a key change to IV in the chorus, this bears some slight musical resemblance to Diamond’s later hit Cracklin’ Rosie. Its simple melody, with very little range, also suits Jones’ voice; a natural baritone, Jones was always made to sing in the tenor range to suit his light and youthful image, causing pitching problems for him on anything rangey, but here he does a sterling job.

On the choruses, especially, Jones lets rip in a way that he very rarely managed, and this is his most convincing rock and roll performance by some way, nicely contrasted to his more mannered, actorly performance on the verses.

Lyrically, the song is as nakedly commercial as it gets – Jones is having to choose between two women, both of whom he loves, which gives him a chance to say both “Mary, I love you” and “Sandra, I love you”. Chalk one more name up for Kirshner’s plan. Possibly there was some inspiration here from the song Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind? by the Lovin’ Spoonful, who had been one of the bands used as inspiration for the original Monkees idea.

But for all its simplicity and brazenness, this is still one of the highlights of the album, and probably the best track with a Jones lead vocal until Daydream Believer three albums later.

One oddity that was released as a bonus track is an alternate version of this with Tork “narrating” – “Ladies and gentlemen, you are listening to the instrumental…thank you, we hope you enjoyed it, and now back to the song” and so forth. This was apparently done in order to give Tork slightly more involvement with the album than he would otherwise have had, but was wisely dropped.

The Kind of Girl I Could Love

Writers: Michael Nesmith and Roger Atkins

Lead Vocalist: Michael Nesmith

Other Monkees present: all (backing vocals)

Producer: Michael Nesmith

This Latin-flavoured Nesmith song, which bears a slight resemblance in melody, chord sequence and arrangement to Mickey And Sylvia’s recent hit version of Love Is Strange, is the first track to be released to feature all four Monkees, as well as being the first to feature an instrumental contribution from Nesmith, who plays the rather hesitant steel guitar part.

Like Sweet Young Thing, this was a collaboration between Nesmith and a co-writer forced on him by Kirshner, this time Roger Atkins, who had recently written It’s My Life for the Animals.

Driven by a wonderful dual-drum part played by Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon, this is Nesmith at his poppiest, while still retaining his unique blend of Latin and country influences. Probably the closest thing to this in the charts at the time (other than the Mickey And Sylvia track) was the Sir Douglas Quintet, whose blend of Tex-Mex and ersatz Merseybeat landed them in a very similar musical place to this. But other than that, there was really nothing like this being made in pop music at the time.

The Day We Fall in Love

Writers: Sandy Linzner and Denny Randell

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producer: Jeff Barry

Over a gentle instrumental backing, Davy whispers a “poem” about what it’ll be like when your favourite Monkee falls in love with you, yes YOU teenage girl listening to this record.

As well as being the most calculated, cynical thing ever, this is also just offensively bad on an aesthetic level.

Incidentally, this is one of the two tracks that Carol Kaye, who claims to have played on most of the Monkees’ hits, actually did play on…

Sometime in the Morning

Writers: Gerry Goffin and Carole King

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: Davy Jones and Peter Tork

Producers: Jeff Barry, Gerry Goffin and Carole King

To all intents and purposes this is a Carole King record by another name. Goffin and King recorded the backing track in New York, and along with it King recorded a three-part-harmony vocal demo whose arrangement and phrasing the Monkees replicated precisely under Jeff Barry’s supervision.

A pleasant, simple ballad with a slightly confused lyric [FOOTNOTE The lyric is mostly addressed to a second person, who will in turn discover the love of a third (female) person – except that sometimes the second person appears to be the (female) lover of the protagonist, so either the protagonist of the song is a lesbian who refers to herself in the third person or the writers got confused somewhere.], Dolenz sings this winsomely enough over a folk-rockish backing of jangly guitars and organ, but it’s somewhat inconsequential. The main musical point of note is the way the vocal line continues over the change between verse and bridge (“You will realise how much you never knew before”) – this is a trick that Paul McCartney used to great effect later in The Fool On The Hill.

Laugh

Writers: Philip Margo,Mitchell Margo,Henry Medress and Jay Siegel

Lead Vocalist: Davy Jones

Other Monkees present: None

Producer: Jeff Barry

A dreadful, dreadful track, with Jones and the Wrecking Crew plodding through an appaling piece of drivel that stays on two chords for the most part (with a third poking in briefly in the middle eight). Apparently intended as a comedy track, the lyrics (“laugh/’cos the music is funny/yeah the bass sounds off-beat/ain’t that neat?”) might even have worked had the music in fact been funny, or if the bass had been even slightly off-beat.

As it is, this is (along with The Day We Fall In Love) definitely the low-point of the album.

I’m a Believer

Writer: Neil Diamond

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: Peter Tork and Davy Jones (backing vocals)

Producer: Jeff Barry

The Monkees’ second single – and second number one – was this Neil Diamond track. A simple, catchy, four-chord pop track with a slight country feel, Jeff Barry originally asked Nesmith to sing this (rather embarassingly for him, Nesmith said “I’m a producer too, and that ain’t no hit”) before eventually getting Dolenz to sing it.

Originally intended as a track for Diamond’s own second album, this was rightly a massive hit, though the fact that it sold a million copies before anyone had even heard it says more about the promotional juggernaut that was the Monkees phenomenon than it does about the record’s quality.

This is an almost-perfect pop track, from the adolescent misery of the verses (“what’s the use in trying/all you get is pain/when I needed sunshine I got rain”) to the joy of the chorus, while the simplistic organ riff is a precursor to the later Barry hit Sugar Sugar (which was offered to the Monkees). Dolenz turns in one of his best vocals, while Jones is very audible in the backing vocals, making this seem more of a group performance than their previous hit.

Likewise the organ solo (which sounds to my ears inspired by The Surfaris’ Wipe Out) is exactly right – simple, but melodic, and adding a new element which works perfectly with the rest of the track. The one fly in the ointment, to my mind, is the bass line, which is far too busy and sounds improvised rather than properly thought out (though it again shows a certain Wipe Out influence).

But that’s just nit-picking. This is a glorious, wonderful pop single. In general I take Nesmith’s side in his dispute with Kirshner, but this time he was just wrong.

Bonus Tracks

Apples, Peaches, Bananas & Pears

Writers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: None

Producers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

While Boyce and Hart turned in some of their best work for this album, almost everyone involved was agreed that they were writing and producing too many tracks for the Monkees, and that much of what they were doing was sub-par.

This is a perfect example – “to show how much I care/I’ll bring you apples, peaches, bananas and pears”. Dolenz does his best, but clearly nobody could care less, and this remained unreleased until the 1980s.

Kicking Stones

Writers: Lynne Castle and Wayne Erwin

Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz

Other Monkees present: None

Producers: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

A song about a ‘teeny tiny gnome’, with words by Boyce and Hart’s hairdresser. According to the liner notes for the More Of The Monkees deluxe edition, Bert Schneider sent out a memo saying this track was ‘of dubious value’. He was probably being over-generous.

To be fair to Boyce and Hart, they were producing a lot of material at this time, including many tracks that would become hits when released on future albums. But there was clearly no way that tracks like this could ever have been considered remotely releasable, and they must have known it.

Of You

Writers: Bill and John Chadwick

Lead Vocalist: Michael Nesmith

Other Monkees present: Micky Dolenz (backing vocals)

Producers: Michael Nesmith

Written by two of Nesmith’s friends (Bill Chadwick had been in folk band The Survivors with him, and had actually auditioned to be in the Monkees as well), this is another recording from the session that produced Mary, Mary, and is quite a pleasant country song, with some nice guitar picking from James Burton and Glen Campbell, but it’s easy to see why it didn’t make the quota of two Nesmith productions for the album.

Nesmith obviously liked the song – he tried rerecording his vocal in 1969 – but while it’s infinitely better than some of the throwaways Boyce and Hart submitted for inclusion on the album, it’s not up to the quality of Nesmith’s own better work.