Davy Jones invented grunge.
Even before Peter Tork left the Monkees in late 1968, the writing was on the wall for the band. The hits were drying up, the TV show was gone, and most of the band members were twitchy to get out of their contract and get on with the solo success they were sure was coming. After recording two albums as a proper group, they’d gone their separate ways, recording tracks on their own, and occasionally getting one of the other members in to guest, rather than functioning as a band any more. Things were coming to an end.
And Davy Jones was angry. He could see the end of the band’s success, and knew that the job of teen idol was one with a definite limited life-span. So when his songwriting partner Bill Chadwick brought him part of a lyric about looking back on the band’s career, it quickly turned into a rather savage, bitter piece. “In a year or maybe two, we’ll be gone and someone new will take our place/There’ll be another song, another voice, another pretty face…”). Sensing that the scrapheap was calling when he was only twenty-two, Jones was resentful of what was being done to his career by the record and TV companies who had decided they’d got all the money they could out of him.
And Jones was going to make an angrier record than he’d ever made before. For the most part, Davy’s contributions to the Monkees as a songwriter and producer had been rather uninspired tracks in a style he referred to as “vaudeville rock” — an attempt to make music his dad might want to listen to, and closer to Lionel Bart than to Boyce and Hart. Not only was he conscious of his teen idol image, but his own tastes ran more in the direction of romantic ballads than to rock and roll or psychedelia.
But this time he decided to do something different. Along with Chadwick, a Wrecking Crew rhythm section of Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel, and Hal Blaine, and Gerry McGee and Louie Shelton (both of whom had played on many Monkees records, dating back to the band’s very first single), Jones brought in a special guitarist.
Young had been around the band for a while — he’d been in Buffalo Springfield with Tork’s good friend Stephen Stills, and the week before this track was recorded he’d played on a session for the band (oddly produced by either Gerry Goffin or Carole King, even though it was for Michael Nesmith’s song Carlisle Wheeling) — and he was going through a similar kind of turmoil. Five days before the session at which the basic track for You And I was recorded, he had played his final gig with Buffalo Springfield. His own future was uncertain — he too had to escape from a popular band that might overshadow his future work.
He also had a new guitar style to try out.
While he had a reputation for excellent live playing when he was in Buffalo Springfield, that band had concentrated more on acoustic instruments in the studio, with few of the electric guitar duels that had made Young and Stills so popular on stage. Young was eager to try his live rock style in the studio, and his bright, piercing, distorted guitar cut through the deliberately dark, sludgy, backing track, giving the track a hard rock feel that wouldn’t show up on Young’s own recordings until his second solo album, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, released a year after these sessions.
Everyone’s on form here, too. The fuzz guitar and bass, mixed with Larry Knechtel’s sustained high keyboard notes, give the song a real sense of angry tension, with the only release coming at the end of each verse with the brief drop into waltz time. And while Jones’ vocal doesn’t sound anything special on first listen, a listen to the rough mixes released on 2011’s Instant Replay Deluxe Edition box set shows Jones layering many, many vocal tracks, harmonising with himself and attempting different styles. Some of this remains on the finished track, buried, but much of it is only evidenced by what’s left — a vocal that uses Jones’ slightly flat sound to great effect, as he finds a balance between punkish sneering and his earlier cheeky-chappy voice.
You And I was eventually released on Instant Replay, the band’s first post-Tork album, a collection made up entirely of solo tracks with no involvement by the other members (apart from one song left over from their first album, which featured both Nesmith and Tork — the only “Monkees” rather than “Monkee” track).
The song’s prediction of the band being replaced “in a year or maybe two” proved if anything overoptimistic. While in early 1968 The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees had seemed like a comparative failure by “only” reaching number three in the charts and containing the massive hits Daydream Believer and Valleri, a year later, Instant Replay peaked at number 32, and its one single, Teardrop City, only reached number 56.
The daydream was over.
You And I
Composer: David Jones and Bill Chadwick
Line-up: David Jones (vocals), Gerry McGee, Bill Chadwick, Louie Shelton, and Neil Young (guitars), Joe Osborn (bass), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), Hal Blaine (drums)
Original release: Instant Replay, The Monkees, Colgems LST-7541
Currently available on: Instant Replay, Rhino CD