It goes without saying that I am one of those people that considers himself a Monkees fanatic. I have every album in various deluxe editions that have been released over the years. On lesser albums I’ve sifted through the filler to find the gems (there are not too many lesser albums though.) John Lennon may be one of my musical idols, but sometimes I just prefer to listen to The Monkees over The Beatles. Those late 60’s albums by the “Prefab Four” stand up to anything their peers were putting out at the time. Live, I’ve never seen all 4 at the same time. In 1997 I saw Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork in Valley Forge, PA for the Justus tour. In 2012 I saw Micky Dolenz solo at a small casino just weeks after Davy Jones passed away. And in 2013 I saw Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork in downtown Seattle. All shows were memorable and expertly performed – the band members have come a long way from their origins as a make-believe band put together for a television show. A few months ago it was announced that The Monkees would be releasing a new album for their 50th anniversary. I wondered – would this be like The Beach Boys album from a few years ago (I can’t remember anything from that one) or would it be something special? The fact that the project was being produced by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger gave me hope – I love Fountains of Wayne’s unique power pop perspective.
Mention The Monkees to a group of people and watch the varied responses – it should be a sport unto itself. Even now – 47 years after the debut of The Monkees television show along with the start of a string of hits (top-selling act of 1967) – some of the reactions will be a scoff along with a dismissive “I guess somebody still likes them”. I discovered The Monkees during their mid 80’s revival, watching reruns of the television show on MTV. My Dad seemed to revel in the revival and could seemingly recite all the verses to the band’s bizarre (and funny) “Zilch” sketch / song. My name is Jason, and I LOVE The Monkees.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
When knowledgeable people discuss groundbreaking music from the 60’s you get your usual suspects – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Love, The Who, Buffalo Springfield….and maybe someone will mention Skip Spence or Moby Grape. The Monkees? Almost never. Manufactured pop group that slowly faded away by the early 70’s that had some great singles. I think that might be the common view (though it seems like it is slowly changing). My opinion? The Monkees were one of THE greatest groups of the 60’s. 4 distinctive voices with a variety of styles on each record – these guys were incredible. My favorite song by The Monkees (and one of my favorites of all time) is “Randy Scouse Git”. A ridiculously catchy drum beat followed by what I’d describe as a pop-waltz introduction with sweet vocals by Micky Dolenz (who also wrote the song). A loose word association game in the lyrics before exploding in the shouted chorus – a preview of the punk rock era that would make its mark on the world less than a decade later. A bid to be taken seriously and inspired by an encounter with The Beatles, this track still makes my jaw drop every time I listen to it. The track was taken from the Headquarters record and was a #5 hit in the UK (and was retitled “Alternate Title” as the song’s title means…well…horny bastard from Liverpool). I had the honor of seeing this track played live by Mickey Dolenz twice – the 1st in 1996 with The Monkees, and the 2nd just last year on his solo tour (in tribute to the fallen Monkee, Davy Jones). Each time he introduced the song with a charming story about the 1st time he met John Lennon and how it tied into everything that was happening with The Monkees in the late 60’s. An incredible performer, those two shows rank highly on my mental “favorite shows of all time”. The chorus puts you back in the turmoil of the late 60’s, with lyrics resonating from an unlikely source:
Why don’t you cut your hair?
Why don’t you live up there?
Why don’t you do what I do,
See what I feel when I care?
Why don’t you be like me?
Why don’t you stop and see?
Why don’t you hate who I hate,
Kill who I kill to be free.