M is for the Monkees: 1967

1967 was a stellar year in popular music. According to Robert Christgau and David Fricke, the former billed as the “dean of American rock critics”, the “40 Essential Albums” of that year included albums by the Doors, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, the Who, the Velvet Underground, and, of course, the Beatles. As it turns out, none of the albums released by the Monkees made the list.

The Monkees was a band formed by television executives to have a loony TV program in the tradition of the Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. The program which ran from 1966 to 1968 was quite popular, and even more so in eventual MTV reruns. I watched it occasionally, I will admit. But the group was derided as the “pre-Fab Four,” as opposed to the “real” Beatles.

Interestingly, the listening public did not seem to care about the controversy. On this weekly list of number #1 albums of 1967, the 1966 album The Monkees continued as #1 for five weeks (plus 8 weeks at the end of the previous year). It was replaced by More of the Monkees, which was #1 for 18 straight weeks. After a week of the Tijuana Brass, and a week by the Monkees’ Headquarters album, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper ruled for 15 weeks. Then two weeks of Ode to Billie Jo by Bobby Gentry, and five weeks of Supremes Greatest Hits. The last five weeks of the year, the top-selling album was the Monkees’ Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

In other words, in 1967, the Monkees had the #1 album far longer than any other group, and More of the Monkees was #1 longer than any album, including Sgt. Pepper.

Fast forward to the early 1980s. One of my co-workers gave me some Monkees’ greatest hits album. I must admit that I liked it enormously. I wrote it off as a “guilty pleasure,” but now I proclaim that there are lot of songs by the Monkees that I enjoy enormously.

And BestEverAlbums.com even gave the group a modicum of respect, with Headquarters considered the 38th best album of 1967, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. at 39, and More Of The Monkees at 85.

From More of the Monkees
Mary, Mary (Michael Nesmith). The song was first recorded by The Butterfield Blues Band for their 1966 album, East-West, and the Monkees derided for doing a Butterfield song until it was shown that a Monkee had actually written it.
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart). Boyce & Hart wrote a number of Monkees songs. This went to #20 in the US, making it the first Monkees B-side to chart.
I’m a Believer (Neil Diamond). #1 in the U.S. for the week ending December 31, 1966 and remained there for seven weeks, becoming the biggest-selling single record for all of 1967.

From Headquarters
Randy Scouse Git (Micky Dolenz). The songwriter says it was written about a party that The Beatles threw for the Monkees, with references to the Beatles (“the four kings of EMI”) and to others such as Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas.

From Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
Words (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart). One of my favorite songs by the group.
Pleasant Valley Sunday (Gerry Goffin, Carole King). The single got to #3 in the US. Even though it’s about a street in New Jersey, I always pretend that it’s from upstate New York, where I have visited often. And how can *I* not love the lyrics: “And Mr. Green, he’s so serene. He’s got a TV in every room.”
***
And for no reason except that it would have been John Lennon’s 72nd birthday: Strawberry Fields Forever – the Beatles (1967).

ABC Wednesday – Round 11

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28 thoughts on “M is for the Monkees: 1967

  1. As a kid in the 1960s I was deeply insulted by this obviously phony group that didn’t even play their own instruments. Funny how that is no longer important to people now that so much music is manufactured on machines.

    The show was a guilty pleasure like the Beverly Hillbillies, right? At the time I knew lots of older kids who wouldn’t be caught dead watching the show, but they seemed to know all the songs. This puzzled my young mind.

  2. OMG you are dating me!! I loved a lot of The Monkee’s songs although the TV show was a bit too silly for me. Great post. Thanks for the nostalgia!

  3. I used to go around humming and singing their songs! I still know the words if one of their songs pops up on the radio.

    Leslie
    abcw team

  4. I had albums from all the bands on the list and I didn’t have any monkees albums but I also later discovered that some of their songs were quite good.

  5. The bass line on “Pleasant Valley Sunday” is classic, and it was played by Peter Tork, who is still a great musician!

  6. I loved that TV series as a teenager, sing that intro Hey Hey we’re the monkey and into another (in marketing speak ‘zany’)adventure. I’m still singing along if they play a track today. I think I heard that the surviving three are touring later this year.

  7. I have never apologized for being a fan of the Prefab Four, and I’m not going to start now. And their version of “Steppin’ Stone” cuts the heck out of the rival recording by Paul Revere and the Raiders. (Both sound better in mono, if you ask me.) When you’ve outdone the Raiders of this vintage, you’ve made some transcendent rock and roll.

    I’m also going to take a chance that you’ve heard Nesmith’s solo work, especially Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma, which is seriously fascinating stuff.

  8. Great post♫♪ Am still astonished that singing around in everyday life is not a normal thing to be doing…I grew up with musicals, and TV shows like the Monkees just encouraged me to think life was one big musical….now I have to be satisfied with Glee♫

  9. I have to agree with VioletSky….I never know which lane you will take us down, but they are always enjoyable.

    My kids loved the Monkey’s and I did too. The girls had their posters all over their room.

  10. I love the Monkees! I watched the show in the 70’s and I was the perfect age for it – head over heels for Davey Jones and everything! I even saw them in the 80’s when all those bands realized we’d still pay to hear them play…good times. did you know that Mike Nesmith’s mom invented white-out? or so says the urban legend…great post, thanks!

  11. I remembered listening to the Monkees as a child, sometimes I wonder why they are not as popular here compared to the Beetles, as I love their music.

  12. Somehow I just KNEW you were going to do the Monkees for M-day! I watched the show and had many of their singles growing up. Davy Jones was my favorite (of course). They were always a little more fun and quirky than the Beatles.

  13. I probably have heard them but they don’t say anything to me. I just have been to a very big exposition of the “Golden Sixties” it really brought me back to my youth !

  14. I know the Monkees, but only through my children, – those were such busy years for me I had no time for ‘monkeying’ around! An interesting post, Roger, – inspires me to fill in the blanks in my life.

  15. Don’t know where I was and what I was doing when all this was going on. I remember the name The Monkees and their song. Of course I knew the Beatles because my husband was from Liverpool. We were students about that time and were probably studying. But I DO like the Mommas and the Poppas. Come to think of it we didn’t even have a TV until 1967.

  16. I’ve been friends with Peter Tork (who wrote the song for the credits, remember, “We Gotta Be Free…”). He is a multitalented performer who came out of the Monkees thing determined to become a better musician; took up the banjo and the blues and bluegrass. He has a band called Shoe Suede Blues. He’s also battling cancer, so do yourself a favor and buy one of his albums. A really good egg, even after I admitted I was a Mike Nesmith fan in the 60s, ha ha ha. You have to have a healthy ego to hear that and still retain the friend, right? Great one, and yes, God rest Lennon… Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/10/11/manly-men-real-toads-abc-wednesday/

  17. Loved the Monkees as a kid (part of my daily after-school television diet) – maybe they weren’t as “hip” as most groups, but they put out some really solid songs.

    (And John Lennon thought they were as funny as the Marx Brothers. Go figure).

  18. Oh, I came *so* close to writing about the Monkees! I think it’s an example of a gender inequality thing, because we girls never had to be embarrassed about liking them. 😉 Davy Jones performed in our area shortly before his death, and I had wanted to make the show. Even more sad now that I couldn’t make that happen.

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