THE MONKEES -SUMMER OF LOVE-VINYL.

The Monkees-Summer Of Love.

Label: Rhino.

On September the ‘8th’ 1965, the Daily Variety contained an advert that said: “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” This was a new sitcom that had been written by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider about a struggling rock band from Los Angeles. The new sitcom would follow the adventures of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter as they searched for their big break. 437 musicians looking for their big break responded to the advert.

Eventually, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider whittled their way through the hopeful applicants, and settled on three Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and British actor and singer Davy Jones. They became The Monkees, which Mickey Dolenz later described as: “a TV show about an imaginary band … that wanted to be The Beatles, [but] that was never successful.” 

While The Monkees never replicated the success of The Beatles,  Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider’s television show proved popular in America and further afield. It ran for three series’ between 1966 and 1968, with Americans tuning in to fifty-eight episodes that followed the adventures of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter. During this period, The Monkees were one of the biggest selling bands in America. 

The Monkees recording career began in October 1966 with their eponymous debut album, and lasted four years. Less than four years later, The Monkees released their swan-song Changes, in June 1970. Within a year, The Monkees has split-up after releasing nine album in less than four years. 

These albums divided the opinion of critics and record buyers, and continue to do so, forty-six years after The Monkees originally split-up. Some critics and record buyers regard The Monkees’ music as perfect pop, while others claim it as nothing more than bubblegum pop or manufactured pop. Both sides are firmly entrenched in their views about the merits or otherwise of The Monkees’ music. However, there are other record buyers who are only interested in some of the music The Monkees recorded between 1966 and 1968. 

This was when The Monkees released some of the most psychedelic music of their career. Twelve of The Monkees’ most psychedelic songs are documented on a new compilation Summer Of Love, which was recently released by Rhino on red and white splatter vinyl. Given Summer Of Love contains the most psychedelic music of The Monkees’ career this seems fitting.

Rather than document The Monkees’ psychedelic era chronologically, Summer Of Love has been programmed so the compilation flows. This will disappoint many record collectors, who prefer a compilation to be in chronological order, as it allows them to hear how an artist’s music evolves. Alas, that isn’t the case on Summer Of Love. Despite that, Summer Of Love features an oft-overlooked period of The Monkees’ career their psychedelic side.

When The Monkees released Last Train To Clarksville as their debut single on ‘18th’ August, the single started climb the charts, and reached number one in Canada and on the US Billboard 100. This was enough to give The Monkees their first gold disc in America. However, tucked away on the B-Side of the single was a taste of the psychedelic side of The Monkees, Take A Giant Step. It would feature on The Monkees’ eponymous debut album.

The Monkees.

Just a month after The Monkees released their debut single, they released their debut album The Monkees in September 1966. Reviews of the album were mixed, with some critics still not convinced that The Monkees were a serious band. However, the positive reviews outnumbered the negative reviews of The Monkees. It started climbing the charts, and reached number one in Britain, Canada and on the US Billboard 200. The Monkees sold five million copies in America alone, and was certified platinum five times. Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter’s debut album had proven popular and appealed to a wide range of record buyers.

It wasn’t just fans of pop and rock that were won over by The Monkees. So were fans of psychedelic music. The Monkees’ psychedelic side first emerged on their eponymous debut album. Goffin and King’s Take A Giant Step and David Gates’ Saturday’s Child showcased the psychedelic sound of The Monkees, which was very different to other songs on the album. Maybe The Monkees had designs on becoming a serious band?

More Of The Monkees.

Just four months after the release of The Monkees, America’s version of the Fab Four returned with their sophomore album More Of The Monkees in January 1967. By then, what had been dubbed Monkeemania was in full swing. As a result, More Of The Monkees was rushed out to capitalise on the band’s popularity. This showed, and More Of The Monkees proved not to be the band’s finest hour.

Critics weren’t won over by More Of The Monkees, and their reviews reflected this. They weren’t alone. The Monkees weren’t happy with their contribution to More Of The Monkees. It consisted of adding the vocals, and very occasionally playing the instruments that they were meant to be playing. Mostly, though, the interments were played by members of the Wrecking Crew who stood in for The Monkees. They weren’t happy about this and wanted full artistic control.

Three weeks after the release of More Of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith began lobbying the creators of The Monkees to play their instruments on future records. Don Kirshner who had been brought onboard to secure music for The Monkees was against the idea of The Monkees playing their instruments on future records.Things came to a head a heated meeting between The Monkees, Don Kirshner and Colgems lawyer Herb Moelis. At one point, Michael Nesmith threatened to leave The Monkees. Given the album sales, there was only going to be one winner.

From their third album, The Monkees, not members of the Wrecking Crew would play their instruments. Executives at the Colgems label were scared of upsetting the cash cow that was The Monkees. While More Of The Monkees wasn’t the band’s finest hour, it reached number one in Britain, Norway, Canada and America. More Of The Monkees sold five million copies and was certified platinum five times over. This was pretty good for an album that many considered to be rushed out to cash in on the popularity of Monkeemania.

One of the finest songs on More Of The Monkees is She, which was penned by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Micky Dolenz adds a vocal on She, which featured The Monkees at their most lysergic. The psychedelic sound of The Monkees would return on their third album, Headquarters.

Headquarters.

Four months after the release of More Of The Monkees, came the release of The Monkees’ third album Headquarters in May 1967. Headquarters which was produced by Chip Douglas, was the first album where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control over their music. This came at a price.

After the dismissal of Don Kirshner, the songs that he had supervised were discarded. They wouldn’t feature on the album. Instead, it would only feature tracks where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control. Still, though, session musicians were occasionally used, but they seemed to be a thing of the past.

Another difference was that much of the albums was written by members of The Monkees. This included the Micky Dolenz penned Randy Scouse Git and For Pete’s Sake which was written by Peter Tork and Joey Richards. Both songs were sung by Micky Dolenz and featured the psychedelic side of The Monkees. The strongest of the two tracks is For Pete’s Sake, which were part of a new era for The Monkees.

While most of the reviews of Headquarters were positive, some critics weren’t impressed by the first album where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control. They felt some of the songs penned by members of The Monkees shouldn’t have made the cut. They wouldn’t if Don Kirshner had been around. His loss cost The Monkees dearly.

When Headquarters was released in May 1967 the album reached number two in Britain and Norway. In North America, Headquarters reached number one in Canada and in the US Billboard 100. However, the album sales were way down, with Headquarters selling ‘just’ two million copies. While this resulted in Headquarters being certified double platinum, the album had sold three million copies less than More Of The Monkees. To make matters worse, when Randy Scouse Git was released as a single, it never came close to troubling the charts. The Monkees had learnt an expensive lesson from Headquarters, that full artistic control came at a cost.

Two months after the release of Headquarters, The Monkees released a cover of Goffin and King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday as a single in July 1967. This example of perfect pop was one of the finest songs of The Monkees’ psychedelic era. It reached number three and was the fourth Monkees single to be certified gold. Maybe The Monkees’ luck was starting to change?

Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.

There was no let up for The Monkees, who returned with another album in November 1967, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. It was a quite different album from Headquarters.

Unlike Headquarters, where seven out of the twelve songs were written by members of The Monkees, only three of thirteen songs were written by the band. The remainder was cover versions, including songs written by successful songwriters and songwriting partnerships. This included Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s Words, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s Love Is Only Sleeping and Goffin and King’s Star Collector. They were joined by Goffin and King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday. These songs would showcase the psychedelic side of The Monkees.

When they came to record Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd, session musicians were drafted in. They had featured to some extent on Headquarters, but played a bigger part in the recording of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. This made sense, as they weren’t accomplished enough musicians to record an entire album. The Monkees played their instruments on some of the songs, but elsewhere on the album, session musicians took their place. However, as the years went by, The Monkees improved as musicians.

The Chip Douglas produced Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd was released in November 1967, and was well received by most of the critics. However, The Monkees had their critics, who saw the them as nothing more than a made for television band. That was unfair, as The Monkees had just released one of the best albums, and an album that pioneered the use of the Moog synth. 

While Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd was released, it reached number five in Britain, four in Norway and three in Canada. In America, it became The Monkees’ fourth album to reach number one. However, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd ‘only’ sold two million copies in America, and was certified double platinum. Maybe The Monkees’ popularity had peaked? 

The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.

Five months after the release of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd, The Monkees returned with their fifth album The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. It marked the start of a new era for The Monkees, who had rung the changes in their pursuit of full artistic control. The Monkees had dispensed with the services of producer Chip Douglas, who had produced  The Monkees first four albums. This was a huge risk.

By the time The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees was released, The Monkees television show had been cancelled. As a result, The Monkees were concentrating all their efforts on their music. Deep down, they wanted to be seen as a serious band. However, still, many critics and record buyers saw The Monkees as a manufactured, made for television band. They hoped that The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees would convince their critics that there was much more to them than that.

For their fifth album, members of The Monkees wrote six of the twelve tracks. This included Tapioca Tundra which was penned by Michael Nesmith. When it was recorded, The Monkees fused psychedelia and country. During the sessions, The Monkees continued to employ session musicians, who added backing vocals on some tracks. This was playing into the hands of The Monkees’ critics, who continued to accuse them of not being a ‘proper’ band. Their fans pointed The Monkees were a successful band, whose first four albums had sold in excess of fourteen million albums.

Before the release of The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees, critics had their say. The reviews were mixed, and again, there was no consensus amongst the critics. Some of the reviews were positive, while other were critical of The Monkees’ fifth album and the first they had produced themselves. With no consensus amongst the critics,record buyers had the casting vote.

The perfect pop of Daydream Believer was chosen as the lead single, and released in October 1967, It reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Alas, Daydream Believer was the last of The Monkees’ nineteen singles to top the charts. However, the success of Daydream Believer augured well for the release of When The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.

When The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees was released in April 1968, it failed to replicate the success of previous albums. The album failed to trouble the charts in Britain, where The Monkees had always been popular. It was a similar case in Canada, where The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees stalled at number six. In America, The Monkees was hoping that The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees would give them their fifth consecutive number one album. It was a case of close but no cigar, when The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees reached number three in the US Billboard 200.  For The Monkees this was another disappointment. Especially when they heard that the album had sold just over a million copies. While this was enough for a platinum disc, it was a far cry from when both The Monkees and More Of The Monkees sold five million copies. Monkeemania it seemed, was now a thing of the past.

Maybe not? In February 1968, The Monkees released Valleri as the second single from The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. The followup to Daydream Believer reached number three in the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Little did The Monkees realise that Valleri was their last single to be certified gold.

The followup to Valleri was D. W. Washburn, which was released   in June 1968. However, it stalled at number nineteen in the US Billboard 100. This was a sign of what was to come

Head.

Four months later, and The Monkees returned with a new single in October 1968. The song that had been chosen was Goffin and King’s Porpoise Song, which featured on the soundtrack to Head. The Monkees had been asked to provide the soundtrack, and with a few friends created a soundtrack that mixed satire and darkness. Porpoise Song was a taste of what The Monkees had in store for their fans. However, the single stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100, and became the second least successful single when it stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. This was worrying as Head was due to be released in late 1968.

Just like their previous albums, reviews of Head were mixed and there was no consensus among critics. While some critics loved  the albums, others loathed it. This was nothing new. However, Head was the first soundtrack album The Monkees had recorded, and it featured six songs, including the lysergic Porpoise Song. It’s one of the best songs on Head. These six songs were joined by Ken Thorne’s incidental music, dialogue fragments, and sound effects from the film. As a result, it was very different to previous albums and it was unfair to compare Head to The Monkees’ studio albums. That was what the critics had done.

On the release of Head in December 1968, the album stalled a lowly forty-five in the US Billboard and twenty-four in Canada. This was the lowest chart placing in either country. Across the Atlantic in Britain, Head was the second album that failed to trouble the charts. This was a worrying time for The Monkees.

Not long after the release of Head, Peter Tork left The Monkees, citing exhaustion. The Monkees had recorded six albums in less than three years. They also filmed three series of the television series The Monkees and toured extensively. It was no wonder Peter Tork was exhausted. However, leaving The Monkees proved costly, as he had four years remaining on his contract. After paying a large, six figure sum of money, Peter Tork was no longer a monkey. However, he would feature on The Monkees’ swan-song Good Times!

Good Times!

After the commercial failure of Head, The Monkees didn’t  revisit their psychedelic side until 2016, when they were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their eponymous debut album. To celebrate the anniversary, a new album was commissioned, which became Good Times!

This was the twelfth album of The Monkees career, and the first album since the death of Peter Tork. He appears posthumously on Little Girl, alongside the remaining Monkees Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter on Good Times! It’s one of thirteen songs on Good Times!, which reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200. 

The songs on Good Times! are a mixture of old new and old. Some of the songs are penned by giants of music including the late, great Harry Nilsson and Neil Diamond. Others were written by successful songwriting partnerships like Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and the legendary Goffin and King. One of the new songs, Birth Of An Accidental Hipster,  was written by Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller and finds The Monkees revisiting their psychedelic side one last time.

The psychedelic side of The Monkees is documented on the Summer Of Love compilation which was recently released by Rhino on red and white splatter vinyl. It features twelve tracks where The Monkees music heads in the direction of psychedelia. 

Some of the twelve tracks on Summer Of Love aren’t overtly psychedelic. Instead, they find The Monkees moving in the direction of psychedelia. Maybe this was The Monkees seeking credibility in the eyes of critics and record buyers? 

Despite their dalliances with psychedelia, The Monkees never fully embraced the genre like other sixties bands. Maybe it was a relationship that lacked commitment? The Monkees certainly never released a psychedelic masterpiece. However, during their occasional dalliances with psychedelia, The Monkees created several memorable moments, including Pleasant Valley Sunday, and underrated songs like Take A Giant Step, She, Love Is Only, Star Collector and Tapioca Tundra. There is only one forgettable moment on Summer Of Love, and that is Gallagher and Weller composition, Birth Of An Accidental Hipster. Apart from that, Summer Of Love features some of the finest moments of The Monkees’ dalliance with psychedelia.

While The Monkees may have never fully embraced psychedelia like many other sixties bands, ironically, this worked in their favour. The music on their first five albums, including the psychedelic side of The Monkees was accessible and was hugely popular, selling fifteen million copies in America alone. However, by December 1968, The Monkees had already enjoyed the most successful years of their career. 

In America six of The Monkees singles had been certified gold, while one album of their albums had been certified platinum, two double platinum and The Monkees and More Of The Monkees had been certified platinum five times over. Never again would The Monkees reach these heights again. 

The Monkees split-up in 1971, and later, made several comebacks. They even recorded three albums, including their swan-song Good Times! in 2016. By then, The Monkees had released nineteen singles, twelve studio albums and six live albums between 1966 and 2016. However, still, the most successful period of The Monkees  career was between 1966 and 1968.

For just over two years, The Monkees were one of the biggest bands in America. They had found a winning formula, with albums that featured pop, rock and sometimes psychedelia. The psychedelic side of The Monkees is oft-overlooked and makes a welcome appearance on Summer Of Love which documents what were the Good Times! for America’s very own Fab Four.

The Monkees-Summer Of Love.

 

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