Monkees – Sweet Young Thing

I was 7 and I had just borrowed the Monkees debut album from a cousin. I thought the band was still together and playing in the mid seventies. I had no clue they broke up years before. This is one of the songs I would wear out on the album.

The song stands out from the other songs on the album. This isn’t pop…it’s more like a country driven garage rock band song. I truly think Nesmith would made it in the music business with or without the Monkees. He would soon write the Stone Poneys hit “Different Drum” that peaked at #13 in the Billboard 100 in 1967. This song was released on the debut album in 1966.

Mike Nesmith made it clear from the beginning he wanted to write songs. Nesmith was a talented songwriter. The shows creator Don Kirshner set him up to write with Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Michael wasn’t ungrateful and he commented that he liked both of them but he didn’t like being forced to write with someone else. Kirshner resented the rejection, feeling that a nobody like Nesmith should have flipped over the opportunity to work with two songwriting legends. In the end though we did get this song.

Kirshner didn’t like having the band do anything but sing and act in the show. That didn’t last long with Nesmith leading them…by the third album the Monkees were playing their own instruments and writing some songs.

I just listened to it again for the first time in years and every nuance and word came back to me instantly. This was my first “favorite” Monkee song.

This was an album track not released as a single.

Sweet Young Thing

I know that something very strange
Has happened to my brain
I’m either feeling very good
Or else I am insane
The seeds of doubt you’ve planted
Have started to grow wild
And I feel that I must yield before
The wisdom of a child

And it’s love you bring
No that I can’t deny
With your wings
I can learn to fly
Sweet young thing

People try to talk to me
Their words are ugly sounds
But I resist all their attempts
To try and bring me down..
Turned on to the sunset
Like I’ve never been before
How I listen for your footsteps
As you knock upon the door

And it’s love you bring
No that I can’t deny
With your wings
I can learn to fly
Sweet young thing

And it’s love you bring
With dreams of bluer skies
And all these things
When I see it in your eyes
Sweet young thing

Sweet young thing

Monkees – I’m A Believer

This song was #1 on the Billboard 100, Canada, The UK, and New Zealand on January 15th 1967… That day since we are talking about it…the first Superbowl was played when the Packers beat the Chiefs.

I grew up with this song so it is ingrained in the back of my mind. That organ intro will stick with you. Say what you want to about the Monkees…they produced some of the great pop songs of the sixties…no matter how much  Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone Magazine) snubs them for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Every Monkees post I usually say something like that…what Wenner doesn’t get, among many things, is that the Monkees influenced a couple of generations of musicians (REM, XTC included). Like other bands of that time in California…studio musicians played on their first two albums and Wenner cannot forget that. They became a band after being cast together. They started to play on the 3rd album and continued with hits.

This was The Monkees second single, after “Last Train To Clarksville.” It was released during the first season of their TV show.

Neil Diamond wrote this song. He had his first big hit earlier in 1966 with “Cherry, Cherry,” which got the attention of Don Kirshner, who was looking for material for The Monkees. Kirshner was sold on “I’m A Believer,” and as part of the deal, allowed Diamond to record the song as well. Diamond’s version was released on his 1967 album Just For You. The Monkees version benefited from exposure on their television series.

Guitarist Michael Nesmith didn’t believe this would be a hit, complaining to the producer, Jeff Barry, “I’m a songwriter, and that’s no hit.” Jeff Barry banned him from the studio while Micky Dolenz recorded his lead vocal…Mr. Nesmith was wrong about this one.

Neil Diamond: “I was thrilled, because at heart I was still a songwriter and I wanted my songs on the charts. It was one of the songs that was going to be on my first album, but Donny Kirshner, who was their music maven, hears ‘Cherry, Cherry’ on the radio and said, ‘Wow, I want one like that for The Monkees!’ He called my producers, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich – ‘Hey, does this kid have any more?’ And they played him the things I had cut for the next album and he picked ‘I’m A Believer,’ ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ and ‘Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),’ and they had some huge hits. But the head of my record company freaked. He went through the roof because he felt that I had given #1 records away to another group. I couldn’t have cared less because I had to pay the rent and The Monkees were selling records and I wasn’t being paid for my records.”

From Songfacts

The Monkees sang on this, but did not play any instruments. The producers used session musicians because they were not convinced The Monkees could play like a real band. This became a huge point of contention, as the group fought to play their own songs.

Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz sang lead on this. Dolenz also handled lead vocals on “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Mary Mary” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

Neil Diamond had intended the song to be recorded by the Country artist Eddy Arnold, and was surprised when record executive Don Kirshner passed it instead to The Monkees.

A cover version by Smash Mouth was featured in the 2001 movie Shrek and went to #25 in the US. Diamond wrote the song “You Are My Number One” for Smash Mouth’s next album. 

The single had an advance order of 1,051,280 copies and went gold within two days of release.

British singer-songwriter and Soft Machine founding member Robert Wyatt had a #29 in the UK in 1974 with an intense cover version. His rendition featured Andy Summers (later of The Police) on guitar, and drums by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, who also produced the recording.

Wyatt told Q Magazine that he wanted to make a point with his cover. “I was very uncomfortable with having fans who said ‘Your music is so much better than all that banal pop music,'” he said. “It sounds like a socialist thing to say but pop music is the music of the people. It’s the folk music of the industrial age. If you don’t respect popular culture. You don’t respect people, in which case your political opinion is of no great value.”

Dolenz has painful memories of performing this on tour. Literally painful. He told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. “I do remember lots of snatches of touring back then. Unbelievable. No monitors. Screaming. Screaming, screaming. [When we played ‘I’m a Believer’] I couldn’t hear myself. I just had to pound away. Even to this day, I sing with my eyes closed, because I had to close my eyes and hit myself in the leg to keep time on the drums. I had a big bruise. [Laughs]”

I’m A Believer

I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me
Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed
Disappointment haunted all of my dreams

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried

I thought love was more or less a giving thing
Seems the more I gave the less I got
What’s the use in tryin’
All you get is pain?
When I needed sunshine, I got rain

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried

Oh

Oh, love was out to get me
Now, that’s the way it seemed
Disappointment haunted all of my dreams

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried

Yes, I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
Said, I’m a believer, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (I’m a believer)
Said, I’m a believer, yeah (I’m a believer)
I said, I’m a believer, yeah (I’m a believer)

Monkees – Saturday’s Child

This song is for Song Lyric Sunday for Jim Adams’s blog. This week’s prompt…Days of the Week…Everyone have a good Sunday!

When I was 7 in 1974 I borrowed the Monkees debut album from my cousin. I listened to the album over and over. This song has been described by some critics of having a “proto-heavy metal guitar riff.” It does have a heavy riff and it is different than the other Monkees songs.

The Monkees Album.jpg

Being seven years old and listening to pop bands from my sister’s collection I thought this song was “hard rock” because it had a guitar with some distortion. The Monkees influenced a generation of young musicians. They made being in a band look fun and in the sixties many kids watched them and wanted to play music because of the Monkees. They don’t get the credit they deserve and are snubbed by Jann Wenner and the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

At first they didn’t play their instruments but by the third album they all played plus Michael Nesmith wrote songs for many of their albums. Peter Tork and Nesmith were musicians to begin with and good ones…Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones soon learned their parts and contributed. Dolenz and Tork also wrote.

What is not mentioned is a lot of bands didn’t play their instruments on their first albums like the Mama’s and Papas and the Byrds. Many bands had studio musicians to help them out.

Ok…I’ll get off of my soapbox now. This song was written by David Gates (who wrote and sang in Bread). Saturday’s Child was not released as a single but it was a good album track released in 1966. The Monkees debut album The Monkees peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, UK, and Canada.

Saturday’s Child

Monday had a sad child
Always feeling low down,
Tuesday had a dream child
She’s always on the go
So I’m in love with Saturday’s child

Every time you take her out at night
(She drives me wild)
You want to kiss and hold her way up tight
(Gonna spend my time)
You can tell the future’s looking bright
(Making sure that Saturday’s child is mine)

If you love a Wednesday
You live your life apart now
And if you love a Thursday
She’s gonna break your heart,
So I’m in love with Saturday’s Child

Every time you hold her close you’ll see
(She drives me wild)
You can feel the thrill that’s gonna be
(Gonna spend my time)
Now the future has a guarantee
(Making sure that Saturday’s child is mine)

Seven days of the week made to choose from
But only one is right for me
I know that Saturday’s got what it takes, babe.
I can tell by the way she looks at me.

Friday likes the good life
She’ll take you for a ride now
And Sunday makes a good wife
She wants to be your bride
So I’m in love with Saturday’s child

Influence of the Monkees

I debated on whether to write this or not. When the Monkees are mentioned some people cringe but they have a place in my 5-year-old self…plus how many bands can say that Jimi Hendrix opened up for them… though maybe the worst pairing ever.

While writing this I’m not saying they deserve to be remembered as a top rock group. Not at all but they do need to be recognized for their influence on a couple of generations. They influenced a lot of kids to form bands…mostly because of their weekly prime-time television show and ensuing hit singles. In the 80s they had a big comeback with a tour and massive airplay on MTV… I got to see them then…without Nesmith though.

When I was around 5-6 years old and watched the Monkees in syndication many years after they did the show.  I loved them. I thought WOW… I must be in a band one day. Little did I know that being in a band was not living in a cool place at the beach and having adventures at every turn…not to mention everyone getting along…it doesn’t happen. They had fun songs and influenced me…After I went through the Monkees faze I discovered the Beatles, The Who, Stones, Kinks…anything British but I have a soft spot for some of the old Monkees songs.

The Monkees basically took A Hard Days Night movie humor and made a television show around a life of a mid-sixties rock band. Kids wanted to form bands after seeing them romp around the screen with girls…who wouldn’t want that gig? Michael Stipe from REM is one that states he was influenced by the Monkees.

They were not allowed to play on their first couple of albums…only sing…The Monkees were put together by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider for Screen Gems with two real musicians in the band…Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork… Micky Dolenz (he did sing in cover bands before The Monkees) and Davy Jones could sing and act…. and Mickey quickly learned drums.

When news came out that they didn’t play on their albums they were roundly criticized in the 1960s. They fought Don Kershner who controlled what they sang…. and won… The funny thing is many sixties pop bands didn’t play on their records and the Monkees actually started to play their own instruments on their third album (Headquarters)  and writing some songs for every album afterward.

In the second season of their tv show they started to gain more control there also… Some of those last episodes are very pot influenced…especially the episode called “The Frodis Caper”… The episodes started to get surreal and break the fourth wall…the second season is worth a watch…all of them are fun but the 1st season is more formulaic.

HEAD The Movie…they made a trip movie called Head that Jack Nicholson helped to write… Personally, I like it but I like 60s movies like this. The one song that stands out is The Porpoise Song. The movie tears down the Monkee myth… One song/chant is the “Ditty Diego “… The first lines are “Hey, hey, we are the Monkees You know we love to please A manufactured image With no philosophies“…They didn’t take themselves seriously at all…they knew where they were at as far as a band goes. When they made the movie they knew it would destroy their image…that was the point.

I do still like some songs by them…anything wrote by Michael Nesmith (famous also for Elephant Parts), Pleasant Valley Sunday, Randy Scouse Git, Steppin Stone and Saturday’s Child.

All in all, they ended up singing and playing on some of the best-known sixties pop-rock hits….plus they drove one of those cool sixties tv cars…the Monkeemobile.