Saturday, December 12, 2015
The Monkees – The Monkees Present
Micky, Peter, Michael and Davy
1. Through The Looking Glass
2. Mommy and Daddy
4. Just a Game
5. Shake ‘Em Up and Let ‘Em Roll
6. Shorty Blackwell
7. (I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love
8. Lady’s Baby
9. Seeger’s Theme
10. Tear The Top Right Off My Head
11. Merry Go Round
12. Come On In
13. Listen To The Band
14. The Crippled Lion
15. Nine Times Blue
16. St. Mathew
17. Carlisle Wheeling and The Effervescent Popsicle
19. My Share of The Sidewalk
20. Me Without You
21. Laurel and Hardy
23. You and I
24. The Girl I Left Behind Me
Happy holidays! This reconstruction is a little ‘present’ for you… Four presents actually! This is a reconstruction of the unfinished 1969 Monkees double album entitled The Monkees Present Micky, Peter, Michael and David. Intended as a four-part solo album in which each Monkee wrote and produced their own side of the double album, the project was scrapped after Peter Tork quit the group at the conclusion of 1968. The completed tracks were all either shelved or trickled out on subsequent Monkees releases, with the title itself reappropriated for an unrelated album. This reconstruction attempts to gather the best of the material intended for the project and present the double album The Monkees could have released, had Tork not left. Attempts were made to use vintage mixes as well as the best masters when available, and unique mixes and edits were created to present the album as a complete, cohesive whole, true to what it would have sounded like in 1968.
The battle for creative control—and respect—had been the undertone of The Monkees chaotic existence; it was also their own undoing. Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones were initially cast as a band of characters (or rather, characters who were in a band) but Colgems producer and Monkees creator Bob Rafelson didn’t care that of those four young men who could sing and act, one was already a locally-known Greenwich Village guitarist and the other a promising Los Angeles singer/songwriter himself. Rafelson and Screen Gems musical director Don Kirchner insisted chose not only to use their own slew of Brill Building professional songwriters (including Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Carol King and the pair who wrote many of The Monkee’s classics, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) but session musicians to actually play on the recordings (often The Wrecking Crew), leaving the four Monkees to act in the show and to drift into the recording studio to add lead vocals to already finished backing tracks.
Dismayed they were not even allowed to perform on albums credited to themselves, Tork and Nesmith spent the early years of The Monkees attempting to gain some sort of musical control over their career, even if the remaining Monkees Jones and Dolenz were simply actors who could sing, mostly ambivalent to the quest for musical independence. Rafelson and Kirshner eventually acquiesced and allowed The Monkees to tour as a live band. The tour proved financially successful (and musically adequate) and the producers allowed The Monkees to write and record as an actual band, albeit under the supervision of The Turtles’ Chip Douglas as acting producer. The results were a pair of 1967 albums—the charming Headquarters and the ambitious Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd—and the chart-topping singles “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
The celebration was short lived, as this musical independence took its toll on The Monkees. While it was relished by Tork, Dolenz and Jones learned that being in a real band was hard work and it was easier to operate with session musicians; Nesmith learned that it was just easier to do it all himself! By February 1968, The Monkees television show was cancelled; this was not a big problem for Rafelson and Kirshner, as The Monkees made more money from record sales anyways, and their solution was to give the band unlimited studio time to continue making product: this time records instead of television programs. The result was a staggering amount of material recorded by all four members acting as essentially four solo artists with their own set of backing session musicians, although still under The Monkees’ unified banner. By April 1968, Kirshner handpicked twelve out of the sea of over 40 songs recorded since November 1967 to constitute their fifth album The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. All of Tork's tracks were passed over (aside from a short spoken word piece), being mostly unfinished and obviously in need of help from his bandmates.
If never-ending recording sessions for each individual Monkee was not enough, they also commenced a larger project in February 1968 that overlapped with the recording sessions: a full-length motion picture co-written by Jack Nicholson, intended to not only destroy the mythos of The Monkees, but end their career as they knew it. Meandering, nonsensical and decidingly psychedelic, HEAD made zero sense to their teeny-bopper audience and Screen Gems failed to market it properly to the counter-culture scene who might have understood it. While the movie was a complete bomb, the soundtrack album has recently been reevaluated as a psychedelic masterpiece, including Frank Zappa-esque dialog collages assembled by Jack Nicholson, interspersed between seven of the remaining 30-or-so songs recorded during The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees sessions, as well as a few months beyond.
Even after eating up the riches of The Monkees’ 1968 recording sessions on both The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees and HEAD, there was still an abundance of quality music remaining. That summer during the press junkets for HEAD, The Monkees hinted at their next project: a double album consisting of 24 tracks, with each Monkee writing, producing and featured on 6 of the songs. That November, in the final group interview with all four Monkees, Micky confirmed the plan for a double album with each Monkee given their own side of the LP and further elaborating that each side would have its own unique sound due to each Monkee’s own musical interest (noting that Michael’s side would by Country/Western, Davy’s as Broadway-Rock and Micky describing his own side as, oddly enough, weird and electronic). This comment was all but verified by Nesmith’s move to record nine of his own compositions in Nashville that May (with the studio musicians who would eventually be called Area Code 615), effectively completing his side of the intended 2LP ahead of schedule.
Unfortunately Nesmith’s side—which predated Bob Dylan’s attempts at Nashville country-rock by a year—would be the only Monkees Present side completed. November 1968 saw The Monkees returning in-front of a camera, filming 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, a television-special equivalent of HEAD that would further cement the band’s demise. During the first day of filming, Tork announced he was quitting The Monkees, and the 2LP Monkees Present project was effectively shelved indefinitely. 1969 saw attempts to commercially revive the Monkees, now a trio, at first with an updated sound courtesy of newly-drafted The Association and The 5th Dimension producer Bones Howe (who oversaw musical production on 33 1/13 Revolutions per Monkee). The decision was also made to resurrect some unused Monkees songs from 1966 in order to exploit the initial Monkeemania. Both accrued dismal results, with Instant Replay released in February (featuring only 8 of The Monkees Present 2LP songs) and the official incarnation of The Monkees Present Micky, David, Michael released in October (featuring only three of the original 1968 Monkees Present 2LP songs). Nesmith officially quit the group in early 1970, choosing to focus on his own music with his newly-formed First National Band. By this point The Monkees had completely devolved from their spur of creativity in 1968... but is there a way to find their 2LP missing link?
For my reconstruction of The Monkees Present we will assume that any song recorded between November 1967 (the start of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees sessions) to November 1968 (when Tork quit The Monkees) which hadn’t already been released on either The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees or HEAD is fair game. That amounts to 44 possible songs throughout twelve months (8 Micky songs, 7 Peter songs, 13 Michael songs and 16 Davy songs) to choose from for this 24-song album, allowing each Monkee their best six, for optimal quality. We will also attempt to exclusively use mixes prepared in 1968 (when possible), rather than later mixes that could feature new overdubs and revisionism. This reconstruction is also all in stereo since this was the time period that mono was beginning to be phased out, since The Monkees Present would have been release in early 1969.
Micky’s side is quite easy to assemble; dropping the weakest track (“Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad”) and excluding the single "D. W. Washburn" released in June, we are left with six strong songs from the voice that defined the band, creating a side that is quite the psychedelic-fueled Sunshine Pop--an excellent successor to HEAD. We open Micky’s Side with the original 1968 mix of “Through The Looking Glass” from the The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees Delux 3CD. This is followed by his own composition, the politically charged “Mommy and Daddy” to which Colgems highly objected, using a vintage 1969 mix with its uncensored lyrics but the intro taken from the album version, both found on the Monkees Presents remaster. Next is a 1968 mix of Dolenz’s own funky “Rosemarie” taken from TBTBTM 3CD, followed by the rollicking Leiber/Stoller-penned “Shake ‘Em Up and Let ‘Em Roll”, an alternate mix also from TBTBTM 3CD. Dolenz’s own stream-of-conscious track “Just A Game” is taken from Instant Replay, and his side ends with his truly bizarre but wonderful psychedelic-pop of “Shorty Blackwell”, this being it’s original 1968 stereo mix found on the Instant Replay Delux 3CD.
Peter seemed to be the only Monkee who had problems finishing a side of an album; by the time he left The Monkees in late 1968, he only had a handful of finished songs and a laundry list of unrealized ideas. He infamously spent a lot of work on “Lady’s Baby”, recording four different versions, each with multiple revisions. Unfortunately for this reconstruction, the most final versions of the seven songs he cut only total twelve and a half minutes, so we must essentially use all of it just to complete Peter’s side of the album! In effect Peter’s side seems a bit minimal, meandering and frankly unfinished, but appropriately reflects his folky roots. Beginning with the fantastic “(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love”, presented here as an exclusive stereo mix created when the mono vocal acetate mix is synced with the stereo backing track, both found on the Instant Replay 3CD. Following is one of many versions of his own “Lady’s Baby” he cut throughout 1968, this being the overdubbed acoustic Second Version from TBTBTM 3CD. Following with Peter’s standard spoken-word interlude of “Alvin”, uncredited here but taken from TBTBTM 3CD, flowing directly into the Third Version of “Seeger’s Theme” from TBTBTM 3CD. Next is “Tear The Top Right Off My Head”, the acetate mono mix from Missing Links Vol 2 is speed-corrected, with stereo spectrum processing by my friend Skyfinity. Following is the admittedly unrealized Version Two of “Merry Go Round” from TBTBTM 3CD and Pete’s scant side concludes with “Come On In”, taken from Music Box and speed-corrected.
Michael’s side becomes a bit more tricky, since we have a wealth of material to choose from: “Propinquity”, “Some of Shelly’s Blues”, “Don’t Wait For Me”, “The Crippled Lion”, “Hollywood”, “How Insensitive”, “Good Clean Fun”, “Listen To The Band” and “St. Mathew” were all recorded in late in Nashville specifically for the album, not to mention Michael had the TBTBTM outtakes “While I Cry” from January and “If I Ever Get To Saginaw Again” from March, and the HEAD outtakes “Carlisle Wheeling” and “Nine Times Blue” from April already in the can. Here we will pick the cream of the crop and open with his own tribute to The Monkees, “Listen To The Band”, using the original 1968 mix found on The Monkees Present remaster. Following are the vintage 1968 mixes of “The Crippled Lion” and “Nine Times Blue”, both found on the Instant Replay 3CD. The alternate 1968 mixes of the psychedelic-country rocker “St. Mathew” and the Dylanesque “Carlisle Wheeling” from Instant Replay 3CD follows, with the side ending with a ride out in the sunset of “Hollywood” from the Instant Replay 3CD, but with the channels swapped in order to match the rest of the songs.
Davy’s side is even trickier, as he recorded a vast amount of songs in 1968: TBTBTM outtakes "The Girl I Left Behind Me", "Ceiling In My Room", "Me Without You", "Laurel and Hardy", "Don't Listen To Linda" and "My Share of the Sidewalk" (note we are excluding the "It's Nice To Be With You", which appeared as the b-side to "D.W. Washburn" in June); HEAD outtakes "Changes", "War Games", "Look Down", "Smile", "You and I", "I'm Gonna Try" and "The Party"; and the Bones Howe-produced "A Man Without a Dream" and "Someday Man" from November 1968. Just as the previous LP side, we will take the six best songs from these 15 to make the strongest album possible (or at least the least obnoxious; I will admit a significant amount of bias against this batch of songs!). The side opens with “My Share of The Sidewalk” found on TBTBTM 3CD, followed by the cream of Davy’s crop, the vintage 1968 mix of “Me Without You” from the Instant Replay 3CD. Although a bit cheesy, “Laurel and Hardy” from the TBTBTM 3CD is next, purely because of the sitar and my own nostalgic love of the comedy duo! Of all the original compositions Jones offered during this time period, the least terrible would be the sappy “Smile” and followed by the relentless rocker “You and I” featuring a Neil Young guitar solo, both taken from the Instant Replay 3CD. The Monkees Present 2LP concludes with the Second Version of “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, the very first song recorded during these sessions. This version is sourced from the Music Box set, but includes a reprise of the unfinished tag of “A Girl Named Love” sourced from TBTBTM 3CD and remixed to match the panning of the Music Box mix.
The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (3CD Delux Edition, 2010 Rhino Records)
Instant Replay (3CD Delux Edition, 2011 Rhino Records)
Missing Links Vol 2 (1990 Rhino Records)
The Monkees Present (1994 remaster Rhino Records)
Music Box (2001 Rhino Records)
flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included