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The Monkees "Headquarters" (1967)
[23b] Mr Webster is the sort of song that was around a lot in the 1960s, in reaction perhaps to a 1950s based on the opposite. Mr Webster is the poor underling at the bank. Put upon, badly paid, a general dogsbody, he’s the nobody that the 1950s spat on in the name of capitalism but who the 1960s made into a hero via the light breeze of communism (or something like it) in the air. Not to spoil the ending, but Mr Webster gets his own back on evil boss Mr Frisbee by being entrusted with all the bank’s cash – and running off to spend it all in exile, leaving his paymasters chomping at the bit. It is, perhaps, Boyce and Hart’s most ‘Paul Simon’ song, audibly inspired by songs like ‘Richard Cory’ (although the boss is left to gnash his teeth, not commit suicide). Given that Boyce and Hart originally introduced it during one of their last productions for the band, it’s hard not to think that they weren’t thumbing their nose a little at Kirshner by showing him there was more to life than money – and that mistreating people will come back to bite you. The song was a natural contender for an album that tried to exactly that in a different way, with The Monkees in charge of their own puppet strings and everyone was eager to do it. However of all the new arrangements this is perhaps the one that changed most from second album sessions to ‘Headquarters’. Dispensing with the slow tempo, the melodrama and the harpsichord (and getting sick of sitting through dozens of unusable takes with wayward drumming) the band re-wrote this track for a faster tempo, piano, tambourine and pedal steel. This sparse setting is even more fitting for the song’s tale of humble beginnings winning out over budget and there are some clever touches along the way (such as the full stop when the telegram reads ‘stop!’) Micky and Davy, who only sang together without the others one other time (the ‘fast’ version of [3b] ‘I Wanna Be Free’) sound gorgeous together making you wonder why they didn’t share more lead vocals together. Another album triumph that’s unique to the sound of this album and unlike any other music being made then or now. Recorded: February 24th 1967