Friday 4 July 2008

The Monkees "Headquarters" (1967) (Revised Review 2015)

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The Monkees "Headquarters" (1967)

You Told Me/ I’ll Spend My Life With You/Forget That Girl/ Band 6/ You Just May Be The One/ Shades Of Gray/ I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind// For Pete’s Sake/ Mr Webster/ Sunny Girlfriend/ Zilch/ No Time/ Early Morning Blues And Greens/ Randy Scouse Git (aka Alternate Title) 

Each of us has some musical thing, from Ormskirk to New York New York, from the East Coast to the West, from the dog kennels to the greyhound racing circuit, and when reviewers go with their 'thing' what comes out is a whole. Don't ask a 'whole what'? Just read. If only the smallest part of how much fun it was to listen to this record gets read, it was all worthwhile.”

P.S. Mr Dogelina, Mr Max Dogelina...China Clipper Calling Alan's Album Archives... Nevermind the Spice Girls they'll claim its self defence...It is of my opinion that The Monkees are winning...It is of my...furthermore...chickens, elephants...reebersober...Frodis...Zilch!"

The revolution has been and gone, besuited musical advisor Don Kirshner had at last been sacked if not quite guillotined and the maniacs are now officially in charge of the asylum; The Monkees left to take the zoo over from their human keepers. 'Headquarters' may have been the third Monkee album but in many ways it's their debut: the first record by the Monkees 'band' recording their own material as a fully living breathing entity in its own right rather than the music being merely the 'soundtrack' to the television series. After having successfully proven that they could perform more or less together in concert, The Monkees were given the go ahead to make an album together using just themselves and occasionally a lone band friend (Nesmith’s pal John London or producer Chip Douglas on bass when Peter needed to be at the piano). The Monkees were never cast for this – it was helpful if they were interested in music and could hold a note, but they were hired for their acting skills not their musical ability. The band are now officially the puppet that grew into a real live boy, Sparky’s Magic Piano, Leonard Nimoy turning Vulcan and the little engine that could for real all rolled up into one scarcely believable ball. Those who didn’t just go ‘yah boo sucks, The Monkees’ and turn their attention to the next craze were intrigued. After all, this had never ever happened before. Could the actors in the hippest hippiest TV show of all time really make an actual album? Would that album be listenable? And what would it sound like if they could do their own thing – would they sound like the first two records, do something simpler or something deeper? Could they really hold their own against the session musician greats who'd be working on their records? And could they really do it against the clock, with time ticking away before the band had to go back on tour and back into production of their TV series? The few fans who'd heard of the revolution before it happened and realized the difference wondered if they would ever hear The Monkees 'sound' again; everyone who understand the band as a TV phenomena wondered if this was now the in thing and the casts of Bewitched, Star Trek and Gilligan's Island were suddenly going to start playing their own instruments for the theme tunes. Even for the mid-sixties giving control over to the crazed teens and twenty-somethings seemed dangerous: where would it all end? And were rumours true that Don Kirshner’s head (head…) would really be suspended on a pole in front of the studio as a warning to anyone trying to interfere?!?

Though the ‘real’ sound of ‘Headquarters’ is one of eclecticism, what links most of the record is that it is both simple and profound all at once. The music has been tidied up and made easier than before so that even beginner Micky (who’d never sat anywhere near a drum kit until the first day of filming) could keep up. Peter, who could pretty much play any instrument, sticks to a piano rather than his preferred bass or guitar so that he too could sound like a beginner. Mike, an accomplished guitarist, has just bought a new pedal steel guitar and learns how to play that too during the sessions. Davy adds vocals and maracas and tambourine, demonstrating perhaps the best understanding of ‘rhythm’ of any of the four. The result is a band who come across exactly how you suspect The Monkees of The TV show would have sounded for real if they hadn’t had access to the world’s greatest session musicians – like enthusiastic beginners, akin to oh so many hundreds of other groups up and down the Western hemisphere who were all getting their act together and seeing if they could make their favourite hobby become a career. In truth Micky’s drumming never gets better than basic, whilst few of these backing tracks get there from A to B in one piece completely without somebody messing up somewhere.

That should make ‘Headquarters’ a really dumb idea and the most unlistenable noise ever. Instead it’s brilliant: far from faking their art The Monkees are leaving in all the rough edges and mistakes, getting by on just the sheer power of the music (and what could be more in keeping with the TV Monkees than that?) And this music is art: freed of the need to please certain songwriters or give them favours or dole out writing credits The Monkees have free reign to pick whatever the hell songs they like. Most of them are remarkably deep, even for a band who had been pushing at the further edges of pop, moving on to numbers closer to folk, jazz and psychedelia. Though The Monkees are at oldest twenty-four by this stage, their song choices are fascinating: pieces about growing old (‘Shades Of Gray’), depression (‘Early Morning Blues and Greens’), capitalism diatribes (‘Mr Webster’) and being with the girl you love for the rest of your life – not just the end of the episode (‘I’ll Spend My Life With You’). What fascinates me is that very little of those ideas were heard in the ‘original’ versions: The Will O’Bees original of ‘Shades Of Gray’ treats it as a choral comedy song akin to The Mike Sammes Singers played really fast, the demo for ‘Early Morning Blues and Greens’ is fast and poppy and the two Boyce and Hart songs that had been abandoned during the making of ‘More Of The Monkees’ sound utterly different here, melancholy and ‘real’. By slowing down the tempos The Monkees really nail the inner longing and loneliness that had been buried in these songs. And those are just the cover songs; the originals – written deliberately for the project and including Micky and Peter’s first contributions – are some of the most special the band ever wrote. Tork’s ‘For Pete’s Sake’ is the perfect song for the times, demanding change with a 1960s brotherly swing that’s the antithesis of Kirshner’s 1950s working practices, Dolenz’s ‘Randy Scouse Git’ breaks every rule of songwriting going in its naivety and comes out with a psychedelic masterclass, while Nesmith’s trio of songs are pop songs with an edge, so simple even this beginner’s band can play them but with a lyrical profundity even his previous contributions couldn’t match. The Monkees, for too long dismissed as being for the younger brothers and sisters of Beatle fans, are now growing up alongside their fans. To counteract that there’s just enough singalong pop that fans of the band’s earlier work can recognize: the producer contributes ‘Forget That Girl’, Davy revives one of Boyce and Hart’s silliest songs ‘I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind’, the band make up a rock and roll jam session with cute lyrics named ‘No Time’ and there are two moments of goofy silliness just to reassure fans that this is the same crew who made the TV series.

It would be understandable if ‘Headquarters’, recorded by a band who had never played together in the studio before and who had never even met eighteen months ago, had fallen flat on its face. We fans would have been calling it a ‘noble gesture’, a failed experiment, an attempt to match the big boys before The Monkees saved face and went back to doing things the old way (which, sadly, is more or less what they did). It would have been reasonable if the band had taken the 'easy' way out and spruced up a few older outtakes with a few choice overdubs (goodness knows they already had a spare three albums' worth of outtakes in the vaults by this time) or even made the act of recording itself that bit easier - an overdub here, a sweetener there. Instead the three weeks it took to make 'Headquarters' stands as the three most productive weeks amongst the jam-packed four years The Monkees were originally together, a creditable and credible album that was just loose enough to be exciting but tight enough to still be professional. Though many people from Kirhsner down predicted a disaster, the result was largely held to be a triumph: the band were thrilled to be given the chance to prove themselves, those involved in the TV series had an awful lot of interesting new songs to add to their next soundtracks (plus a groovy new theme tune!) and the suits were just relieved The Monkees had given them something vaguely approaching an album. It was an album that managed to build on rather than break the sound of what The Monkees had stood for and the band stood by several of their key early collaborators such as Boyce and Hart and Jack Keller and Diane Hildenbrand but with a choice of songs that was largely deeper and - in the case of a few songs already attempted under the old regime - better. 'Headquarters' even matched the sales of the first two records at first, with a coveted US #1 slot, until The Beatles stole the band's thunder with the release of 'Sgt Peppers' a mere week later (is it sacrilege to say I prefer this record?) Only Don Kirshner, the scapegoat for the whole thing, had reason to sulk – well, him and the people who still criticized The Monkees for not playing their own instruments, even after it’s obvious that they did.

The biggest heroes, though, were Monkee creators Bert and Bob who backed their untested band over their respectable musical director in the great musical revolution of 1967. In some alternate universe somewhere, with Kirshner still in charge, The Monkees had a number one hit with ‘Sugar Sugar’ (a song Kirshner had fallen for and demanded The Monkees record) as the follow-up to [68] ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’, but no more – The Monkees’ legacy would have been so broken by so many twee singles and their reputation would have been in tatters. As proof that this wasn’t necessarily what the fans would have wanted, in Britain where ‘Alternate Title’ was released as a single it outsold ‘A Little Bit Me’ anyway. Kirshner’s response to being fired from the Monkees in the real world was to record ‘Sugar Sugar’ with a band that he knew couldn’t possibly give him trouble – the anonymously voiced group ‘The Archies’ who were, err, animated cartoon characters who couldn't possibly answer back (although I'm sure they tried anyway - that 'Jughead Jones' the drummer looks like a right 'un').

Bert and Bob could still have insisted on a ‘parental’ figure similar to Kirshner to keep them in line, but instead stayed well out of the project, letting them pick who they wanted. Their choice was in many ways a strange one. Mike didn’t know Chip Douglas that well but he was a fan of the band he played bass for, The Turtles, the pop band with deeper fringes who were similar to The Monkees in many ways. Chip had no production experience whatsoever and was the same age as the band with only marginally more recording experience. It was a huge surprise to him that he was asked, but that was kind of the point – with a band still learning, The Monkees didn’t want someone experienced who would push them to breaking point but someone they trusted who was also learning on the job. The decision was a great one and ‘Headquarters’ owes much of its success to Chip. The session tapes (released as the best yet of all of Rhino’s deluxe re-issue series) reveal that Douglas was a great combination of likeable and forceful, pushing the band to have another go whilst being too busy singing along to put anybody down. He also tolerated their need to express themselves in humour and jam sessions, trying to get as much of the spontaneity of the sessions as he could onto the album. He was, I think its fair to say, the best decision taken on an album full of lucky breaks. Brownie points too to engineer Hank Cicalo, who really was the experienced pair of hands on this album and who despite being so many years older genuinely enjoyed The Monkees’ company and thought the world of them. His steady hand on the tiller makes this album far less of a rough ride than it might have been and The Monkees repaid him handsomely when they were consulted about the album’s sleeve. As well as crediting his name in huge font (the biggest credit ever given to any engineer on any album I own) they also ‘pretended’ that Hank had written the jam song ‘No Time’ all by himself. Hank, a lowly staff member at Colgems who’d slugged his guts out for the company for twenty years on a basic wage, was astonished when his royalty cheque for the album came through the post months later with enough money to let him buy his family house!

While I’m warming up to the subject, though, I’m surprised the job wasn’t given to by-now 'tested' producers Boyce and Hart? The pair had done more for The Monkees saga than anyone and had been expecting to produce the band anyway after the success of their recordings for the TV pilot (the only part of the show people liked, at least at first) and they were almost the only people all four Monkees respected. They, too, hated Kirshner’s guts and struggled to work with him while they too were waiting to bloom and let their deeper side show. At first Boyce and Hart assumed they were ‘out’ too. In typical Monkees planning nobody told them what was going on and when they didn’t get a call from Bert and Bob they assumed they’d been overthrown with Kirshner. Figuring that their glorious time in the spotlight was over, they went to a Monkees show and sighed their way through the setlist, intending to say ‘goodbye’ to the whole experience and move on. Then one of The Monkees (we’re not sure who) got wind that they were there and invited them to come backstage, asking the crowd to give them a round of applause in the second half. Boyce and Hart were moved excited to be asked if the band could ‘borrow’ some of their old recordings they’d really enjoyed doing (ending up with three songs on this album, one more than ‘More Of’). However I’m surprised they weren’t involved more proactively and didn’t appear on the album even as guests. It’s not until ‘Pisces Aquarius’ that they start hanging round the band again more.

The early signs for ‘Headquarters’ (as in four Monkees being four quarters of the same ‘head’ – a very 1960s concept) weren’t good – Turtles bassist and Nesmith friend Chip Douglas must have been mighty scared of getting the album made at all the way things were going in the first week. A first attempt to record the band together on the Thomas Baker Knight song 'She's So Far Out She's In' (picked because it's both simple and known to the band, who had been performing the song in concert) was a disaster, with four different musicians pulling in four different directions. After that the band turned to what they hoped would be the next single and turned in a much stronger performance of Monkee auditionee Bill Martin's excellent song [66] 'All Of Your Toys'. It was everything the new-look Monkees wanted to be: accessible but adult, simple yet profound, heartbreaking but professional. Alas someone from the Colgems staff turned up and said 'oops, sorry guys, we meant to tell you - the single will have to be written by somebody whose already signed up to our publishing company' (rumours abate that they were shocked at the song’s commerciality and this was just an ‘excuse’). That slight mix-up ate into the first month or so of the recording time intended for the album and the band, tired after working on the first TV series and a whirlwind tour, now had to work faster than ever. The first official song taped at the sessions was Mike's 'Sunny Girlfriend' and rather set the tone: a heavy rock thrash high on octane energy and thrills, the song was still tapered by a complex stop-start section the band (eventually) nailed and a complex run of chromatic chords in the bridge. A challenge the band could really get their teeth into which wasn’t beyond them, you can hear the relief and energy even now fifty years on when the band get to that triumphant ending for the first time. The Monkees got braver and braver with each song they attempted: re-recording the funeral march of the Boyce-Hart doing 'Mr Webster' (attempted with studio men for 'More Of The Monkees') as an upbeat folk-country crossover with Davy playing an eerie tambourine that just makes the song; the banjo lick daringly added a country rock setting of 'You Told Me'; the far more 'authentic' re-recording of Boyce and Hart's most gorgeous song 'I'll Spend My Life With You' which had been rather thrown away during the writer's own sessions a few months before; the funky band jam that mutated into 'No Time'; the jaw-dropping complexity of Micky's own surreal track 'Randy Scouse Git'; the jaw-dropping complexity of Peter's own hippie track 'For Pete's Sake'; the understated jazz-blues of the complex 'Early Morning Blues and Greens' when Davy finally stops singing for teens and sings for adults, never sounding better than here; the Peter Tork piano part and the French horn lick (created by Mike and notated by the band's only reader of sheet music Peter) that turns 'Only Shades Of Grey' from a singalong into one of the most devastatingly adult songs of the entire decade; the pioneering decision to include an outtake on the album as a slice of 'atmosphere' and insight into making the album ('Band Six') and the avant-garde spoken-word stoned-humour of 'Zilch'. Throughout it all The Monkees kept growing, building on what they'd done before and becoming more and more confident that not only could The Monkees work as a band, they could work as a great band with their impressively large-grab bag of natural styles (Davy's pop, Peter's folk, Micky's soul and Mike's country, plus shared interests in jazz, blues, psychedelia and rock) suddenly became a blessing, rather than the curse it had been till now driving them apart. No other band could offer what The Monkees could at this point in 1967. All The Monkees albums for the rest of the book should have been done like this, with a real band playing real music packed with real emotions. 'Headquarters' isn't just better than it might have been, it is a modern-day miracle.

And yes all you doubting Thomas Joneses out there, The Monkees really do play all their own instruments on Headquarters – the only exceptions are bass players when Peter's hands are full of pianos or banjos plus the French Horn and Cello parts on 'Only Shades Of Grey' (and even those were ‘sung by Mike and notated by Peter’ as the CD re-issue sleevenotes put it, making the most of Tork’s classical music training). The album's slightly defensive back cover addresses even these points: 'We aren't the only players on the album, but the occasional extra bass or horn player was under our direction, so that this is all ours'. They were being slightly too generous: 'Sgt Peppers' released a week later hadn't credited the sea of sitar and tabla players on 'Within You Without You' for instance or the massive orchestra that plays on 'A Day In The Life'. The Monkees do genuinely sound like a ‘real’ band here, using everybody’s strengths where they can and covering up for each other’s weaknesses where possible. If there’s one word about now compared to then, its excitement. Everyone is thrilled to be here. They aren’t clock-watching, making sure they get their notes perfect, or playing the same songs over and over into the ground. Instead, after months of being actors and saying lines (with a few improvisations thrown in on top) The Monkees are being creative, making something from the ground up, and you can tell just how much fun they’re having.  For instance, compare this rocking version of ‘You Just May Be The One’ with the version recorded six months earlier with the Monkees’ normal session musicians, used on the TV series soundtrack (and available on ‘Missing Links Two’). The earlier version is competent and hits all the right spots but lacks the energy and passion which theHeadquarters’ version has in spades, with the musicians audibly bouncing ideas off one another instead of having met for a cup of tea in the studio kitchen for the first time just a couple of hours before.

That’s not to say to the untrained ear, who don’t necessarily understand the story behind it, that this album is easy listening. In many ways its grunge a few decades early as four musicians learn on the job and the biggest plus point of the previous two albums (the slick polished production) has rather gone out the window here. The weakest link is clearly Micky, who often sounds like a beginner as a drummer because, well, that's what he was: all the auditionees of The Monkees had to play an instrument for real as part of the deal (all except Davy who passed as a 'singer' thanks to already having a record out), but Micky was a guitarist and had never played the drums in his life before fooling around on set (his only recorded guitar performances are the charming 'Headquarters' era demos he made with his sister Coco [73a] 'Midnight Train' re-recorded for 'Changes' and [72] 'She'll Be There' and this album's 'I'll Spend My Life With You' where Dolenz plays electric to Nesmith's pedal steel and Tork's acoustic; in any other band Micky would have been in demand as the guitarist not the drummer!) He really wasn’t sure about it either but after being talked into it is said to have declared ‘I was Circus Boy, I can do anything!’ and set off to get the one and only drum lesson of his life. It’s actually quite a cute sound if you can get into this album’s head(quarters) space and realize what is happening. Part of the album’s excitement comes from wondering if Micky will nail this song all the way to the end, catching the odd mistake that inevitably arrive from time to time. Micky still saves the record, too, with some of his very greatest vocals. It's a mystery though why he was given the drums to play at all given that, roughly six times out of ten, he was also the singer on the songs mimed on the TV series and was thus hidden at the back of shot. Davy, who sang roughly three times out of ten, had a much better sense of time and his percussion work on this album is actually excellent, enhancing 'Mr Webster' (where Micky is missing) and 'No Time' in particular. The Monkees stopped making records like this one because they got tired of having to stop for re-takes when Micky invariably messed up trying to keep the pace of the others and the ever-creative but not necessarily over-disciplined Dolenz found it hard to remember the bits that 'worked' and instead kept coming up with new ideas that often didn't.

Micky is often audibly struggling (the songs don't make things easy for him either - a hardened session veteran would struggle to pull of the complex part he's come up with himself) and Mike, too, suddenly decides that he wants to learn to play the pedal steel right now, leaving Peter and (if here) Chip as the only 'proper' musicians on the record. However when he does choose to play his more 'normal' style Mike is right on the money: even on the first two Kirshner-made LPs his occasional guitar work is stunning but it’s at its best here, keeping this often rather rough and barely rehearsed band of musicians together. Davy only plays tambourine and percussion (those pictures of him playing guitar on the back of the Monkees' debut really was just a 'prop' although he did learn to play later on in life), but there is more percussion on this album than usual because the unusual arrangements often do away with Micky’s drums altogether and Davy’s work is impressive, really adding to the haunted feeling of tracks like ‘Mr Webster’ and ‘Early Morning Blues and Greens’. The biggest surprise is Peter, who to date had managed a grand total of one growly vocal ([37] 'Your Auntie Grizelda') and one bit of guitar work (on [5] 'Papa Gene's Blues' at Mike's invitation) on the already released Monkee discography of some thirty songs. The Monkee keenest to turn the fictional band into a 'real' one and desperate to join a ‘real’ band, he went to town on this album, playing some really tricky piano and bass parts and his vocal cameo in the second half of ‘Shades of Gray’ is excellent (only his second out of four ever released with the band in the 1960s, discounting monologues); ditto the gorgeous harmonies on ‘I’ll Spend My Life With You’. Peter’s chosen instrument before the Monkees was also the banjo, an instrument that also cops up several times on this record, so he had a lot of learning to do quickly too when he was asked to play bass, but unlike Micky's struggles you really can't tell. Easily the star of a brightly shining record packed with them, it’s criminal to think that Tork was silenced within the group so much that the only other songs he'll release with the band in the 1960s both appear on the 'Head' soundtrack and that he'll only rarely play on Monkee songs from here-on in.

Another plus point for Headquarters – and further evidence of a new-found group spirit – is the amount of group vocals on this record. Even away and above getting four musicians with very different backgrounds to fit instrumentally together (and I'll leave it up to you whether the 'fourth' is Davy or Chip - maybe there's five?) it's a whole other trip to get them to sing together in harmony. After all, why should Davy's experience in musicals, Micky's experience in soul recordings, Mike's traditional country and Peter's folk sound good together? - they've all learnt to sing by different means, in different states (or in Davy's case a different country) to different styles: even singing the same song they shouldn't learn how to sound so good together this fast. And yet they do, quite brilliantly - and even if the 'Headquarters Sessions' (particularly for 'Forget That Girl') reveal that it was a chore getting these vocals to mesh together as often as it was a pleasing challenge, they're still mightily impressive. Perhaps treating the sessions like the TV series (where it's unusual to have all four on screen at once) The Monkees pair off in almost every combination possible for the vocals. Micky and Peter sound fantastic together on 'I'll Spend My Life With You', Micky and Davy sound great on both 'No Time' and 'Mr Webster', Micky sounds great backing Mike on 'You Just May Be The One' and 'Sunny Girlfriend', Davy and Peter sound pretty fab crossing over on 'Only Shades Of Grey' and Mike, Davy and Peter sound great in the background behind Micky on 'Randy Scouse Git' and together on ‘Early Morning Blues and Greens’. That is, I believe, almost every possible Monkee pairing and all of them sound great. How statistically unlikely is it that these four different singers could go so well in so many combinations?

Stick all of that together and you have an album that's often threatening to fall apart but never quite does. Chip's choices for what takes and songs made the album and knowing when to push for one last great take prove to be all 'right' as far as I'm concerned, with the band always getting to the end in one piece however many slight wobbles there are in the middle. This rawness adds to the edginess of the rockers which really pounce on this gloriously consistent record. The more subtle ballads, meanwhile, are perfection themselves, played with so much more care and heart than the session vets could manage, if only because they're being made a band who don't get to do this sort of thing every day. You sense that had The Monkees not had another tour and another TV series to put into production they could have played on in these sessions forever.

One thing about the album that never quite worked is the cover: a simple shop of the band 'standing around' linking arms that's the most twee and teeny-bopper Monkees cover yet, even if it does point nicely at the band's four contrasting personalities: Mike tries to look as dignified as he can whilst leaning at a funny angle, Micky laughs nervously into the camera as he tries not to fall over, Davy is giggling his head off and Peter has a classic smirk on his face as he 'ruins' another Monkee pose by sticking his leg out. The cover makes sense when you learn that, like much of the album, it's a bit of a rushed last-minute substitute because something went wrong. Given free rein to do what they liked with the album, The Monkees took that to mean the packaging as well and they took to painting the studio glass panel between takes and instrument 'set-ups' after Micky brought in some tempera paints from home, to keep them in a creative spirit. The band got rather good and rather competitive after they each were designated their own corner, with a swirl of psychedelic colours that from the surviving photographs includes a giant round circle in amongst wavy lines in bright shades (alas the only photos that do exist are all in black-and-white). The 'grown-ups' were less sure about the idea, which would have been unique back in 1967 when no band got to draw their own front covers: 'Wipe off that wall' jokes engineer Hank only half playfully before the vocal overdub session on 'Forget That Girl' heard on the 'Headquarter Sessions'. The President of RCA Victor, the record company who owned Screen Gems/Colgems, came down for a visit to see how things were getting on and a nervous studio boss wanted things to be spotless, so - misunderstanding the band's wishes - had a cleaner come in to wipe the glass clean again. The Monkees hadn't thought to take a 'proper' picture of their project yet, although a few 'between take' shots of a bearded Peter standing by it have since come to light. The RCA President then had to put up with half an hour of abuse from the band who couldn't understand where their artwork had gone, despite not knowing the first thing about it! The shot of the band together was simply the most painless way possible of getting a substitute.

With or without a 'proper' cover, though, 'Headquarters' is a great little album. The Monkees' best chance at showing off what they could do, it's easily their most enjoyable record and of the songs only the rather sweet-toothed 'I Can't Get Her Off My Mind' falls short, with 'Band Six' not always built for repeated listening. For my money too the record’s programming is slightly off. I prefer the first abandoned version, put together by Chip, which ran as follows: Side One - For Pete's Sake/I'll Spend My Life With You/Forget That Girl/You Just May Be The One/Shades Of Grey/Band Six/ Sunny Girlfriend/Mr Webster. Side Two - You Told Me/All Of Your Toys/Zilch/Early Morning Blues and Greens/Randy Scouse Git/I Can't Get Her Off My Mind/No Time). Whatever the order, however, and whatever the packaging, and however the state of the drumming 'Headquarters' is a real gem full of great performances of great songs by a band who were far greater than any of their contemporaries would ever give them credit for. The only real shame of this record is that The Monkees won’t attempt another one like it for another twenty-nine years and by that time they will have lost the camaraderie and much of the brilliance that made this album so special.

The Songs:

[43] You Told Me opens with a manic count-in from all four Monkees criss-crossing each other. Clearly musically its nonsense – they’re all counting at different speeds! – which does sound like self-deprecating humour at ever getting this band of misfits to work together. This also shows the world that all four Monkees are present and finally as proof of how strange it is that four completely different people with such contrasting backgrounds going in such different directions should have all come together for this one record. More than that, though, it’s a play on the most recently released Beatles album ‘Revolver’ which starts with a count-in for ‘Taxman’ that many fans said was retrospectively ‘Monkees’ esque’. I wonder if The Monkees knew (perhaps from their meeting with the Fab Four a few months earlier when on their UK tour) that The Beatles deliberately signified that count-in as a ‘break’ in their music, as a sign that they were entering a ‘new phase’? (Debate rages as to when the ‘count-down happened and whether that was deliberate too, the choices being the finales to ‘A Day In The Life’ ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Revolution #9’; the bass riff is clearly nicked from ‘Taxman’ too to ram the point home, though not as obviously as every other Jam single). For this is very much a new Monkee phase and the sound is totally different to the professionalism of the first two albums as we get a glorious mess of noise all held together by this song’s urgent insistent riffing. Throughout the album, Mike adapts his usual country style to fit the more basic rock approach of his ‘new’ band and the other Monkees really get into the swing of things behind him. For instance, this opener features a banjo (reuniting Tork with his original and favoured instrument) that shouldn’t really be there in such a folky song but this album is at its best when naively breaking all the rules and so it proves here. There’s also the first appearance of this album’s frequent use of slide guitar (played, as ever, by Mike), but it’s not doing what slide guitar is meant to do – it sounds happy, not sad. As for the lyrics they cut a shade deeper and darker than most Monkee songs. An early glimpse into the Nesmith’s marriage disintegrating in slow motion (much, much more of that to come in the solo years), it’s a defensive and edgy song, clearly the tale of a couple who have been together a long time and therefore know how to hurt each other rather than a teenage crush going wrong. The theme is betrayal – the narrator’s girl says all the right things and she means them ‘sincerely’, but her actions don’t match the words. Burnt one too many times, Nesmith picks himself up from the world-weary shrug of the verses in a rising middle eight that sounds painful as he sighs in a passage that’s heard to hear that ‘forewarned is forearmed, I am leaving’. There’s even a stop-start section where he thinks the cut is final (leading to a brilliant Dolenz drum-roll to break the silence) that musicians live to play but also makes it sound as if he’s being suckered back into a relationship past its best all the same. What could be a mess of instruments and a band that doesn’t fit together (with this sound even more chaotic than is usual for this album, with Micky’s drums up loud) makes thematic sense on this song; something is out of place and not quite right, but beneath all the bitterness this odd couple still get along too well to split up. A triumph, the perfect song for a band who want to play something simple that’s simultaneously deep and profound, blowing away in an instant both the idea that The Monkees couldn’t play together and that they couldn’t put together anything better than pop. Recorded: March 3rd and 9th 1967

Boyce and Hart were fond of [28b] I’ll Spend My Life Without You, a rare song of theirs that was written not for a commission or a deadline but because the song kind of wrote itself. Both men had been through relationship troubles and were feeling sorry for themselves, but also knew that they would never be able to cope without their respective partners keeping them sane. Maybe, too, it’s a song of commitment to each other during an unsteady period in their lives when The Monkees gig seemed to be over (their first production of this song for The Monkees is one of the last things they did with the band under Kirshner). this song doesn’t sound much like either man’s style, being a gorgeous love-lorn ballad pledging some very genuine feelings of commitment instead of the impressive but obviously tailored-to-audience-needs songs that litter the bands’ first two albums. Micky, particularly, adored the song and when the band were discussing what they might put together for ‘Headquarters’ it was him who nominated it, urging the band to go for a leaner, less elaborate arrangement to better suit the song’s sentiments of ‘we’re not perfect, but we’ll do’. This re-recording is a masterpiece; the drums are sacrificed for some Davy tambourine, Mike’s pedal steel sounds like crying and the band emphasize the shift between the isolation of the verse to the warmth of the chorus with a more obvious chord change and some of the best harmony work in their canon (Peter really grooving on this song alongside Micky’s sumptuous lead). It’s the perfect fit for a song about thinking you’re lost only to find your way back to the one you love, the moment at the end of an argument when you realize that all is forgiven because you can’t possibly imagine your life without the love of your life in it. The moment when Micky sadly ‘turns around and heads for home’ whilst longing that ‘you’re still there and you still care’ is magical, Mike’s crying pedal steel suddenly moving upwards unexpectedly, while a simple organ part props the singer back up and hints at the path he has to take back home. The rest of the song is repetition of this moment and the tug of war between the two sides but even that is exquisitely handled with some of Boyce and Hart’s most poetic lines. ‘I’ve had all the time I need to re-arrange my life and lead the path I wanted yesterday, I played a game that couldn’t last and now some memories from my past have turned my thoughts around a different way’ is such a clever line that you half don’t believe the writers in interview when they said this song just kind of arrived complete (compare and contrast with, say, [12] ‘Gonna Buy Me A Dog’ which they worked on over and over!) Proof that The Monkees could do emotion as well as rock and roll, it’s another of the album’s real highlights. Recorded: March 4th and 9th 1967

[44] Forget That Girl is Chip Douglas’ reward for his patience and long-suffering professionalism, having to cope with four argumentative half-musicians in his first proper producing role. Similarly stifled in his membership as bass player of The Turtles, it’s surprising that the Monkees’ creative life-line in this period offered the band Headquarters’  most pop-orientated song. Yet, according to Douglas, he originally wanted the song to be far more soul-based, more akin to the heavier Motown tracks that were beginning to trickle out into the charts from the mid-1960s with a solid, heavy feel. It seems odd that the record’s producer didn’t get the song to turn out the way he wanted, with this amongst the lightest don’t-scare-the-kiddies songs on the record. The Monkees’ arrangement is still fascinating, however, and rescues what is really a pretty average song, especially Micky’s tom-tom rumbles bridging every verse and chorus, the build-up of power in the gradually ‘rising’ middle eight and the rare chance to hear three Monkees (not for the first time, Mike is missing!) singing their hearts out in the backing vocals. Interestingly the song sounds more like Boyce and Hart than Boyce and Hart’s songs on the record: the instruction to a girl, the ‘negative message’ (maybe Kirshner had a point?), the Beatley beat and the cutesy chord progression that demands you sing along. This song seems a good fit for the TV series soundtrack too, with Davy’s heart broken again, though oddly it was never used there even once. Cute and an equal to most things from the first two records but not up to the rest of the album or indeed Chip’s other songs for the band, [55] ‘The Door Into Summer’, [174] ‘Steam Engine’ and even [214] ‘Christmas Is My Time Of Year’. Recorded: March 5th, 8th and 10th 1967

[45] Band 6 is a curio, an early example of an avant garde track appearing on a mainstream album (beating The Beatles by a year!) Recorded during warm-up sessions for ‘You Just May Be The One’, it features Mike on pedal steel and Micky on drums taking a break from rehearsing and trying to play the Loony Tunes theme tune (the Grateful Dead play it somewhat better using pretty much the same instruments, incidentally – you can hear their version on the ‘Wake Of The Flood’ CD re-issue!) They don’t get anywhere close, even with Mike’s encouragement that ‘I think you’ve got it now Micky!’, and the result is atonal nonsense. Hearing The Monkees at their most bald and amateurish is very odd, especially sandwiched between probably their two most accomplished band performances on the record, but just as the band’s out-takes included as tags in the TV series gave them such a lot of  charm, so does the inclusion of aural oddities like this on their records, making bthem sound more ‘human’. The title, by the way, refers to the fact that on Chip’s original running order for the album it really was ‘band six’ (a ‘band’ being the individual grooves on a vinyl record) – the name was held over when the running order changed and it was made ‘band four’.  Recorded: March 2nd 1967

[17b] You Just May Be The One is a great song for any band to play, an incredibly accomplished Nesmith pop song wrapped together with a pulsating Tork bass line that the band pull off well after several months performing this song live. The first song Mike had written with The Monkees in mind (and without proving a point when forced to work with Goffin and King), it’s an infectious song that is great fun to play and to listen to without losing any depth. First attempted on ‘More Of The Monkees’, where the session musicians rather throw it away, here it gets re-made into a pummeling driving rock song that everyone is having great fun tackling. Peter’s bass riff drives the song, meeting a rare example of Mike playing electric guitar head on, while Micky just about survived to the end of the song adding some clever drum rolls. The way the harmonies glide in the middle of the song, reaching for what might be as Mike sings down the scales aiming to be as good as her, is highly memorable too. Listen out for Micky’s perfect harmony vocals in the chorus, melting in so seamlessly with Mike’s lead that it sounds like one voice for the first time. The lyrics are, to some extent, mere filler: perhaps realizing how close the chords are to [13] ‘All The King’s Horses’ Mike starts the song the same way, with the line that ‘all men must have someone’. Figuring that everybody everywhere deserves a match, a ‘love bright as the sun’, Mike uses this as a chat-up line that someone he’s just met ‘just may be the one’. The middle eight points to the idea that he’s done this before and been wrong many times already, quoting from Hollies hit ‘Here I Go Again’, but it’s still so exciting that you still believe in the drama of the moment, that the narrator has just been struck by Cupid’s arrows and thinks he might have just found his life partner. The song needs more verses than just two (the first being repeated again at the end) but it’s still a great song, simple enough to play, deep enough to be worth playing. Closing with a real flourish and palpable excitement (so so different to the first version), this song is proof that you don’t have to play perfectly to play well. Recorded: March 16th 1967

[46] Shades Of Gray is sublime, a recording that any band however experienced would have been proud of. Wanting something a bit deeper for the sessions, Peter brought in a folk record he loved (probably The Will O Bees’ cover, perhaps the Evergreens original) which was cute but poppy – the sort of thing The Monkees would have done with a fixed grin under Don Kirshner. Re-arranging it by adding a poignant piano lick that just makes the song, a crossover vocal that starts with Davy and ends with Peter (at the suggestion of Chip who wanted more Peter on the record but wanted fans to be sucked in gradually) and a French horn part (sung by Mike into Peter’s ear) the result is one of the most beautiful things The Monkees (or anybody for that matter) ever did. The song is so right and yet so ‘wrong’ for the band: this isn’t frivolous teenage fun but a dark song about growing older but not necessarily wiser that touches on several taboo subjects for pop music. ‘When the world and I was young, just yesterday’ whispers a twenty-one-year-old Davy at the start, sounding wise beyond his years by at least a century, ‘the world was such a simple game a child could play’. Across several beautiful lines we hear that the world once made sense: the world was ‘black’ or ‘white’, you were either in the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, you knew when keeping quiet was ‘selling out’ or a ‘compromise’ and realized when opening up your heart was the right thing to do – and when it wasn’t. Instead the world is a mess of confusion where everyone is trying to make the best out of contradictory evidence and goalposts that keep moving, a world where what worked today and is for the best won’t be the same tomorrow, a world inhabited by frail inconsistent humans who get too much stuff wrong out of confusion not malice. We’re a long way from TV plots with obvious baddies of spies and wizards – in this song we are all baddies, but we should all be given a break if our hearts are in the right place. The opening piano lick just grabs your attention, circling round and round in a lost fog before Micky’s distant drumming, Mike’s pedal steel and the combination of violin and French Horn lead the narrator on to glory. The Monkees harmonies (again everyone but Mike) are stunning, meshing together in a belated unity that sound like true brotherhood from old friends who go back decades, not the eighteen months the band had in actuality. Davy and Peter both turn in some of their best vocal work across the entire Monkees range, with this song the perfect means to introduce Davy’s deeper, more comfortable baritone voice and Peter’s quivering lead to a fanbase who only knew him through [37] ‘Grizelda’. A powerful and promising song, gloriously and inventively arranged for added poignancy and not a single note out of place, it’s one of the greatest triumphs of the 1960s by anybody. In other words its utterly real emotion from a supposedly ‘fake’ band an exactly the sort of thing The Monkees should have been doing on a record given half a chance.  Recorded: March 16th 1967

[18b] I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind is one of the weaker songs here and one that really shouldn’t have made the cut. It’s also the only one that doesn’t quite match a previous recording, because to sound at its maximum this light and fluffy song needs to be played perfectly; The Monkees come close but they still can’t match the session musicians who do this stuff everyday for a living. Picked by Davy as his favourite of the many songs the band had had to discard for reasons of space over the past few months, the only real difference from Boyce and Hart’s production of their song is the addition of Peter’s tack piano and less of a sense of music hall. Davy tries to glide on the vocal, but it sounds extra false hearing him back in his higher register somehow and Micky is having particular trouble on the drums, messing up his occasional smashes of the hi-hat to emphasize the song. Lyrically it’s a song about falling in love, but it’s a cutsey kind of love compared to ‘You Just May Be The One’ – Davy is besotted and can’t see any imperfections, but the couple have only been dating for a ‘week or two’ and might not even know each other yet. In effect this song is about stalking, Davy making sure he’s in a particular part of the road at a particular time when she walks past – the most she’s done to repay his interest is smile at him (maybe she does that to everyone?) The tune and the opening line sound a little too much like ‘On The Street Where You Live’ from ‘My Fair Lady’ to me, but they do at least make for a fun comparison with the same writer’s [1] ‘Theme Tune’ (‘Here Davy comes, walking down the street, making goo-goo eyes at every girl he meets…’) A bit of a mis-step, but Davy needed something cute for his fans and there are far worse examples of that out there. Recorded: March 17th and 19th 1967

[47] For Pete’s Sake is much more suited to being Monkees Phase Two material. Peter wrote the song late in the sessions with his room-mate Joey Richards based on a discussion the pair had been having about the changing feel of the world (the summer of love being only a few months away). Oddly, though, for the hippiest lyric by one of the world’s biggest hippie musicians, it’s also very tough. Far from being a sleeping partner, the narrator of this song is proactive – it’s not ‘won’t we be good if?’ but ‘we will make the world to shine’ and the urging that ‘we were born to love another!’ Full of bottled anger at the fact the world wasn’t shaping up as quickly as Peter had hoped, it may have been inspired by a Martin Luther King Jr peaceful rally cry – it calls for people to work harder at getting peace but not to do anything violent. The theme of the song is that the promised land will happen, sooner or later – and it ought to be sooner, given that this generation about to come into adulthood and power are the perfect generation to see through what was always mankind’s rightful heritage of peace and freedom. Finding what the world’s humans have in common regardless of gender or skin colour, Peter decided everybody needs somebody to love – and tells us that there’s never been a better time for finding it than now.The cute title makes it clear who the author is in case you didn’t glance at the lyrics yet, but in a move of democracy and unity Peter gives the song to Micky to sing, who does a good job considering that he wasn’t a natural hippie. So good in fact that Bert and Bob were impressed enough with Peter’s first ever published song to use it as the replacement ‘theme’ for the TV show’s second series (where it caught the mood of the times perfectly that Autumn). Mike’s guitar paws at the tune before Peter’s organ (so much thicker than those awful voxes used on the Kirhsner Monkee sessions) drives it onwards and puts it into shape, driven on by a funky bass-drum battle between Chip and a slightly wobbly Micky, who needs a couple of extra takes rehearsal to nail this tricky song I think. Even so, a song like this calls for great band unity and this song has it, with some memorable instrumental interplay and some even more memorable vocal inter-action, with Davy and Peter sounding great in unison this time behind Micky. Everyone who dismissed Peter’s contributions to The Monkees before this couldn’t avoid it afterwards – The Monkees’ dark horse is a winner for the first of many times across these pages and the great news is that everyone is helping to make him ‘shine’ for once. Recorded: March 23rd and 24th 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

After this rather poetic sojourn on Headquarters’ second side, unusually it’s Mike who gets things back to basics with his third rocker on the album but the first recorded for it. [48] Sunny Girlfriend is the most delightful of all three of these songs, with the band cooking up a storm on the song’s bouncy groove and Mike, Micky and Davy singing their vocals with infectious enthusiasm. The first ‘proper’ song recorded in the sessions – and intended to be the album opener on the first pressings on the record – you can just hear the band’s delight that they are finally playing together properly for the first time and that it actually sounds pretty good. Though written as a goodtime groove about a girl who brings sunshine, the default Monkee sound (see the similar-all-round [243] ‘You Bring The Summer’ by Monkee fan Andy Partridge nearly fifty years later), it’s also the start of Mike’s more poetic lyrics for The Monkees. Perhaps remembering his days in English lit class setting poems to music, Mike manages to make a really confusing set of words sound straightforward and ‘normal’. For instance the girlfriend has a ‘sunshine factory’, itself a weird idea as the sun is so ‘natural’ (and so often used as a metaphor for creativity) that it shouldn’t be ‘manufactured’. She then ‘paints smiles on dolls and then on me’, perhaps meaning that Mike is being hen-pecked and told how to act. There’s also a gloriously trippy second verse that has fun with notions of time, where ‘she can make you slow while making your mind move fast’. The most memorable point though is the middle eight that makes it clear the couple don’t live together (in context of Mike’s life at the time, he’s probably in a different girl’s bed and having guilty thoughts of his wife at home, though that isn’t spelled out in the song). Just when he’s forgotten her, she creeps into ‘my thoughts at night’, with the inventive rhyme ‘creeping’ and ‘sleeping’ having Mike nailing a low ;part while Micky and Davy soar in the background, rising higher and higher like ghostly voices before all three unite an octave apart. It’s all gloriously exciting and just tricky enough for the band to feel proud of pulling off without being impossible for them to play. The song ends on an unresolved but very 1960s note: though he’s lost control Mike doesn’t want to do the same with his girl – he loved her for who she is, recognizes that come what may he is proud that she is his girlfriend and that ‘I don’t really care!’ Recorded: February 23rd and April 18th 1967

[49] Zilch is a deliberate attempt to add something other than music onto a Monkees album, partly to make the record more than just a TV ‘soundtrack’ (good luck setting this to a romp!) and partly to see if the band could get away with it. The Monkees had by now been working alongside each other intensely for months and had many in-jokes going that they wanted to share with fans. Each Monkee picked out a phrase that they’d overheard and meant something to them and they spoke them all together in one overlapping collage. First up, Peter heard the announcement ‘Mr Dobelina, Mr Bob Dobelina’ at an airport and liked the beat and unusual sound of the phrase. Then its Davy with a phrase he overheard at an airport: ‘China Clipper Calling Alameda’ (a district of California). Micky contributed ‘Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self defence’, something he’d heard when out and about at home in the band’s rare down time. Mike then added something he heard on the news that tickled him as it didn’t mean anything: ‘It is of my opinion that the people are intending’. All four Monkees speak their lines in turn and keep going until it all goes wrong. Unable to keep to their own lines because the other three are laughing, Mike goes first (‘It is of my…it is of my…wait!’) Micky then makes stuff up, seemingly deliberately putting the others off ‘Never mind a clickamore in Dobbolina pants!’ Davy then loses his place and joins in the anarchy (Chickens! Elephants!) and a line all the band used from comedian Bill Cosby (‘Reeber sober’) that will also make its way into the lyrics for ‘No Time’. Peter then almost gets through his phrase but changes ‘Dobolina’ with ‘Deebalina’. A shockingly obvious edit then kicks off part two where the four Monkees speak in reverse order and Micky then giggles again. The idea of ‘Zilch’, intoned by all the band in silly voices, is that this piece means ‘nothing’ (more influenced by The Monkees then he ever let on, I’d love to think John Lennon heard this piece and wrote the similarly ‘avant garde a clue’ ‘Revolution #9 soon afterwards, but with a ‘number’ this time!) Delightfully odd, but oddly compelling, ‘Zilch’ is a great reaction to the inmates being left in charge of the asylum and allowed to do whatever the hell they want for the first time after an incredibly stressful year. Taken together it’s good fun and for thirty seconds or so there the experiment is working quite well, the four voices adding up to a whole ‘fifth’ one made up all those different voices, the perfect description of ‘The Monkees’ style at its best. Though you wouldn’t listen to it for fun, this track certainly captures the zany, rather out there atmosphere of the TV series far better than earlier novelty tracks like [12] Gonna Buy Me A Dog or You’re your Auntie Grizelda, even if it left most Monkees fans of the time scratching their heads in bewilderment. Fans of this quirky nonsense who have been straining to hear just exactly what is going on should look out for the ‘Headquarters Sessions’ disc where all four vocal parts have been separated and can be heard one after the other. Recorded: March 3rd 1967

The Monkees were having so much fun during the sessions that they detoured into several jamming sessions. Only one made the album though: [50] No Time was The Monkees attempting to play some Chuck Berry and have it turn out Monkees. Interestingly, the band first tried their rough version for this track with session musicians, but so tight were the band by the end of the ‘Headquarters sessions’ that the more experienced men just couldn’t find as good a groove as their inexperienced counterparts. This, then, is the remake of No Time heard on the record, with Micky on drums and vocals, Mike on guitar, Peter on piano, Davy on maracas and Chip Douglas on bass, sounding like they are having the time of their lives. Figuring that they had a cooking track and nothing to go over the top of it, the band then decamped to the control room and tried to piece together a lyric, mostly Mike and Micky. The lyrics were pretty much picked out of the air, the ‘no time, no time at all’ chorus fitting the insistent riff (and possibly based on Beatles track ‘Anytime At All’ with which it shares a passing resemblance – trust The Monkees to do the opposite!) In retrospect it also seems a very fitting cry from a band who were as overworked as any four stars could be in any given time, left with ‘no time’ to themselves shunted back and forth between recording projects and television filming. The verses were padded out with nonsense and more in-jokes; the Bill Cosby jokes are back again with the opening ‘hober seeber’ lines, while ‘Andy you’re a dandy you don’t seem to make no sense’ was picked out of the newspaper from an article on artist Andy Warhol. There’s even a first Monkee reference to the police, with ‘running from the rising heat to find a place to hide’ revealed years later by Micky to be a line about his growing interest in marijuana farms! ‘One to George and Ringo one time’, meanwhile, recalls The Beatles’ similar improvisations on their version of ‘Honey Don’t’. Coming in at just a little over two minutes it’s a lot of fun that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, with a real swing between Chip on the bass and Peter on the piano, rattled off with panache and passion if not exactly precision (this is the wonkiest take on the record, but it’s on a song where nailing things perfectly wouldn’t have been quite in spirit somehow). Recorded: March 17th 1967

The band seem to be partying their way to a climax, but they’ve still got two surprises up their sleeve. The first is a song from long-time collaborator Dianne Hildebrand and it is so so different from her previous Monkees song [34] ‘Your Auntie Grizelda’ that it’s hard to believe that its by the same writer at all. Soon to be Peter’s girlfriend, it was he who pic ked out [51] Early Morning Blues and Greens for the sessions and admitted afterwards that he fully expected to be ‘allowed’ to sing on it, liking it for the similarity to his coffee-club folk background. He probably had images of doing it as a solo as per the demo (which is oddly oompah-ing music hall). However by the time The Monkees got hold of it as a band it had changed direction, turning into a very moody ballad that’s amongst the greatest epics on the album. Davy somehow ended up singing it and the song is another triumph for the singer who was expected to be so out of his depth on this album. ‘Shades Of Grey’ aside he never sounded better than on this song of bittersweet memories and depression, of hardwood floors and steaming coffees that have no flavor, caught against ‘the peace the morning brings’. The sound of someone raising themselves from the dead as much as from their bed, it’s an intriguing twist on the usual Monkee songs about pulling yourself up from the bottom and starting over again, the narrator delaying the point where they have to cope with adult problems and a loneliness for a few more minutes as they ‘drink my coffee slow and watch my shadow grow’. Doing double duty on piano and an organ part (a rare case of overdubbing at these sessions) Peter still shines on his song selection, with a glorious burst in the middle ass he chases himself round and round before Micky’s kettle drums throw everything at him in a burst of glorious noise. This performance is a stunning exercise in dynamics, the softest humblest song on the album suddenly bursting into desperate life and mayhem. The Monkees cope remarkably well on what is a very tricky song to play and come up trumps with a song that doesn’t have anything in common with anything they did on their first two albums (even Davy is singing with a completely different voice!) The result is still the second best song on the LP though and a testament to their arranging skills as well as their performance ones. Recorded: March 18th 1967

The final song here is also the most well known. Inspired by a trip to England as part of The Monkees’ UK tour, Micky wrote his stream-of-consciousness song [52] Randy Scouse Git in a hotel room having just met the woman who was about to become his first wife (Samantha Juste of Top Of The Pops fame) and his heroes (The Beatles) all in one great adrenalin rush. His mind befuddled by drugs and booze and memories he tried to sleep but found too much was whizzing through his brain, so he turned on the television set and set to work writing it down; he happened to be watching an episode of supposed comedy ‘Til’ Death Us Do Part’, a bunch of liberals parodying a conservative family of bigots that was mainly watched by conservative voters who thought it was the only accurate programme on television! One catchphrase was Alf Garnett saying ‘you randy scouse git!’ to his brother in law (in real life Tony Blair’s father-in-law Tony Booth, this gets weird!) The title, meaning ‘horny Liverpudlian idiot’, was infamously banned by The BBC when released as a single in the UK as the nation was shocked that The Monkees used bad language – the band had great glee throwing it back at the corporation that it was one of their own shows where Micky had picked up the phrase! He got around it when Screen Gems asked the drummer for an ‘alternate title’ – Micky said ‘that will do’ and the song became known, postmodernly Monkee style, as ‘Alternate Title’ (except in America where nobody knew the phrase well enough to be offended by it!) A great outpouring of  contradictory feelings, some happy, some angry, some sad, some dazed and confused, this is the sound of a man whose just had the time of his life and doesn’t want to go home back to drudgery after a holiday that’s opened his mind in so many ways (particularly drugwise). Turning between comedy and high drama, it’s a playful song punctuated by bursts of real aggression. The first verse is Micky trying not to fall in love because he’s so busy and his new missus lives so far away so he twists and turns between the sheer joy of finding someone to share his life with and his panic that it might never happen (against all odds though it did, the attraction strong enough to bring Samantha over to the USA to be with Micky, eventually). The second verse is the trip to Abbey Road where it’s the Beatles who are ‘the four kings of EMI sitting stately on the floor’ – itself a juxtaposition as the most famous men in the land sit without furniture! The third verse has Micky trying to leave both behind, taking a limousine with blacked-out windows to avoid mobbed crowds back to the airport so he can’t even get a last glimpse of the land he’s fallen in love with (and where he will return in the mid-1970s to live permanently). Throughout the peaceful scenes get interrupted by the real agony behind his politeness, as other people cry to him ‘why don’t you cut your hair? Why don’t you live up there?’ (although better still is the repeat where Micky adds a different set of words: ‘Why don’t you be like me? Why don’t you stop and see?’ An extension of what the hippie-friendly Monkees have been trying to say to their audience for months now, it’s a thrilling moment – especially the ending when both sides of this contradictory song are sung together, Micky’s explosive side continuing as the rest of the band (especially Peter, on the only occasion he’s ever the loudest Monkee in the room) go back to singing the first verse simultaneously. After two and a half minutes of trying to keep his politeness in check it all boils over as Micky can’t hide his emotions anymore, the song wrapped up with some glorious rolls from his kettle drums mirroring these thoughts that keep running through his head (while even here the contradictions aren’t complete, as you also hear him drop his drumsticks). The most extraordinary moment on an extraordinary album, this is more proof that sometimes bands who don’t have enough experience yet to learn all the rules are the best sort. Micky brings the band a record that anyone else would have thrown out the window for being too surreal to work, but instead they buckle down and turn it into a song, doing Micky proud with another stunning performance. This wouldn’t have been my choice as a single (it did well to make #3 in the UK) as its way too weird for a Monkee single, but boy is it exciting at the end of the record. You’d expect ‘Headquarters’ to have some display of inventiveness as the Monkees try to catch up with their peers in 1967; arguably the Monkees thrash most of them on this track alone. Recorded: March 2nd, 4th and 8th 1967

Overall, then, ‘Headquarters’ did so much more than prove The Monkees could just make a record together. Between them they chose their best material, gave the most memorable performances and especially sang the best vocal of their career, which isn’t bad for a group of four people who had never played together in a recording studio together before, under the watchful eye of a new producer, one of whom wasn’t even playing an instrument he knew how to play! The result is so much sharper than ‘The Monkees’ or ‘More Of The Monkees’ in every way – the songs come a shade darker, the performances have so much more life to them and more than any other Monkee product (TV or record) you want to run away and join the circus so that you too can be as great as this. Of course the general public were never going to like it in quite the same way, thanks to the unsteady drumming and the odd moment of cacophony, while it lacks the big hits of the first two albums. But records are more than just a few hit singles and some pop nuggets – they work best when an album ‘feels’ as if it belongs together, telling similar sides of the same story and on those terms alone ‘headquarters’ is a triumph, fitting better together than most records out there (especially the patchwork quilt ‘More Of The Monkees’). All The Monkees pull together and give the best that they possibly can and you’d be a fool not to recognize this as a giant leap forward. Sadly, though, that’s what the music critics did and after this the criticisms of the band not playing their own music got louder. The powers that be took one look at the album and said ‘it only made number two and obviously isn’t selling’ (that’s what you get for releasing your album a week before Sgt Peppers, guys!) and urged them to rethink. Not wanting to go through thirty takes while Micky messed up his drum parts again, alas The Monkees take a step back – at first replacing only Micky and then gradually splintering into four as all the band got the chance to do whatever they wanted (and after so long bumping alongside each other in the TV and recording studios and concert venues, that wouldn’t often be working together). There is, technically, only one album where The Monkees are a ‘real’ band and this is it there isn’t really any more. However what a great lone album this is, a testament to the fact that when Bob and Bert auditioned the band back in 1965 they really did get the cream of the crop of a very talented generation who very much had something to say. They never said it better than here. There are many other fine Monkees records in this book, but this may be the most important: the one where the Monkees proved what a fantastically important group they could and should have been allowed to become and what an under-rated powerful force they always were. A quite brilliant record that’s one of my favourites for several good reasons, as people who weren’t even hired to be anything other than actors beat professional musicians at their own game time and time again.

‘The Monkees’ (1966)

'More Of The Monkees' (1967)

'Headquarters' (1967)

'Pisces Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD' (1967)

'The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees' (1968)

'Head' (1968)

'Instant Replay' (1969)

'The Monkees Present' (1969)

'Changes' (1970)

‘JustUs# (1996)

'Only Shades Of Grey' : The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

Auditions, Screen Tests and Pre-Fame Recordings

Surviving TV Clips

The TV Series - Season  One (19966-1967)

The TV Series - Season Two (1967-1968)

'HEAD/33 and a third Revolutions Per Monkee/Episode #761'

Monkee Sidetrips: The Boyce and Hart Catalogue

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part One 1967-1975

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1976-1986

Key Concerts and Cover Versions:

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