Monday 25 April 2016

The Beach Boys "Today" (1965)

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The Beach Boys "Today"

Do You Wanna Dance?/Good To My Baby/Don't Hurt My Little Sister/When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)/Help Me Rhonda/Dance Dance Dance//Please Let Me Wonder/I'm So Young/Kiss Me Baby/She Knows Me Too Well/In The Back Of My Mind/Bull Session With 'The Big Daddy'

"You stepped on my French fries!"

A full four months before The Beatles were getting nostalgic with 'Yesterday', The Beach Boys were looking towards the The year 1964 was the peak one for The Beach Boys being The Beach Boys, full of hit singles and album about surfing, cars and girls. But 1965 is when everything changes and The Beach Boys first become men, moving with the times and their audience at rapid speed. Of all the band's pre-'Smile' albums it's this one, not 'Pet Sounds', that's get me every time: unusually Brian writes all the original songs alone (though Mike Love had his name added to most of them after a court case in the 1990s that's still up for some debate) and more than any previous Beach Boys record this sounds like 'his' album, the amount of Mike Dennis 'n' Al vocals notwithstanding. Instead of a whole album of teenage kicks (something The Beach Boys had got out of their system on 'All Summer Long') we get nagging doubts, insecurities, rows: we've moved past the point of a 'beach romance' to the point where the Beach Boys' couples are trying to be grown-ups and make things work, getting things wrong more often than they get them right. Brian, always a fragile soul in life (if a lion every time he got near a recording studio) is caught at a crossroads in life himself, on the cusp of marriage to his long-term girlfriend Marilyn, and is as worried as we'll ever hear him. Thankfully he's also the perfect mirror to fans going through the same changes in their life, acting as the perfect shoulder to lean on, swapping stories and confessions in between the more Beach Boys style numbers. Much as I love the work of lyricists Tony Asher and Van Dyke Parks to come, it's a real shame that Brian will pretty much only write this album 'alone' for the rest of the 1960s: he was always much too hard on himself as a lyricist, with words coming less easily to him than the music every time. Here, though, his words are pretty much as perfect as his music, with 'Today' a candidate for the first ever adult rock and roll LP: nine whole months before 'Rubber Soul' and a full year before The Kinks and The Hollies et al start writing from the heart consistently too.

The reason this is the Beach Boys 'Today' as such is probably a reference to the fact that the band hadn't released a 'normal' album since the Summer, thanks to time-fillers like 'Beach Boys Concert' and 'Beach Boys Christmas', cute as they are. Only this isn't a 'normal' album - suddenly everything's changed. Much has been written about Brian's breakdown on December 23rd 1964, hours after a hurried TV appearance on 'Shindig' (amazingly one that still exists in the archives), the event that left him screaming onboard an airplane that was about to fly off for yet another long hard slog of public appearances (with Brian left strapped next to poor Al Jardine for the flight, who never gets the credit he deserved for at least recognising what was happening to Brian enough to alert the captain and comfort his friend; you worry what might have happened if Brian was seated next to his cousin Mike!) Most commentators see it as an inevitable result of the strain Brian felt as lead writer, singer, arranger, producer and bass player with The Beach Boys at the start of their fourth non-stop ride through giddy years of continual singles, albums and concerts. Which of course it partly was: it's important to remember that no pop act had actually lasted as long in the public eye as The Beach Boys and their package tours had been arranged because of fear that the band would start to go out of fashion, not because anyone seriously thought nine hit albums in two and a half years was a conceivable marketing campaign (even Elvis, the closest to a lasting phenomenon in the past, had 'time out' in the army and - worse - making films). But Brian was already showing signs of strain, worry and doubt in the months before he got on board that airplane: just look at the songs recorded for this album before that flight: 'Don't Hurt My Little Sister', a line said for real to Brian by his future sister-in-law Dianne who worried what Brian might be like as husband material (it didn't help that Brian had gone out with her first and had also spent time with middle sister Barbara!); 'When I Grow Up To Be A Man', in which Brian's narrator worries what adult life will be like and whether he's ready for it; or the earnest 'She Knows Me Too Well' in which Brian admits to being a rotten jealous boyfriend 'afraid of showing my love' and who is saved only by the love of the girl he's afraid he's hurting (The Beach Boys also recorded 'Dance Dance Dance', arguably the last of the Beach Boys originals in the 'old' style - although the alternate early version featured on most CDs of 'Today' as a bonus track proves that even getting this was a struggle). Brian's worried about many things: feeling the pressure of the record company on his back is only part of his problems as he tries to get his life and work balance right and finds himself struggling at both.

It's easy to say Brian shouldn't have worried about the 'work' end of this because we know what happens: the more desperate he gets to prove himself against The Beatles and Phil Spector the better he gets and for now his audience are eager to grow alongside him, eager to hear what happens to The Beach Boys once the sun goes down and the party's over. The confidence Brian gets from this well-received, strong-selling album is a key part of his decision to make an album like 'Pet Sounds', albeit with a lyricist in tow and for now the breakdown gives him no lasting problems at all: in fact it helps, with Brian taking the unheard of decision to step away from The Beach Boys as a touring band and spending more time where he felt 'safe'; creating in the studio with time to spare instead of pounding around stages in the middle of nowhere re-creating complex singles on simplistic equipment. For a time a pre-fame Glenn Campbell is his on tour replacement and wore his striped shirt with pride, though he was eager to re-start his solo career once the tour was over (Brian even gives him a single 'Guess I'm Dumb' as a thankyou gift - it sounds like an outtake from this doubting, troubled album from the title on down; perhaps Brian simply chickened out of asking his cousin to sing it?) with Bruce Johnstone a more longterm replacement starting in the Summer. Crisis averted then - and there's a sweet story in Brian's autobiography 'Wouldn't It Be Nice?' (and thus possibly fictional, given how hard Brian to disown his own book) that when the plane got back home Brian's friends had organised everyone he'd ever loved to meet him at the airport for a 'welcome home/you're loved' party, with a special huge picture taken that sat by his bedside through years to come through thick and thin to remind him that, actually, he really was loved. The next album, 'Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!)' shows almost no sign of the strain heard on this record (making this one of the most 'contrasting' sequences in The Beach Boys' two-fer-one CD series) and the one after that is, quite literally, a 'party!' Brian seemed not only to be coping, but thriving as Beach Boys records got more and more complex and more and more popular - but appearances can be deceptive.

The 'breakdown' is a detail mentioned in every Beach Boy book (and if it isn't then you should probably think about taking it back...) Of even more significance to me, though, is that marriage. Brian is only twenty-three and a young twenty-three at that outside anything to do with music (where his instinctive grasp of what works and what doesn't makes him more like an experience two-hundred-and-three) and he's getting married for far more complicated reasons than the usual twenty-three-year old. He's genuinely in love with Marilyn Rovells, whose been his most loyal and supportive fan ever since the day he accidentally knocked her drink all over her in the front row when walking off stage a couple of years earlier. But he's also gone out at different times with both her sisters. He's also been living for most of his time away from the road at her family home already (scandalous in 1964, though the Rovells were a very hip family for their time) and if anything it's the family life he craves: the educated father and expert cook mother who are so loving kind and supportive along with three sisters who are all close - which all seems so different to his own difficult upbringing. Brian proposes to Marilyn because it seems the 'right' thing to do if he loves her (though it doesn't stop Brian accidentally calling her by one of her sister's names from time to time), but from reading between the lines doesn't seem at all certain that she's going to say 'yes'. Never the most sociable of creatures away from the music world, Brian has probably convinced himself she's going to say 'no' because of his awkwardness and clumsiness, perhaps forgetting that Marilyn is aware enough to recognise all his other many wonderful qualities: his passion, his loyalty, his self-deprecating wit and his own kindness when around the right people, so like her own. Of course she was going to say yes - and yet Brian seems to have been unprepared for anything past the actual proposal. He's actually greatly flustered when it comes to buying a big house for the two of them to live in (something that takes an age what with his trips away on tour) and the wedding on December 7th (sixteen days before Brian's breakdown) is a slightly chaotic and rushed affair with the Wilsons the ultimate dear-God-no wedding family from hell by and large. Away from her sisters and parents Marilyn, who'd just turned eighteen when 'Today' was released, understandably feels out of her depth and unable to cope with an increasingly fragile Brian on her own. It's a recipe for disaster, with both of them missing their family unit for different reasons and a lengthy Christmas-January tour away from home isn't helping. Still, the match itself is a strong one that will hold together many decades yet and despite the problems that come between them years later you can bet your rare Beach Boys EP collection that Brian wouldn't have lasted anything like as far through The Beach Boys journey as he did without Marilyn there for him, through thick and - ultimately - thin. Brian, though, doesn't know that and sounds as if he's already regretting not the marriage as such but the timing, with Diane Rovell's warning 'Don't Hurt My Little Sister' still ringing in his ears and his own guilty feelings of inadequacy rising up in 'She Knows Me Too Well' and 'Kiss Me Baby'.

You'll note that so far we've only really talked about Brian. There's a reason for this: even more than 'Pet Sounds' and 'Friends' if Brian can be considered to have released a 'solo' album in the 1960s then this is it. Compared to 'All Summer Long' and even 'Beach Boys Christmas' the rest of the band seem to have stepped back too: Dennis gets two long overdue lead vocals that bookend the album, Al copes well with an ever-changing 'Help Me Rhonda' and Mike excels on co-lead vocals for the two hit singles and especially 'Kiss Me Baby', performing 'duets' with his cousin more than ever before (Carl, amazingly, won't get his first lead vocal until the next album 'Summer Days'). Other than that, though, this is Brian's baby and he sings lead on a whopping nine of the songs here, proving perhaps how close to his heart all of these tracks are 9and how well they suit his fragile falsetto rather than, say, Mike or Dennis' confident growl).

So is 'Today' just a one-off moment of misery largely recorded during a busy couple of months? Not really - hard as Brian will try in the future to be the 'hero' figure he thought fans wanted to see, it's 'Today' that sounds like the 'real' Brian in a way we won't hear again until after his 'real' breakdown roughly 11/12ths of the way into making 'Smile' in late 1966. Sadly it's the only time the 'real' rather than the 'I'm coping, honest' Brian was still working closely with the other Beach Boys, instead of recording songs alone or putting younger brother Carl in charge of making them- and thus the only time Brian's 'inner world' gets heard in the full technicolour he uses for big Beach Boys production numbers. There's something particularly satisfying about the arrangements on this record: the way 'Don't Hurt My Sister' doubles back on itself to point an accusing finger; the mass criss-crossing harmonies of 'When I Grow Up To Be A Man', still one of the most intellectually demanding songs to ever make the US top ten; the sheer aching loveliness of 'Please Let Me Wonder', arguably the best of the many love songs Brian wrote for his new wife across their quarter century of marriage; 'She Knows Me Too Well' which starts off pure 1964 Beach Boys and ends up in 'Smile', with a daring empty reflective instrumental that suddenly bursts into pure harmony as the narrator switches between rubbish boyfriend to caring sensitive soul; the darting flittering strings on 'In The Back Of My Mind' as Dennis Wilson competes with an orchestra for 'most romantic Beach Boys moment'; the sweet and sour chords of 'Kiss Me Baby' as a couple have their first serious row and the narrator feels terrible about it, yearning for the moment his life can go back to the major key and things can be right again. For my money there are more moving songs and better arrangements here than anything on 'Pet Sounds', which take the open sighing vulnerability of this record's sound and goes so over-board with it that at times it threatens to sink the record. It's 'Today' that features the more believable, poignant songs and the more sophisticated use of orchestra, whatever the usual rock biographies try and tell you (while you can't usually judge by sales figures, it's worth remembering that on their original releases in America 'Today' outsold 'Pet Sounds' by about two-to-one). This is Brian singing from the heart on two thirds of the album, approximately one-third more than 'Pet Sounds' - open on everything except the two dance numbers, one curious failed experiment (which will end up a hit single when a more confident Brian returns to it later in the year) and a manic interview randomly stuck on the end of the LP.

Admittedly 'Beach Boys Today' is, as usual for The Beach Boys, recorded at such a speed that it's all far from perfect. That final track 'Bull Session With The 'Big Daddy', ie Earl Leaf, is heavy going even for Beach Boys fans who've been patient enough to sit through 'Cassius Love Vs Sonny Wilson' and 'Our Favourite Recording Sessions', similarly tedious bits of fluff here to pad the record out rather than do anything else (don't worry folks, this is the last of these oddball 'spoken tracks' at long last...) Unless, of course, you're the sort of fan who wants to know what each Beach Boy's favourite burger is... Rockin' as 'Do You Wanna Dance?' might be, this Bobby Freeman cover with rare Dennis vocals is a bit of a mess compared to most clean-cut Beach Boys recordings (though still a respectable-selling hit single). The first go at 'Help Me Ronda' is rubbish, irritating in the way it keeps fading in and out as if there's a tidal wave happening over at the mixing desk. It probably wasn't a good idea to get Dennis to put on a comedy 'crooning' voice for 'In The Back Of My Mind' when his own works perfectly well - and then asking him to double-track it. Killer single as it is (The Beach Boys' most under-rated top ten hit?), the sheer exuberant fun of 'Dance Dance Dance' has no place here amongst the deeper songs. And the album cover may well be the band's worst yet, a cropped shot of the band sitting round a swimming pool wearing hideous jumpers with most of the album cover taken up with an ugly form of beige (if this is The Beach Boys 'Today' in 1965, you ask yourself, what on earth were they wearing back in the 1950s when these things were popular?! Although at least there's not a striped shirt in sight...) All of the above, though perfectly in keeping with the inconsistency of other Beach Boys record of the period, just prevents this album reaching the very highest ranks of Beach Boys albums (hence the fact that I didn't get round to reviewing it early on as part of our 'core' 101 albums list!)

That little lot, though, is peanuts compared to what you do get: some of the most tender and heartbreaking songs delivered by a vocal group fully at the top of their game and under the wing of a producer who now knows exactly what he's doing in directing the backing musicians and orchestras too. Time and again 'Today' astonishes you with something so grown-up or ahead of it's time for March 1965 that you have to start wondering if Brian Wilson had the ability to time travel. Has there ever been a more emotional moment (outside 'Smile' anyway which is nearly all emotional moments) than 'Kiss Me Baby' where Brian and Mike lie in their respective beds, crying their eyes out after their 'first argument' (something clearly not true in real life...) and wondering if the other is 'still awake like me?' 'Please Let Me Wonder' is one of the most beautiful creations The Beach Boys ever made, making up for a surprisingly poor and muddy mix with 2:47 of pure goose-pimpling ecstasy as Brian proposes to 'us' falteringly, telling us everything he can't say in words with the most gorgeous music instead. 'She Knows Me Too Well' is a psychologist couch session a decade before such songs were fashionable which features a ridiculously high vocal line that pushes Brian well out of his comfort in more ways than one. Ignored for far too long and disliked by many fans for some reason, the mid-1964 outtake 'Don't Hurt My Little Sister' is the album's core centre, Mike and Brian angrily turning on the narrator for playing loose with someone who matters to them dearly. 'When I Grow Up' still sounds like the deepest song ever released in the 1960s despite coming so early in the decade, a rumination on the ultimate no-no subject of the pop world: aging. Throw in the perfect Beach Boys escapist moment ('Dance! Yeah! Whoooo!') to counteract this album's many ballads and you have so many reasons why The Beach Boys should have sounded like this always: yesterday, today and tomorrow.

'Do You Wanna Dance?' is a bit of a deceptive start in the sense that it's both an uptempo number (one of only two really on this album, both about dancing) and a cover song that would have been by far the most recognised song on the album. Or at least the original would be: what we have here is one of Brian's biggest productions yet as he completely re-arranges the song from a simple statement of teenage euphoria into something bigger and more complex. Brian's added a complete jangly piano-with-echo riff that keeps running between each line, better playing cat and mouse with the listener as the song never quite lets go until peaking in the energetic chorus (whereas Bobby Freeman's 1958 original and most cover versions since sounds like one long enthusiastic scream!) Unfortunately Brian's been paying a little too much attention to his hero Phil Spector (having spent a day at the end of 1964 watching him work first-hand) instead of listening to his instincts and has covered everything in a tinny echo that makes the production of this song a bit of a mess, without the Beach Boys' usual clear-cut style (it sounds better on the original mono vinyl this track, with everything held together by a strong Carol Kaye bass line mixed recklessly low when the album was converted into stereo for the CDs). However Brian's brothers both do him proud on this track: Dennis with a rare lead vocal (his first on a studio Beach Boys track since 'Our Car Club' quite a while ago now) that's perhaps a little laboured compared to his best but still enough to make a certain section of the group's fanbase weak at the knees and Carl with a stunning swirling surfing guitar solo, which should be really out of place on a song about dancing (if you did that on a surf board you'd fall over!) and yet which fits amazingly well. The full Beach Boys harmony power behind Dennis every chorus is pretty memorable too, turning a private affair between two lovers into a group activity. The result is successful enough to help The Beach Boys score a #12 hit but is perhaps a little too unfocussed to be amongst their best work, especially on this album.

'Good To My Baby' might not sound like the sort of instant classic we've talked about either, being comparatively simple for this period of Beach Boys history and built around a dramatic guitar riff and a punchy power chorus. Brian's recent productions haven't left much room for harmonies though so it's something of a relief to hear such intricate counterpoint parts all working in tandem across this record, with the whole band soaring in synchronisation. Though the chorus is sloppy work ('She's my girl and I'm good to my baby' repeated lots of time), Brian's lyric on the verse is an interesting insight into his inner psyche too. Tired of people worrying about his impending marriage, which should be a happy occasion, he wearily puts down all his nay-sayers by telling them they don't understand what their love is really about: they only see it from the 'outside'. This isn't a couple made for showing off, celebrity style, at every big event but one that comes alive behind closed doors when 'I get her alone now' - it's everyone else getting in the way that's the problem! However, true as that may be, Brian's narrator sings so much about how happy she is, honest, truly, oh yes she is that you begin to wonder if that really is the whole truth - especially when sung against a guitar break that's as mean and tough as any 1960s Beach Boys lick. In context that happy-go-lucky chorus (with an unexpected shift from minor key to major) sounds a little hollow - it's the angry snarling narrator of the verses (unusual for The Beach Boys and especially for a part Brian mainly sings rather than Mike) that sounds more like the 'real' story in this song. Though it sounds simple, 'Good To My Baby' is a typically complex Beach Boys song of the period and much under-rated.

Better still is 'Don't Hurt My Little Sister', a similarly defensive song inspired by Brian's sister-in-law's words of caution to him (interesting that both similar songs should be programmed together). The song had a long and complicated genesis, Brian figuring that it's merry little tune and 'sisterhood' lyrics might make a good match for one of Phil Spector's girl groups. Eager to work with his hero, he submitted the song and offered to work as the piano player, but Spector was in a typically evil mood and told Brian (his writing if not production superior) his song wasn't good enough and re-wrote it on the spot to become the bland feminist rant 'Things Are Changing (For The Better)' - a track Spector left unreleased until 1966, gloating when it was a rare Spector flop single for The Blossoms (however it's flop status is more because of what Spector did to the track than Brian's lovely original). Brian was also 'demoted' from piano after fluffing the chords - all in all a highly unsatisfactory meeting of two clever minds that could have been so much more. Brian's original, after all, is one of the most personal things he'd written up to this point, composed from the point of view of his sister-in-law (as played here by cousin Mike - this is a complicated family!) as she warns Brian off. Most writers faced with such a situation would have made 'them' out to be the baddies, over-protective when he only wants to love her, but Brian is more intelligent than that: this is a case of family control, a warning made out of love and concern rather than vengeance. You wonder what Brian's new bride made of lines like 'She's awful used to getting her way', but there's affection from all sides in this song as her 'sister' (here changed to her brother) demands that 'his' love better be as real and heartfelt as their family love. It's a promise that Brian seems to be agreeing to here, even passing on the line 'She digs you and thinks you're a real groovy guy - but yeah I'm not sure I feel the same!' The song's cute and catchy riff is also a step ahead anything else around at the time (given that this song was first taped back in June 1964 and held over across the Xmas Album sessions where it didn't really fit), stopping the song in its tracks and sounding just like a nagging finger-wagging older brother (or sister: this is probably the part that convinced Brian Spector would like - and which he seemed to 'miss' in his arrangement, deliberately or not). The Beach Boys' family sound really comes in useful on this one too, as the 'pre-chorus' (the bit that isn't a verse or a chorus) builds up into a chilling moment of tension and family values clashing with love - something The Beach Boys would have known all about. Another much under-rated track and a particularly important one to Brian.

Even more complex is the single 'When I Grow Up To Be A Man', a song astonishingly far ahead of its time. Most if not all singles released in the 1960s by pop and rock groups up to March 1965 had been about being young to some extent, whether it was young and cross at the establishment or young and in love. This song, though, is young and worried about the future, nay make that terrified, because Brian's lyrics are truly blood-curdling when read without the pretty music alongside: 'Will I love my wife for the rest of my life?' is a cry from the heart from a recent groom, alongside with the thought of being guilty over things done at this stage in life, the twin pulls of 'settling down' and 'travelling the world', the worry that the narrator's own kids will grow to this same age and think the narrator a 'square' the way he does his own parents, the fear that he'll never have fun again and all good times are over...this is the sound of a man having cold feet about marriage, about growing up, about everything. Across the song The Beach Boys count out the ages, passing by in seconds from 'fifteen' through to 'thirty-one' by the very end of the fade, like a manic ticking clock that feels like it's getting faster by the second. Even the backing track sounds like it's in a hurry, hustling and bustling its way through some retro harpsichord twinkles and Hal Blaine drumming that also sounds like a ticking clock as if it has something important to say before it's too late, but hasn't quite worked out what yet. The other Beach Boys must have looked on this leap forward with amazement following the simpler 'Dance Dance Dance' 'The Man With All The Toys' and 'I Get Around' into the charts and if Mike Love didn't say 'Don't fuck with the formula' about now perhaps he should have done (by Beach Boys standards this one was a flop, of sorts, peaking at #9 in Billboard). Yet they turn in a stunning performance, one of the great Beach Boys band performances, with vocal harmonies so tight you couldn't get a piece of paper between the cracks and Mike especially nailing the paranoid narrator who doesn't want to grow up but fears he has to (it's worth remembering how much this song mirrors Mike's life too, having urged Brian to start up The Beach Boys in the hope of getting extra money for his wife and child back in 1961 as well as his love for the music). In actual fact the interaction between the cousins may well be the best thing about this song: 'It won't last forever' growls Mike, 'It's kinda sad' admits Brian, making full use of their respective 'characters' within the band, while the chorus (with Carl particularly loud) ticks down the seconds. Perfection. Perhaps a little too far ahead of its times, 'When I Grow Up' may well be the most impressive Beach Boys single from a pure construction point of view, fitting some of the biggest subject matters of pop and roll in a little over two minutes.

Sadly 'Help Me R(h)onda' is the biggest mistake on the record. No, no, don't worry, I'm not slamming one of The Beach Boy's biggest and most loved singles (though the finished version is still a step behind 'When I Grow Up') - this is the first version, complete with original 'h' less spelling, taped in too much of a hurry by a writer who hasn't quite realised its full potential yet. Brian wrote the song simply because he liked the name and needed a strong moniker with two syllables (though by chance when he has his second breakdown in the late 1970s the nurse who helps get him through it is called...Rhonda): chances are he was actually thinking of Marilyn's caring nature when he wrote this (note the mentions of 'marriage', unusual for The Beach Boys). Best remembered for one of the greatest opening lines of 1960s hit singles ('Since she put me down I've been out doin' it in my head!') and a catchy singalong chorus, it will ended up becoming only the second ever Beach Boys number one. However, Brian seems to have considered this song at first to be mere 'filler' and treats the songs to several experiments: some of which plainly work but many of which that don't. On the plus side Al Jardine's second ever lead vocal on a Beach Boys record (taped a few months after the slightly wobbly one on 'Christmas Day') is a good one, the 'newest' Beach Boy ably suited to a song that demands a slightly more acid tone than anything the Wilsons or Loves can offer. The backing harmonies, too, are unusual for The Beach Boys in that they seem to 'comment' on the action rather than emphasise or dart away from it ('Ooh, come on Ronda!' sings Mike at one point). However the opening Dick Dale surf guitar pastiche is fluffed, the switch between chorus and verse too subtle, the harmonica obtrusive, Brian's Ron-Ron-Ron-da Yeah!' a steal too obvious from The Crystals' 'Da Doo Ron Ron', there's a lengthy instrumental break which chooses the only moment of this over-busy song where nothing seems to be happening and worst of all the ending of the song keeps fading up and down seemingly at random, which is most distracting if you've got this album on as 'background' music (not that you should ever have The Beach Boys on as mere background music of course...) This 'hookless' version of the song is so inferior to the re-recording (made a mere five weeks later) that it's hard to believe it's the same song as the one we know and love. But then, even Brian is allowed to make mistakes - especially when he puts them right as well as he does on the 'Summer Days and Summer Nights' version.

Another much under-rated single, the infectious 'Dance Dance Dance' is perhaps the zenith of Beach Boys mark one: certainly in the top five of greatest combinations of purely teenage words and ridiculously complex backing tracks. Brian writes a great groove for this one which Carl, playing alongside the session musicians and horn players, positively nails and the first song he's written around a rhythm for quite a while makes for a refreshing change compared to the deeper Beach Boys material of the period. With clever emphasis from a tambourine (that must have had a whole in it by the end of the session - The Beach Boys recorded many takes trying to get this song just right), it's impossible to sit stills during this song (in fact the backing track - curiously absent from 'Stack-O-Tracks' in 1969 but available on 'Beach Boys Sessions' in 2014 - may well be the best Beach Boys backing track of them all). Not that this song is simple: you think you know where the song is going with the oh so Beach Boys opening to the verse (Mike singing 'After six hours at school I've had enough for the day!') but suddenly the song leaps up an octave for added excitement ('I hit the radio dial and turn it up all the way!') and only then to The Beach Boys pound in en masse. Like a conjurer using up all his tricks in one go the song runs a little out of steam thereafter (a thirty second guitar solo in a song that only lasts two minutes is a brave move, though it's another good one and Carl deserves his only co-credit on a 1960s Beach Boys single) but for that opening verse-chorus this is one of the most exciting things The Beach Boys ever did. Plus the harmonies, of course, are perfection, even by their own high standards. Not the deepest thing the band did by any means, but surely one of the catchiest, this song deserved better than to peak at a mere #8, one place higher than 'When I Grow Up'. An earlier version, included on the CD re-issue, is pretty close to the finished product but has a different weaker second verse ('In my car a wild record drives me out of my tree, I punch all the buttons for a station that swings!' replaced by the far more sensible 'When I feel put down I try to shake it off quick, with my chick by my side the radio does the trick!') and Carl is still feeling his way into the solo. The biggest difference though is a 'missing' extra layer of harmonies that makes all the difference to the song's excitement levels. Still, even the outtake is groovy stuff!

Onto side two and 'Please Let Me Wonder' is an unusual song to open the side with - a slow, cooing romantic track that would be one of the most gorgeous things The Beach Boys ever did had they mixed it as well as they sang it. We're back to Brian the romantic, gathering up the strength to propose, and Brian's deeper-than-usual lead vocal (clearly trying to ape his brother Dennis) is most affecting, vulnerable and anxious as he sings about waiting for this moment 'forever' and how 'I always knew it would feel this way'. However Brian is man enough to admit to us that what he didn't plan in his head was how much he'd be 'shaking' or 'feel like my heart is breaking'. The moment when the Beach Boys chorus sweeps in to lift the narrator off his feet as he breathes in (on the word 'Baby'...) is utterly thrilling, as is Carl's most audible moment yet on a Beach Boys record, his earnest spoken word 'I love you!' at the end of the last chorus which somehow sounds heartfelt and fitting, unlike every other spoken word that's ever appeared on a Beach Boys record. Though simpler than most of this album's examples, even the backing track has a certain sophisticated charm rare for early 1965 as a guitar effectively tries to tie the knot with an organ, Carl slashing away at chords until the organ note breaks down and joins in matrimonial harmony (or something like that). Note also the very end of the lengthy fade, which ends not as you'd expect but on a sudden minor key chord played on...a xylophone! Superb - it's just a shame that every mix ever made of this song sounds so frustratingly muddy (the best one is the '30 Years Of Good Vibrations' set mix, but even that annoys by splitting the vocals and instruments into different stereo channels: like many 1960s Beach Boys albums Brian only ever mixed this one into mono originally but even that mix sounds fairly awful).

'I'm So Young', a cover of a song by The Students in 1958 (though Brian probably got to know it from the Ronettes cover a few years later) is alas not up to the originals on this album. Not that it's bad (and it's better than the surfing instrumentals we kept getting just a couple of years back), just uninspired as a clumsy stuttering chorus ('I'm...I'm..I' young!') and an outdated doo wop backing make this song just a little bit too backwards and 1950s for such a forward looking album. Brian still sounds gorgeous though and the rest of the boys behind him do too, especially on the 'false ending' tag where Dennis suddenly starts soaring and taking the part Brian usually would. The backing track too is an excuse to try out some new combinations of sounds with a weird guitar effect that's an early try for the one on the 'Pet Sounds' title track. Still, by 'Today' standards this is still a backwards step and arguably the weakest thing here (except the 'Bull Session' anyway).

The album highlight, meanwhile, must surely be the extraordinary 'Kiss Me Baby' - a simply thrilling piece of music that's exactly what this period of Beach Boys should be doing, caught between the glorious past and the brilliant future. The narrator's had an argument with his girlfriend, a big one - he can't quite remember what it was about, though it seemed important at the time, but what he can remember is the fall-out and her crying and he bitterly regrets it. No one feels regret by Brian and he's never sounded sadder than here, as he cries himself to sleep and is hit by the thought 'I was losing someone dear'. In Brian's best ever lyric he puts on a brave face to his folks and says he's 'alright', as the backing track fades away to a hush, before plunging straight back into the melancholy and proving that he's anything but. Mike, again, proves the perfect foil, lying in bed on the other side of town and having the exact same doubts as the other end of the conversation (which of the two is meant to be the 'girl?'), both of them worrying about how the other is feeling because underneath it all they love each other really. Brian even starts the song with a long held note on 'Please' and a promise not to do whatever he did again as long as he lives - it's hard not to cry yourself on hearing this track, as Brian and Mike both drift about their vocal sections dreamily, hazily, not quite able to take in what's happened. The chorus is much more Beach Boysy, big block notes on the words 'Kiss me baby, love to hold you...' in a major key, but it's a moment of relief rather than celebration and joined by a nagging voice of overdubbed Brians and Mikes who 'kiss a little bit 'n' fight a little bit' even while the pair of lovers are on course to get back together again. A truly gorgeous and deeply moving song, perfect for the teenage market but created using one of Brian's most sophisticated productions yet, this is a good example of what made The Beach Boys so special and a cut above their peers, at least into early 1965.

'She Knows Me Too Well' is pretty special too, with another troubled Brian vocal/narrator part as he kicks himself for treating his girl 'mean' and 'not deserving her'. He's a moody troubled soul but he keeps his girl locked out of his true feelings, 'expecting her to know what I'm thinking of' and hypocritical, angry when he even suspects she's thinking of another boy but eager to play the field himself. Lamenting, again, that he's made her 'break down and cryyyyy' Brian reaches up to the musical sky while pleading and pushes even his extraordinary upper range to the limit as he tries to prove 'I really love her'. Brian regrets the 'weird way' he shows his love but is desperate to prove that his love is real in song, even though in practice all he can do is make  her laugh through bad jokes. However that's enough: he knows too that Marilyn (for it is surely she) knows that he 'really loves her' and that's enough. This is more of a solo track, albeit with another quick Carl Wilson solo, and Brian's lead vocal seems far apart in the stereo spectrum or even on the mono - deliberately so, probably, to emphasise his 'detachment' from some typically heavenly Beach Boys vocals. Though less memorable a construction than the last song and lacking the strong hooks of the rest of the album, this is another tough and highly impressive song that's unbelievably poignant. Brian really should have continued writing full songs on his own like this one, with such a clever combination of words and music as he opens up his heart like never before.

Dennis returns for 'In The Back Of My Mind', the slowest of Today's second side of ballads (maybe Brian was giving his brother so much work to make up for the fact that he'd been replaced as a drummer on the records by Hal Blaine full-time by now - or maybe he just sensed Dennis' romantic air was a good fit for his own romantic mood). In truth Dennis struggles with a song so outside the usual Beach Boys style (and such an instinctive but undisciplined singer as Dennis shouldn't have been allowed near the idea of double-tracking with many of the lines coming out as gibberish - a single tracked version included on the '30 Years' box set is a much easier listen) but he does conjure up a cosy intimate feel backed by just an orchestra and a preview of the 'Caroline, No' coke bottle percussion tapping. This time Brian is feeling blessed and is eager to tell the world that, actually, he can make his girl happy - and yet...he still can't quite settle. In the back of his mind come fears and doubts that something will go wrong or he won't be good enough; that even though he tries to rationalise that the couple are happy now so have no reason to be anything else he can't help but be scared of the future. Given the context (this song was recorded on January 13th 1965, a mere three weeks after that breakdown and six after marriage) this Brian solo song sounds terribly autobiographical too, an early warning to go alongside 'Don't Back Down' that Brian wasn't quite the perfect charismatic renaissance man Capitol publicity tried to make him out to be. Stepping even further away from traditional Beach Boys sounds, 'Back Of My Mind' is another brave track that's perhaps an experiment too far and a little too lush for many fan's tastes (it doesn't help that there's no band chorus, though Dennis is joined by brother Carl on the middle eight). Still, better far ahead of your time than way behind it.

That's the spiritual end of the record, but there's still one more track to go, the manic interview 'Bull Session With The Big Daddy' (which, thankfully, really is kept for the end of the record this time - unlike the other speech Beach Boys tracks that break up the flow). Capitol publicist Earl Leaf tries hard to interview the band but he's interrupted by corny jokes (Mike loved calling everyone 'figs' back then, Beach Boys slang for 'idiot' and plays on his tree-based name), food (brought in by Marilyn, Brian perhaps figuring that an album so much about his new bride really deserved to have her on it somewhere) and band rivalry (Dennis admits to only making three mistakes while perfectionist Brian proudly suggests he hasn't made any yet - 'Brian, we keep waiting for you to make a mistake!' says his cousin pointedly). Unfortunately this interview snippet is probably even less interesting than 'Our Favourite Recording Sessions' unless you really want to know which Beach Boys eats which burgers (Carl likes onions), Brian's comments that he only remembers the countries the band toured from the bread or Mike's memories of him and Dennis holding a giant sheep's head on a cooked lamb for a publicity stunt. The interview comes to a sudden end just as it's getting interesting (Dennis talking about Shindig and Hullabaloo having audiences surrounding the band), which must have surprised more than a few listeners who owned the original vinyl. Pretty worthless then and a depressingly bland end to such a great record, but at least The Beach Boys were leading the way even with the sort of thing you'd find on a 'DVD extras feature' in forty years' time!

Overall, though, 'Beach Boys Today' is a stunning masterpiece which has fewer mistakes than any Beach Boys albums before it and less than most of the records to come, with the highs ridiculously high (even if the lows are pretty low!) The record marks a particular breakthrough for Brian who particularly as composer but also as singer and producer comes on leaps and bounds across this album, finding his confidence in the studio just as he's beginning to lose it in his every day life. Not many records manage to celebrate a marriage and commemorate a breakdown but somehow Brian keeps the two main themes of the records in focus, delivering a revolutionary album based around the doubts and fears of adult responsibility while still including enough special Beach Boys moments for older fans to enjoy. The Beach Boys today sound much like The Beach Boys of tomorrow, even though much of it is spent looking back on the past with regret, a sort of Beach Boys of yesterday. perhaps the best way of putting it is that 'Beach Boys Today' is timeless and the first truly great album the band made.

There are many Beach Boys articles on the AAA now:

'Surfin' USA' (1963)

'Surfer Girl' (1963)

'Little Deuce Coupe' (1963)

'Shut Down Volume Two' (1964)

‘All Summer Long’ (1964)

'Beach Boys Christmas' (1964)

'Today' (1965)

'Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!!!!!!) (1965)

'Party!' (1965)

'Pet Sounds' (1966)

'Surf's Up' (1971)

’15 Big Ones’ (1976)

'Love You' (1977)

'Pacific Ocean Blue' (Dennis Wilson solo) (1977)

'Merry Xmas From The Beach Boys!' (Unreleased) (1977)

'M.I.U Album' (1978)

'L.A.Light Album' (1979)

'Keeping The Summer Alive' (1980)

'The Beach Boys' (1985)

'Still Cruisin' (1989)

'Summer In Paradise' (1992)

'Smile' (Brian Wilson solo) (2004)

'That Lucky Old Sun' (Brian Wilson solo) (2008)

'Smile Sessions' (band outtakes)(2011)

'That's Why God Made The Radio' (2012)

The Best Unreleased Beach Boys Recordings

A Complete (ish) Guide To The Beach Boys' Surviving TV Clips

Solo/Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One 1962-86

Solo/Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part Two 1988-2014

Non-Album Songs Part One 1962-1969

Non-Album Songs Part Two 1970-2012

Essay: The Beach Boys and The American Dream
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

The Monkees: Auditions and Screen Tests and pre-fame recordings 1963-1966

You can now buy 'Every Step Of The Way - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Monkees' in e-book form by clicking here!

While the Monkees' music world has been especially well catered for in the past twenty years thanks to record label Rhino, by far the most thrilling development in the TV world has been the first official screening of the band's original audition tapes. Fans have always known that the tapes existed - the individual auditions by Davy and Mike have become well known after being included at the end of the 'Pilot' episode (screened tenth in the original series run) and in many ways they're the shots that saved the show's bacon (the pilot only began to test well with audiences after these bits were included as a way of 'getting to know' the band - seeing Mike at his rebellious coolest and Davy at his cutest were the perfect means of showing the band's strengths). Peter's screen test exists as well in a similar vogue (although Peter is much shyer and more reticent about being on film than the others), while Micky was given a more ad-hoc interview in the middle of his group of auditionees (where in true Micky style he rather takes over what was intended as an ensemble piece!) In addition some fascinating footage exists of two completely different sets of Monkees, made up of the candidates who had been whittled down, Apprentice-style, into the 'final eight' (if the show was on today it would have been a reality Tv series as well as a comedy and an album factory! 'Why do you want this show? Are you enough of a believer? And which of our young hopefuls will be sent back on the last train - to Clarksville?') Given the sheer importance of this footage to The Monkees story and the importance of this audition tape in creating The Monkees' characters we're going to kick off our TV section by looking at it in full. Though some extracts were revived for the 1997 documentary 'Hey! Hey! It's The Monkees', most of this footage has never been made available officially and only exists as a Youtube link (added to our Alan's Album Archives Monkees playlist at )

'Ooh wow are you ready for this?!' First up is Mike Nesmith. Mike was the only Monkee who was actually hired because of the 'Madness!!! Audition!!!' article seen in the 'Daily Variety' and 'Hollywood Reporter' magazines and got the job almost instantly when he sidles up to the audition room with a bag of laundry over his shoulder. 'I hope this won't take long!' he quipped, which must have come as light relief to Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson who'd spent the whole day talking to earnest and flattering teenagers talking about what a great experience this would be. Mike also wore a woolly-hat to the audition, apparently because he had driven to the audition by motorbike and needed something to keep his already daringly long hair out of his eyes (although no doubt Mike had already thought through that having a 'gimmick' to be remembered by would be no bad thing). Though the other Monkees show varying degrees of nerves (which makes Micky go hyper, Peter go all shy and makes Davy laugh a lot) Mike is thrillingly outrageous, laughing his way through the 'first' photocall - having his profile taken from all sides - and over-dramatising as he's asked to move to the left and right and ending with his characteristic 'tongue-pulling' expression straight to camera. Even though this part of the film is silent, you can see he is chattering continually to Bert and Bob, with hat still proudly placed on his head.

The auditions proper took place on the set of another Colgems comedy 'The Farmer's Daughter' - in the kitchen set to be exact - and the show already had close links to The Monkees (Davy Jones turns up in a 1965 episode to sing Boyce and Hart's 'I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog' a year before he and Micky record it as Monkees). While most Monkees just face the camera (and interviewer Bob) and grin Mike is restless, claiming that he's already wanted to see around the set (for some odd reason there's a 'blackbirds baked in a pie' toy - perhaps the same prop used in the 'Monkee Versus Machine' episode in the first series - left in one of the drawers which Mike fools around with at the end. First, though, he walks into the set with his guitar in hand and a harmonica attachment  round his neck- a sign of things to come - and deliberately gets his potential bosses' name wrong ('Good Evening Ed!' he says to Bob). Mike discusses his real name (he starts by calling himself 'Michael Blessing', his pseudonym on his early work, before admitting that it is in fact Nesmith, joking 'why are you asking me that? It's weird, get on to something else!' Bob asks to hear about a story he told in a more informal audition earlier that day but Mike says it's a 'dumb story' and talks about an even dumber one about being in the air force. Bob clearly liked the fact that he's getting laughs without actually saying anything funny, simply by the way he's saying it - very Monkees. Mike really was in the air force by the way even though Bob says 'I don't believe it!' Nesmith is then asked how he got into music and is philosophical: 'Why do they call that light a light? I don't know - that's just where it's at!' Far from being simply brash and arrogant though - the TV series isn't looking for that sort of a character - Mike throws in some genuine humility, discussing being a 'failure' up until two years ago when he discovered music (though what he doesn't mention is that he'd been writing poetry for most of his school years, dabbling with setting it to music before The Beatles came into town and turned him into a bona fide musician, so it isn't entirely new to him). Asked if he's a 'goof' - the in-word of the day in 1966 - Mike says it depends on perception and quips 'I think I'm out of work and I hope I get this series, but if you think I'm a good then man I'm a good'. Mike then gets itchy feet and starts walking round the set and rifling around nosily, discovering the 'pie' toy ('You're probably the only one whose ever been in that drawer!'), but he refuses to do Bob's suggestions ('Do the butler thing, Mike!') and instead sits down to eat. Mike demonstrates his acting skills by being 'strong and silent' and 'a girl'. When told they're the same thing Mike tells Bob 'that's your hang up man, not mine!' and Bob jokes 'were you ever a strong and silent girl before?' Fade to black on laughing. No wonder they used this clip in the pilot - anyone who didn't fall in love with Mike Nesmith then and there weren't cool enough to appreciate The Monkees anyway.

Next up is Micky, who looks impossibly young and whose wonderful mop of curly hair has been plastered onto his head in a 'Brian Jones' look that suggests an awful lot of work took place on it before the audition. Micky heard about the Monkees casting from his agent and as the juvenile lead of 'Circus Boy' was already a long way up the list before the auditions started for real, with more acting experience than most candidates (though for now he's listed as a guitarist rather than a drummer or even a singer - almost all Monkees auditionees had to play an instrument to get in although Davy seems to have skipped that bit). Micky again starts off by having his profile taken and is clearly being given direction, shyly looking away and gnashing his teeth in anger before showing off his infectious grin. Micky is one of four potential Monkees being auditioned but is clearly the most comfortable with the camera (though, as with the 'minute short' features throughout the series, Micky can range from exuberantly loud to cripplingly shy in the space of a sentence - he's the Monkee most comfortable with being in character and the least comfortable with being himself). The band are jamming - using the term loosely - and Bob asks what all the racket was about. 'You know that was a pretty good something for know...nothing' says Micky cheekily grinning to Bob (has Mike given him a tip on how being rebellious was the way to go?!) Micky is distraught to learn the cameras only caught the end of the masterpiece jam and goes to  crumple on the set 'sofa' and pick up a guitar to strum. Someone off camera tells Micky he looks great, to which Micky flashes back straight away 'thanks, but I already have a dog!' Micky is asked why he's wearing one white shoe and one brown shoe (again the gimmick thing so he's remembered) and says 'It's the truth - I'm terrible at making decisions' (sadly, unlike Mike's hat, this character trait isn't kept into the series. A stage hand suddenly recognises Micky and yells out 'Elephant Boy' (presumably he meant 'Circus Boy') and Micky again fires back 'He's been asking about you too!' Asked how long it's been since he had a steady job Micky just laughs - without knowing it instantly 'getting' the Monkees spirit - and jokes in true Monkees style that he 'used to hang about outside a doctor's waiting room making people sick'. The joke falls flat and Micky's face falls, but Bob (a veteran teller of jokes himself) is probably only joking himself to see what re-action that gets. Micky also proves he can do serious though, with his next interview scene the closest any of these audition tapes gets to the 'minute short' interviews. Micky talks about deeper songs like Barry McGuire's 'Eve Of Destruction' 'kinda getting people to know where they are' and that the singer 'doesn't want to get people hung up on blood and guts, he just wants people to think 'where are they?' Micky things these deeper sort of songs are 'groovy' and 'wild'. Bet he was fed up the day he got lumbered with 'Gonna Buy Me A Dog' then.

Next up a rather cross-eyed Davy who is wearing a peaked Beatles cap and who varies between intense serious concentration and a charming grin. Davy was the first Monkee hired for the show - it does seem as though the other three were originally his 'backing group', an idea that got pushed aside for a more Beatles-style democracy - and the first to be contracted, having impressed the producers with a trio of excellence: his eponymous 1965 album, his popular stint as the Artful Dodger in Oliver and this cheery interview. Though as ever the 'profiles' part is silent, he's clearly mouthing 'Cheese! Hello everybody!' as he announces himself to the camera. 'You want my best side? Here's my best side!' he mouths/speaks as he turns his head right round. Next is that familiar office (another 'Farmer's Daughter' set) with the clips shown at the end of the pilot episode. Davy is asked about his father (who Bob will become obsessed with across the interviews) and puts down ideas of being an entertainer's son by saying 'my father's a fitter - an engineer on the railways'. Davy gabbles about being a jockey ('I practised... rehearsed...listen to me, trained for six-seven months and then I actually got on a horse!')and talks about his height, turning the tables back on Bob with charm ('In my boots I'm 5"3. Do girls like that size? I rather like tall girls' 'Davy that's not what I asked you!') Davy's way out of most awkward questions is simply to laugh, although he shows a quick enough speed and enough charming self-deprecating humour to win him through. For instance, Davy jokes about 'them' making me grow my hair over my ears - I'm really a clean cut kid!' but has ego enough to show off his hair and say 'isn't it great?!' Davy is still new enough to America (though he's been touring on and off for two years now) to not understand the local colloquialism 'bag' ('style' is probably the closest vernacular around today) and when asked what sound he makes says 'I make a terrible sound!' Asked to come up with a song and dance routine quick Davy accidentally says what will become his catchphrase 'you must be joking!' (the early episode writers were clearly all well versed with these audition tapes!)  and does a quick dance - not the 'Davy dance' but a music hall style shuffle more like the one he does later in 'Cuddly Toy'. 'Hold it!' says Bob. 'You know something? I think you should have been a jockey!' Davy laughs his head off and acts mock-wounded.

Finally, it's Peter's turn in the camera spotlight. Peter famously hadn't heard about the auditions the first time round but when his close pal Stephen Stills got sent home with the rather backhanded compliment 'Gee, we'd love to use your musical talent but you don't have the looks we're after' (other sources claim the sticking point was that Stills was already hired to a rival music publishers) he told the auditioners 'I've got a friend who looks just like me but with more hair' and pushed Peter into auditioning. Peter, a Greenwich Village folkie who usually spent his nights washing dishes at local clubs, seems to alternate between being bemused and overwhelmed by the whole experience. He's already got a cavalcade of facial expressions judging by the camera 'profiles' introduction although interestingly he's the most interested of the four in taking orders and following direction, never questioning Bob's commands to look to the side or talk back. He does, however, know how to make an entrance, stumbling into the 'kitchen' set again with a large guitar over his shoulders and playing a 'Wild West saloon pose' riff on his guitar. Having got Bob to laugh, Peter is invited in and asked to give his name but leaves his mouth hanging open in an expression of comic stupidity (it seems likely that the Monkees have been given their 'roles' by now, with Peter really playing up to his 'dummy' character here). 'You're not going to do that again!' sighs Bob in a teacherly way, whose clearly gone through this routine with the young musician before. Asking Peter to say something he replies by reciting the letters of the alphabet as if they're a word. 'I don't believe it!' says Bob, 'It's true!' jokes a mock-hurt Peter and technically he is right even that's not what his prospective boss meant. Asked what the most money he's ever made in his life was Peter tells Bob 'I once made scale' -i.e. had his expenses paid for. When asked why he wants to be a Monkees, Peter opens his eyes wide and replies innocently 'because it's my natural inheritance!', a good answer that's clearly put him on side with Bob again after a shaky start. 'We fished you out of nowhere!' says Bob. 'And I'm eternally grateful - I'll do anything' replies Peter (you wonder if either of them viewed this footage back after a grumpy Peter left the band in 1968, just three years after making this!) Peter is then asked how he's made it from his home of Washington to California and jokes 'it was  Chevy most of the way' and throws in an extra joke about the car dying in 'Las Vegas taking the whole town with it - you may have heard about it as the biggest catastrophe of the century'. Only the nerves have got to Peter and he falters on the word 'catastrophe' as Bob cracks jokes about his teeth which Peter allows to largely fly over his head. What comes next is interesting though: till now Peter has been shy and silent, speaking only when prodded, but Bob hits a nerve by asking him about being a long-haired boy mistaken by a girl. And Peter's off - genuinely at first, talking about the indignities and how America's founding fathers wore their hair long and how it's discrimination - then seems to remember where he is and turns it into a comedy routine. There's just enough of a flash of the 'real' Peter (the one we'll get to know especially well from the 'minute short' interviews) for Bob to see something in him to call him back. Peter is asked what girls think of his hair and like Davy this seems to be his 'vainest' point, only half-joking when he says that ';girls love to run their fingers through my long silky hair!' Peter then rounds off his audition with a quick guitar rendition of 'The Sailor's Horn Pipe' to get him out of trouble and as if to remind Bob that he's actually here to be a musician and not play around like this; it's a fitting moment given Peter's bumpy three years as a Monkee. In fact all four will have their characters largely dictated by how they behave at these auditions, though the edges are softened: Mike's rebellion instincts turned into leadership, Micky's gabbling turned into zany and crazy impressions and acting roles, Davy's charm and cuteness turned to girls rather than to the camera and Peter as apparently stupid but secretly the cleverest Monkee of them all.

Sadly the audition tests for the four other Monkees who didn't get the grade but got through to near the end have never been seen. They are however part of two separate attempts to get a working band together with effectively 'doubles' for the Mike, Micky, Davy and Peter characters as the last eight actors are split into two groups and each given two separate scenes to act out. By now Bob clearly has ideas for who will go where but things aren't finalised as yet so there's still a fair bit of switching the actors around along the way. All these sequences were shown to 'test' audiences to gauge their reaction, so it was largely this clips that led to the four Monkees being cast. General agreement amongst fans is that they chose the right four, with major chemistry already there between Mike and Davy in one group and Peter and Micky in another. However it's worth pointing out that future Monkee songwriter Bill Martin (the most 'serious' Monkee taking the other 'Mike' part) is easily best of the rest and that actually none of the eight are bad; it's a shame on this evidence that The Monkees weren't an octet. Part of the 'first scene' shot by both groups was re-used in the pilot episode, the bit where Davy is worried his girl's 'got hung up' and it's all his fault and Mike tries to calm him down before offering support, before Micky walks in holding Peter and saying 'I wanna help BJ too but he's simpleminded ('SJ' is the only character given a name by the way, though he's clearly the 'Peter' character). The second scene which takes place in a record shop where The Monkees manage to sell their own record to a passing customer was never used in the series, probably because 'our' Monkees never had a hope in a hundred of making an actual record, but Bob's specially written scene is rather good and very Monkees.

First to take to the set (which looks like a posher and less hip version of the eventual Monkee pad) is Micky (acting, confusingly, as 'Mike') and Davy (as, would you believe, 'Davy'). Asked to be authoritative Micky slightly over-speaks his lines and sounds slightly curt, although Davy's already into character (even if he's playing a guitar, something he rarely did in the series proper). However Micky and Davy are already great together and the pair really bounce off each other well, with the look Micky gives Davy as he slides down the sofa absolutely priceless. Davy mispronounces 'exams' along the way but otherwise they get through it fine. The end of the scene then features 'Micky' and 'Peter', played by other members of the audition, who are fine but not in the same league.

The second pass has the roles reversed, with the last two Monkees now playing 'Mike' and 'Davy'. This version has less life about it, with the two clearly strangers not friends, but the actors nailing all lines this time and its livened up by the one playing 'Davy' performing a great 12 bar blues as the scene starts. Micky plays 'Micky' and Davy plays 'Peter' at the end of the scene, with the latter a bit over-offended at the idea of 'being helped'!

Thirdly it's a rather high-pitched Nesmith, complete with wool-hat, talking to the actor I think is songwriter Bill Martin playing the 'Davy' role. While Mike, oddly, sounds less than convincing here (even though he nails the scene when re-recorded for the pilot) Martin makes a rather good 'Davy', less cute and innocent but still highly believable. The pair will remain good friends long past the end of The Monkees and it would have been fun hearing Bill sing his own songs 'The Door Into Summer' and 'All Of Your Toys'. Nesmith does the best slide down the sofa, completely knocking off all the cushions, though Martin stumbles on the line 'she's a groovy kid'. Hilariously Peter then appears in shot to talk about 'wanting to help' the 'feeble minded' Peter character, played by our eight and final Monkee auditionee (name unknown I'm afraid).

Finally it's Peter's turn to act the lead and he's playing a groovy folk song as 'Davy', even though it sounds far too jolly and upbeat to fit the mood of this heartbreaking scene. Our last Monkee is now playing 'Mike' and makes a good job of it, somehow managing not to kill Peter as he delays his first line by a good thirty seconds! This new 'Mike's approach is to carefully slide out the seat cushions before he sits down (which would be a very 'Mike' thing to do actually - they should have kept it in). Bill Martin is back to complain about SJ's feeblemindedness and Mike puts on his sternest frown as he declares 'hey knock it off fellers!' The pair of them then nod together in what's clearly been a carefully choreographed scene and they walk off arm in arm.

At last we're onto scene two and a different split of all eight Monkees. First up is the group containing Peter, Micky and the first two auditionees we don't know. Peter is on top form, rummaging through boxes of records while half-speaking lots of names before Micky yells 'hold it!' and brings out a copy of 'our album'. 'That's embarrassing' says Peter, 'We only sold two of them all last year!' 'And I bought one of them' Micky retorts. The band sulk, asking 'what is it The Beatles have that we don't have?' before launching into a surprisingly tight a capella chant '13 million dollars!' (an interesting figure to choose - its either much higher or much lower depending whether Brian Epstein was asked or one of his charges!) Peter then talks to a customer after a record for his daughter and who has clearly mistaken him for a member of staff ('Yes sir, don't these teenagers have atrocious taste?!') Micky then offers himself as a 'typical teenager' and is spot on in his delivery of the punchline to 'I'm looking for the perfect gift for my teenage daughter' (which is altogether now, 'how about a teenage boy?') Peter recommends the Monkees record only to get blank looks while the band all exclaim, in mock hurt tones 'He's never heard of The Monkees!' The customer asks 'what sound do they make?' and gets lots of monkey-ing around as his answer but against all odds buys the album there and then, without even waiting for it to be gift-wrapped (to be fair, I think I'd have escaped that mad lot as fast as possible too!) Peter and Micky are the best at the monkey noises by the way - was this the 'real' reason why get the job?!

Secondly it's Mike now in the Micky role and Davy now in Peter's role, with Bill and auditionee number eight in there too. Mike starts with a delightful rant over the records he's looking at ('Happy in Hawaii?!') and his delivery of the 'to think I bought one of 'em' line is done with a lot more wistfulness than Micky's out and out humour. This a capella performance is pretty tight too, though Davy is slightly out of key and louder than the others. He makes up for it though with a much stronger mocking style when talking to the customer and absolutely nails the line 'don't these teenagers have atrocious taste?' while Mike's over exuberance as he fawns up to the customer to make him buy their record is priceless too. This second batch are much stronger all round actually - though to be fair they may well have just seen the other four go first (and the first lot were better at the monkey noises!)

So endeth The Monkees' audition pieces. Were the right Monkee hired for the job? Clearly and yet it would be fascinating to see what the other final eight's individual audition pieces were like. What we can say is that Bob and Bert must have been thrilled at having so much talent to choose from - and so much different talent as well with all four chosen Monkees having their own strong individual styles even back then. The next time Micky, Mike, Davy and Peter will be back in front of as camera it will be a few months later and they'll be shooting the pilot episode as the 'chosen four'. 

Now that we've covered The Monkees' first appearances on film, here are their first appearances on record:

As far as 99.9% of the public were concerned, The Monkees were four complete unknowns - an aspect that was overplayed in the publicity campaign for the TV series which implied that all four had simply turned up for the auditions and been hired for a talent potential no one else had tapped into yet. Actually, that wasn't quite true: only Mike was hired solely on the back of the audition process, with two of The Monkees (Micky and Davy) already possessing an extraordinary amount of acting experience considering their still-young ages. Even more extraordinary,  , three of The Monkees had actually made bona fide records. This is nothing to be sneezed at: the TV series itself is a pretty good indicator as to how hard this was back in the 1960s when everybody seemed to have a band they were trying to promote. None of the songs had exactly set the charts alight, but Mike had impressed no less than four minor record labels that he had hit potential with a total of ten songs released officially before The Monkees came a-calling (the fact that Linda Ronstadt and her first band The Stone Poneys had scored a hit with a song Mike didn't record till the early 1970s, 'Different Drum' probably had a lot to do with the faith all these labels seemed to have in him!) Colpix, meanwhile, had been so impressed with Davy's talents that they'd brought him in to record an entire LP - the one that the band use as a 'mock-up in the 'Monkees At The Movies' TV episode when they're trying to turn Davy into a 'star'. Colpix did remarkably well out of the Monkees series in fact - both Monkees were on the label when Davy and Mike were hired to join the TV cast and had to be bought out (although you could argue that Colpix were also unlucky - they had two of the biggest draws of the 1960s on their books and even with a few post-fame re-issues couldn't get a hit off the back of the fact!) Micky's career path was slightly more troubled - sadly his band The Missing Links (in which Micky was the guitarist) had broken up so they never got to make a record. With the acting work slightly drying up too (even ten years on he was still being typecast as 'Circus Boy') and music the next big thing, Micky signed up as a solo singer, a cover artist of novelty songs. Challenge, an even smaller record label than Colpix, took a chance on him and recorded a couple of novelty singles. However both were cancelled before release and none of Micky's recordings were heard until 1967, after he'd become a star in The Monkees. Ironically because of that his two singles, originally unheard, have become the easiest to track down of all these recordings (bar Davy's album, which is the only one to get a CD re-release)! Technically they should be reviewed later on in the book somewhere between 'More Of The Monkees' and 'Headquarters', but we've included it here because this is the era it was recorded. Poor Peter, meanwhile, had never recorded a note or done any acting work outside a college film project before becoming a Monkee - even though in terms of musical ability and experience he'd probably played more gigs than the rest of the trio combined (I keep waiting in vain for a Greenwich Village folk-lover to find a reel-to-reel of songs featuring the likes of Peter Tork and Stephen Stills before they found fame, but alas there's no sign yet!) So before they come walking down the street doing the Monkee walk, here's what the awesome foursome were singing before they evolved into the Monkees...

1) Michael Nesmith: Wonderin'/Well Well Well (single 1963)
Predictably Mike was the first to make a professional recording at the tender age of twenty with a song written and recorded a full year before The Beatles explosion in America. Fascinatingly, the only single released under Mike's real name already hits at the schizophrenia going on between his 'rock' and 'country' selves, a theme he'll be exploring for much of his career. The A side is a sweet laidback country song that has the narrator starting out on the road to success on a long highway - it's a theme Mike will return to during the 'national band' albums of the early 1970s where he'll find himself at a crossroads wonderin' which direction to take. Here though he sounds more certain and confident that he'll get where he's meant to go, even if he doesn't quite know how to get there yet. The B-side is as close to a rock song as you can get played on 'folky' instruments (Mike beating Peter to playing the banjo on record by a good four years, although he's not as accomplished playing it as his future colleague). It comes across as one of those novelty songs Johnny Cash used to sing, with a chorus of 'well well well well' and a Boyce/Hart style lyric about all the girls he's been dating: 'I got a gal and her name is Judy, she's the ugliest girl in town, her hair is crazy, her eyes are hazy and she don't weight 90 pounds!' Sally, the gal in the second verse, is even worse: an alcoholic who 'sounds like a hurricane when she sneezes!' and only Maggie in the third verse sounds like the one ('She's the sweetest and the best too'). Amazingly all four live together in harmony (lucky Mike) though he tells us that only Maggie is his 'queen' when it 'comes to loving' in what must have been quite a risue line for 1963! Though childish and simple, the song is a nice demonstration of Mike's more playful side - he'll be needing that a lot in his years to come.

2) Davy Jones: Dream Girl/Paradise (single 1964)
Davy, meanwhile, has been groomed into a cuter younger brother with a smile in his voice. With 'Oliver' having come to a natural end, Colpix  are clearly aiming for a similar audience, capturing Davy's cheeky charm and loveable rogue personality. Davy sounds slightly shrill on his first recordings - for some reason people equated higher singing with innocence back in the 1960s and Davy won't get to sing in his 'proper' deeper range until as late as 'Instant Replay' in 1969, though it's particularly noticeable here. The song is rather a good one though, a catchy piece of early 60s pop fodder, complete with a girl chorus answering Davy and a string part just the right side of schmaltzy. Davy was always fond of his first song and while he never sang it again he did co-write 'Dream World' for The Monkees (see 'Birds, Bees and Monkees') partly to capture the innocence and warmth of the A-side. 'Paradise' is not quite as strong, with Davy at his most cockney and sounding aged about twelve. He is however forming his TV character already - this is a teenage pop song about seeing birds flying over head and stars in his eyes as he falls in love, very much in keeping with the Davy of the TV series!

3) Michael Nesmith (as Mike, John and Bill): How Can You Kiss Me?/Just A Little Love (single 1965)
Mike, John and Bill were the trio made up of friends who Nesmith was convinced would be his big break. Mike was the lead guitar player, singer and writer the bassist was John London (who'll appear on all the 'First National band' records and some of the 'Headquarters' Monkee recordings) and the drummer was Bill Sleeper. The band might well have become a success judging by the groovy sounds of their one and only single (way ahead of it's time for 1965, a sort of psychedelic-folk crossover), released on Frankie Laine's record label 'Omnibus', only Bill got drafted into the army and the band broke up. The A-side is very Byrds-orientated with Nesmith doing a good impression of Roger McGuinn's Rickenbacker and the song sounds closest to gene Clark's doom-laden ballads for the band. It's a very good track all round, well deserving of a re-release with a distinctive Nesmith multi-dubbed harmony part from three Nesmiths singing different parts. Only the lyrics let it down: 'How can you kiss me and turn and walk away? You don't even miss me and I know you're gonna stay'. The B-side features Mike singing alone on what sounds like an early love song for first wife Phyllis. 'I can't give you love like other men I see - I can only give you the love that's inside of me' sighs Mike before going all Bob Dylan and playing a chaotic harmonica part. The song was re-issued a year later and credited to 'Mike and Tony' though it is in fact the same recording.

4) Davy Jones: The Girl From Chelsea/Theme For A New Love (single 1965)
More cute stuff from an even higher-pitched Davy who sounds like he's been on the helium before the recording. The song is a good one though, not unlike the shuffle of Headquarter's 'Can't Get Her Off My Mind' as Davy hangs around a London street corner waiting for a glimpse of the girl of his dreams. Davy sings in an exaggerated Mancunian accent and everything about this track screams a 'British Invasion cash-in' but it's still a fair single, with an especially lovely middle eight where Davy reasons she probably won't like him because he's not posh and 'not made like them'. 'Theme For A New Love' hasn't worn too well across the years though, a spoken word and very retro 50s song like 'The Day We Fall In Love' from 'More Of The Monkees', only worse if that's possible. 'The way you walk, the tilt of your head, the sound of your voice and the things you're so like a kitten I hold in my arms': even Davy can't make this lyric sound sincere, although you can imagine more than a few pre-teens swooning over this. Curiously the B-side made the full album Davy made on Colpix though the A-side didn't.

5) Davy Jones: Davy Jones (What Are We Going To Do?/Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner/Put Me Amongst The Girls/Any Old Iron/Theme For A New Love/It Ain't Me Babe//Face Up To It/Dream Girl/Baby It's Me/My Dad/This Bouquet) (Album 1965)
Davy has clearly been groomed to look like Bobby Vee or Bobby Darrin or any of the millions of Bob-a-job rent-a-singers of the 1950s and early 1960s on the album cover and this album is curiously out of step with the folk-rock vibes and early psychedelia of the times. Davy doesn't yet have the charm or the twinkle in his eye of his Monkee days and the same can be said for much of the album, which is almost relentlessly retro, almost relentlessly English and so of its day it hurts. Colpix have clearly heard that Davy's from Manchester and tried to turn him into another Peter Noone, but Davy's not that kind of a singer - he's too sincere to do the out and out comedy (in song at least) and is too controlled to make quite such a fool of himself in sound. Though Davy does his best he's not really suitable for these sorts of songs and the full album doesn't match the quality of the singles - which admittedly was a problem for a lot of artists back in this era. Still, there are parts of the record that have a certain charm and take you right back to the troubles of the teenagers in the mid-1960s, with songs that would actually work as better soundtracks to the TV series than the Monkees ones they chose. Opener 'What Are We Going To Do?' has a certain cheery charm as Davy tries to pluck up the courage to tell a prospective father-in-law he's fallen for his daughter. The song even charted somewhere at #93 in America's top one hundred when released as Davy's third single with 'This Bouqet' on the back - the only pre-Monkees single to do so. 'Put Me Amongst The Girls' is pure 'Oliver!' and the sort of thing Davy knows how to do greatly - he wants his teacher to put him with the girls not the boys and features the rather odd rejoinder 'teacher you know I'd do the same for you - they'd enjoy themselves and so would I!' The most famous 60s song here, 'It Ain't Me Babe' is sung remarkably well for a singer still only nineteen and Davy adds just the right passion to this song made famous by Cher/Johnny Cash Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood etc. 'Baby It's Me' is silly Beatley pop delivered in the closest Davy's broad Mancunian can get to a scouse accent. 'This Bouqet', meanwhile, turns Davy into sounding like Freddie and the Dreamers' - which still isn't a natural fit but makes more sense than Herman's Hermits. However to get to the best of the album you have to get through some really awful recordings. The Americans helping Davy out clearly don't know the ins and outs of England (which is often treated by our Yankee cousins as if it's one small state, rather than a 'mini' version of their country, with an even bigger difference between accents and regional differences packed into a smaller space) and think London must be somewhere near Manchester. Davy is the least convincing cockney ever on 'Any Old Iron' and 'Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner' (which he very much wasn't), makes a meal out of the drama on 'Face Up To It' and sounds so insincere you want to throttle him on 'My Dad'. Still, this album is a learning curve and a very important one which showed a still very inexperienced vocalist just exactly could and couldn't do with his singing voice. Just making a record was an achievement back in 1965 and a key reason why Davy got his Monkee role in the first place. It is, however, a universe away from the Davy presented to us from the Monkees debut onwards and Davy sounds even more awkward singing these songs than he does 'The Day We Fall In Love' and 'Yes I Will' in the year to come. If Davy is the Monkee that's always made you go weak at the knees then seek this out by all means - there's a particularly good CD re-issue on the label 'Friday Music' which came out in 2012 in tribute to Davy after he died - but if you only like The Monkees deep 'n' heavy you can probably afford to skip this period piece curio. The album also charted by the way, though at #185 it's not exactly what you'd call a rip-roaring success (still, it sold more copies than last Monkees record 'Changes' did...)
6) Michael Nesmith (as Michael Blessing): The New Recruit/A Journey With Michael Blessing (Single 1965)
Talking of deep 'n' heavy, Mike's third single hits that bill spot on. Perhaps still seething that his old pal Bill is now in the American army instead of making hit records with his old pals Mike gets all political and records an uncomfortable satire that's really controversial and anti-war by 1965 standards (when most people still hadn't cottoned on to Vietnam yet). I'm amazed none of the music papers jumped on this track when The Monkees were persona non grata circa 1968, but then Mike did release this song under a pseudonym. No one, including Mike, seems quite sure why he chose 'Blessing', but it does have a certain aura about it and fits in well with the sorts of names being banded about by other folky Dylan wannabes. This is Mike at his folkiest, although his attacks on the stupidity of war and his sarcasm are straight out of rock and roll. On top of an 'All The King's Horses' beat and a riff that sounds very similar to 'Take A Giant Step, a very nasal Mike tells us that he's a 'new arrival, just arrived in camp'. Mike pleads 'give me lessons, sergeant, because I've never killed before' and for the first two minutes you can imagine army veterans nodding along in approval. However the change comes gradually as Mike asks about 'how to kill the enemy and then find out what for?' and that 'there are rumours in our camp about the enemy - they say he looks like you and me'. Throughout Nesmith's vocal drips with an irony and bitterness missing from all his other songs. Though the song is a bit repetitive, with the same sing-song verse structure throughout and no real variation, it's an impressive song for one so young (Mike was 22) and should have made a much bigger splash with the anti-war movement. The instrumental B-side 'A Journey With Michael Blessing' is a rather peculiar return to the early 1960s though. It's an uneasy cross between surfer music and The Shadows, with the only relevance to 1966 a see-sawing fuzz guitar part on one note. Like many instrumentals it feels unfinished and isn't one of Mike's better ideas, with even his guitar playing a little sloppy.

7) Michael Nesmith (as Michael Blessing): Until It's Time For You To Go/What Seems To Be The Trouble, Officer? (Single 1965)
Mike doesn't seem the sort of person to have gone in for pretty ballads but he remained fond of Buffy St Marie's lovely song for many years, treating it as the 'party piece' he could play at the drop of a hat (including for Chip Douglas during the 'headquarters' sessions - a rather tighter version of the song from 1967 appears on the Rhino Handmade' three disc set of the album). He sounds rather good singing it too, with a purity in his falsetto that gets under-used during the rest of his career (though 'Don't Call On Me' sounds as if it was very much modelled on this song). Mike's clearly trying to get a hit by any means possible now rather than simply making music for the sake of it and while this direction is less interesting to Monkee fans rather than Mike doing one of his own songs he proves to be an excellent interpreter. The B-side is more what you'd expect, a kind of jaunty version of 'Propinquity', with Mike egging his vocal as an old blues man wondering where the man who taught him this song has gone ('I don't know where he's picking now!') Mike also talks about being 'young for a protestor, a tender nineteen' even though again he was twenty-two when he made this and he is credited with writing this song, such as it is. Mike is clearly just taking the mickey here, spoofing the folk scene ('It gives me a real feeling about life - and other things!') and laughing at all the young wannabe folk singers at Greenwich Village. You wonder what Peter, whose doing exactly this at the time the song was out, made of this single or if he even knows of its existence!

8)  Micky Dolenz: Don't Do It!/Plastic Symphony III (Single Recorded 1965 Released 1967)
Remember those concerts when Micky played 'Gotta Woman' in his solo spot and acted like he was the re-incarnation of James Brown (even though the soul legend hadn't actually died yet?) Well here's the proof of Micky's affinity with soul, complete with a stomping riff and a claustrophobic sound that's at one with other soul singles of the year like Otis Redding's 'Respect' and Sam and Dave's 'Hold On, I'm Coming'. Alas the words aren't up to the sound of the record and are empty to say the least ('Why don't you do it - why don't you dance with me?!') Micky rather over-sings the song as well, without the finesse or polish of most of his Monkee recordings, although he already knows how to sound committed in his delivery. Curiously, the B-side doesn't feature Micky at all but is taken from another unreleased single the record label Challenge had lying around. It's a very 1950s cutesy instrumental, with a saxophone 'talking' to the ringing guitars and doesn't actually contain a performance credit (unless the band name really is 'Instrumental'!)

9) Micky Dolenz: Huff Puff/Fate (Single recorded 1965 released 1967)
Intended by Micky as the B-side of his single on Challenge, 'Huff Puff' is another novelty soul song but one in a more playful mood. Micky acts the part of the Big Bad Wolf, whose going to 'huff and puff and blow your house down' - fans of the  Hanna Barbera cartoons like Captain Caveman and Scooby Doo with Micky guest appearances will recognise this slightly hysterical tone! It's a lot better than the first single released, actually, with more of a Monkees-style comedy and a 'Your Auntie Grizelda' style middle eight of vocal noises, though fans of the prettier side of Micky's voice should again keep away. The B-side is, once again, a song without any involvement by Micky whatsoever and is a song called 'Fate' credited to a band known as 'The Obvious' which Challenge happened to have rolling around the vaults.

10) Mike Nesmith (B-side as Mike and Tony): Just A Little Love/Curson Terrace (Single 1966)
By now The Monkees were stars and all the smaller record labels that still held the rights to their Monkees work were keen to use them as much as possible. While for the most part this consisted of Colpix re-pressing it's Davy catalogue again, Omnibus went for a more artistic approach with its re-pressing of the B-side of its single by Mike, John and Bill, this time credited to Mike's real name. It's a song worthy of re-release and deserved to do well off the back of The Monkees' debut. However less forgivable is what Omnibus did with the B-side, with a generic surf instrumental they had lying around unloved and unwanted printed on the record with the description 'Mike and Tony'. Nesmith is not the 'Mike' credited on the sleeve - though that's clearly what people were meant to think - and when asked for the Nesmith biography 'Total Control' who 'Tony' was replied to biographer Randi L Massingill 'I truly have no idea - I would really love to know!'

11) Unreleased Mike Nesmith  (All The King's Horses/Don't Call On Me)
In addition to the above, two additional Nesmith songs from this period have appeared on bootleg, both songs familiar to Monkee collectors after being re-recorded for the band. 'All The King's Horses' is the best song of this whole period, an outtake from the sessions with 'Mike, John and Bill' which is cuter and slower than the poppier version re-recorded for the first album by Micky (though not released until 'Missing Links Two'). Apart from singer and tempo, however, it's remarkable how similar the two songs - dated roughly a year apart - are. The second song is a very different version of 'Don't Call On Me', probably from the 'Michael Blessing' days of 1965 when Mike was trying his hand as a crooning singer of ballads. It's much more heartfelt than the slightly tongue-in-cheek performance on 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD' with a slower tempo and much more of a sense pain and hurt. Mike does sound a bit like a lounge singer though, which is the sort of thing being mocked with the re-recording's opening and closing speech! I've always liked this song though and the original version is even better then the Monkee-filled version, with a wonderfully pure sound about Mike's voice. Though getting the rights to all these tracks on different labels would be a nightmare and Mike's feeling about his pre-fame work seems to vary depending which era he's speaking from, it would be great to see the pre-Monkees Nesmith songs in particular with these two songs added as especially great bonus tracks. Till then, it's a case of looking through second hand shop for most of this list or hitting Youtube (we have a selection of these songs at our Alan's Album Archives Monkees playlist or simply look for 'AlansArchives' and scroll through to Playlist #17: The Monkees - more on this nearer the back of the book!) 

We'll be back with a lot more Monkee business next week with a run down of the band's entire first season of the TV series!

Until then you can read other Monkee related articles at this site by visiting the following:


‘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: