Monday, 23 May 2016

Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Greendale" (2003)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Greendale" (2003)

Falling From Above/Double E/Devil's Sidewalk/Leave The Driving/Carmichael/Bandit/Grandpa's Interview/Bringin' Down Dinner/Sun Green/Be The Rain

"No one could explain it - it just got great reviews" or "Hey Mr Clean, you're dirty now too!"

Dear AAA readers, I am - so I like to think at least - a patient man. I've covered most of Art Garfunkel's solo albums and found something different to say about them even though they sound largely the same, I've sat through Moody Blues reunion albums while barely flinching and I coped with the Neil Young Geffen years of the 1980s with only two nervous breakdowns (so far!) Most of the AAA records usually have something going for them even if it's just a quirky album cover, an under-rated two minute closing track or a brief harmonica solo; if there's something to get excited about then, by golly, I'll be there waving my flag about how brilliant one of my favourite bands is, even if it's one of their least spectacular records. One of our mantras, alongside 'why be compact if you can bore the pants off everybody' and 'why listen to The Spice Girls when you can just put The Beatles on repeat', is that you can learn almost as much from an artist's bad records as from their good: why they are the way they are, what they were thinking at a particular time and why their good records are so good in comparison.

And then there are albums like 'Greendale' where most attempts to be honest about describing what I think include copious swear words and lots of exclamation marks at the end of each sentence!!! To be fair, every music fan (and especially every Neil fan it seems) has a different idea of what works well and what doesn't: there are fans out there who love 'Harvest' above everything else, adore 'Everybody's Rockin' and reckon the last twenty years have been Neil in the middle of a purple patch rather than filling in time and releasing records for the hell of it, which is what a lot of his recent albums have sounded like to me. Many of them also love 'Greendale', which is certainly one of Neil's more divisive albums down the years; more than a handful reckon it's his best which makes me wonder whether a) I'm missing something in an album sense or b) whether I'm missing something other fans have been smoking and not told me about. For me (and as always I'm up for a debate here) there's just nothing to get your teeth into, which is unusual for Crazy Horse records especially: my 'perfect' Neil Young album is varied and musically interesting, like 1989's 'Freedom'; this one isn't. My 'other perfect' Neil Young album, 'Trans', is groundbreaking; this one certainly isn't. My finally 'perfect' Neil Young album is the emotionally powerful 'Tonight's The Night', as real an album as any you could ever hear; this one isn't real at all. You see, while I loved 'Tonight's The Night', every since repeated attempt of Neil at his 'first thought, best thought, only thought' syndrome of making a record has resulted in slim pickings: I'm all for raw on-the-edge recordings if they're exciting or nakedly vulnerable and autobiographical; but 'Greendale', the most 'barely thought' out album of Neil's career, is neither. It is, you see, a concept album largely written by Neil on his way to the recording studios he had booked just to see if inspiration will come (if they ever write a law about no driving and songwriting at the same time, Neil's in trouble). Neil being Neil, his memory isn't great so he ends up writing the same song he wrote yesterday every single day. Some fans love the repetitiveness and a chance to get fully into this lengthy 78 minute album (Neil's longest studio album right up until 2012's 'Psychedelic Pill'); me, I'd had enough by track one and it didn't get any easier after that.

Worse yet, there's nothing of the real deal Neil in this album which is a rare full concept album not involving his own (usually charming) point of view at all. Instead, 'Greendale' is a soap opera. Now, I love soap operas about as much as I love The Spice Girls and for similar reasons; both are artificial and false, have no bearing on anyone's real life (though people pretend that they do) and exaggerate and warp everything that's real about the human condition. They're pretty boring too when you could be watching something else (like, say,  The Monkees' TV series and spin-offs; see last week's accompanying article). 'Greendale', sadly, is one of the worst soap operas. Thanks partly to Neil's mumbled delivery but also the album's off-putting repetitive nature, you never feel like you get to know the characters very well, or want to given the snatches you do hear. The second song, for instance, spends a whole five minutes talking about how the 'star' Earl Green changes the original name of his house from 'The Double L' to 'The Double E' by painting two extra lines over the 'L'. Gripping stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Later Jed, Earl's brother, shoots a policeman named Officer Carmichael - a lot more exciting, but we never find out why - which would have been a more interesting development than an imaginary sequence where the devil plagues the imaginary town. We also meet 18 or 19-year-old (even Neil can't decide and he invented her) Sun Green, who gets tired of nobody doing anything so starts protesting - not the fact her uncle has just killed a policeman but at the ecological state of the world. The FBI (played by Billy Talbot) trash her room in protest - and one of them even kicked her cat. She ends the album 'busted for pot' but the charges got dropped.  Then there's curmudgeonly old Grandpa, who gets all the best lines but dies halfway through the piece. This dysfunctional family make for a most dysfunctional album where you're not quite sure who you're meant to be agreeing or sympathising with; though it's typically Neil to spend more time mourning the assassin than the victim Earl is a sketchy character who doesn't get much real air time and Sun Green sounds like she's spent more time thinking how good it would be to protest something than what it is she's upset about. Proof that this is more soap opera that traditional concept album comes from the fact that the different plot strands never really meet up anywhere. The best defined character is the cat.
'Greendale' is clearly meant to be an 'everytown' in roughly the modern era, but it doesn't always feel like it being part ghost-town memory and part rambling that-would-never-happen imagination. 

According to Wikipedia it's set in California, though there's no mention of the fact in song. In years past Neil used to build whole civilisations for a single song, but here 'Greendale' never feels quite 'real' somehow. Neil's rambling sleevenotes (taken, so it seems, from equally rambling song introductions when playing this album live), calls the place a town of 20-25,000 inhabitants  full of mountains, farms and an ocean with quirks and admits 'There's a lot going on in Greendale that I don't know about. Can you imagine? I mean, I made it up and I don't know what the hell's going on...' Sometimes Neil's imagination can be a wonder to behold: his extended journey as a fish in 'Will To Love' or the feverish acid-drenched 'Old Homestead'. Even across a whole album, though, 'Greendale' feels like it's never existed and never will, while not being imaginative enough to be groundbreaking either. I've never met an Earl or Sun Green and I've definitely never met the devil (or at least, that's not how he introduced himself during his last speech from Downing Street), though I have known a few Grandpa-types it has to be said. Some critics reckoned Neil was a small-town storyteller on a par with John Steinbeck and Thornton Wilder; in truth he's more like a third grade English student with too much time on his hands.

I wouldn't mind so much if this record was memorable in ways other than the theme - but it isn't. Or rather there are promising little bits dropped into song (the chorus 'a little love and affection in everything you do will make the world a better place with or without you' on 'Falling From Above', the chorus of 'Be The Rain' featuring Neil's then-wife Pegi and three friends, the low-key snakey acoustic vibe of 'Bandit' which suddenly flowers into falsetto innocent chorus, which is the closest Neil will ever get to rap - we hope) that will somehow get lost behind another curious bit of information we didn't really need: a whole verse of Gramdpa looking for his glasses, half of 'Be The Rain' shouted through an ugly sounding megaphone (which may be relevant to the plot but isn't relevant to the music) or Earl Green on the run taking time out from his nightmare changed life to misquote Bob Dylan lyrics. Other bits recall past songs, which is just lazy writing: 'Grandpa's Interview' is the 'Peace Of Mind' riff from 'Comes A Time', 'Falling From Above' is 'Bar Stool Blues', 'Double E' is - dear God -  the ghost of 'Motorcycle Mama' back again and 'Bandit' is 'Music Arcade'. It's like a Neil Young greatest hits, except that it isn't because it's not good enough. It's not as if Neil has forgotten how to write or that he never could write and has been faking all these years; this album just hasn't been given enough time to breathe and the couple of re-writes it needs to shine; it sounds like a bootleg collection of forgotten demos that never got re-written into a proper album or exactly what it is: a man writing songs in a car on the way to the studio as quickly as possible. The thought of re-recording Neil Young albums is a bit of a nonsense when the rough edges are half the fun (although I'd still like to hear a 'posher' 'Le Noise' one day) but 'Greendale desperately deserves more love and attention than the ten minutes each the songs took to write, the ten minutes they took for Crazy Horse to learn them and the ten they took to record, in one take or - in some cases - less.

Well, some fans claim, this isn't as record where you're meant to follow the plot - the important bits aren't what the words tell us but what the music is doing. This is after all a Crazy Horse album: traditionally it's the weight of the sound they play and the hypnotism of the playing that matters. Very infrequently that argument follows, especially in the album's second half when the smoky ten minute lament 'Carmichael' finally drops out of the same-riff fiasco for some lovely slow mournful Young playing, the taunting twelve minute 'Sun Green' which features lots of sizzling solo-ing and the punchy finale 'Be The Rain' where Crazy Horse's bare-bones skeleton is wrapped up by the four-strong female chorus like a gorgeous patterned scarf (though you'll still curse whoever invented the megaphone for the course of both of these last two songs). However, while sections of 'Ragged Glory' 'Broken Arrow' and on their next reunion 'Psychedelic Pill' will feature a handful of songs every bit as lengthy and longwinded as this, 'Greendale' doesn't feature anything else. Once each song locks into a groove, that's pretty much it for up to fifteen minutes and only one song (the forgettable gospel ballad 'Bringin' Home Dinner' with the all-time worst Neil Young vocal, unless you're unlucky enough to own the rare 'Where The Buffalo Roam' soundtrack and have heard our hero strangling 'Home On The Range' multiple times) clocks in at under five minutes. This is an album that cares almost nothing for the listener - which would be fine if Neil cared something for Crazy Horse. But I'm not sure he does: Billy and Ralphy are incredibly under-used, reduced to repeating the same simple patterns over and over when they're capable of so much more than that. Frank Sampedro, meanwhile, isn't on this album at all (sensible chap!), leaving Neil no other guitarist to bounce off: he's the entire colour spectrum on this album, while Ralph and Billy are restricted into being structure, and he's having something of an off-colour day.  Especially vocally: Neil's voice is unique in all of rock, caught right on the verge of being deeply annoying and hauntingly fragile and beautiful. When Neil really lives the material he's singing he's as great a vocalist as anybody out there, pretty-ness be damned; but here he's narrating not singing and there's a reason Neil didn't become a TV presenter and panel show member like his mum and his grandma: his voice gets monotonous when speaking for too long.

What we have, then, is an almost unmitigated disaster. Boring songs about boring people played by a band who are usually anything but boring but aren't allowed to be their best here, performing unknown songs simply, while even the best bits sound like earlier Neil Young songs, whether from earlier albums or earlier tracks from this same record. As interesting an exercise as it may have been for Neil to write an album in ten days, it would have been more interesting yet if Neil had taken longer, worked out where he was going and just who exactly he was going there with. Admittedly I'm a fan from the CSNY 'polished' side of the spectrum, but I fully get when Neil feels the need to be raw: 'Tonight's The Night' would have been stupid with strings for instance, 'Ragged Glory' wouldn't have been ragged or glorious with overdubs and rust creeps in faster during re-takes; I get that. In many ways I look forward to Neil's sparser albums more than the polished ones these days. But 'Greendale' isn't meant to be that kind of an album: it is, at least on paper, a colourful album about a colourful family leading a colourful life (too colourful to be real in many cases, but never mind). But Neil the album producer/film director seems to have it in his head he's shooting a film noir and considering the album's called 'Greendale' it's odd how much of it feels like it's in black-and-white. There are, as always, moments when the album seems to be working - when Sun Green takes up her megaphone, when Grandpa stops talking about the bad old days when kids had nothing and searching for his glasses and actually gets on with being a human being instead of a walking/hobbling stereotype or when Neil suddenly remembers that these songs are going on for eleven minutes and he ought to bung in a chorus occasionally. But somehow, regrettably, you wind up at album's end with no idea what you've been listening to and what it all means and it feels like a waste of your time when you could be listening to a different Neil Young album that actually matters.

In fact it feels like watching a soap opera: no Earl shouldn't have shot Carmichael. Yes Sun Green has a right to be mad at the way the planet's being exploited, though snarling through a mega-phone at fellow Greendalers who think the same when she should be aiming her protest at people who can do something about it is probably not the way to go. Yes it's sad when Grandpa dies and leaves Grandma home alone, but it's sad when anyone dies: simply saying that without giving us any reasons why these characters are special doesn't teach us anything we ought to know. And if there's nothing to learn from Greendale and it ain't all that to listen to because the plot keeps getting in the way of the music, what is the point in any of this? Why didn't this album end up one of Neil's lost ones like 'Chrome Dreams' or 'Homegrown'? Why couldn't we have had those records instead? Why couldn't Neil have simply listened to the radio on his car up to the studio, admitted to Crazy Horse he didn't have any songs and three old friends could have spent their time messing around and jamming some oldies for fun instead. 'Greendale' is not my favourite place to visit then - and it sounds way too painful to live there, what with bandits, devils and irritating teenagers shouting obscenities through mega-phones. There aren't many Neil Young albums I don't like and many that I love'; 'Greendale' is an under-baked, under-written, under-arranged, under-considered concept album that's 'important' in Neil's oeuvre only because it's unique and nobody else has ever made an album like this one for several very good reasons.

There is, apparently, a film which I've only seen enough of to go 'dear God - this is worse!'  in which Neil's long-term sideman Ben Keith (whose not on the album) makes one last golden cameo playing the part of 'Grandpa', confusingly miming to Neil's voice from the record. He's great, but the songs are still hopeless and so little happens in any of them that a good half of the film consists of an old man pontificating from a chair, which may well be your idea of fun but isn't mine. As if that wasn't enough, there was even a comic book in the works at one stage - last reported in 2007 and thankfully seemingly dropped - just in case you don't know what an FBI informant kicking a cat or an old man losing his glasses looks like. What next? A musical? An opera? A ballet? A 'Greendale Babies' spin-off animated series? (No don't be silly, this is Neil Young not Pete Townshend and 'Tommy'/'Quadrophenia'!)

Oh and just a thought, isn't it a bit lucky that the Green family live in Greendale of all places? That's like everyone called 'Lon' living in London, all the Little Misses from Mr Men Land  living in Mississippi and David Cameron's constituency moving to Rockall-Doing. And surely someone connected to Neil must have known about the fact that Greendale already exists? (It's where UK children's character Postman Pat Clifton lives - he also has a cat, funnily enough, although she's generally kicked by accident by Mrs Goggins at the post office, not the FBI, unless there's a darker-than-normal story I missed somewhere - as created by fellow St Martin's, Carlisle almunus John Cunliffe; hey he's the only famous graduate we've got so we're going to keep mentioning him when we can!)

We start our little journey through goodness knows what with 'Falling From Above'. This track starts like it's going to be a good one, with a lovely opening  30 second swirl of Young guitar that sounds like a more tender 'Cortez The Killer'. And then the drunken-sounding vocals come in. Grandpa's been talking to Jed about the fact that he never wants to retire 'but I might re-tread'. That 'joke' is, believe it or not, the best on the album, followed by the head-scratching Grandpa Granola philosophy 'when I was young people wore what they had on'. The second verse, ostensibly Grandpa listening to the radio, hints at where Neil's going with this as the characters wonder 'Seems like this guy singing this song has been doin' it for a long time - is there anything he already knows that he ain't said?' No seems to be the answer, which is why the next few minutes involve his grand-daughter Sun looking for Grandpa's glasses while 'a rooster crows on the Double E'. There is, to be fair, the best verse on the album and the best Neil's written for a while as he goes all Bob Dylan and imagines 'a hero and artist comparing goals for the 21st century' but 'they came up with nothing, so the human race 'just kept rolling on'. There's a real sense of directionless across this meandering song, punctuated by the catchiest chorus on the album, that 'a little love and affection in everything you do' will brighten the world. Musically this is a less interesting song, simply a backdrop for Neil to narrate his obscure lyrics to, but Ralph's thick heavy drum sound is a delight and Neil's keening harmonica says far more about Grandpa's nostalgia and gentle frustration than any amount of lyrics ever could. If the rest of the album could have been up to this standard, I'd have been pushing for a second series of 'Greendale' although it still doesn't quite come off.

'Double E' though is pretty bad. A crunchy grungy 12 bar blues that only settles down into a proper tune when Neil turns the page into a minor key. The song is yet another example of Neil's obsession with dancing young females full of the joys of life - Sun Green, though, is based not on a girlfriend but surely on his daughter Amber Jean whose already featured heavily in her dad's previous album 'Are You Passionate?' as both her parents struggle to come to terms with the fact that she wants to leave home. The idea behind the song is that the whole Green family are all revolutionaries in their own way, but that only Sun's generation has the ability to express themselves freely: her mum Edith and Dad Earl got hell from the locals just from changing the name of the house. Suddenly Grandpa's died and Grandma's pining for him, wearing bright colours to cheer her up (it doesn't work) and her memory issues causing her to still think it's 'the summer of love' even though she has no one to love anymore. This weird, time-jumping song is simultaneously a flash-back and a flash-forward but there's not enough happening to explain the characters or make us feel anything for them much other than explaining how much of a pain local politics can be ('Change comes slow in the country' sings ranch-holder Neil, apparently from his own experience, 'When you're new there's a lot of mistrust'). Musically this track also sounds like a quick boogie thrown together to give Neil something to 'sing' the narration too and the performance is pretty dreadful, too slow to be interesting but too fast to be pretty and it sounds like its causing Ralph real problems to stay awake on the drums. At five minutes with no real change across the song this is also simply far too long.

'Devil's Sidewalk' sounds like we're finally getting somewhere, with a funky 'World On A String' type guitar riff and the first appearance of that female chorus singing 'Greendale!' at key moments in the song. However that's all the song does, sitting there for verse after verse about goodness knows what. Well, to be specific, goodness knows this: an un-named captain, now on land, still 'tries to stay afloat' in a metaphorical garden with a million metaphorical weeds, feeling sorry for himself (leading to the unlikely line 'If you stood in my shoes your eyes would be glazed!') The sleevenotes point out that the dock he made his home for so many years is being up-rooted and destroyed, but good luck working that out from the actual lyrics. Neil gets fed up and - figuring he might as well admit he's stolen the riff to The Beatles' 'Come Together', which was itself stolen from Chuck Berry's 'You Can't Catch Me' - tells us 'all I can tell you is you got to be free; John Lennon said that!' However unlike his similar steal of The Rolling Stones' 'Lady Jane' on 'Borrowed Tune', there's no reason for it here; Neil's not too 'wasted' or miserable to come up with his own, he's simply copping bits for the hell of it because he's never sounded so uninspired. I'm not at all sure what the final two verses mean either, as the Captain, trying to keep out the metaphorical devil of temptation walks past singing children and tolling church bells and feels nothing, though he is moved by the red glow of a furnace. Is this the sound of a man, drowning in his own problems, turning his back on heaven and turning to the dark side? Only a brief blustering harmonica part blows the cobwebs away on a song that feels like it lasts forever, not merely 5:18, weirdly, the exact same time as the last one (is Neil cutting them to measure now?) Oddly Neil's sleevenotes tell us 'Satan's in every town - in this one he lives in the jail', but we never get a mention of a jail in the lyrics.

As if that wasn't enough, 'Leave The Driving' is the same sodding song! Well, maybe it's a touch slower and lighter but to most intents and purposes this is the same riff played with the same gung-ho attack. At last something happens as, Neil's sleevenotes tell us about 'how one stupid move can change your life forever'. Jed has killed a cop who pulled him over - for 'speeding and no brake lights' apparently, which is a bit of a shame as he's got a tone of drugs in the back (which apparently smell even in the main part of the car enough for the cop to notice, though the way it's written it could just be Jed's air freshener); this is never mentioned again which is a shame as it would have made for a more interesting song: what got Jed into drugs in the first place? Is it the only way of making money in this hick town? Was he beaten down by peer pressure because everyone was doing it? Is it medicinal; for Grandpa? Neil had a real chance here to put his views about the law and drugs out into the open (it's varied in other songs but traditionally Neil's been anti, especially after seeing what it did to Crosby, though partly because of so many bad episodes mixing his epilepsy with drugs - see the Stills-Young Band's 'Fontainebleau' for more!) You get really sick of this same riff after twelve minutes of it now and Neil's lyric writing is at its worst here as he drops the idea of writing about character entirely and describes the scene in all its clumsy detail: 'flashlight' rhymes with 'right', 'tell' rhymes with 'cell', 'wall' rhymes with 'at all', 'Hours' rhyme with 'no one could believe it - Jed was one of ours' and the whole thing sounds like a songwriter's first ever attempt at writing a song and getting thoughts down on paper, not a writer used to making his work sing with metaphor and illusion. Oh and 'trigger' and 'blunder', which doesn't even try to rhyme. You can tell that Neil didn't have a long journey into work when he wrote this one. And yet the odd detail really works: Jed doesn't see the world in slow motion, he realises how things will be now and how primitive and limited his life inside a prison cell will be, the 'sound of the future' on 'a worn out '78' (an early example of Neil's obsession with analogue technology that'll appear in nearly every album after this one). Grandpa's shock is also cleverly handled: instead of a sermon or a row, he sighs that he's got too 'old' - that 'the more time you spend on Earth the more you see unfold', his understanding of the world blown in half. However the final verse is probably closer to the truth of what this song has meant to do, Neil cackling that 'some people can take pure bullshit and turn it into pure gold!' Yeah, thanks for that, Neil, we don't have to keep buying these albums you know...

Next up is the soliloquy for the killed cop with 'Carmichael', a song named after him. Naggingly familiar as the tune is (think every song on 'Sleeps With Angels' stuck together!), at least it's a stronger one this time and the slower tempo makes for a nice change. Unfortunately this song of tragedy is again clumsily handled lyrically and is hardly 'Driveby' or 'Tired Eyes', songs where Neil maps out the entire sorrowful scene in just a few words. Carmichael's widow's best friend wonders whether to let on about something the cop was up to (he seems to have been involved in something far more corrupt than Jed ever was!) His widow seems to be onto something herself though and feels slightly sick when all his fellow officers turn up to declare her husband 'a credit to the force'. 'It's not worth it to spend much time on him' says Neil in his sleevenotes' because he doesn't have a future' - but sadly there's nothing much here about his past either, with some truly awful lines. Admittedly this is meant to be 'real' people at a eulogy, awkwardly working out what to say, but still it's pretty bad: 'Carmichael was a credit to the force with everything he did, now it feels like there's a big hole in our side where he fit'. Hmm, I can't see that one ending up in a greetings card anytime soon. Here's the widow's grand total summary of their memories: 'Remember 'Hey Mr Las Vegas', you used to be so cool! We met Wayne Newton down at the beach and you acted like a fool!' If that was my epitaph my ghost would not be happy! Only the final verse touches a nerve: the police force carries on as normal, as if nothing had happened, except for the empty space in the car park where Carmichael should have been. Overall, one of the weakest tracks here and at ten and a half minutes ridiculously overlong, with most verses interrupted by some rather simplistic guitar wrestling, a long way down on 'Broken Arrow' and 'Ragged Glory' never mind 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' and 'Zuma'.

'Bandit' is a little better, the only acoustic song on the record which features Neil mumbling to himself as Jed as he 'wraps up dope in a paper bag' and  prepares to run away on bail, feeling sorry for himself but also cross with himself too. Jed never does quite work out where to run to, but goes through the options of friends and family anyway. A cheery chorus 'Someday you'll find what you're looking for' just sounds at first like something else to sing to keep him going, thrown away like every line, but something about it sticks in his head and the sweet falsetto chorus suddenly drifts upwards into a lovely golden musical moment that's amongst the prettiest on the record. Jed is 'trying to get through - but not be through' as he tries to live a new life on the run, but the best line ('You're invisible, you got to many secrets!') is a steal from Bob Dylan as Neil is quick to point out ('Like A Rolling Stone' to be exact). Though smaller in scope than the other songs on this album and lacking the Crazy Horse crunch, this may well be the best song on the album - it feels 'real' in a way that the other songs on here often don't, a very human re-action to great tragedy and going on the run, torn between sorrow and dreaming of a better future. Unfortunately it's still not what it might have been: Neil mumbles the lyrics, the main tune is basic bordering on non-existent and the song makes no sense out of context and little within. At least we've got a different riff this time though and the chorus is hauntingly perfect. As for the lyric booklet, the devil escaped from jail long enough to clean Earl's glasses, apparently. As you do.

Thirteen whole minutes of 'Grandpa's Interview' though and you begin to lose any patience you had left. That 'Peace Of Mind' riff is back again, re-cut for a less suitable jagged guitar part behind a similarly chugging and static story about the media grilling Grandpa for his views on Jed. He and Grandma slip out, forgetting the cat, knocking down ornaments as they go. Grandpa has 'no respect' for the media so 'they won't get any of mine' as he declines the invitation that he has a 'duty' to put the record straight '(it ain't my crime!') Neil gets carried away, with a verse that sees Grandpa describe the fact that he hasn't liked any TV series since 'Leave It To Beaver!' Grandpa then collapses, presumably from a heart attack brought on by the extra stress, dying on a copy of the newspaper with the graphic and distorted details of Jed's life juxtaposed against Carmichael's. Neil says in his sleevenotes that Crazy Horse felt really depressed recording this song because Grandpa died - I feel utterly depressed too, but not I don't think for the same reasons. This is an empty, hopeless, pointless song - a ten minute rant about the problems of the press that could have been better handled in a different song couples with an unconvincing three minute death. I don't buy for one minute Neil's line that he 'died a hero - trying to be anonymous'; he could have just refused to answer the door in the first place. Ralph apparently sneaked a look at Neil's lyric sheet and declared 'Grandpa's dead!' in shock, but his death somewhere in this record seemed inevitable, just as these things always are with soap operas. The biggest shock is that Sun Green didn't end up pregnant by her drugged up boyfriend's grandpa's cat whose come back from the dead and is really his aunty or something. As Neil says in a line about someone singing outside - 'Could someone please shut him up? I don't know how the hell he comes up with this stuff!' Thirteen minutes of my life  - only one shorter than the Young record on 'Change Your Mind' - I will never get back again.

'Bringin' Down Dinner' is a shorter gospel song that sounds like it ought to be better with a decent tune and a switch to organ. However Neil's vocal is painfully flat and out of tune and the Crazy Horse's boom-chikka backing is wholly unsuitable. Sun Green arrives to tell Grandma that Grandpa has died - she's just making his dinner and wondering why the TV cameras are showing his picture on TV. Despite her curiosity she's too busy telling her what a pretty girl she is ('You should go out now and see the world'). The whole thing sounds like a funeral march as the old nag keeps on talking and won't listen to why her grand-daughter and half the network news teams have just pulled up in her driveway. There's no variation in this song again, which simply repeats the same two chords over and over for three minutes and some more clumsy rhymes where 'vitamins' almost-but-not-quite rhymes with 'vans' and 'see' rhymes, with a certain inevitability, with 'Double E'. Personally I think Grandpa's better off out of it if he doesn't have to listen to songs like this, which even by 'Greendale' standards is woefully poor and under-written. Anyway, somebody eat that dinner quick - it's going cold!
'Sun Green' is better, with a slight feel of danger about it as Neil cranks his guitar up to eleven and Crazy Horse discover a groovy hypnotic beat that makes the song seem much louder and scarier than it should. However even here twelve minutes is way too much, especially when Sun Green decides to protest about...something and sings half the song through a megaphone. Grandpa's death was apparently a catalyst for Sun Green speaking out against media lies, but the worst the press actually did was follow up a murder with a question - Grandpa didn't give them a chance to go away. Sun Green protests outside 'powerco' that 'there's corruption on the highest floor' and then gets all surprised when somebody, you know, tries to stop her. What's odd is that her comments are general, that their hands are 'dirty', which is something that will surprise absolutely nobody over the age of four: usually this sort of vague protest gets ignored, it doesn't end up with FBI informants send round to Sun Green's house to trash the place (and stab her cat when he tries to claw their leg). Billy has a great cameo as the FBI knocking on the door but otherwise this lyric is lumpy in the extreme. Oh and this being a soap opera there's also an unlikely romance and - wouldn't you know it? - Sun Green's new boyfriend is called Earth Brown. Anyone of my generation whose ever had to sit through the 'Roger Red Hat' books at school will begin to wonder if they were actually set in Greendale. Anyway the end result: a false charge of drugs, which gets quietly dropped after being splashed all over the papers. Neil is clearly on Sun's side here ('Mother Earth has many enemies, there's much work to be done!') but Sun Green is a cypher who doesn't seem to act like any normal teenage girl, even hardened eco-warriors. I'm more interested in the poor cat who died in the line of duty. That chorus 'Hey Mr clean, you're dirty now too!' is also repeated so many times it's imprinted into your consciousness for long afterwards - and not in a good way...

At last, after 70 minutes, this soap opera is almost over and I can sense the cliff-hanger music and the end credits arriving. 'Be The Rain' is at least a relatively strong way to end, a charging brittle tune that dances like 'Cinnamon Girl' with the angry denial of 'The Loner', basking in the sunlight of the female chorus. Unfortunately, half of this song is sung through an out of tune megaphone too, while Neil's as-live vocal is mumbled into his shoes. Lyrically it's 'Mother Earth' and 'Natural Beauty' all over again, a vague ecological protest that tries to urge us to do our bit for nature, but instead of concentrating on what we're losing through industrialisation it's just a song of empty slogans ('Hey big oil what do you say? We gotta save Mother Earth!') Hard not to agree with the sentiments and we might all be better off if more of us waved placards at evil Governments, but Sun has nothing to share with us that we don't all know already and there's no sense of community or 'truth' here, just a batty teenage girl with a megaphone, easily dismissed (where did she get that megaphone from by the way? I don't know many teenage girls who have one handy 'just in case' their relative dies and turns them into an eco-warrior overnight...) Still, even if the lyrics are clumsy, the melody is pretty strong and the performance is easily the best as on their last day Crazy Horse finally get a  song that's vague and as much about the music as the narrative to get their teeth into. Some of Neil's blistering guitar work is exceptional, but the always under-rated Ralph Molina is one better, dancing all over his drum-kit for the full nine minutes and giving it everything he's got. Anyone who doubts Crazy Horse' abilities only need listen to this song, where less is more and two old friends dare each other on to new heights of greatness.

That's just the music aspect of things though - lyrically 'Greendale' is an experiment that just doesn't work. At all. Neil needs to present with characters that he knows as well as himself, while showing us how the world works through his eyes, but none of the characters in 'Greendale', not even Grandpa, feel alive enough to do that. The biggest difference between a soap opera and a rock concept album, apart from the generally superior writing, is that the characters tend to learn something through music, whether it's 'Tommy' kind-of being the messiah, but losing the power when he bosses people about, to The Kinks' 'Arthur' learning that there's nothing ordinary about an ordinary human being to Happiness Stan finding out in 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake' that the story is about who you are not what you want to be (for the story's in the journey and not what lies at sea - or in the sky). Jed learns that he probably shouldn't have shot a cop, of course. Grandpa probably wishes he hadn't been so quick to get mad at the press. Sun Green learns to be herself and speak out about the truth, although quite how she got to that point in her life overnight is still something of a mystery. Nobody really changes though, All the characters, you sense, would have been given the famous 're-set' button had Neil ever figured we'd have the patience for a sequel. Just like a soap opera in fact - it's meant as a distraction, not an education and good as eye/ear candy rather than for all our souls. Which is fine as far as it goes, if 'Greendale' had been entertaining enough to actually entertain us - but it doesn't. By far the weakest album overall of Neil's lengthy and illustrious career (yeah, I know, that's a big call but hey even 'Everybody's Rockin' made me laugh on 'Payola Blues' and 'Landing On Water' had 'Pressure' and 'Hippie Dream' on there), I got badly lost on my trip into 'Greendale' and I still don't feel as if I care enough to navigate my way through the territory. Good on Neil for trying something so different to his usual working methods, but this experiment needed more time, love, energy and creativity to work than most and it's a tragedy that it ended up being hurriedly written in the back of a car on the way to work every morning. 'Be the rain' wails Neil as, in the character of Sun Green, he tries to make the world be themselves (and no, I don't know what that cryptic statement means either). Yes Neil, you had the answer there all along; this album has too many characters but none of them are 'real' enough to become a substitute for the 'Neilness' we usually get on Young's albums. Usually even Neil's weaker albums have something to teach us, but every time I hear this album I never ever want to go back to 'Greendale' again where in addition to having to re-live the death of that poor cat (oh yeah and Grandpa - nearly forgot about him) I lost my patience, my sanity and quite a bit of my hearing too. Package tours there are not recommended, unless you have a thing about teenage girls with mega-phones and/or weird families who act nothing like people in the real world.

Other Neil Young articles from this website you might be interested in reading:

'Neil Young' (1968)

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969)

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970)

'On The Beach' (1974)

'Zuma' (1975)

'American Stars 'n' Bars' (1977)

'Comes A Time' (1978)

'Rust Never Sleeps' (1979)

'Hawks and Doves' (1980)

'Harvest Moon' (1992)

'Sleeps With Angels' (1993)

'Mirror Ball' (1995)

'Broken Arrow' (1997)

‘Prairie Wind’(2005)

'Fork In The Road' (2009)

'Le Noise' (2011)

'A Treasure' (1986/2012)

'Storytone' (2014)

'The Monsanto Years' (2015)

The Best Unreleased Neil Young recordings

Monkees Side-Trips: The Boyce and Hart Discography

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

The Monkees are unique amongst our AAA books because while there were only four Monkees there were several honorary Monkees who took part in their story and helped shaped their music and which are more than deserving of a discussion in their own right.  Detailing the careers of Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson before and after The Monkees would be rather short however ('Easy Rider' and that's about it), while detailing the careers of Monkee writers Carole King, Neil Diamond, David Gates, Harry Nilsson and the like would add another hundred pages each at least to the book. Boyce and Hart, though, are a special case. Two hip twenty-somethings who'd each released a series of middling-selling records as solo acts (Tommy with 'Along Came Linda' and Bobby with 'Girl In The Window', both released in 1961 they were both seventeen!), they were on the verge of fame as a double act when The Monkees came calling, they were tasked with writing the first batch of songs needed for the 'pilot' episode before Micky, Mike, Davy or Peter had even been cast. They 'got' The Monkees spot on from the first, with much of the future Monkees sound based around their first batch of songs: 'I Wanna Be Free' 'Let's Dance On' and even the Monkees TV theme itself. When Boyce and Hart's role in the series was reduced (after Don Kirshner realised how many 'slots' on Monkee albums he could sell to outside writers) they started up their own career from early 1967which continued alongside The Monkees' own until 1969, recording three albums of original material and a number of singles until their association with the band rather killed off their own careers too. The pair did however record a solo album each in the 1970s before reuniting with half of The Monkees as 'Dolenz, Jones Boyce and Hart' in 1976, after which the collecting trail sadly goes cold permanently. Many of these are recordings of songs later given over to The Monkees and make for particularly interesting comparison. Sadly many of these recordings are ridiclously rare so getting hold of a complete set might be tricky. Thankfully many of the best songs have been collected on compilations down the years which are slightly easier to find: the LP 'Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart' was released in 1986 just as The Monkees were preparing to releaasew 'Pool It' and a single-disc CD compilation called  'The Anthology' was released shortly after 'JustUs'  in 1998 (though, like all things Boyce and Hart, both are long overdue for a re-issue). Completists should note that Boyce and Hart also had a prolific career in the movies and recorded a number of songs for film soundtracks, not many of which were ever released on album, with the exception of 'The Ambushers' recorded in 1967 and a minor hit single, now collected on 'The Anthology' CD.

First up a quick run-down of the pre-Monkees material, recorded by Tommy and Bobby solo. Tommy's career started in 1961 when he was just sixteen and he ever so nearly scored a hit with his first single 'Along Came Linda' (1961), a single which just missed the top 100 (and thus out-sold every Monkees single from 'D W Washburn' through to 'Do It In The Name Of Love'). Very 1950s, it has shades of Dion and Bobby Darin and all the sort of greasy-haired singers The Monkees will lampoon in 'Monkees At The Movies'. It's a daft but catchy song that reveals an early obsession with the name 'Linda', though for now the narrator is very much 'listening' to her. B-side 'You Look So Lonely' is as corny as a bag of popcorn but is still rather charming for the era and considering Tommy's age. Second single 'I Remember Carol' (1962) sold slightly better, a sped-up doo-wop song that sounds a little like future Monkee writer Neil Sedaka's 'Calendar Girls', but better (obviously). B-side 'Too Late For Tears' is my favourite of these early recordings, a sweet harmony-drenched ballad about Tommy pleading with his girl to get back together when she doesn't want to know. It's very much a slower 'Tear Drop City'. It took another four years before Tommy bounced back with 'Pretty Thing' (1965), a very Byrds-like folk-rock song complete with Rickenbacker licks and puffed harmonica (particularly their cover of Dylan's 'All I Really Wanna Do'). Though slightly unfocussed it's all rather charming and sounds very much of its time, what The Troggs might have sounded like if they'd come from California instead of Hampshire. 'Who really cares if you're called Jane or Mary, all I need to know is you're exraordinary, I'm just shy and you're really scary' may also be the single best verse in this entire book. Moving on another year and towards a more psychedelic sound is the noisy 'Where The Action Is' (1966). The song was written for the music-variety show and adopted as the theme tune for a while, but wasn't actually commisioned by the programme - it does however show Tommy's growing respect for TV advertising which will come in handy for his Monkee days. The song was written by Tommy with not Bobby but Steve Venet, another rock friend - the pair would also write Monkee song 'Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day' around this time but sadly the singer doesn't seem to have recorded it himself. The single contained an 'instrumental' mix of the A side on the flip and was, funnily enough, released on the Colpix record label not long after the first Davy Jones album, though neither men had met at the time.

As for Bobby, first hit 'Girl In The Window' (1961) is a Buddy Holly-style doo-wop ballad that was also released when he was so much older than his colleague at seventeen and for his tender years sounds rather good despite being woefully derivative. Tommy guests on his new friend's single by playing guitar, the start of their long collaboration, although he's not credited on the record. B-side 'Journey Of Love' is more Jerry Lee Lewis as Bobby goes all Mike Nesmith and imagines taking a journey with his girlfriend in the future when she's his wife. A second single 'Too Many Teardrops' (1962) is a slow and moody teenage ballad of angst with a fuller backing sound including backing singers. The melody is distinctly catchy anhd Bobby's singing awfully good. B-side 'The People Next Door' is a revved up rocker about some nosy tell-tale neighbours who can't resist telling a couple's parents every time they kiss in public. With lines like 'If they only knew what we go through they'd never pout us on trial' this is perhaps the most Monkees-theme like song either Boyce or Hart wrote before being hired for the pilot. 

1) Out and About/My Little Chickadee (Single 1967)
'Out and About' must have sounded awfully dated when released in the 'Easter Of Love'. A 1950s doo-wop song gives way to a Beach Boys surfing style link and only when the fuzz guitar arrives does this finally sound like a song from 1967. Built aroud the same chugging stop-start style as 'PO Box 9847', it's a far more experimental song than anything the pair gave The Monkees. Flipside 'My Little Chickadee' is even weirder, a roaring twenties saloon bar ballad sung by Bobby against a parping saxophone and interrupted by Tommy Boyce pretending he's a DJ. Only in 1967...
2) Love Every Day/Sometimes She's A Little Girl (Single 1967)
Single number two is a much better bet, a breathy psychedelic ballad that's heavy on the echo and, well, just heavy all round generally. It sounds not unlike Vanilla Fudge and somehow manages to be both typically tuneful and oddly atonal all at the same time. Flipside 'Sometimes She's A Little Girl' is one of my favourite Boyce and Hart songs, a catchy rocker that manages to be both funkily rootsy and way way out, man. A 'Clarksville' style train riff gives away who the writers are, but this song is another epic that comes in several parts that's built more like 'Shorty Blackwell', but weirder. Yes, that is actually possible. Shoulda been the 'A' side!
3) Test Patterns (LP 1967: Out and About/I Should Be Going Home/In The Night/My Little Chickadee/For Baby/Sometimes She's A Little Girl/Abe's Tune/Shadows/Girl I'm Out To Get You/Life)
Boyce and Hart's first joint long-player features both sides of the first single but strangely only the flip of the second alongside seven new numbers. Though not everything here is a 24 carat gold classic it's an impressive collection of sounds all infused with a real grasp of psychedelia that should appeal to fans of 'Pisces, Aquarius'. Many of these songs come out sounding like The Troggs if they'd had a striong and horn section and got into sitars, with that same sort of slow yet heavy pop feel. The cover is very of its time too, with two lots of Boyce and Hart staring at us and in profile, with the same 'ghostly' feel as The Byrds' 'Younger Than Yesterday'.  Along with 'Sometimes She's A Little Girl' the highlights are the beautiful 'Shadows' which is the closest the pair ever came to writing a sequel to 'I Wanna Be Free' and would have sounded wonderful sung by Davy and 'Girl I'm Out To Get You' which sounds like Love if they'd been a music hall act, with a 'Bolero' guitar part stolen wholesale from Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit'. Overall it's an impressive album with several excellent songs and a nicely surreal spaced out vibe.
4) I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite?/The Ambushers (Single 1967)
The only Boyce and Hart song to chart is probably their most typical. 'I Wonder' comes off as sounding not unlike Don Kirshner's project The Archers and their hit single 'Sugar Sugar', with a very similar hook. However the duo do annoyingly little with the idea and don't provide any of their usual variation except shouting a bit louder in the chorus, which doesn't count. Flipside 'Ambushers' was written for the film of the same name and is a litle better but not much, a Kinks-like song of social observation over people 'sipping brandy' and wasting their life away in the sunshine while teenagers strike.
5) Goodbye Baby (I Don't Want To See You Cry)/Where Angels Go Trouble Follows (Single 1967)
An odd, treacly ballad punctuated by noisy horns and a 'ha ha high' chorus, this isn't one of the duo's better ideas. Much more interesting is the B-side, written for the motion picture 'Where Angels Go Trouble Follows'. The song features many of the typical Boyce and Hart signature pieces, with a slow 'Clarksville' style beat exploding into life on a catchy chorus. believe it or not the whiole filnm is about an argument between a mother superior and a young nun at a convent - for a whole flipping 90 minutes!
6) Alice Long (You're Still My Favourite Girlfriend)/PO Box 9847 (Single 1968)
Another popular Boyce and Hart track, 'Alice Long' is a catchy song that adds a Phil Spector style production over the top of a typically bare-bones 4/4 Boyce and Hart beat. It's not my idea of their best material but it is kinda catchy with Boyce and Hart having lost on a recent girl so they go back to chatting up an old one! The B-side was recorded before The Monkees made their own version of the dating advert in song. Is it sacrilege to say that I like theirs a lot more than The Monkees version? Where the 'Birds, Bees' recording drags, painfully slow at times before the drums thunder in the chorus, Boyce and Harrt's is snappy and upbeat throughout, with similar psychedelic effects throughout the song though used a little more sparingly. They also use the percussive effect of a typewriter which is very effective and a psychedelic 'on helium' chorus that's freaky mannnn, but in a good way. No wonder The Monkees fell in love with it - the A side and B side should have been the other way round!
7) We're All Still Going To The Same Place (EP 1968: We're All Still Going To The Same Place/Six and Six/Alice Long/PO Box 9847)
An EP containing both sides of the last single and two new tracks that sound as if they're by an entirely different band. 'Same Place' is a poppy protest song about how the 1960s hasn't changed a thing and we're all still doomed ('Forget your disguise now you'd better get straight, too late to cry - you're gonna die!' runs the chorus). The slow-burning verse makes Tommy sound like he's Englebert Humperdink on speed, though, which is an effect I could have lived without and the song takes too long to reach the chorus - although its more than worth waiting for once you're there. 'Six and Six', meanwhile, turns back the clock to the 1966 branch of psychedelia: harpsichord, echoes and love songs. The narrator's been let down, waiting at a meeting point for a girl who never turned up and feeling 'like a child of ten trying not to cry, lost and I don't know why'. I'm still not sure if I like this song or not - and like Boyce and Hart I don't know why, it tries so hard to take off but never does quite get to fly.
8)  I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite? (LP 1968: I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite?/Pretty Flower/Tear Drop City/Love Every Day/Two For The Price Of One/Goodbye Baby (I Don't Want To See You Cry)/I'm Digging You Digging Me/Leaving You Again/The Countess/Population/I Wanna Be Free)
Album number two is a little bit of a step backwards after the first. Surprisingly some but not all of the recent A sides are here with most of the songs 'new'. Well, sort of - eagle-eyed Monkee fans (unlike Monkey-eyed Eagle fans) will have noticed two familiar songs. 'I Wanna Be Free' is sung pretty close to the Monkees version - the one that made the album with Davy singing alone - although Boyce and Hart sing it in harmony and play guitar alongside the string part. They sing it a touch slower too which is a shame, but it's still a nice version well hearing. 'Tear Drop City' was also recorded by The Monkees during the first album but rejected and Boyce and Hart would have been re-claiming it as a 'lost song', little knowing The Monkees version was even then being mixed for release in february 1969 on 'Instant Replay'. This version is quite different, sung as a raw and raucous soul song without the distinctive guitar riff oddly enough - the way Micky would probably have chosen to sing it in fact. Once again slowing the song down a fraction isn't a good move and just gives it more of a 'wobble', although it's another fine version not that far behind the band's own. Elsewhere 'I'm Digging You Digging Me' is a fun 'PO Box' style psychedelic pop song, 'Two For The Price Of One' is a funky Hammond-organ driven Northern soul track that sounds more like a 1964 recording and is oddly postmodern ('Let me tell you about Tommy Boyce now he's a gangster of love, talk to the girls all over the world about the crazy things he's done!') and 'Population' is a cheery 'Route 66' style retro rock song that namechecks all sorts of psychedelia words. The rest of the album, sadly, isn't anywhere near as good and certainly not up to the first, although there's half a record worth hearing here. The front cover is clearly meant to reflect Boyce and Hart's 'mature' status, the pair leaning into the camera off the edge of a bed while a scantily clad woman stares on. We're obviously meant to admire them, but instead it makes them look as if they're about to be eaten for breakfast when they eventually turn back round!
9) Maybe Somebody Heard/It's All Happening On The Inside (Single 1969)
Hard as I try I can't get hold of this record anywhere. It's the first in a run of 'A' that don't appear on either of Boyce and Hart compilations, frustratingly.
10) LUV (Let Us Vote!)/I Wanna Be Free (Single 1969)
A wonderfully silly song, with overblown fanfare horns, talk of international 'harmony' and a Beach Boys-style chord structure, this song was released as part of a 1969 camapign to get the vote age reduced to eighteen (it had been twenty-one till then - amazingly Richard Nixon passed the bill despite the fact that very few 18-21 year olds voted him in). Boyce and Hart are shown on the picture single surrounded by schoolgirls while trying to look serious, which is unintentionally hilarious! The flipside was the duo's old recording of 'I Wanna Be Free' in the same form as on the 'Tonmite' album - it's an apt choice in context.
12) It's All Happening On The Inside (LP 1969: Prelude/Change/Maybe Somebody Heard/It's All Happening On The Inside/Abracadabra/Jumpin' Jack Flash/We're All Going To The Same Place/Strawberry Girl/Thanks For Sunday/My Baby Loves Sad Songs/Standing In The Shadows Of Love/Alice Long)
Boyce and Hart's third and final LP was their last release of all on A& M records before moving alongside Davy and Micky on Bell records. It's a curious mis-mash of old singles and new recordings - some of which work rather well and some of which don't work at all - and is now by far the rarest of all Boyce and Hart's three LPs. I'm not quite sure which side of the fence a slowed-down cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' sits, slowed down and re-cut to a new tune that sounds like 'Teardrop City' playing at the wrong speed - it's certainly different to every other cover version of the song out there! Ditto an overblown cover of the Motown classic 'Standing In The Shadows Of Love' slowed down from a purr to a crawl (this pair were better creators than interpretors). 'My Baby Loves Sad Songs' is worth a listen though, a witty portrayal of a girl who just likes being sad with moody art hanging on her wall and Dylan LPs in her record rack and by far best thing on the album, hit singles included!
13) I'm Gonna Blow You A Kiss In The Wind/Smilin' (Single 1969)
With their chart power fading and the Monkees curse hanging over them, Boyce and Hart were dropped by A&M before the smaller independent record label Bell came to their rescue. At first it was very much business as usual: Boyce and Hart went to town promoting the A-side, even appearing in an episode of Monkee rivals 'Bewitched' to plug it (easily the best US TV programme after The Monkees' own). Actually I preferred Elizabeth Montgomery's in-character performance of 'I'm Gonna Blow You A Kiss' as she portrays with Samantha's 'hipper' cousin Serena, determined to have a trendy rock and roll act play at her party. Funnily enough Serena puts her own 'spell' on the duo to make them less popular, so they have to play at her gig or else - it's hard not to think somebody was laughing at the duo as their popularity fell, although they are a big hit in the 'human' world again by the time the twrnty-five minutes are up (it's the episode 'Serena Stops The Show' from series six if you're interested - it's out on DVD though thefirst five series with the 'original' Darrin are better). Boyce and Hart sound slightly staid on this jazzed up pop song that sounds like the theme tune to 'Banana Splits' on softer drugs. B-side 'Smilin' is a little more original but not that great either - Boyce and Hart were really beginning to struggle to keep up with modern day sounds as the eclectic feel of 1968 turned into the rootsier 1969. Alas is was to be the last single the pair ever released as a duo. 
14) Blown Away (Tommy Boyce under the name 'Christopher Cloud' (LP 1973: Brand New Boogie At 10AM/Friendly Sabotage/Celebration/Do You Want Me For Five Minutes?/Thank God For Rock and Roll/I Heard It All Thru The Wall/Cecilia/Dr Moss/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah/Sandra The Cat Lover)
With his name now tarnished by The Monkees' fall from grace, Tommy Boyce tried to re-invent himself in a whole new style that was much more contemporary (think The Monkees twinned with Slade and with a passion for re-inventing Disney songs - if you can). The cover is a photograph whioch cleverly conceals Tommy's face in a swirl of clouds as he performs under his new moniker throughout. However even if you hadn't spotted the giveaway Boyce/Hart credits on the label you'd soon notice the trademark sounds from the disc itself as despite the more modernised sound this record shares the duo's early love for keeping things simple, slightly slow and 'epic' and features lots of weird and occasionally wonderful cover songs sounding like they've never sounded before. A chirpy 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah from Disney's 'Song Of The South' is the highlight, a song which is not unlike Boyce and Hart's natural one in the first place, though a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Cecilia' is an insult, even if its a rare Paul Simon song I don't actually like that much. Most of the record is, sadly, disposable and despite being younger has dated far worse than the 1960s recordings which are - give or take a handful - timeless. To date this album has never appeared on CD. In truth you're not missing out on an awful lot. After forming DJB&H Tommy only ever released one more record, the 1977 single 'English Girls' under his own name once again. Strangely prog in an era of punk, it picks up where the quartet had left off and isn't the most glittering end to an otherwise fairly glittering career.
15) The First Bobby Hart Solo Album (LP 1980: Funky Karma/I'm On Fire/I Can't Fight It/Hurt So Bad/I'll Say Anything/Street Angel/I Get Crazy/Firsat Impressions/Still Hung Up On You)
Bobby, meanwhile, released one flop single in 1974 (the catchy calypso groove of 'Hard-Core Man' ) before joining DJB&H and didn't record his first (and last) full album until after that quartet had split. It's a pleasant though not particularly adventurous LP which does at least show that Hart had grasped the updates sounds of a new decade nicely, without doing anything to add to the sound of that decade at all. Hart was backed on the LP by a four-piece band that included Monkees session man Larry Taylor who play nicely. The sound really has little to so with The Monkees, though, being closer to soul, which is actually a neat touch given Bobby's now very deep voice. The songs are, sadly, another uneven bunch but do have their moments, with the album single 'Street Angel' particularly strong, coming on like a smoky 'Rose Royce' and the downright funky 'Still Hung Up On You'. This remains, to date, Bobby's last recording and is again long overdue for a first CD release. 


‘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: