The Monkees are a band I’ve always felt got a bad rap through time. One of the biggest criticisms leveled at The Monkees was that they didn’t play their own instruments on their records. That was true for the first two albums that were produced by Don Kirshner and had session players on them. The Monkees only contributed vocals, but this wasn’t something unheard of at the time. The only person playing on The Byrds classic hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man” is Roger McGuinn who supplied his jingle-jangle 12 string Rickenbacker to the song. He sang lead and Gene Clark and David Crosby added harmony vocals and the other Bryds sat the session out. But when it came out that The Monkees were using session players, it caused a shit-storm of bad publicity for the band.
In 1967, The Monkees fired Don Kirshner and set out to show the world that they could indeed play their instruments and in February they started recording their third album, “Headquarters,” with producer Chip Douglas at the helm. Outside of strings, a French horn and the bass parts that producer Chip Douglas played, The Monkees themselves played every single note on the album. It’s my favorite Monkees album and I thought today I’d showcase my six favorite songs from that album.
Mike Nesmith wrote three songs on Headquarters and sang lead on all three. One thing Mike Nesmith rarely gets credit for is he was one of the pioneers of what would later be called, “country rock.” He was writing country flavored tunes for The Monkees as far back as 1966 on their first album with the song, “Papa Gene’s Blues.” He was writing and singing country styled rock tunes before The Byrds, Bob Dylan and The Flying Burrito Brothers dipped their musical toes into that tuneful territory.
For Pete’s Sake
Peter Tork wrote this catchy song with Joey Richards that Mickey Dolenz sings lead on. This song was used for the closing credits of the wildly popular Monkees TV show. The title is a playful nod towards the man who wrote the song.
Forget That Girl
Producer Chip Douglas wrote this song that Davy Jones sang lead on. Prior to producing this album, Chip Douglas was a member of the group, The Turtles and played bass and arranged their breakthrough hit, “Happy Together.” After this album Douglas went on to produce two of The Monkees biggest hits, “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” And no, he was not one of Fred MacMurray’s three sons.
Shades Of Grey
This song is credited to Hank Cicala who was the engineer of the album, “Headquarters.” In fact, The Monkees wrote the song in the studio and gave Cicala credit as a form of a bonus so he’d get some royalties from the record. The line, “"Running from the rising heat to find a place to hide, the grass is always greener growing on the other side,” is an obvious reference to cops and marijuana. Oh you naughty little Monkees!
Randy Scouse Git
This is the only song that Mickey Dolenz ever wrote for The Monkees. Dolenz has said that the song is about a party that The Beatles had for the band at The Speakeasy nightclub when they came over for a press tour of England. The Beatles are referenced in the song as, "the four kings of EMI". The song ended up a number two hit in England but was retitled, “Alternate Title,” because the phrase, “Randy Scouse Git,” was considered an English profanity at the time. Dolenz heard the phrase on the popular English TV comedy, “Till Death Do Us Part.” That show was later adapted for America and became the hit series, “All in the Family.”
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