1967 was a stellar year in popular music. According to Robert Christgau and David Fricke, the former billed as the “dean of American rock critics”, the “40 Essential Albums” of that year included albums by the Doors, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, the Who, the Velvet Underground, and, of course, the Beatles. As it turns out, none of the albums released by the Monkees made the list.
The Monkees was a band formed by television executives to have a loony TV program in the tradition of the Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. The program which ran from 1966 to 1968 was quite popular, and even more so in eventual MTV reruns. I watched it occasionally, I will admit. But the group was derided as the “pre-Fab Four,” as opposed to the “real” Beatles.
Interestingly, the listening public did not seem to care about the controversy. On this weekly list of number #1 albums of 1967, the 1966 album The Monkees continued as #1 for five weeks (plus 8 weeks at the end of the previous year). It was replaced by More of the Monkees, which was #1 for 18 straight weeks. After a week of the Tijuana Brass, and a week by the Monkees’ Headquarters album, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper ruled for 15 weeks. Then two weeks of Ode to Billie Jo by Bobby Gentry, and five weeks of Supremes Greatest Hits. The last five weeks of the year, the top-selling album was the Monkees’ Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
In other words, in 1967, the Monkees had the #1 album far longer than any other group, and More of the Monkees was #1 longer than any album, including Sgt. Pepper.
Fast forward to the early 1980s. One of my co-workers gave me some Monkees’ greatest hits album. I must admit that I liked it enormously. I wrote it off as a “guilty pleasure,” but now I proclaim that there are lot of songs by the Monkees that I enjoy a lot.
And BestEverAlbums.com even gave the group a modicum of respect, with Headquarters considered the 38th best album of 1967, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. at 39, and More Of The Monkees at 85.
From More of the Monkees
Mary, Mary (Michael Nesmith). The song was first recorded by The Butterfield Blues Band for their 1966 album, East-West. The Monkees were derided for doing a Butterfield song until it was shown that a Monkee had actually written it.
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart). Boyce & Hart wrote a number of Monkees songs. This went to #20 in the US, making it the first Monkees B-side to chart.
I’m a Believer (Neil Diamond). #1 in the U.S. for the week ending December 31, 1966, and remained there for seven weeks, becoming the biggest-selling single record for all of 1967.
Randy Scouse Git (Micky Dolenz). The songwriter says it was written about a party that The Beatles threw for the Monkees, with references to the Beatles (“the four kings of EMI”) and to others such as Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas.
From Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
Words (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart). One of my favorite songs by the group.
Pleasant Valley Sunday (Gerry Goffin, Carole King). The single got to #3 in the US. Even though it’s about a street in New Jersey, I always pretend that it’s from upstate New York, where I have visited often. And how can I not love the lyrics: “And Mr. Green, he’s so serene. He’s got a TV in every room.”
And for no reason except that it would have been John Lennon’s 72nd birthday: Strawberry Fields Forever – the Beatles (1967).