Posts Tagged ‘The Monkees’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #52– The Monkees: “Pleasant Valley Sunday” b/w “Words” – Colgems 45 66-1007 (C6/D6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #52– The Monkees: “Pleasant Valley Sunday” b/w “Words” – Colgems 45 66-1007 (C6/D6)

You know you’re really talented when you can write a song as great as “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and then give it away for someone else to record. In this case, the songwriters are Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and the lucky recipients were The Monkees whose recording of the song climbed to the #3 position of the singles charts in 1967.

“Pleasant Valley Sunday” is a comment on social stature and suburban life that takes place on a street (Pleasant Valley Way) in upper crust West Orange, New Jersey, where King and her husband, Gerry Goffin, were living at the time. (It’s about five minutes away from where my mother currently lives.) The hilly winding neighborhood is the epitome of tree-lined suburban living with large palatial houses sporting well-manicured lawns that are visited regularly by landscaping companies.

The song hails from the group’s fourth and most consistent long player, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Not only is it the group’s very best album…it is also one of the best albums to come out in 1967, the year that gave us classics like Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Are You Experienced, Surrealistic Pillow, John Wesley Harding, Disraeli gears, Piper At The Gates of Dawn and The Velvet Underground And Nico.

Like their previous Headquarters album, the group actually played their own instruments on Pisces, rather than being forced to sit on the sidelines while session musicians did their bidding in the studio. Due to the popularity of their TV show and hit singles, the group had gained enough clout by 1967 to demand that they play all of the instruments on their records which they opted to do on Headquarters. For Pisces, they were again augmented by studio session musicians including Eddie Hoh on drums, Chip Douglas and Bill Martin on piano, Chip Douglas on bass, Douglas Dillard on banjo and Paul Beaver on Moog synthesizer, but ultimately played most of the instruments themselves.

All of the band members played on the “Pleasant Valley Sunday” single except for Mickey Dolenz who is one of the two lead vocalists on the track along with Mike Nesmith. The album was produced by Chip Douglas who plays the drums here. The Mono and Stereo version of the song have entirely different vocal tracks, and the Mono version was the one used on the single.

The album was notable for being one of the first rock albums to feature the newly invented Moog synthesizer. Mickey Dolenz had purchased one of the first twenty Moog synthesizers available and used it on the tracks “Daily Nightly” and “Love Is Only Sleeping” giving the album a psychedelic edge. (Paul Beaver of Beaver & Krause is heard playing the synth on the track “Star Collector.”)

The album’s title comes from the astrological signs of each band member: Mickey Dolenz is a Pisces, Peter Tork is an Aquarius and Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones were both Capricorns. Since Nesmith and Jones shared the same birthday (December 30th), they added Jones’ name to the title to delineate the two Capricorns.

It is by far their most consistent platter including some of the group’s best material including “Cuddly Toy,” “Star Collector,” “Salesman,” “She Hangs Out,” “The Door Into Summer” and the two songs that make up today’s jukebox classic. It sold three million copies and topped the album charts in 1967.

The flip of the single is the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song “Words,” one of the group’s most psychedelic singles. Dolenz and Peter Tork are heard doubling up on the lead vocals, and the song climbed its way to the number eleven position of the charts which was no small feat considering that it was the flip of the single. It was the second time the group took a crack at recording the song, the first was for their second album More Of The Monkees. As with “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” the single version of “Words” is different than the album version. The song was featured in five different episodes of their TV show.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: July 14th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Circle Sky” by The Monkees

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Circle Sky” by The Monkees

Right from the beginning, it was always intended that The Monkees would make the jump from the small screen to the big screen. However, by 1968 when the group made their debut film Head, The Monkees’ TV show had been cancelled and they were in dire need of some credibility in the music world.

Enter film maker Bob Rafelson and an up-and-coming actor named Jack Nicholson who wrote and directed a film that made Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels look positively coherent in comparison. Head is a psychedelic mess in the first degree…but an interesting one interspersing drug-induced visuals with graphic scenes of war…and, of course, The Monkees.

The Head album had some fine songs on it sprinkled with sound collages that made it an uneven listening experience. Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman is one of Mike Nesmith’s finest songs which also served as the centerpiece performance of the film.

The Head album was expertly expanded into a 3 CD box set by Andrew Sandoval and Rhino Handmade several years ago…it’s not for the casual fan for sure…but if you are a Monkees obsessive it’s well worth the price of admission.

Edited: October 26th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #52– The Monkees: “Pleasant Valley Sunday” b/w “Words” – Colgems 45 66-1007 (C6/D6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #52– The Monkees: “Pleasant Valley Sunday” b/w “Words” – Colgems 45 66-1007 (C6/D6)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

You know you’re really talented when you can write a song as great as “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and then give it away for someone else to record. In this case, the songwriters are Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and the lucky recipients were The Monkees whose recording of the song climbed to the #3 position of the singles charts in 1967.

“Pleasant Valley Sunday” is a comment on social stature and suburban life that takes place on a street (Pleasant Valley Way) in upper crust West Orange, New Jersey, where King and her husband, Gerry Goffin, were living at the time. (It’s about five minutes away from where my mother currently lives.) The hilly winding neighborhood is the epitome of tree-lined suburban living with large palatial houses sporting well-manicured lawns that are visited regularly by landscaping companies.

The song hails from the group’s fourth and most consistent long player, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Not only is it the group’s very best album…it is also one of the best albums to come out in 1967, the year that gave us classics like Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Are You Experienced, Surrealistic Pillow, John Wesley Harding, Disraeli gears, Piper At The Gates of Dawn and The Velvet Underground And Nico.

Like their previous Headquarters album, the group actually played their own instruments on Pisces, rather than being forced to sit on the sidelines while session musicians did their bidding in the studio. Due to the popularity of their TV show and hit singles, the group had gained enough clout by 1967 to demand that they play all of the instruments on their records which they opted to do on Headquarters. For Pisces, they were again augmented by studio session musicians including Eddie Hoh on drums, Chip Douglas and Bill Martin on piano, Chip Douglas on bass, Douglas Dillard on banjo and Paul Beaver on Moog synthesizer, but ultimately played most of the instruments themselves.

All of the band members played on the “Pleasant Valley Sunday” single except for Mickey Dolenz who is one of the two lead vocalists on the track along with Mike Nesmith. The album was produced by Chip Douglas who plays the drums here. The Mono and Stereo version of the song have entirely different vocal tracks, and the Mono version was the one used on the single.

The album was notable for being one of the first rock albums to feature the newly invented Moog synthesizer. Mickey Dolenz had purchased one of the first twenty Moog synthesizers available and used it on the tracks “Daily Nightly” and “Love Is Only Sleeping” giving the album a psychedelic edge. (Paul Beaver of Beaver & Krause is heard playing the synth on the track “Star Collector.”)

The album’s title comes from the astrological signs of each band member: Mickey Dolenz is a Pisces, Peter Tork is an Aquarius and Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones were both Capricorns. Since Nesmith and Jones shared the same birthday (December 30th), they added Jones’ name to the title to delineate the two Capricorns.

It is by far their most consistent platter including some of the group’s best material including “Cuddly Toy,” “Star Collector,” “Salesman,” “She Hangs Out,” “The Door Into Summer” and the two songs that make up today’s jukebox classic. It sold three million copies and topped the album charts in 1967.

The flip of the single is the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song “Words,” one of the group’s most psychedelic singles. Dolenz and Peter Tork are heard doubling up on the lead vocals, and the song climbed its way to the number eleven position of the charts which was no small feat considering that  it was the flip of the single. It was the second time the group took a crack at recording the song, the first was for their second album More Of The Monkees. As with “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” the single version of “Words” is different than the album version. The song was featured in five different episodes of their TV show.

Edited: January 6th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/1/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Take A Giant Step” by Taj Mahal

There is no rhyme or reason as to how I come up with the songs I choose to write about every day. They usually spring out of something I’ve been listening to or something I’ve read. So, if you regularly follow this column, you’ll get a pretty good idea of some of the stuff I listen to on a daily basis.

For instance, today’s Song Of The Day came about after reading a review of the first of three Rolling Stones concerts in Chicago this week. Now, I’m not planning on attending any of their shows here in town as I believe they’ve not only totally priced themselves out of the concert market, but have also priced themselves out of this world. And besides, I’ve seen them several times in the past when they were much younger and probably much better.

But the astronomical price of their tickets hasn’t diffused my interest in what their set list looks like and how people say they sounded. Each show on the tour so far has had Mick Taylor as a special guest coming out to play “Midnight Rambler,” but there’s usually a “surprise” guest at every show as well. While some markets have lucked out by getting guests like Tom Waits to take a star turn with the Stones, others have seen the likes of Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani “grace” the stage.

So far, Chicago is one of the luckier markets on the tour because blues legend, Taj Mahal was the Stones’ guest for their show the other night, and together they played “Six Days On The Road.” The song was one that Mahal originally cut for his 1969 double album Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home.

This led me to pull out my copy of the record which I haven’t listened to in many years. The title track of the album is a radically revised version of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin classic “Take A Giant Step,” which most people know by The Monkees’ recording of the song from their 1966 debut album.

Henry Saint Clair Fredericks took the name Taj Mahal, which came to him in a dream, while in college studying agriculture and animal husbandry in 1959. As a child, he was as passionate about farming as he was about music, and there was a time when he considered following his interests in farming over music. Fortunately, he chose music but his love of farming has led him to perform at numerous Farm Aid concerts over the years.

Mahal relocated to the West Coast in the early 1960s and established a name for himself playing solo blues in clubs. He soon met Ry Cooder, and along with Jesse Lee Kinkaid formed the group, The Rising Sons. The Rising Sons recorded for Columbia in 1964 resulting in the release of a single. The group cut an album’s worth of material for the label, but Columbia didn’t know what to do with an interracial group in the early 1960s, so the record languished in the vaults unreleased until 1993.

Between the Rising Sons debacle and Mahal’s self-titled first studio album for Columbia in 1968, he worked with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters. He also played on sessions (along with Ry Cooder) for the Rolling Stones and even appeared in The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus. (Hence, the reason he was the special guest at their show the other night.)

Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home is Taj Mahal’s third Columbia release from 1969. The double album is half electric and half acoustic and it features a freewheelin’ and eclectic selection of originals, traditional blues tunes and pop covers.

The electric half features Mahal backed by Jessie Ed Davis on guitar and keyboards, Gary Gilmore on bass and Chuck Blackwell on drums. Together they create a beautiful noise as they run through a selection of blues-flavored covers including today’s Song Of The Day, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Dave Dudley’s “Six Days On The Road,” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Farther On Up The Road,” Leadbelly’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond.” The album’s final track is “Bacon Fat” which is attributed to Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson, but more likely stems from pen of Andre Williams’ who scored a #9 R&B chart hit with the song in 1956.

The stripped down rural acoustic blues of De Ole Folks At Home features solo performances by Mahal on vocals, guitar, harmonica and banjo performing a mix of his own songs like “Light Rain Blues,” “Blind Boy Rag,” “A Little Soulful Tune,” “Cajun Tune” and “Country Blues #1,” and covers of “Candy Man,” “Stagger Lee” and “Linin’ Track.”

All in all, Mahal recorded 12 albums for Columbia through 1976, and then moved on to Warner Bros. for three more. He also wrote the score for the films Sounder and Brothers.

Later years found him moving to Hawaii, forming the Hula Blues Band and recording numerous records for Gramavision and the Private Music record label that incorporated his love of West African and Caribbean music, Americana, Blues, Zydeco, Rock and R&B. He’s also recorded several popular children’s records. His album, Señor Blues won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 1997, and he won another one in 2000 for his album Shoutin’ in Key.

Edited: May 31st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/9/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by Carole King

You know you’re really talented when you can write a song as great as “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and then give it away for someone else to record. In this case, the lucky recipients were The Monkees, who recorded the song for their “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD” album in 1967, and then took the single to the number three position of the charts.

Today’s Song Of The Day is Carole King’s original demo from 1966. It was released last year on the album “The Legendary Demos,” which also features early versions of the songs “Take Good Care Of My Baby” (Bobby Vee), “Crying In The Rain” (The Everly Brothers), “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin), “Like Little Children” (The Knickerbockers) and several tracks that King would record for Tapestry (“Beautiful,” “It’s Too Late,” “Tapestry,” “Way Over Yonder,” and “You’ve Got A Friend”).

“Pleasant Valley Sunday” is a comment on social stature and suburban life that takes place on a street (Pleasant Valley Way) in upper crust West Orange, New Jersey, where King and her husband, Gerry Goffin, were living at the time. (It’s about five minutes away from where my mother lives.) This rough version was probably demoed shortly after it was written, providing the first blush of a finished product. As a result, there’s an urgency in King’s version that is missing from the Monkees’ hit.

The thirteen track collection provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the Brill Building, where songwriters composed songs on demand, and then went directly into the studio to demo them quickly to get them into the hands of a recording artist who would then take them directly to the upper regions of the charts. It’s a great look into King’s creative process and, especially on the early songs, makes one wonder why she wasn’t a solo hit maker way before 1970.

Edited: January 8th, 2013

Song Of The Day – 5/1/11

Song Of The Day – “Love Is Only Sleeping” by The Monkees

This one comes from their fourth and best long player, 1967′s “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” This Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill classic was a last minute addition to this album after they swapped it with “Daydream Believer” as their next single.

Edited: April 30th, 2011