Happy 50th birthday, Headquarters!

Image used solely to illustrate subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 22 May 1967, Headquarters was The Monkees’ third studio album, and their first with almost complete creative control. The few outside musicians were properly credited, as were the professional songwriters.

Though The Monkees began life as a TV show band, assembled from four guys chosen via auditions, they rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. It was also beshert, destiny, that those four guys were chosen out of everyone who auditioned, and that they meshed together so well.

HQ immediately reached #1, but was dethroned by the most overrated album of all time a mere week later. It stayed at #2 for the next 11 weeks. HQ also reached #1 in Canada and the U.K. In Norway and Finland, it charted at #2.

Track listing, with stars by the 2007 bonus tracks:

“You Told Me” (Nez)
“I’ll Spend My Life with You” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Forget That Girl” (Douglas Farthing Hatlelid)
“Band 6” (mostly instrumental)
“You Just May Be the One” (Nez, with a chorus line some people have famously misheard as “Oh, Nimbus” instead of “All men must”)
“Shades of Gray” (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
“I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind” (Boyce and Hart)
“For Pete’s Sake” (Peter and Joey Richards; used as the closing theme for the second season of the TV show)
“Mr. Webster” (Boyce and Hart; reminds me very much of “Richard Cory” on Sounds of Silence)
“Sunny Girlfriend” (Nez)
“Zilch” (a fun nonsense number that’s a group effort)
“No Time” (Hank Cicalo)
“Early Morning Blues and Greens” (Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller)
“Randy Scouse Git” (Famously written by Micky about his wild, exciting experience in London and meeting his first wife. The title translates as “Horny Liverpudlian Jerk,” and was hence retitled “Alternate Title” in the U.K.)
“All of Your Toys” (Bill Martin)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (Nez)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond)*
“She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry)*
“Love to Love” (Neil Diamond)*
“You Can’t Tie a Mustang Down” (Jeff Barry)*
“If I Learned to Play the Violin” (Joey Levine and Artie Resnick)*
“99 Pounds” (Jeff Barry)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (single version)*
“Randy Scouse Git” (alternate version)*
“Tema Dei Monkees” (Boyce and Hart)*
“All of Your Toys” (early mono mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (second version)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (mono single remix)*
“She Hangs Out” (mono single mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (mono single mix)*
“Nine Times Blue” (Nez; demo version)*
“She’ll Be There” (Sharon Sheeley; acoustic duet)*
“Midnight Train” (Micky; demo version)*
“Peter Gunn’s Gun” (Henry Mancini; jam session)*
“Jericho” (studio dialogue, arranged by Peter)*
“Pillow Time” (Janelle Scott and Matt Willis; demo version)*

I absolutely adore this album, and easily give it 5 stars. The bonus tracks on the most updated reissue are also awesome, though I personally feel like they go on too long and start detracting from the listening experience. The last few bonus tracks are kind of like the endless jam sessions on the third LP of ATMP, where I’d constantly wonder, “Isn’t this over yet?” It would feel less bloated with less bonus tracks, and the rest saved for a boxed set or disc of rarities or outtakes.

HQ is definitely one of the key albums to get acquainted with if you’re just getting into The Monkees!

Vintage soldier photos with a twist

Due to my move and the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, I’ll once again only be posting on Sunday and Monday of this week. To mark Memorial Day, here are some vintage photos of soldiers you may not have seen before.

A U.S. Army medic in WWII takes some time to help civilian children.

A U.S. Army medic (45th Infantry Division) and a captured Wehrmacht medic work together on a wounded Wehrmacht soldier, Anzio, Italy, 6 February 1944

U.S. Army medic treating a wounded Waffen SS soldier, 1944

1 July 1944, U.S. Army medics helping a wounded dog found in the rubble of Carentan, France

Some medics (like my character Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov of the Canadian Army) were trained as vets instead of people doctors, so why shouldn’t some human doctors sometimes switch their focus too?

1944, medics’ station

1943, wounded soldiers being evacuated sans ambulance

A Wehrmacht soldier with a soft spot for kittens

A cat hissing at a Wehrmacht soldier

A little boy saying goodbye to his father during WWII

WWI medics helping a wounded dog

He was caught and relieved of his post shortly afterwards, his ultimate fate unknown. It’s hard to believe the Berlin Wall really existed in my own lifetime and that there used to be two Germanys, since there’s been one unified Germany for 75% of my life so far!

Happy 50th birthday to A Quick One!

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Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Released 9 December 1966, A Quick One was The Who’s sophomore album. From my experience in the fan community, this seems to be one of those things which is largely judged differently along sex-based lines. A lot of guys tend to hate it or think it’s junky bubblegum, while female fans are more forgiving and are even known to like it more than a little.

This isn’t one of the greatest albums of all time, but it’s not the worst either. It’s a typical 1966 album, in that there are a few hits and radio favorites padded out with a bunch of filler. For the most part, I find the filler fun and cute. One guy on the old album reviews section of thewho.net claimed he wanted to throw up every time he played it. As I said in my own review, why would someone play any album he hates so much it makes him want to throw up?

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

 “Run Run Run” (written by Pete)
“Boris the Spider” (written by John)
“I Need You” (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Whiskey Man” (written by John)
“Heat Wave” (cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song)
“Cobwebs and Strange” (instrumental) (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Don’t Look Away” (written by Pete)
“See My Way” (written by Roger)
“So Sad About Us” (written by Pete)
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” (written by Pete)
“Batman”*
“Bucket T”*
“Barbara Ann”*
“Disguises”* (written by Pete)
“Doctor, Doctor”* (written by John)
“I’ve Been Away”* (written by John)
“In the City”* (written by John and Keith)
“Happy Jack”* (written by Pete)
“Man with the Money”* (cover of an Everly Brothers’ song)
“My Generation/Land of Hope and Glory”* (first part written by Pete; second by Edward Elgar)

As per the custom of the era, the album was repackaged for the American market, and retitled Happy Jack. The U.S. version removed “Heat Wave,” and added “Happy Jack” between “Cobwebs and Strange” and “Don’t Look Away.”

The album failed to chart in the U.S., though it reached #4 in the U.K. The only successful single was “Happy Jack,” which charted at #3 in the U.K. and #24 in the U.S. “Boris the Spider” became one of John’s most popular songs, one of the songs most associated with him. “So Sad About Us” also became very popular, as well as the original closing track.

By 1966 standards, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” is a complete anomaly, particularly on an album full of songs ranging from 1:53 to 3:04. It clocks in at 9:10, and, true to what Pete admits is his own pretentious nature, it was billed as a mini-opera. The subject matter is also pretty risqué for 1966, since it’s clearly about an affair and cuckoldry. It consists of six parts:

“Her Man’s Been Gone”
“Crying Town”
“We Have a Remedy”
“Ivor the Engine Driver”
“Soon Be Home”
“You Are Forgiven”

Pete wanted cellos in the concluding section, but since The Who didn’t exactly have the type of budget as The Beatles did, they had to sing “Cello cello cello cello cello cello cello” several times.

The band were under a contractual requirement to write at least two songs each, though Roger only wrote one. Pete was always their predominant songwriter, though John showed a real talent for songwriting already at this early point. I love the dark, twisted humor in his songs. Roger did go on to write some pretty nice songs, but I think we’re all glad he chose to stick primarily to singing.

It’s fun, cute bubblegum pop, not the hard rock The Who became known for, but that just makes it different, not wretched and inferior. Too many so-called fans seem to think they had to sound a certain way for their entire career, instead of God forbid trying out different musical styles and evolving over time. It’s fine to have a personal preference, but not to bash them for failing to measure up to that preference every single time.

WeWriWa—Allen Comforts Adicia

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. Since I’ll be starting my Halloween-themed snippets in just two weeks, I decided to move an older post out of my drafts folder instead of starting the next scene in the WIP I’ve been sharing from. That way, I won’t have to break off the forward momentum for an entire month-plus.

This snippet comes from Little Ragdoll, Chapter 38, “The Sacrifice of Adicia,” set in August 1969. Adicia’s mother, who served a few months in prison for embezzlement in 1962, was recently threatened with more jail time if she failed to pay back the remaining money by the end of August.

Mrs. Troy, true to her black-hearted, anti-maternal nature, coerced Adicia into giving up her virginity for the remaining $3,000. In exchange, Adicia was promised a handsome husband with a good job and the ability to graduate high school instead of being forced to drop out at sixteen. By remaining at home till 18, Adicia will also be able to keep protecting her baby sister Justine.

Big brother Allen has just found out what their evil mother did, and is furious. When he goes to see Adicia at their sister Ernestine’s place, he winds up hugging her for the first time.

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Adicia sits up and puts her arms around her brother, sobbing against his chest.  Allen hugs her back, the first time he’s ever hugged any of his sisters.  He still can’t entirely shake his social conditioning about manly versus unmanly behavior, but he’s hardly acting like a pansy by comforting someone he loves.  He hugs her as tightly as he knows how, to make up for all the years he never did it.  Seeing how she only comes up to the middle of his chest makes him painfully aware of how small she is for her age, how much she still resembles a little ragdoll even at fifteen.  She’s not even five feet tall yet.

“I’m not really sure I believe God exists, but onea the things that makes me think he might exist is that I got the best big brother in the world.  Out of all the families in the world, we were chosen for each other.”

Little Ragdoll Cover

I will be having my cover redesigned, though keeping it based on the same reference picture I worked from, and still using lots of dark blue. I don’t regret the experience of having designed two of my own covers, but I quickly came to understand something more professional will sell more copies.

The Monkees at 50, Part II (Discography)

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Left to right: Walls and Bridges (John Lennon, 1975); 1962–1966, a.k.a. The Red Album (The Beatles); Headquarters (1967); Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. (1967); The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees (1968); The Monkees (1966); More of The Monkees (1966); Quadrophenia (The Who, 1973).

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Their eponymous début released 10 October 1966, and spent 13 weeks at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200. It’s mostly bubblegum pop, meant as a cash cow for the producers and a way of pimping the show to the huge teenybopper fanbase. As fun as these songs are, they’re not the kind of classics or strong material serious fans have in mind when we talk about how awesome The Monkees are.

I also love how they’re all smiling on the cover except Nez. Reportedly, he was getting really frustrated at how many takes they’d done, and didn’t notice the camera snapping.

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More of The Monkees released 9 January 1967, much to the band’s shock. They had no idea this album was being put together until they saw it in stores. If I weren’t such a longtime Monkeemaniac, I doubt I’d like this album nearly so much. Again, it’s mostly lightweight bubblegum pop, and Davy sings not one, not two, but three incredibly schmaltzy, sappy, saccharine songs. “The Day We Fall in Love” isn’t even a song, just a sappy monologue set to music!

However, it does have the classics “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “She,” and “I’m a Believer” (overplayed though it might be). There’s also the gorgeous, underrated “Sometime in the Morning.”

It spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Top 200, the longest-reigning #1 of any Monkees’ album.

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Headquarters released 22 May 1967, and shot to #1 in the U.S., #2 in the U.K. The most overrated album of all time unseated it from #1 in the U.S. HQ was their first album as a real band, with very little outside songwriting and instrumentation. On the back cover, The Monkees credited these session musicians instead of pretending they did it all by themselves.

Every single track is perfect! I also love most of the bonus tracks on the modern reissue.

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PAC&J released 6 November 1967, and was the band’s fourth consecutive #1 album. It takes its names from the boys’ sun signs. Micky is Pisces, Peter is Aquarius, and Davy and Nez are both Capricorns. Davy and Nez also have the same birthday, 30 December.

This is an excellent album, with somewhat more outside musicians, but still with a big amount of creative control. It’s an ideal starting-place for a new fan.

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The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees released 22 April 1968. Their show’s final episode aired on 25 March 1968, though the boys were still sustained by their established popularity. However, BB&M was their first album which didn’t reach #1. It attained a respectable #3 in the U.S., and didn’t chart at all in the U.K.

This has been called The Monkees’ White Album, with each Monkee demonstrating his own musical style and personality in his respective songs. As much as I adore this album, though, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to a brand-new fan. One’s fandom should be a bit more established and secure before diving into this type of album.

Many people hate the Nez song “Writing Wrongs,” though I typically love it. This song has been compared to The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9,” which I also predictably love. I love “Revolution No. 9” so much, I’ve often listened to it on repeat.

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The Head soundtrack released 1 December 1968, and was Peter’s final album with the group till 1986’s attempted comeback Pool It! It was also the last Monkees’ album to feature all four until 1996’s Justus. This trippy album only went to #45, and the film famously bombed. Like most bombs, however, it’s developed a cult following.

The highly underrated Instant Replay released 15 February 1969, and went to #32 in the U.S. Though it was released after the first wave of popularity had begun bursting, there are lots of awesome songs. I’d rate it 4.5 stars, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the later Monkees.

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The Monkees Present released 1 October 1969, and only went to #100 in the U.S. This is another highly underrated album worth a listen by the serious fan. It contains lots of deep, serious, complex songs, as well as “Listen to the Band,” a Nez song which has become an anthem of sorts for the band.

If you want a good laugh, check out this old version of the Wikipedia page on the album! There’s so much POV all over it, as well as overly casual language.

Changes released in June 1970, by which time only Davy and Micky were left, and failed to chart. This album is only for completists, and definitely not something I’d recommend a new fan listen to first or even fifth. It’s best saved for last. With the exception of a few songs, this is pure elevator muzak.

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Over the years, there have been many compilation albums, the 3-volume Missing Links rarities series, some live albums, and three latter-day albums—Pool It! (1986), Justus (1996), and Good Times! (2016) The lattermost released to wild success this May, and is their best album in years, even considering Davy’s absence.