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.”

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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.

The Monkees at 50, Part I (Monkeemania begins)

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Welcome to Monkees’ Week, a celebration of my first musical love on their 50th anniversary! I’ll be discussing the first wave of Monkeemania and the TV show, what The Monkees have meant to me these past 30 years of being a fan, their discography, their case for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and their legacy (including the second wave of Monkeemania in 1986–7).

On 12 September 1966, Monday, at 7:30 PM, The Monkees débuted on NBC, to immediate success. This series was a long time in coming, as Bob Rafelson had the idea for a show about a band since 1960. Given the musical climate of the early Sixties, however, he wasn’t able to garner enough interest in such a project till April 1965. He and Bert Schneider sold the idea to Screen Gems, and that August, a pilot script was written.

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On 8 September 1965, The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety ran an ad:

Madness!! Auditions. Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running Parts for 4 insane boys, age 17-21. Want spirited Ben Frank’s types. Have courage to work. Must come down for interview.

There were 437 auditions, including Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Paul Williams, Danny Hutton, and Van Dyke Parks. Urban myth claims Charles Manson auditioned too, though he was in prison at the time.

Of the four finalists who went down in musical history, only Michael Nesmith came because of the ad. The others were referred by agents or on friends’ recommendations. Peter Tork was recommended by his buddy Stephen Stills when he went in to audition and was told his hair and teeth wouldn’t photograph well on camera.

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George Michael Dolenz, Jr. is the son of Slovenian-born screen legend George Dolenz (né Jure Dolenc) and 1940s actor Janelle Johnson. Since George was really old-school, he insisted Janelle retire from acting upon their marriage. In his autobiography, Micky said he kind of felt sad at how his mother was compelled to end a promising career, but also was thankful he had the experience of growing up with one parent at home all the time.

From 1956–8, Micky starred in Circus Boy. Out of fear of his ethnic name and dark curly hair, he was billed as Micky Braddock and his hair was dyed blonde. After the show ended, Micky did a few acting jobs, but mostly focused on his education. Later on, he became passionately interested in music.

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David Thomas Jones began acting as a teenager, though following his mother’s tragic death from emphysema when he was 14, he began training as a jockey. However, his trainer, Basil Foster, had other ideas, and got him the role of the Artful Dodger in Oliver! This launched him into success, leading all the way to Ed Sullivan (famously the same night as The Beatles’ début performance) and a recording contract with Screen Gems.

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Peter Halsten Thorkelson was very musically gifted from a young age, learning piano at nine and branching out into a number of other instruments. In the early Sixties, he moved to NYC and joined the Greenwich Village folk music scene. It was there that he befriended a number of other future famous musicians like Stephen Stills.

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Robert Michael Nesmith hails from Texas, and is the son of the late Bette Nesmith Graham, the inventor of Liquid Paper. His parents divorced when he was four, and his mother worked as a secretary to support them. Eventually, she rose to become executive secretary at Texas Bank and Trust, the highest position women in that industry were able to attain in that era.

Nez served in the Air Force for awhile, and then got into folk music. He and his then-wife Phyllis moved to L.A. in 1964 so he could pursue a musical career.

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It was absolute beshert (destiny) that out of all those hundreds of hopefuls, these four fellows were chosen, and meshed together so well. They became so much more than a fictional band on a TV show, rebelling against their handlers to become a real band. Nez was the one who fought longest and hardest for more creative control.

Though they all had prior musical training or experience to some degree, they weren’t allowed to do much on their first two albums (the second of which was put together and released without their knowledge).

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Monkeemania was immediate, similar to the Beatlemania of several years earlier. Young girls couldn’t stop screaming by their concerts, so much so they drowned out opening act Jimi Hendrix. They booed him offstage. Micky noted in his autobiography how refreshingly polite the Japanese fans were. Since screaming by a concert is considered very rude, they instead waved handkerchiefs to show enthusiasm.

The Monkees played their instruments live, in spite of being blocked from doing much in the studio.

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Sadly, NBC cancelled the show after only two seasons, though The Monkees continued making albums. They also made one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen, Head, and did a TV special, 33⅓ Revolutions per Monkee. Peter left after this. Their string of classic albums ended in 1970, after Nez left.

Fifty years on, the boys are still belovèd and popular. This May, they released an excellent album to mark their 50th anniversary, and it quickly jumped to #1 on Amazon.

Happy 50th birthday, Revolver!

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Used solely to illustrate the subject for the purpose of critique, and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Revolver, one of my favoritest albums and one of the greatest albums of all time, turned 50 on 5 August. This album has been in my personal Top 5 for years and years, and I can’t see it ever not having one of those most coveted top spots. It’s just absolute perfection, a timeless classic.

The album spent seven weeks at #1 on the U.K. Albums Chart, and 34 weeks on the chart altogether. In the U.S., it spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top LPs chart. This was the last proper album to be repackaged by Capitol, and like its predecessor Rubber Soul, the name and cover were left alone.

Whereas RS has been called The Beatles’ pot album, Revolver was their acid album. Trippy sounds are all over the album, like backwards tape loops, sitars, and varispeeding. So many of the songs are lightyears away from their early offerings, with such mature, complex, surrealistic, and, yes, drug-induced themes. They’d moved beyond only doing simple love songs.

Track listing:

“Taxman”
“Eleanor Rigby” (one of only two songs, the other being “In My Life,” which John and Paul significantly disagreed on the authorship credits of)
“I’m Only Sleeping”
“Love You To”
“Here, There, and Everywhere”
“Yellow Submarine”
“She Said She Said”
“Good Day Sunshine”
“And Your Bird Can Sing” (the throwaway)
“For No One”
“Doctor Robert” (about the dentist who gave John and George their first acid trip)
“I Want to Tell You”
“Got to Get You into My Life”
“Tomorrow Never Knows”

Unusually, George got three songs (“Taxman,” “Love You To,” and “I Want to Tell You”). He’d really begun coming into his own as a songwriter by this point.

Also by this point, the four Beatles’ personalities were showing through most loud and clear in their songs. Even if you haven’t heard the songs but just read the lyrics, it’s pretty obvious which is which, and that each had distinctive interests and themes.

The album met with huge critical acclaim, and has continuously been praised over the ensuing decades. Many folks, myself included, consider it The Beatles’ very best. It holds up incredibly well over time, and doesn’t sound dated like a certain other Beatles’ album surrounded by massive hype. Revolver has more than enough substance underneath the acclaim. It’s not just a bunch of trippy noises with a classic album cover, more famous for being famous than for timeless, outstanding musical merit.

I absolutely adore this album! Even the throwaway, “And Your Bird Can Sing,” is listenable.