Happy 50th birthday, Headquarters!

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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!

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The Monkees at 50, Part V (What they mean to me)

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Seeing as I’m a second-generation Monkeemaniac who was hooked by the huge second wave of 1986, I’ve now been a passionate lover of this wonderful band for 30 years. At the age I am now, that’s a good 90% of my life. The vast majority of my life has been spent as a Monkeemaniac. I fell in love with them only a few years into being able to remember, so that means an even greater percentage of my memoried life has been spent as a Monkeemaniac.

I’ve never been like most folks, and amn’t about to suddenly up and start now. The di was cast for me to love all things from previous generations all those years ago. I honestly never understood why so many of my peers went gaga over contemporary music, movies, actors, and other aspects of popular culture.

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The Monkees were my first musical love, and remained my fave raves for seven years, until the spring of ’93, when I was thirteen. They were dethroned by The Four Seasons, and a year later, 9 April 1994, I declared The Beatles as my favourite band. In late 2000, they in turn were dethroned by The Who. All these years, I’ve held The Monkees as my third-fave band. The Who are my #1, and The Beatles are the musical love of my life (whom I also strongly feel saved my life), but The Monkees will always have that special place as my first musical love.

All these past 30 years, hearing The Monkees just makes me so happy. While they certainly have more than a few deep, serious, complex songs, I love them most for their fun, sweet, innocent songs. Sometimes you just want something fun, peppy, and lightweight to relax to, to step inside a more innocent mood, to relive happy memories.

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Being all of six years old when I became a Monkeemaniac, I immediately chose Davy as my fave rave. No deep, thoughtful, mature reasoning went into my choice. I just thought he was the cutest. This was the exact same reason Paul was initially my favourite Beatle. I did later admit to myself John had become my favourite Beatle (after awhile of trying to pretend to myself I had two faves), and now I’m coming to realise my preference has strongly shifted towards George. But for my first musical love, dethroning Davy as my fave rave seems so sacrilegious.

My dearest, oldest friend, who got into the band with me, chose Micky as her fave rave. Some years back, she was able to fulfill a longtime goal of interviewing all four Monkees (at separate times).

I think we were in second grade when we did The Monkees’ theme song for the school’s annual lip-synch. We had shirts with felt letters spelling Monkees. Hers said Micky on the back, but I was too embarrassed to have only Davy’s name on mine, and wanted all four of their names. My parents said that would be far too expensive. Mine might’ve been plain on the back.

Our lip-synch bombed horribly, even with her father trying to help us out by jumping into the audience dressed as a monkey. She was pretty pissed at me as we walked back to our seats, feeling I messed our act up. Thankfully, we soon made up. We’ve been friends since September ’85, when we were in kindergarten.

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Of the three surviving Monkees, Nez is my favourite. I really think he would’ve been my fave rave had I gotten into them at an older age, or maybe Peter.  As a child, I always saw Nez as the boring, adult one, a bit apart from the other three. This was a striking harbinger of his spotty involvement with the band in the years since 1970. Little did I know how popular he is among my fellow second-generation Monkeemaniacs.

He also seems to have done the most with his life outside of his Monkees’ career. Not only did he create MTV, but he’s also a very successful solo artist and songwriter, and one of country rock’s pioneers.

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I was absolutely devastated when Davy was taken from the material world on 29 February 2012. I never dreamt he’d be the first one to go, nor that he’d be taken so relatively young. I still can’t believe he’s really gone. It was as much of a shock as when John Entwistle died. It’s not as though either of them had been sick for a long time, like George Harrison, and everyone knew they were dying. Both deaths were so out of the blue.

My steadfast love for The Monkees has grown deeper and more multifaceted as I’ve journeyed through life. They’ve meant different things to me at each stage of life, and the way I hear their music has evolved too. After 30 years, it almost feels like a marriage of sorts.

It’s safe to say I’ll never stop loving The Monkees. How could I, after investing 90% of my life in this relationship?

The Monkees at 50, Part IV (Enduring legacy and popularity)

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Little could anyone have predicted, back when those 437 hopeful young men showed up to audition in September 1965 or when The Monkees débuted in September 1966, what a huge, enduring popularity and legacy was being created. A TV show about a fictional band turned into a cultural icon not only of the Sixties, but of all time.

When Nez let the cat out of the bag about them not being allowed to play (most of) their instruments or write their own music, the powers that be were stunned, but real fans didn’t care. The true-blue Monkeemaniacs weren’t under any illusions about this being a real, organically-created band who lived in that groovy beach house. They knew it was a TV show with actors.

Had The Monkees stayed just a fictional TV band, they never would’ve remained so popular for 50 years. They became a real band, and made some truly wonderful music once they were given the bulk of creative control. Prior to their rebellion, they’d also had a lot of great songwriters, like Neil Diamond and Carole King.

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All bands have an initial shelf life, and it seemed as though Monkeemania had ended by 1969. Head was a flop (both due to how weird it was and how most of their fanbase weren’t old enough to see an R-rated movie); the show was cancelled after two seasons; first Peter and then Nez left; and different types of bands and musicians were rising in popularity while many longtime chart staples were seen as unhip and past their expiration date.

This phenomenon was very similar to many silent stars’ decline in popularity during the early sound era (which I’ll be discussing in much greater detail during next year’s series on The Jazz Singer at 90). It wasn’t that they had horrible voices or couldn’t make the transition well, it was that their shelf life was naturally ending anyway, and a whole new crop of talent was coming up.

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However, Micky and Davy continued making music and touring together for awhile (albeit without much commercial success). The show also ran in reruns Saturdays on CBS, from September 1969–September 1972, and on ABC from September 1972–August 1973. In September 1975, all 58 episodes were sold to local markets, and mostly appeared on indie stations.

On 23 February 1986, MTV (which actually was a music-oriented channel once upon a time) ran a marathon. Within months, a lot of other channels were airing the show too, Nickelodeon among them. This was Nick’s golden age, much as my younger friends who grew up during the Nineties would heartily disagree with me.

This second wave of Monkeemania during their 20th anniversary year was what snared me and my dearest, oldest friend. I can’t believe we’ve now been fans for 30 years!

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The band went on tour during 1986–7, and my best friend and I went to see them when they played in Albany in the summer of ’87. Weird Al was their opening act, and Nez wasn’t with them. As my mother explained to my 7-year-old self, he had a job he felt was more important than The Monkees. Now that I’m an adult, I better understand his reasoning behind not being more involved with the various tours and reunions over the years.

As a kid, I thought he was more boring and adult than the other three, kind of a harbinger of his spotty involvement with the band since 1970. Now, I feel like Nez would’ve been my fave rave had I gotten into them when I was a lot older than just six. Given my personality and interests, he, not Davy, seems the obvious choice, but it feels sacrilegious to switch fave raves when it comes to my first musical love. Of the three surviving Monkees, Nez is my favourite.

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MTV tried a spin-off, The New Monkees, in 1987, but it quickly bombed. The attempted comeback album, Pool It!, also wasn’t exactly their strongest material. Due to personal conflicts, the reunion came to an end.

Micky and Davy reconciled, and began another reunion tour in ’94. For their 30th anniversary in ’96, Micky, Davy, and Peter did a reunion tour, and all four Monkees created the album Justus, on which they did all the songwriting and instrumentation.

There have been various other reunion tours over the years, most recently this year, to mark their 50th anniversary. Their new album, Good Times!, is their best work in years.

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The TV show is such a quintessential cultural icon of the Sixties, really showcasing the music, fashion, attitudes, and culture of 1966–8. Many future musicians grew up watching the show, both in its original run and in reruns, and it had a huge impact on them.

Artists who’ve done Monkees’ covers, or songs written by Nez, include The Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, Linda Ronstadt, Run-D.M.C., Smash Mouth, George Benson, and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Other artists who cite the band as an influence include The Beach Boys, Nirvana, U2, R.E.M., and Glen Campbell.

The show is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and Head has been given the master treatment by the prestigious Criterion Collection.

Many Monkees’ songs have been used in movies and other TV shows over the years, and the band, their music, and the TV show have been referenced in a number of other shows and movies.

Not bad for a band that started out as fictitious.

The Monkees at 50, Part III (The case for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

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It’s hardly a secret that Jann Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, has been keeping The Monkees out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since its inception. I’m far from the only person who feels righteous indignation at this élitist ass for excluding so many important acts based on his own musical taste. You don’t have to adore every single band or performer, but you can at least understand or respect his, her, or their legacy, continued popularity, and positive critical reception.

Guidelines dictate one becomes eligible for induction 25 years after one’s first record. That’s a fair wait, since many bands and artists never achieve long-lasting popularity and critical legacy. However, The Monkees became eligible in 1991, and they’ve consistently been snubbed by Wenner.

Meanwhile, a lot of other acts have been rushed in the moment they became eligible, like Nirvana, The Beastie Boys, Madonna, Run-D.M.C., and Public Enemy. Many of the acts inducted in recent years aren’t even rockers, though we now have both a Pop and Hip Hop Hall of Fame.

I’m also shocked Chicago finally made it in this year! Wenner snubbed them for 22 years!

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It’s not just The Monkees. Wenner also kept my belovèd Hollies out till 2010, didn’t let Kiss in till 2014, and snubbed The Small Faces till 2012. His refusal to induct the abovementioned Chicago was also legendary. Other ongoing snubs:

Connie Francis (eligible for 33 years)
The Marvelettes (eligible for 30 years)
The Doobie Brothers (eligible for 20 years)
The Moody Blues (eligible for 27 years)
Jethro Tull (eligible for 23 years)
Ozzy Osbourne as a solo artist (eligible for 11 years)
Pat Benetar (eligible for 12 years, and one of the greatest female vocalists in rock)
Procol Harem (eligible for 24 years)
Yes (eligible for 22 years)
The Zombies (eligible for 27 years)
Herman’s Hermits (eligible for 26 years, and hugely underrated)
Duran Duran (eligible for 10 years)

There’s also a category for early influences on rock (e.g., Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, Woody Guthrie, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington). Snubs in this category include Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ravi Shankar, Scott Joplin, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

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Getting into the Hall of Fame isn’t just about popularity or number of records sold. If that were the case, anyone who ever had a #1, or who was really popular for a few years, would be in there. It also includes:

Enduring legacy! The Monkees are still incredibly popular and belovèd 50 years on, with a huge musical and cultural influence (more on that in Part IV). Their music stands the test of time.

Wide-ranging catalogue. I love bands who aren’t one-trick ponies. No two albums should sound the same. Even if a band has a general, easily-recognisable sound, they can still make a wide range of music within that. There’s such a difference between songs like “Mommy and Daddy,” “Zor and Zam,” “Writing Wrongs,” “Auntie’s Municipal Court,” “Star Collector,” “Love Is Only Sleeping,” “The Door into Summer,” and “Papa Gene’s Blues.”

Gads and gads of talent! Peter and Nez were both accomplished musicians when they joined the group, Nez was an up-and-coming songwriter who blossomed into a great songwriter, Davy was a talented vocalist, and Micky is not only one of the most criminally underrated male voices in rock, but he also taught himself to play the drums.

Innovativeness. To give just one example, “Star Collector” was the first song to feature a Moog synthesiser.

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Back when the group formed, it was pretty damn normal to rely upon outside songwriters and session musicians, and no one crucified The Beatles for not always playing all their own instruments and doing some covers. Nowadays, no one bats an eye at performers not writing their own songs and playing their own instruments.

Yes, they were put together as a fictional band on a TV show, and were four actors chosen from 437 auditions. However, they rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. You also can’t just throw four random people together and expect them to mesh together so beautifully and perfectly. It was destiny that these four guys were the ones chosen, and that they worked so well together.

So many groups and bands from the Sixties are forgotten today. I only know them because I’ve listened to so much oldies and classic rock radio for 23 years and counting. If I weren’t such an anomaly, I doubt I’d know about groups like Gary Lewis and The Playboys, Gerry and The Pacemakers, or Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas.

The Monkees meanwhile have become an entrenched part of the culture. People of all ages know their music, and their influence is very wide-ranging. I really hope Chicago’s long-denied induction has opened the door for similarly snubbed bands like The Monkees and The Moody Blues.

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.