Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sweet 16 (3-29-16) - The 16 Best-Known Monkees Songs

Notice that I said "best known" ... not Greatest Hits or even Best Recordings ...

But back in the day when The Monkees first hit the scene, thanks to their popular television series, many of the group's album tracks got played on the radio with the regularity of a hit single.

Certain tracks (like "I Wanna Be Free" from their first album) were deliberately held back and NOT released as singles so that fans would have to go out and buy the album instead.  

Colgems Records needn't have worried ... their first five albums sold at an INCREDIBLE pace ... in fact their debut album, "The Monkees", topped Billboard's Album Chart for thirteen straight weeks only to be knocked out of the #1 spot by their second album, "More Of The Monkees", which held the #1 position for the next eighteen straight weeks.  That's 31 consecutive weeks at the top of the albums chart.

With a one week interruption, their third album, "Headquarters", then rose to the #1 spot, giving The Monkees the #1 Album in the Country for 32 out of the past 33 consecutive weeks!  ("Headquarters" only spent a week at #1.  That's because a little album by some guys from England took over the top spot for the next fifteen weeks with something called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" ... you may have heard of it???)  I should point out, however, that the entire fifteen weeks that "Sgt. Pepper" held down the #1 position, "Headquarters" was right behind it in the #2 spot.

The Monkees closed out the year with "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd." (their best LP in my opinion) with another five week run at the top.  In 1968, "The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees" peaked at #3 and, with their TV show cancelled, they never hit The Top Ten again.

Here is our ranking of The Sweet 16 Best-Known Monkees songs ... presented the way we remember them best ... as both a musical AND visual experience ...

#16 - "Shades Of Gray" (from the "Headquarters" album.  Nine of the songs included on this special Sweet 16 Countdown were released only as album tracks here in The States ... but they achieved a longer-running and more endearing status than fifteen of their nationally charted singles.)

#15 - "Cuddly Toy" (from the "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd." album ... and written by a then-unknown Harry Nilsson, his first major song placement with an artist)

#14 - "Randy Scouse Git" (from the "Headquarters" album ... and also a #2 Single in Great Britain under the name "Alternate Title" in 1967.  Micky Dolenz wrote this track ... and chose this as its title after hearing the phrase uttered on a British television comedy series.)

#13 - "Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow" (from the "More Of The Monkees" album ... one of several Neil Diamond contributions included on this very special Sweet 16 list)

#12 - "She" (from the "More Of The Monkees" album ... a track consistently voted in as the #1 Listener Request for weeks and weeks on end in 1967, written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart).  This one could have been a monster-sized hit had it been released as a single at the time.

#11 - "For Pete's Sake" (from the "Headquarters" album ... and used as the closing theme to their hit television series during Season Two ... written by Peter Tork and sung by Micky Dolenz)

#10 - "Mary, Mary"  (from "More Of The Monkees" ... written by Michael Nesmith and sung by Micky Dolenz) 

# 9 - "I Wanna Be Free" (from "The Monkees" album ... a Boyce and Hart ballad sung by Davy Jones for the rest of his life)

#8 - "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (a #1 hit single from 1967, awarded to Neil Diamond as part of the consolation prize negotiations for giving The Monkees "I'm A Believer" to release as an eight-week #1 record earlier that year, rather than releasing it as his own single)

#7 - "Steppin' Stone"  (the B-Side to "I'm A Believer" ... and a #20 Hit in its own right ... another Boyce and Hart tune, first recorded as an album track by Paul Revere and the Raiders)

#6 - "Valleri"  (a #1 Hit Single from 1968 ... and their last record to top the charts.  The Monkees included an earlier, alternate version of this song in one of their television episodes and, being a brand new, unreleased song, disc jockeys across the nation taped it and began playing it on the air giving them another #1 Most Requested Song in the process ... but they didn't officially release it as a single until nearly a year later.  The clip below is from that original TV broadcast)

#5 - "Pleasant Valley Sunday"  (a #2 Hit Single from 1967 ... written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King ... a little bit of psychedelic Monkeemania from The Summer Of Love)

#4 - "Theme from 'The Monkees'"  (never released as a single here in The States but used as the opening theme to their hit television series.  An expanded version was included on their first album, "The Monkees", in 1966.)

#3 - "Last Train To Clarksville"  (a #1 Hit Single from 1966.  The Monkees' first hit and still a staple of oldies radio today)

#2 - "Daydream Believer"  (a #1 Hit Single from 1967 ... and one of Davy's signature tunes.  His little "shing-a-ling dance step in the music video still makes everyone smile to this day)

#1 - "I'm A Believer"  (a #1 Hit Single from 1967 ... and the biggest hit they ever had.  Written ... as mentioned before ... by Neil Diamond, Neil wisely gave the song to the hottest group in the country at the time and made more on publishing rights than he ever could have made as an artist releasing the song under his own name.)