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Were The Monkees The Last Remaining Group Of The Sixties?

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Showing 126-150 of 155 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 3:34:52 PM PDT
The Association album 'Birthday' did have one member playing on it.

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 4:08:35 PM PDT
MH says:

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 4:26:23 PM PDT
@Bernard J.Ryan: "Renaissance" was the one that didn't sell, right? I guess they were better off with the session musicians! Still, if that's the case, it was silly of their producer to pay extra money for session players when the group themselves were perfectly capable of playing those parts. The music wasn't exactly Yes or Frank Zappa, and they did a fine job at Monterey Pop.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 4:57:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2012 4:59:07 PM PDT
Michael Topper
I thought the album was good, and should have sold if it didn't. Their playing was more than competent.
I thought they played well at Monterey as well, and I've seen some live performances they did on the Ed Sullivan show, no lip syncing, and they were really good.
They wanted to play on their other albums but were overruled by their producer Curt Boettcher.
Their Renaissance album had another producer, and they got their own way there.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 5:05:21 PM PDT
Michael Topper:

The reason producers liked session musicians is that they were fast and good. They could cut a song fairly quickly, with minimal snags. Rock musicians sometimes didn't have much in the way of chops, and it could be frustrating.

George Martin decreed that a session musician play drums on the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do". He didn't know Ringo's playing, he knew the session drummer was competent. Ringo played tambourine. (I think they also recorded a version with Ringo on drums but it was not the take used.) This was kind of a sore point for years. But Martin was in no way a bad guy. He was doing his job, which was to record a song by an untried group as efficiently as possible.

The Association's Live album indicated they were fine at playing their instruments. But maybe session musicians were just faster and more creative in the studio, working out the arrangements and such. "Renaissance" was their weakest album.

They turned down "MacArthur Park". Jimmy Webb brought it in, but he refused to let them have the song by itself, he would only agree to have it used as part of a "Cantata" that would've taken up an entire album side. So the Association said no thanks. In retrospect, it was a mistake. "MacArthur Park" would have been a far bigger hit than the singles they ultimately released from the album in question. The Association had a final hit with "Goodbye. Columbus", but their brief heydey as hitmakers was drawing to a close.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 5:13:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 12, 2012 5:17:16 PM PDT
I know producers and record labels were impatient for more singles and more hits.
Two Herman's Hermits members commented that their producer would demand another hit single, but they would be touring the States and couldn't be in the UK studios at the same time.
To kick start things, to speed up the process, the producer would employ session players to lay down the backing track of a next single, have all the instrumentation complete, so that at the end of a tour the group could quickly add their vocal parts and the single would be out quicker. A simple case of speeding up the process. The group would often play on the B side, often a quickly recorded original, written quickly while on the tour. Everything was quick back then! Not like now where some band/singer might put out an album every few years or so.

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 5:18:02 PM PDT
@Bernard J. Ryan: I remember liking "Renaissance" as well, but not being overly impressed. I give it about a "B-" grade. You'd think that if they wanted to play on their records, they would have kept the producer for that album who let them, but I suppose the lack of any hit singles meant the record company probably insisted on someone else from that point on.

@W. David English: I can see that--the record companies actually save money because the session players can work very fast, thus using up far less of expensive studio time.

PS the take of "Love Me Do" with Ringo's drumming actually did make the original UK single, but was replaced by Andy White's take for the album and US single pressing.

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 6:35:34 PM PDT
I'm reading a biography of the jazz producer and impresario Norman Granz, whose name is on countless albums.

He liked doing single takes. He argued that endless retakes sapped the freshness out of a recording. He said he didn't care if the record had some mistakes. "I'm not selling perfection". Jazz was spontaneity, not scrimshaw.

I don't know how many jazz CDs I own on which the credits include a line like "Recorded on June 4, 1959". And these are magnificent recordings. Obviously, certain kinds of jazz lend themselves to this kind of speed, but even so, doing an entire album in one day is impressive.

I don't mean it's better than long complicated recording gestations. "Sgt. Pepper" or "Good Vibrations" could not have been recorded in one day and be nearly as rich as they are.

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 7:16:01 PM PDT
Chazzzbo says:
When one looks at the Monkees, you have to realize that their are several entities at play - the band, the actors, and the show as well as the different people responsible for the various elements - the tv and music producers.

The Monkees (the actors/band members) really had little to no control over their fate as regards the TV show or the film. The show (like most tv programs) was run by the producers, and in that capacity the "guys" were simply hired actors. Rafelson and Schneider called the shots. It was more likely a power play between them and the networks as to why the show was cancelled - it actually moved from prime time on NBC to Saturday morning airings on CBS after the initial two season run, with new songs edited into old episodes. R&S never saw the albums or music as anything other than a promotional vehicle for the tv show; which in turn actually became a promotional vehicle for the band's music. Imagine if the Partridge Family had caught fire as a musical entity with sold-out world tours. "Head" was an extension of R&S's desire to deconstruct artistically what they had created. Unfortunately, the film is disjointed, and most likely intentionally, a rip at the rabid fanbase. It sucked. R&S (along with Jack Nicholson in tow) wanted out. They had already parlayed their success with the show into other more "worthwhile" film projects such as Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and so on. Head allowed them to sever their relationship with The Monkees (the band entity).

The band themselves had gained more control over their musical output, but they also recognized the need for a good studio producer, hence the addition of Chip Douglas (ex-Turtles) to somewhat pilot the ship. The one piece of control which they never gained was ultimately the most important piece - the band's name itself. To this day, any time the band tours - including the numerous anniversary tours every five years or so - the booking agents for the guys needed to pay a licensing fee to the rights holders of the original tv show, originally Screen Gems, which I believe is currently held by Sony Pictures/Columbia Tri-Star.

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 7:16:17 PM PDT
@W.David English: funny you should mention that, because Mike Love was once quoted as grousing that they wasted six months and $75,000 on "Good Vibrations" to produce a final edit that was no better than their very first take of the song. Having heard the first take of GV, I have to disagree with him--it was definitely worth Wilson's while to take his time.

Sometimes the first-take approach works, sometimes it doesn't. It really depends on the artist, I think. Bob Dylan and Neil Young were pretty famous for recording a lot of their songs in one take. A lot of the early Beatle classics were recorded in one or two takes, and of course their debut album was famously recorded in one day. However, by the time McCartney wanted to revive the first-take approach for the Wings "Wild Life" album, he had changed too much in his approach in the intervening years for it to work, and the album was a disaster. "Band On The Run", which was meticulously crafted over many months, served him much better.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 7:22:24 PM PDT
@Chazzzbo: interesting, that your opinion of "Head" is as negative as that of W.David English. As I said, I like the film...but more than that, it actually gets good reviews these days from film critics. According to Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes gives it an aggregate 74% rating from the critics, which is very high indeed for that site. Leonard Maltin calls it "delightfully plotless". It also has a significant cult fanbase.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 11:17:43 PM PDT
Hinch says:
Rick Rubin certainly did a great job with Johnny Cash. I'm not familiar with his other work.

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 11:20:39 PM PDT
this little band called "THE ROLLING STONES" started in the 60's........... so did the KINKS...... both are still very alive and rockin' !!!!!!!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 3:56:30 AM PDT
RE: I'd guess many people never knew they really played on some of their albums.

My own Monkees experience was that I really liked the first album, which came out just as I was entering 7th grade. I loved "Last Train to Clarksville," "Saturday's Child," and a few others. For me, that was the school year -- '66-'67 -- when I started listening a little more seriously to music, buying albums. Music had been on a fast curve since The Beatles broke, but for me it began to change in tone and temperament around the time of Rubber Soul and Aftermath......though for me personally they were only precursors to the changes yet to come; they made some impact on me at the time, but music wasn't as important to me yet as it would become. It was just after the Monkees broke that I really got into it.

Coincidentally, that was also the (slightly more than a ) year (fall '66 through the end of '67) when The Doors broke, Cream put out "Disraeil Gears," the Airplane did "Surrealistic Pillow," "Sgt. Pepper" came out, Jimi Hendrix came out with "Are You Experienced".....and on and on. I liked the garage scene with The Seeds, Standells, Blues Magoos, as well. This stuff blew me away, and though I was still OK with the Monkees, their efforts just didn't sound the same to me after a relatively short time had passed.

So after a while I heard the talk about how they didn't play on their records and thought that sounded pretty bogus on their part. I didn't know anything about how record companies worked. I had no idea then that there were entities like The Wrecking Crew actually doing a lot of the heavy lifting on Monkees, Byrds, Beach Boys (et al) recordings; I took it for granted that all of those faces on the album cover of Turn! Turn! Turn!" actually played all their instruments. Given that, at the time, the "charges" against The Monkees sounded rather grave. Though I didn't really know anything about music, I sort of lost respect, couldn't take them seriously. I was pretty sure that that wasn't the case with Cream, The Doors, Hendrix.

All this combined to my losing interest in The Monkees. especially since there was an explosion of music in the next few years after that. At my age, and in that particular time period with the music that was coming out, it was just impossible to go back.

And with my loss of interest, I'm one of those who did not realize that they actually did learn to play their instruments. I became aware at some point, and I have no idea when that was.....but it was well after that time period. For me, The Monkees came and went pretty quickly.

So my little story about The Monkees is neither here nor there, just a footnote in my own history of music appreciation. But I can't help but think that, given the timing and the music that came out in the couple of years subsequent to The Monkees breakout, I'm not alone; there must be some others my age who had similar reactions.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 5:08:22 AM PDT
If you remember the 60's then you weren't there!

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 5:46:03 AM PDT
Chazzzbo says:
MT - let me correct my statement. From the perspective of the core Monkees fan at the time, the film sucked. I personally found it just okay. They were aiming pretty high as far as what they wanted to accomplish, but I'm not sure everyone on board had the same idea as to what the film was about (hence my disjointed comment). There are a LOT of cult films out there that may hit their core audience, but everyone else still says "Huh"?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 7:16:48 AM PDT
Michael Topper:

Griel Marcus, in his review of "Self-Portrait" for Rolling Stone, said "The whole thing about getting it down in one or two takes is only valid if you get it down." I think "Planet Waves" betrays the defects of this more than any Dylan album. I know it has its advocates, but to me it's mostly a bunch of not particularly good songs that might've profited by having some attention and time devoted to them. Dylan clearly spent longer on "New Morning" and on "Blood On The Tracks", and those albums have stood the test of time better than "Planet Waves". I believe much of BOTT was recorded twice, with different musicians. Sometimes you have to do that.

McCartney quotes Allen Ginsburg's line "first thought, best thought" and then points out that Ginsburg himself rewrote and revised a lot. I hear that quote occasionally, and the glibness of it irritates me. If McCartney himself had adhered to the "first thought, best thought" ethos, he would have released his most famous song under the title "Scrambled Eggs', and it would be remembered today as one of the silliest songs he ever produced. But he revised it, and came up with "Yesterday".

You could never do a song like "A Day In The Life" in one take. Or "Mr. Kite." Or anything on Sgt. Pepper, really. And the material on the Beatles first album, recorded in one day, was of course not conceived from scratch in one day. The band had been playing those songs on stage for a long time. So even if some of the songs were done in one take, they'd done them before, so it's different.

I think a part of the difference between John Lennon and Paul McCartney is that Lennon liked to get it down on tape quickly and McCartney liked to tinker. Lennon was more like Dylan, McCartney more like Brian Wilson. Lennon hated the endless takes required to nail a song he despised, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". McCartney wanted to get it right.

George Martin didn't want the White Album to be a two-record set. He wanted the group to settle on 14 songs and really concentrate on them. Paul McCartney's response to criticism of the album (seen in "Anthology") was "it's the White Album...shut up!!" But sometimes I think Martin may have been right. Too many songs on that album are just lacking magic. I like it, but it just doesn't have the beginning-to-end energy of Rubber Soul or Revolver or Pepper or Abbey Road.

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 10:32:26 AM PDT
Bob Bykowski says:
W. David English,

Your latest post is well thought-out; however, I would disagree about the 'White Album'. The album has aged really well, and the fact that it has a good number of "off-the-cuff" songs helps make it a compelling entity. Along with the Stones' 'Beggars Banquet', it reflects the drama and chaos of 1968 very vividly. Like yourself, I also used to think it would have been better as a single album -- now, I think it's just perfect as it is. It's become my second favorite Beatles album, right after the untouchable 'Revolver' (which would be my choice for the greatest rock album ever). Even "Revolution #9" is fascinating when you gradually discipher all the numerous conversations going on in it. Just my opinion.

If anything, the album that I now think has become overrated in their canon is 'Abbey Road'. Yes, side two of 'Abbey Road' is absolutely brilliant, and probably the best side of an album that any band has ever made. But side one is patchy. It gets off to a fantastic start with two great songs in "Come Together" and "Something", but goes straight downhill afterwards.

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 1:07:11 PM PDT
@W.David English: I agree with most of what you say here (except, like Bykowski, with regards to the stunning White Album). Dylan had the same trouble around "Self Portrait" that Paul had with "Wild Life"--they weren't their older selves that could cut a masterpiece in one take, anymore. Although Lennon kind of vacillated between the one-take approach and the methodical one throughout his career. The Beatles song that took the longest to record, "Strawberry Fields Forever", was a Lennon song and it went through countless takes, revisions and edits. The carefully manicured "Imagine" wsa a 180 degree swing from the raw, quickly recorded "Plastic Ono Band". So he went both ways, I think...but he definitely didn't like how McCartney would spend 300 takes on a song he thought was bubblegum, like "Maxwell". Good point about the debut album--those songs were recorded in one day but were played live hundreds of time before that, so it wasn't like they were "new".

@Chazzzbo: ah, I see. Yes, their fanbase at the time most certainly stayed away. It didn't help that promotional ads for the film didn't even mention the group or have their image in it, instead just a random man's head and the word "Head". More self-sabotage!!

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 2:27:03 PM PDT
I just can't imagine what a devoted teenage fan of the Monkees must have thought when she (and the majority were female---not all, by any means, but a majority) went to see "Head" and saw that footage of the Vietnamese soldier having his head blown off. I found it arrogant---a kind of "we're going to force-feed you the brutal realities of our world, and you're going to take it". The rest of the film was not remotely as abhorrent, but it seemed to me to be surrealism generated by people with no talent for surrealism.

"I Am The Walrus" was surrealism rendered by somebody with a knack for it. Not everybody liked it, especially the part about the dead dog's eye secreting custard, but at least the Beatles had gradually worked their way up to their extreme artistic flourishes. Had the song appeared in 1964, the world would not have been ready for it. By the end of 1967, we were prepared. I still love it.

The Monkees went from bubblegum to "Head" without any warm-up. Even if the film had been a lot better than it was, I think it was too much to ask their constituency to swallow. I respect the opinions of people who admire the film, but I can't be counted among them.

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 3:04:14 PM PDT
Chazzzbo says:
WDE - Agreed, thank you for putting it more eloquently than I could. "Too much to swallow" without any warm-up. Dead on!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 3:24:50 PM PDT
Thank you Chazzbo!!

I wonder if any of the withering reviews of the Monkees' film were headlined "BAD 'HEAD'". Probably not.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 4:29:53 PM PDT
"I'm one of those who did not realize (the Monkees) did learn to play their instruments."

The only one who had to learn to play was Mickey Dolenz, who was cast as the drummer. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith were established guitarists already. Davy just played tambourine and shakers. Not much to learn there.

In an interview years later, Dolenz was asked to assess his skills as a drummer. He said "I was adequate. With all respect, it's not brain surgery."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 4:50:14 PM PDT
When I say "learn to play their instruments," I wasn't speaking in an absolute sense. More like learn to play them at least well enough to play them on records.

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 5:12:05 PM PDT
@W. David English: I think that if there was any warmup to "Head", it was in a couple of episodes of the second season, like "Frodis Caper". Some of the drug-oriented humor started to creep in then, and there was a looser, more ironic feel to the scripts. But still, "Head" was several times progressed from that, and I don't think their pre-teen audience appreciated it (that is, those that even saw it or knew it existed). I don't think it's a masterpiece, but I like the trippiness of it. Frank Zappa has a funny cameo. Nesmith's birthday party scene is cool, and most of the musical sequences work. Some of the commentary on what it was like to be a manufactured pop group was interesting. But it does meander a lot.

I don't think the Vietnam scene was meant to shock 12-year olds, I think it was meant to appeal to the older counterculture crowd. The film wasn't marketed to their normal audience, although I can agree that they should have taken that audience into account with those kinds of scenes. The thing was, the older crowd they wanted to see the film had already dismissed the group, and wasn't interested in any desperate attempts to catch up. With both their younger audience and the underground ignoring it, it bombed. But--like "Magical Mystery Tour"--when seen years later and thus taken out of the context of the era, or their audience, people were able to judge the film completely on its own terms, and it became a cult favorite.
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