Well, Amazon struck again this month, this time with another $2.99 MP3 special. And this time I broke one of my own rules - not the first time, though - by buying music I (mostly) already had on vinyl.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
Missing the Actual Thing:
I still struggle with CDs vs. MP3s. I’m saving space and the environment, but I miss the liner notes! And according to allmusic.com this album has some fine ones. I’d love to be able to access the liner notes and I’ve been trying with linernotes.com. Meh.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about, either..
If I Ruled the World...
The first thing I’d do (after World Peace, of course. You’re welcome Andie Macdowell!) is correct all the Greatest Hits Albums.
Come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about! When you see a Greatest Hits record from an artist you like, you mentally correct the song list. You favor the hidden gems over the big hits. And with no licensing or back catalog sales issues to consider, you’re bound to do a better job.
So now with World Peace out of the way (oh, and I slipped in getting a fridge that keeps beer at the perfect temperature) I’m ready to take on improving The Best of the Monkees.
It’s comprised basically of their set list from last year’s tour: And it’s not bad at all. But with a few tweaks it could be perfect:
- They missed a couple of good ones from the first record - I would have included the King-Goffin penned “Take a Giant Step” and David Gates great “Saturday’s Child”.
- There’s a really bad version of “I Want to be Free”. It’s a loud, smarmy, overplayed, oversung travesty. The swirling organ leads me to suspect that they were going for “Like a Rolling Stone”. It’s likely an early version, before they realized that Davey would be the sensitive one.
- And I’d swap the sweet “Papa Gene’s Blues” for the rowdy “Sweet Young Thing”. But it’s close - James Burton and Glenn Campbell are on both.
- My only problem with the picks from More of the Monkees is that they didn’t leave enough room for “When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door”. By the way, I don’t know why other singers (Smashmouth, I’m talking to you) don’t know how to sing “I’m a Believer”. Micky gently bends the notes and raises the song from the merely excellent to the euphoric.
- And aside from the Mike Nesmith penned “You Told Me” and “Sunny Girlfriend” among the missing, the selections from Headquarters are on the money.
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” convinces me that Neil Diamond should have stuck to writing songs for the Monkees. But no! He had to trade in his guitar for an orchestra. And a cape.
I remember spending an entire summer afternoon listening to the excellent “Words”, thinking it was the A-side of a single. The A-side was, ahem, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”. Technologically obsolete Life lesson: Always listen to the other side at least once.
“Porpoise Song” is a pretty cool spacey song that shows what results when the Monkees let some drugs - and Jack Nicholson - into the studio.
But I have to admit, that’s not what I wanted to talk about either.
What I really wanted to talk about was how Jaybee-Childhood-Friend-Mike-L
(not to be confused with:
- Jaybee-Childhood-Friend-Mike-C, who had all the Beatle albums, or
- Jaybee-Roommate/Friend-Mike-F who liked Television, or for that matter
- Jaybee-Son-Mike, who plays a great guitar, or
- any of the several other Jaybee-Friends/Acquaintance-Named-Mike who haven’t made it onto the blog yet)
Let me explain
Back in 1966, me and my friends - Mike L among them - were big Monkees fans. (So big, in fact that we pretended to be them. I played curtain rod/guitar. Mike played sofa pillow/drums.) And with old record players being what they were, you couldn’t always make out the lyrics. So there certainly was room for misinterpretation. And friend Mike L took that room and the patio, too. His interpretations were of a singularly juvenile nature. After all, he was ten. (I was only nine, but being Irish Catholic, you have to add fifty years.)
Take the following examples:
From “I’m a Believer”:
What I heard: When I needed sunshine, I got rain.
What Mike heard: When I needed sunshine, on my brain
And it get’s worse. This, from “Steppin’ Stone”::
Me: And now you’re walkin’ round like your front page news.
Mike: And now you’re walkin’ round like you’re f*cking news
From “Shades of Grey”:
Me. We had never lived with doubt, or tasted fear
Mike: blah, blah, blah.... tasted beer
And finally, “Some Time in the Morning” - one of the greatest songs of the decade:
Me: And you need no longer wear a disguise
Mike: And you give your underwear to this guy.
And he’d argue with a straight face! He really wanted to believe his versions were the correct ones. The more serious the song, the more ludicrous his interpretation. I guess he felt life was more interesting this way. Thank God Belle and Sebastian’s “Stars of Track and Field” didn’t come out until the nineties. Otherwise he would have been insufferable.
Or maybe he was just messing with me. Either way, I was dumb enough to argue with him. He’s probably laughing as we speak, 50 years later.
And his influence is still felt today, both in the music industry - have you noticed how as sound quality improves, lyrics are getting more juvenile? - but more importantly, in his role as translator at the UN.
Let’s not even discuss Jaybee-Adolescent-Friend-Joe...
...and brother of Mike-C, who took over for Mike L as I hit my teens, giving me all of the sexual and drug interpretations of rock songs. Him being such a huge Zeppelin fan, he was sort of an authority.
And of course, he was always right. You really couldn’t put up much of an argument over “The Lemon Song.”
And sadly, these revelations made rock and roll less fun for me. Just like how your teen years are less fun than your childhood.
But like I said, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.