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This Week In History: More of the Monkees, by the Monkees!

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AP Photo/Ray Howard, file

AP Photo/Ray Howard, file

Big-Jay-Sorensen Big Jay Sorensen
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The music history books are vast and full of interesting bits of knowledge. “Big” Jay Sorensen gives you a recap of the biggest and most interesting music news from the week; something from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

This week’s focus is the Year-End #1 ALBUM of 1967, More of the Monkees, by the Monkees.

The 1960s

When the brain trust at Columbia Pictures and RCA Records put their joint efforts into tapping into the demand of an American pop music act that appealed to the ‘baby-boom’ pre-teen and teen audience, the result was likely even better than they expected. The TV show The Monkees was more than just a wink at the triumph of the Beatles films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! The producers had the idea for such a TV series even before the Beatles reached American awareness. Robert Rafelson and Bert Schneider had originally wanted the Lovin’ Spoonful to act as the ‘group’ the Monkees. That didn’t work out as they signed with Kama Sutra Records and had a great, though short career as recording artists.

So, the producers reached out to actors/musicians who would play characters performing music on the show. Those four guys happened to have a little music and/or acting experience as Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork got the jobs after auditioning for the advertised roles. Their first LP, The Monkees was an instantaneous smash, coming out within days of the TV show debut in late 1966.

But it was their second album that would become not only their biggest seller, but the top Pop Album of 1967. The Colgems release featured the year’s principal selling single, “I’m A Believer” written by burgeoning singer/songwriter Neil Diamond. The ‘B’ side of that single was actually a respectable rock & roll song called “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” written by producers/singers/songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart; a remake of a Paul Revere & the Raiders album track. I can’t fail to notice the colossal effort by ‘The Man with the Golden Ears’, Don Kirshner as the original musical director of Screen Gems Music, putting producers, musicians and singers together for nothing short of pop music paradise. He was later booted by that same company, after the group members revolted and almost quit the venture. More of the Monkees became the third best-selling LP of the entire 1960s. The incongruity was that the group’s members didn’t even know Kirshner was releasing this album (as they were on tour) in addition to not having any say on the tracks included; nor the order. Their derision led to the end of Kirshner’s tenure as the project’s musical guru; with the series creators agreeing with the artists concerns. My fave track from the album was another Neil Diamond song, “Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow” with the lead vocal of the late Davy Jones.

The 1970s

(Provided Photo)

(Provided Photo)

Paul McCartney’s career had picked up significantly after a kind of false start to his re-birth as a solo artist or the leader of a band. His ‘leadership’ toward the end of the Beatles’ time together was part of the reason the group came apart, if you believe what authors by the hundreds have inferred. McCartney got slammed for his so-called ‘lightweight’ pop music throughout his solo years. Heck, even John Lennon poked fun at Paul’s material on occasion. But what Lennon intuitively knew (as well as record buyers) was one of the enduring things about the knighted one, was making hearts swoon, or lyrically displaying the simplicity of pure love. Lennon did it several times himself. Think of the song “Woman” from Double Fantasy.

So when it came time for a new album in ’76, Macca (as he’s lovingly known by uber-fans) decided to play from the heart. Here in New York, the biggest single of the year according to the leading Top-40 station at the time wasn’t “Silly Love Songs.” It was a group from Jersey City called the Manhattans that led the pack here in the Big Town with “Kiss And Say Goodbye.” But nationally, it was “Silly Love Songs” occupying the Pop Singles chart’s top position for five non-consecutive weeks on Capital Records—becoming the biggest Pop single of the year in ’76—recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London.

Linda McCartney and former Moody Blues founding member Denny Laine sang harmonies on the track along with Sir Paul. Furthermore, drummer Joe English and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch rounded out Wings for this album. The track was included on the album Wings at the Speed of Sound (also featuring the single “Let ‘Em In” and was also used on the Wings Over America live album later in the year. We all know that McCartney can rock with the best of them; proving it on many occasions as a Beatle, a member of Wings and a solo artist. I believe Paul wanted to incorporate listeners in on the joke of his reaction to the sentimentality that seeped into some of his material. What’s wrong with that?

The 1980s

AP Photo/Keystone, Dorothea Mueller

AP Photo/Keystone, Dorothea Mueller

“Another Day In Paradise” is just not yet another song from Phil Collins; it was the final number one tune of the decade, and it would end up being the best-selling single of his career as a solo artist. The child actor-turned musician asked his vocal idol David Crosby to sing harmonies on this, the first single from his ’89 album …But Seriously on Atlantic Records—his fourth solo album and first since 1985. …But Seriously also featured Stephen Bishop on vocals, along with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood as guest musicians.

The working title of the song was “Homeless” but was scrapped by Collins. He was moved to write the song after seeing a homeless female with a couple of offspring outside of the London recording studio where most of …But Seriously was recorded, and another occasion while on tour near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. where people were sleeping on subway grills to stay warm. Collins dealt with getting around what he called the “Awkwardness” of dealing with dispossessed people. He felt duplicitous by not helping when he observed those situations; thus the song’s theme.

“Another Day In Paradise” won a Grammy® for ‘Record of the Year’ for Collins and producer Hugh Padgham. In the mother-country, the song won the prestigious BRIT Award for ‘Best British Single’, which is the British Phonographic Industry’s annual Pop Music Awards program; the equivalent of the U.S. Grammy.

–Big Jay Sorensen/WCBS-FM


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