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LPs from the Attic: The Monkees — Headquarters

November 4, 2009

The Monkees -- Headquarters

Listen to the band

The Monkees – Headquarters (Colgems, 1967)

By the late 60’s, The Artists Formerly (well, er, Still) Known As The Prefab Four were anxious to get out from under the oppressive thumb of meddlesome producers and cast off the crutches of session players to play their music, themselves. So, with the exception of a few studio musicians and a new producer to round their own skills out, that’s what they mostly did for 1967’s Headquarters. Mostly.

As such, maybe somewhat surprisingly, Headquarters sits fairly comfortably among the jangly, vocal-harmony rooted, folk-pop-psych outfits of the times, such as Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Moby Grape, and The Mamas and Papas. Even though it doesn’t contain any big hits or offer any evidence of undiscovered virtuosity, it makes for solid listening when the boys play to their strengths and their interests (but when they don’t….see below). The Monkees are The Monkees, for good and bad; while this record is no topical or artistic heavyweight, it holds some nice surprises and is far from a contrived embarrassment.

You’ll probably notice that I didn’t reference the one band who called The Monkees into existence: The Beatles. When it comes to the inevitable presence of songs with a decidedly British-Invasion bent, things get a little less laudatory from here, and the usual suspect is involved: Davy Jones. While the songwriting and pedal steel of Nesmith shine (and point to further country-rock exploration with the First National Band), Dolenz belts out “No Time” with convincing R&B fervor, and Peter Tork reveals his West-Coast hipness with the bouncy “For Pete’s Sake,” token-Brit Jones mostly disappoints with his Beatles-pandering, occasionally loungey treacle (and, hey, I am a big fan of “Daydream Believer,” for instance, so I like him when I should). If The Monkees were an ersatz Beatles, then Jones is their Yoko Ono of sorts when it comes to their third album. Even though he has a few good vocal turns here, his songs mostly bring the effort down with their inherent (at best; ham-handed at worst) reminders of the manufactured roots and calculated origins of the group–it reveals the “plastic,” to use a popular word of the time. Overall, the album suffers both when the band overreaches for Summer of Love/psychedelic authenticity and when it overindulges in leaning on weak-tea Beatles facsimiles. They fare much better when following Nesmith’s country-rock impulses and their own new-found muses.

Oh, chimpanzee that! It’s Monkee trivia:

  • Harry Nilsson and Stephen Stills auditioned to be on the TV show
  • Jack Nicholson directed their self-indulgently freaky 1968 movie Head; big fan and friend Frank Zappa makes a cameo to give Davy Jones some dubious advice.
  • In an odd cosmic coincidence, Lemmy (Hawkwind, Motörhead) and The Monkees share a Hendrix connection: Jimi was among their opening acts during a tour in 1967.
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5 Comments
  1. Tony Mendocino permalink
    November 5, 2009 8:07 pm

    I never realized the gems within the late-60s Monkees LPs. What about “Mr. Dobalina”, or “Zilch”, or whatever its called – did the Monkees accidentally records a hip-hop song? Del the Funky Homosapien sure thought so.

  2. Brack Benningfield permalink
    November 6, 2009 3:22 pm

    It’s a good album, not their greatest, but their better than their first two. I think some of the highlights of the album are No Time, Shades of Gray, Early Morning Blues and Greens (a Carol King composition if I’m not mistaken), You Told Me and of course my favortie Randy Scouse Git. And I’ll agree that Davy’s contributions usually were stinkers.

    -Brack B., Lexington, KY

  3. Jay St. Orts permalink
    November 6, 2009 4:29 pm

    Hey, Brack. Can’t agree more with you on “Randy Scouse Git.” Mickey Dolenz has a great voice, and he manages to sound genuinely pissed off during the “Why don’t you cut your hair / Why don’t you live up there?” lines.

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