Friday, March 2, 2012

The Listening Booth: Headquarters

Headquarters by The Monkees (1967)

1.) You Told Me
      This is the sound of freedom. This is the sound of a made-up band busting down the fourth wall of their television set, picking up instruments and recording an album. What strikes you on first listen is how GOOD they are! Pete's banjo rolls make this track, but the most striking thing is that a Monkees' album opens with a Mike Nesmith composition!

2.) I'll Spend My Life With You
      Mike's slide guitar overdubs cascade through this tune, meeting Peter's toy piano in a field of acoustic strumming and some of the prettiest vocals Micky Dolenz ever recorded.

3.) Forget That Girl
      Davy's voice hasn't stopped giving me chills in the last few days, and this understated love song captures in a nutshell why millions of teenage girls from generation to generation fell for him. It's just so gentle, so unassuming, so pure. Peter's steady bass anchors the track musically.

4.) Band 6
      Studio hijinks? It wouldn't be a Monkees record without it!

5.) You Just May Be The One
     Listen to how good Mike and Micky harmonize together! They may have come from different worlds before that fateful Screen Gems audition, but their voices were meant to coexist on wax. God, Mike was a great songwriter. So concise and clear in his delivery!

6.) Shades Of Grey
     Davy's passing makes this song impossible to ever hear again as anything less than a eulogy. Peter's verse is literally bringing tears to my eyes as I write this, and then Davy comes back in, and I hope that people realize what we've lost here: The most perfect pop group to ever wander this earth has lost its little British cheerleader, who could smile through the abuse suffered by the four, always saying how lucky they were. But today, there are only shades of grey, and the French Horn calls the end of the funeral proceedings.

7.) I Can't Get Her Off My Mind
      Perfect vaudevillian showmanship from Davy give this fluff weight that today's Boy Bands would kill for. Get that Honky Tonk piano, Peter!

8.) For Pete's Sake
      Peter Tork's finest composition so concisely wrapped up the strengths of a REAL Monkees performing entity that it became the show's closing credits' theme. Micky is one of the greatest vocalists in the history of popular music... Listen to him WAIL!

9.) Mr. Webster
      Boyce & Hart may always be known for trains to Clarksville and wanting to be free, but this short story with the surprise ending deserves to be their most esteemed achievement. It's also quite an allegory for exerting creative control against the established order.

10.) Sunny Girlfriend
        I've said it before and I'll say it again...Mike Nesmith invented alt. country a good two years before The Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. This is jangly, rural rock perfection, and damn if those harmonies I gushed about earlier aren't just as strong here!

11.) Zilch
        Maybe the Monkees invented the hip hop album skit here as well!

12.) No Time
        While it doesn't quite hold a candle to "Goin' Down", this Micky blues workout is notable for it's referencing of The Fab Four (What Cajones this guy had to cry out "Rock on George for Ringo" on this barn burner!) and being the only song credited to all four Monkees as writers.

13.) Early Morning Blues And Greens
        That's a mellotron there, on a Monkees record, released weeks before Sgt. Pepper turned us on.... No wonder Lennon loved these guys! Early psych pop at its finest, with the late great Mr. Jones adding his tender touch to the lead vocals.

14.) Randy Scouse Git
        And here we are, at what is quite possibly the greatest song the group ever recorded...written by Micky Dolenz, an actor who never picked up the drums before getting this job. The Beatles are referenced in the best metaphor this side of Don Mclean and we go from proto-metal mixed in with dixieland jazz and percussive heroism all in the course of  two minutes and 33 seconds. Then, the piano jumps the track,derailed by its own strength, while the tympani echoes away and the second best selling album of 1967 comes to an end. The nice thing is, that even before the recent spin of positivity brought on by loss, this album was written down in best-of lists . The boys fought for their right to secure their legacy, and they actually did so in abundance. What a happy ending. I'm glad Davy got to see their legacy praised before he left us.

Jann Wenner, the hall of fame ball's in your court.

I know you'll do the right thing.


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