With all of the Monkees nostalgia floating about after Davy Jones’s passing we thought we would reveal some of the musical connections between the groups. In early 1967 The Monkees played live dates in London and got to meet The Beatles. The Beatles were said to be great admirers of The Monkees television show and they met with them both at home and in the studio. Micky Dolenz refers this meeting in the lyrics of his song “Randy Scouse Git”, calling them “the four kings of E.M.I.” (The Beatles record label). It is difficult to imagine that within six months of the first broadcast of their show in the fal of 1966 this group of unknowns was meeting The Beatles.
George Harrison encouraged Peter Tork to introduce his banjo playing into the group. Within weeks of returning to the U.S. Peter would take George’s advice and played a blistering rhythm banjo track that drives the Mike Nesmith song “You Told Me” on their album Headquarters. Perhaps as an ode to George the track (the album’s opener) features a parody of the “one, two, three, four” count-in on George’s song “Taxman.” And if you listen closely enough during the count-in you will hear a strange harp-like instrument playing. That is the swarmandal (an Indian instrument) that The Beatles used in the recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The Beatles presented it to The Monkees as a gift.
But in terms of music history nothing can match Mike Nesmith’s night on February 10, 1967. Mike was invited to the legendary “orchestra” recording session for “A Day In The Life” by none other than John Lennon, with whom he happened to be staying while in England. This session is famous in Beatles lore as the session was turned into a star-studded party (it was very rare that The Beatles invited guests into the studio). Attending that night was Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Donovan, and a whole host of friends and hangers-on. Paul famously conducted the orchestra (including the wild “climb” section that precedes the bridge and the final chord) wearing an apron. And the entire party gathered around the microphone at the end of the night and hummed the last note of the song. This would later be replaced by the crashing piano chord. Quite a night in music history. And Mike Nesmith was there. If you don’t believe us, take a look at the video.
But first some quotes about The Monkees from the mouths of the very gracious Beatles.
“The Monkees are still finding out who they are, and they seem to be improving as performers each time I see them. When they’ve got it all sorted out, they may be the greatest.”- George Harrison
“I think you’re the greatest comic talents since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.”- John Lennon
“I like their music a lot…and you know, their personalities. I watch their tv show and it is good.”- Paul McCartney
“It’s the combining of their sound with their jumping around and all that which makes ’em so popular with the kids, I guess. With me, too.”- Ringo Starr
“I’m sure that the Monkees are going to live up to a lot of things many people didn’t expect.”- Paul
“They’re not really just copies of us, now, are they? The Monkees have a fine way of their own, you know?”- Ringo
“”Monkees? They’ve got their own scene, and I won’t send them down for it. You try a weekly television show and see if you can manage one half as good!”- John Lennon