Time and time again, compilations of certain artists are released that never seem to do that artist complete justice. I can think of a handful – if that many – that worked and worked right, but they are few and far between. Until now, the aptly-titled The Monkees 50. This 3-CD set comprises all The Monkees’ hit singles, non-hit singles and a host of beloved album tracks spanning their 50-year career and this one is about as near perfect as one could get or hope for. Sure, there are a few songs I personally would have loved to see on there, but as a lifelong fan, the fact that “Love Is Only Sleeping”, “Tapioca Tundra” and “Tear Drop City” are on there is enough for my money. Again – that’s a personal perspective (along with my typical grousing of “why didn’t they include “The Door Into Summer” or Nesmith’s vocal version of “I Don’t Think You Know Me”” – no tracks from any of the wonderful Missing Links series are here BUT they DID include “You Told Me”) but this is the right compilation for your car, a child who needs to be introduced to the band or for the casual listener who never thought to buy one of the many fine albums The Monkees released.
All the actual hit singles released are here – “…Clarksville”, “I’m A Believer”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, “Daydream Believer” and so on; the singles released that were not hits: “Porpoise Song”, “Tear Drop City”, “Listen To The Band” and the B-sides to many of the hits that charted themselves – “…Steppin’ Stone”, “Words” and “Tapioca Tundra” to name a few. The interesting thing is that the major portion of the songs that are so beloved by The Monkees were never released as singles (usually it was one single per album) and so they’re here, as they should be: “Sometime In The Morning”, “Randy Scouse Git”, “and so on. “Love Is Only Sleeping” featured in the series and was, in fact, slated to be the single after “Pleasant Valley Sunday”/”Words” – the B-side was “Daydream Believer”, but Colgems Records executives found the lyrics to be slightly risque for The Monkees’ audience so the B-side became the A-side, “…Sleeping” was moved to the album and the B-side was taken from a planned album track, “Goin’ Down”. Thus, a million seller and #1 hit was created.
The real intrigue for me is the inclusion of two of the key tracks from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees – two songs that have never been giving proper attention (and were never in the show), “Auntie’s Municipal Court” and “P.O. Box 9847”, which are such great, strong pieces, again, I’m surprised neither was issued as a single. Essentially, aside from the singles, all the albums are represented by at least two tracks – Headquarters offers up the most – the 1986 “hit”, “That Was Then, This Is Now” and you’ve also got the focus tracks from the two “comeback” albums in the ’80’s and ’90’s, Pool It and Justus. If all that wasn’t enough, the two lead “singles” from the magnificent Good Times is included as well, “She Makes Me Laugh” and “You Bring The Summer”. A colorful package and straightforward recording info booklet and you have a total winning package.
So take away any of that prejudicial nonsense “The Monkees didn’t play their own instruments” – tell that to Brian Wilson, The Beatles and anyone who had massive hits in the ’60’s that were either augmented by outside musicians or were cut by The Wrecking Crew – this band were and will always be one of the best outfits of a decade filled with some incredible, life changing music for the ages.
ESSENTIAL LISTENING – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
The Monkees 50 is available now