Lost in the ’70s: The Monkees, “Oh My My”

lit70s

In 1967, the Monkees sold more records than the Beatles.  And the Rolling Stones.  Combined.  That year they also scored their third number one single, plus another Top Five hit.  The assembled-for-television quartet were the biggest rock music act in the United States and United Kingdom.  Three short years later, they’d be stripped down to  duo and watch their final pre-reunion single peak at a pathetic #98.

So, what happened?

First, The Monkees was canceled after two seasons when the boys and network couldn’t agree on a new direction for the third year.  Then, the quartet’s feature film debut, Head (co-written by none other than a psychedelically-enhanced Jack Nicholson), was a confusing, resounding flop.  To make a bad situation worse, their first variety special for NBC was scarcely watched, scheduled against the Academy Awards.  Citing exhaustion, Peter Tork split, leaving the remaining three to release two more middling albums as a trio before troubadour Michael Nesmith rode off into the country-rock sunset.

And then there were two.

Reduced to a duo of Micky Dolenz and showtune/schmaltz-lover Davy Jones, Changes was the last gasp of a dying marketing construct, designed solely to wring every last possible penny from the project — songs were secondary.  Dolenz and Jones were as marginally involved as two remaining band members could be, leaving the bulk of the songwriting and production to Andy Kim and Jeff Barry, the team responsible for the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar.”

“Oh My My” (download), the Monkees’ final charting single under the band name until their comeback in 1986, isn’t quite as bubblegum as “Sugar, Sugar.”  With a slinky blues lick driving the song and a typically stellar vocal from Micky (I’m not kidding when I call him one of rock’s best pop vocalists), “Oh My My” made a decent album track, but really wasn’t cut out to be a single — as its chart showing indicated.  There was even an early music video made for the single, directed by Micky (but where were they expecting this to be shown, since MTV didn’t exist yet?):

Even the Monkees themselves aren’t big fans of Changes.  In the liner notes for the Rhino CD re-release, Jones calls it his least favorite Monkees recording, and in Andrew Sandoval’s excellent book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the ’60s TV Pop Sensation, Dolenz relates that he was just happy to record another album.  Unfortunately, save for a final single credited to Dolenz and Jones, Changes would be the final Monkees album until 1987’s Pool It!, which, frankly, wasn’t a whole lot better.

“Oh My My” peaked at #98 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1970.

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