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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  • Pete

    I love the Monkees, but I haven't bothered to check out the Tork-less albums. This track isn't bad by any means, but certainly not as catchy as their heyday period.

    And thanks for the heads-up on the book-I'll have to check that out.

  • wayoutjunk

    While not an official Monkees reunion, there was also an album where Micky and Davy were joined by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart” that was released in 1976, and is available on a badly remastered CD here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dolenz-Jones-Boyce-Hart/d

  • JohnHughes

    That cover is brutal! I've read about this, but never heard anything from it. Any good?

  • forwardgirl

    Oh, cool post, JCH! I agree with you completely about Dolenz. His voice just soars in songs like this. Changes isn't a bad album, though I had to revisit it to jog my memory. It's kind of an outtake album for Micky and Davy fans, a 'sorry, the band's done' little parting gift. 'Tell Me Love' and 'I Love You Better' are cool Micky tracks too.

  • http://www.jasonhare.com jasonhare

    Here's my shameful story: I became a Monkees fan as a kid in 1986, due to their anniversary resurgence. Being an obsessive music fan even at the young age of 9, I went and sought out as many of their albums as I could — but my local Record World seemed to only carry the shitty stuff, like “Instant Replay” and “Changes.” In the fourth grade, we had to put on some kind of puppet show (the details are vague at this point), and I somehow fashioned a storyline using songs from those two albums. Pretty awkward.

  • wayoutjunk

    That's just a cover they put together for the CD. Here's a (slightly better) picture of the cover for the actual album (along with reviews of the last few Monkees albums:

    http://sinatraguide.com/Monkees/albums2.htm

    I hope this doesn't sound blasphemous, but when Micky sang these bluesy sort of songs like “Oh My My” his voice reminds me an awful lot of Grace Slick's. I'd love to hear Micky's interpretation of a song like “Somebody to Love”.

  • JohnHughes

    How funny you say that…the other half heard me playing “Zor and Zam” and “Mommy & Daddy” and asked me what Jefferson Airplane songs those were!

    You're not alone in that observation!

  • JohnHughes

    Please tell me there's a tape.

  • Mark Kleiner

    How great to see this clip again. The video was produced for re-runs of the Monkees tv series in Saturday morning re-runs, btw. And another stickler point: the 1986 Monkees chart (That was then, this is now) was not actually a Monkees chart, but “Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (of the Monkees)”, given Davy's decision not to participate (a move that would have dire consequences for attempts to get a record deal in 1987 and 1989 respectively;Arista remembered and said 'no')…speaking of That Was Then This is Now, it was produced by Michael Lloyd, who had worked with Micky on the ill-fated 1972 Starship project, a sure contender for (really, really) Lost in the '70s status. They made some great records, two of which appeared on the Lion label, an MGM off-shoot (Lloyd had been MGM vice-president when he was barely out of his teens). But I digress…
    I appreciated the commentary on this obscure near-gem. To my knowledge this has never appeared on a Monkes or solo live set list. I once heard the singer from the Characters play the intro lick at a Monkees convention back in 1986; that's about it.

    Re. DJB&H: yeah, the Grace Slick comparisons certainly hold hear. Moonfire is a highlight, but mostly, they sound drunk/hungover, and off their game. It Always Hurts the Most in the Morning, a Boyce and Dolenz co-write (!) is pretty killer, however. No one talks too much about this record. Apparently their A&R rep left Capitol Records shortly after DJB&H signed, leaving them somewhat adrift.

  • Mark Kleiner

    How great to see this clip again. The video was produced for re-runs of the Monkees tv series in Saturday morning re-runs, btw. And another stickler point: the 1986 Monkees chart (That was then, this is now) was not actually a Monkees chart, but “Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (of the Monkees)”, given Davy's decision not to participate (a move that would have dire consequences for attempts to get a record deal in 1987 and 1989 respectively;Arista remembered and said 'no')…speaking of That Was Then This is Now, it was produced by Michael Lloyd, who had worked with Micky on the ill-fated 1972 Starship project, a sure contender for (really, really) Lost in the '70s status. They made some great records, two of which appeared on the Lion label, an MGM off-shoot (Lloyd had been MGM vice-president when he was barely out of his teens). But I digress…
    I appreciated the commentary on this obscure near-gem. To my knowledge this has never appeared on a Monkes or solo live set list. I once heard the singer from the Characters play the intro lick at a Monkees convention back in 1986; that's about it.

    Re. DJB&H: yeah, the Grace Slick comparisons certainly hold hear. Moonfire is a highlight, but mostly, they sound drunk/hungover, and off their game. It Always Hurts the Most in the Morning, a Boyce and Dolenz co-write (!) is pretty killer, however. No one talks too much about this record. Apparently their A&R rep left Capitol Records shortly after DJB&H signed, leaving them somewhat adrift.

  • Mark Kleiner

    How great to see this clip again. The video was produced for re-runs of the Monkees tv series in Saturday morning re-runs, btw. And another stickler point: the 1986 Monkees chart (That was then, this is now) was not actually a Monkees chart, but “Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (of the Monkees)”, given Davy's decision not to participate (a move that would have dire consequences for attempts to get a record deal in 1987 and 1989 respectively;Arista remembered and said 'no')…speaking of That Was Then This is Now, it was produced by Michael Lloyd, who had worked with Micky on the ill-fated 1972 Starship project, a sure contender for (really, really) Lost in the '70s status. They made some great records, two of which appeared on the Lion label, an MGM off-shoot (Lloyd had been MGM vice-president when he was barely out of his teens). But I digress…
    I appreciated the commentary on this obscure near-gem. To my knowledge this has never appeared on a Monkes or solo live set list. I once heard the singer from the Characters play the intro lick at a Monkees convention back in 1986; that's about it.

    Re. DJB&H: yeah, the Grace Slick comparisons certainly hold hear. Moonfire is a highlight, but mostly, they sound drunk/hungover, and off their game. It Always Hurts the Most in the Morning, a Boyce and Dolenz co-write (!) is pretty killer, however. No one talks too much about this record. Apparently their A&R rep left Capitol Records shortly after DJB&H signed, leaving them somewhat adrift.