By 1975, Michael Nesmith’s bona fides as a groundbreaking pioneer of country-rock were well established. After his first solo LP, 1968’s orchestral The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, the once and future Monkee had released six well-received albums and yielded a pair of hit singles, “Joanne” and “Silver Moon”- not to mention “Different Drum,” a major hit for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. On November 27, 1975, Nesmith recorded an intimate set in London at the BBC Paris Theatre, during which he performed his recent solo hits and even (sorta) looked back to the days in which he donned a wool hat and joined Micky, Davy, and Peter in musical escapades. On September 15, the Monkees specialists at 7a Records will give this rarely-heard concert its first commercial release on both CD and vinyl LP as Michael Nesmith at the BBC Paris Theatre.
The performance at the small, 400-seat cinema-turned-radio studio on Lower Regent Street in central London took place during Nesmith’s short, six-show residency at the city’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane – part of a tour that also took him to the provinces. Nesmith was happy to bring his music on tour and to have the opportunity to promote his newest, and most ambitious, release yet. The Prison was to be the debut album on Nesmith’s own Pacific Arts label (his previous six solo albums had been released on RCA), and expanded the concept of an album to multimedia proportions. A novella was included in the package, intended to be read while one listened to the LP.
At the Paris, the solo Nesmith (armed with just his voice and his acoustic guitar) performed six songs over the course of a mesmerizing forty minutes. He reached back to The Monkees era for “Some of Shelly’s Blues,” written and recorded by Nesmith during his 1968 Nashville sessions for the band but left shelved until three decades later. (The song, however, was recorded by both The Stone Poneys and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band prior to Nesmith’s own recording on 1973’s Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash.) His relatively recent singles “Joanne” and “Silver Moon” were both performed, too. He closed the tight show with three tracks from The Prison: “Dance Between the Raindrops,” “Marie’s Theme,” and “Closing Theme (Lampost).” Nesmith wove music with spoken-word passages recounting the action of The Prison on these songs. His voice is clear and resonant throughout the performance as captured by the BBC – the voice of a folk storyteller in his natural element, displaying flashes of humor and an evident rapport with the enthusiastic audience.
7a’s upcoming release has been newly remastered from the original BBC tapes. The label tells The Second Disc, “We are delighted to have been able to do a deal with the BBC and Nesmith’s company, Pacific Arts Corp., to license these great long lost recordings. The album is a time capsule that captures Nesmith in top form at a very important stage in his career.”
It will be released in a CD digipak with a beautifully designed 12-page booklet containing an introduction from reissue co-executive producer Iain Lee, a 1975 Melody Maker interview with the artist, and an interview with Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg, who played with Nesmith in London at Drury Lane. Michael Nesmith at the BBC Paris Theatre will also be available on a limited edition 12-inch picture disc vinyl issue. You can pre-order now at the links below! This hypnotic, spare performance showcasing the artist in a beautifully stripped-down setting is due on September 15 from the fine folks at 7a Records!
Michael Nesmith, Michael Nesmith at the BBC Paris Theatre (7a Records, 2017)
- Silver Moon
- Some of Shelly’s Blues
- Dance Between the Raindrops
- Marie’s Theme
- Closing Theme (Lampost)
All tracks previously unreleased.