It didn't take long for The Monkees to realize that they'd experienced a level of success far beyond their wildest dreams. Far from being mere actors on a television show portraying a band, they'd been thrust in front of capacity crowds in stadiums, arenas, and large auditoriums - a de facto band that, in reality, wasn't yet calling the shots on their own careers and music. That changed when Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork demanded creative freedom from impresario Don Kirshner - and got it. The road wasn't an easy one, but it was well worth taking. TV Guide deemed it "The Great Revolt of '67," and the first result was their third studio album, Headquarters. Produced by the band's friend Chip Douglas and recorded in Hollywood, far from the New York crowd of Kirshner and his preferred producers, it failed to yield a big hit single as the group's first two albums had. But it still charted at No. 1 in the U.S. (their third consecutive chart-topper) and No. 2 in the U.K., and remains one of their most beloved releases. Headquarters has been revisited many times on CD, but far from being a mere rehash of past efforts, the new 4-CD Super Deluxe Edition illuminates yet more corners of this most special chapter in The Monkees' discography.
Compilation producer Andrew Sandoval's intentions are made clear in his liner notes: "Rather than plunder the previous reissues of this album to create a Frankenstein-ed compilation that you could very well make yourself, the entire three-month period surrounding the creation of Headquarters has been reexamined to offer a deeper view." To that end, the original album and most of the bonuses have been remixed from the original multitrack tapes, and the album is now presented in its original recorded pitch. (Sandoval explains that "the speed of the analog tape machines used in the original production each ran at a slightly different pitch.") The set also gives full attention to the remnants of the "lost" third album produced by Jeff Barry at Kirshner's behest.
The box set opens with the remix of the original album, offering wider stereo separation on the eclectic journey through pop, rock, country, and comedy. Unsurprisingly, Michael Nesmith's three solo compositions are among the strongest tracks on Headquarters: the jangle pop of "You Told Me," the driving "You Just May Be the One," and upbeat "Sunny Girlfriend." But Nez wasn't the only Monkee to make major strides once creatively fulfilled. Micky Dolenz came into his own with the inventive "Randy Scouse Git," inspired by his own experiences in the United Kingdom (where it became a No. 2 hit as "Alternate Title" after the RCA brass there objected to the phrase "Randy Scouse Git").
Three songs written by the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart ("Last Train to Clarksville," "Theme from The Monkees") found their way to Headquarters including "I'll Spend My Life with You," given a graceful country lilt by Peter Tork's acoustic 12-string and Nesmith's pedal steel (the latter of which helped define the sound of the album); "I Can't Get Her Off My Mind" sung by Davy Jones in true showbiz fashion with Tork on vaudeville-esque tack piano; and the off-the-beaten-path "Mr. Webster."
Brill Building stalwarts Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil supplied "Shades of Gray," gently but persuasively sung by Tork in a rare lead vocal, while producer Chip Douglas' soft, dreamy "Forget That Girl" and Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller's moody "Early Morning Blues and Greens" both showcased Jones at his most affecting. Tork and Joseph Richards' "For Pete's Sake" offered Dolenz the chance to cut loose with his best rock voice. The rave-up "No Time" developed out of a jam, with lyrics by Micky and Michael. They gifted the copyright to engineer Hank Cicalo.
The absurdist "Zilch" and "Band 6," a loose riff on "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down," personalized Headquarters with a dash of in-studio wackiness. It was clear that, pass or fail, this was The Monkees' album. Happily, it proved to be an enduring pass, and the future was (mostly) their own.
Sandoval's remixed version of the album is joined on Disc One by eleven bonus cuts, ten of which were previously released in mono but have been splendidly remixed by the producer into stereo here. All the bonuses originated in the early 1967 period chronicled on the set including tracks from the Monkees' self-contained unit as produced by Chip Douglas (including two versions of Nesmith's sublime "The Girl I Knew Somewhere") and others produced by Jeff Barry (the Neil Diamond-penned hit single "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," Barry and Greenwich's "She Hangs Out") with session veterans and, most frequently, Davy Jones on lead. A couple of the Barry-helmed tracks (Barry and Joey Levine's "Gotta Give It Time" and Diamond's "Love to Love") appeared in different mixes on 2016's Good Times! and the producer of that album, the late Adam Schlesinger, is credited on the versions here with some 2016 overdubs. Davy's vocals on the Barry productions are uniformly terrific; even as he was aligned with his bandmates for creative control, he was somewhat sympathetic to Kirshner and recorded vocals for the songs he and Jeff Barry had selected. Even on the lesser numbers such as the cornball "If I Learned to Play the Violin," Jones seemingly gave his all. The Denny Randell-helmed "Sally" is an outlier here: a silly voh-de-oh-doh pastiche sung not by Jones (usually comfortable with the more theatrical material) but by Dolenz (who added his vocals in 1969).
The remainder of the box set takes a largely chronological approach, beginning with Disc 2's collection of January 1967 recordings. It kicks off with rough-hewn backing tracks of "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" and "All of Your Toys" recorded by The Monkees at Gold Star Studios to prove that they could record as a band, sans session musicians; Sandoval notes that these tracks have been transferred from the only surviving copy of the acetate. Most of the tracks on this disc are various stabs at backing tracks from the Jeff Barry, Denny Randell, and Chip Douglas sessions, with enjoyable studio chatter peppered throughout. Particularly enjoyable are the multiple takes in which the development of a performance can be traced, such as with the two Diamond compositions "Love to Love" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (the latter complete with a false start) from Barry's January 21, 1967 New York City date.
The Randell sessions which commenced a day later (also in NYC) were less fruitful. "Love Is on the Way," "I Wanna Be Your Puppy Dog," and "Sugar Man" had all been recorded by Denny and his co-writer Sandy Linzer on Columbia as Linzer and Randell; none of these pop confections ever progressed to the vocal stage with The Monkees. The second clutch of Barry backing tracks recorded on January 26 were almost as abortive, with Barry and Andy Kim's country-flavored "Poor Little Me" and the Neil Diamond/Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller co-write "Black and Blue" among the songs left on the shelf. The latter starts off as a bubbly midtempo piece before shifting to more typically Diamond territory; it, too, has a bit of a relaxed country vibe. (Oddly, the wan "If I Learned to Play the Violin" was the only track from this date for which a vocal would be recorded.) Artie Butler's burbling organ and the crisp, confident guitars of Al Gorgoni, Hugh McCracken, and Don Thomas stand out on the Barry productions.
Vocals take the spotlight on Disc 3, exploring the February 1967 sessions - in New York with Davy adding his voice to Jeff Barry's productions, and in Hollywood with the whole band working autonomously with Chip Douglas. In addition to selected tracks reprised from such past releases as Headquarters Sessions, Sandoval has uncovered previously unheard vocal takes from Davy Jones of "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and Jeff Barry's "99 Pounds" and reissued the mix of "If I Learned to Play the Violin" first presented on The Monkees' 1996 CD-ROM (!). Though Jones was consistent from take to take, there are slight differences in inflection and phrasing that make these alternates worthwhile for completists; in the case of "She Hangs Out," a take is heard with a different background vocal arrangement. Rare single mixes of the Jeff Barry-produced tracks, released and unreleased, are also included.
From the Chip Douglas dates, there's a tight backing track of Nesmith's "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" featuring Dolenz on drums, Nez on 12-stirng, and Nez's future First National Bandmate, John London, on bass. Other highlights include previously unreleased mixes of performances first issued on Missing Links Vol. 3 (Micky and Coco Dolenz's close-harmony takes on the Sharon Sheeley/Raul Abeyta "She'll Be There" and his own "Midnight Train") and the demos sung in atypically lyrical fashion by Mike and Davy of Buffy St. Marie's "Until It's Time for You to Go," both to Mike's acoustic accompaniment. (Mike's demo was previously issued in a different mix; he had also recorded the ballad for a pre-Monkees 45.)
The fourth and final disc peels the curtain back further on those March 1967 Hollywood sessions including numerous tracks which premiered on The Headquarters Sessions but are heard here in new mixes, among them the strong Take 15 Alternate Vocal of "You Told Me," Take 15 with alternate overdubs of "Forget That Girl," and an early version of Nesmith's "Cantata and Fugue in C&W" which he would later record at RCA Victor.
A take of "Forget That Girl" with alternate, more exaggerated background vocals is wholly new to disc as is a unique demo of Dolenz whispering "Pillow Time," a version of "You Just Might Be the One" with (busy) alternate backing vocals, two stabs at the backing track of Harry Nilsson's "The Story of Rock and Roll" with Tork pounding the piano out front, and a version of "Early Morning Blues and Greens" with more prominent Tork vocals. (He sings harmonies on the final, released take.)
There are a couple of loose jams, too. The "Untitled Jam" from March 19, 1967 has Tork tickling the ivories, jazz-style, supported by Dolenz on drums and Douglas on bass. "Detuned 12-Bar Jam" boasts Nez on his 12-string, Micky on drums, Peter on piano, and pal Jerry Yester on bass. It's well, just what the title indicates. A handful of period mixes ("Tema Dei Monkees" in stereo and mono; the original 1969 "Love to Love" and "You Can't Tie a Mustang Down;" "99 Pounds" from Changes) round out the disc.
The new Headquarters box is a very different, more expansive, and equally valid listening experience than The Headquarters Sessions. Of course, collectors will be glad to have both in their libraries. It's housed in the same style as the six previous deluxe reissues spanning The Monkees through The Monkees Present, leaving just Pisces, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Jones, Ltd. and Changes from the group's original tenure absent in this series. The colorful 28-page booklet designed by Steve Stanley has Sandoval's comprehensive essay plus full track-by-track annotations and plenty of rare photos. Each disc (bearing Colgems-style labels, nat is housed in a protective sleeve within a mini-LP jacket; an alternate shot from the Headquarters cover session adorns each jacket. A 45 with "All of Your Toys" b/w "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" is an additional treat.
Headquarters marks the moment that The Monkees made musical history. By giving equal weight to both the productions spearheaded by Don Kirshner and the creative explorations by the band and Chip Douglas, the set paints a full portrait of Messrs. Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Tork at their most prolific and groundbreaking. It will prove quite a task to get this set off your mind.
The Monkees' Headquarters: Super Deluxe Edition is available to order now at this link!
not trying to be negative ..... but... too much to late. same with the beach boys recent box. beatles etc. all of us here on this site do have alot/quite alot / way tooooo much. ( no not me all killer no filler since 2009 . are you really gonna have time to really dig it ?
Guy Smiley says
Not sure I understand your comment.
The HQ box is pretty terrific, although some of those Kirshner tracks don’t warrant more than one listen. Still, fascinating to hear the competing visions happening at the same time.
The right decision was made to sack Kirshner. Had the third album gone his way, the whole Monkees enterprise would’ve faded away quickly — Kirshner was fast becoming a relic — and The Monkees would be little more than a footnote today.
Anyhow, Rhino is nearly sold out on this set as I understand it. If you’re at all interested, snag it while you can! At the very least, the new remix is the best HQ has ever sounded. The cold endings on “Early Morning Blues and Greens” and “Randy Scouse Git” are terrific!
Guy Smiley says
Headquarters didn’t “fail to yield a big hit single” so much as the label— stupidly — didn’t release a single in the U.S. This is like saying Sgt. Pepper failed to yield any hit singles either (More on that in a bit).
Look it up. There was no U.S. single from Headquarters. “Randy Scouse Git” (Renamed “Alternate Title”) was a massive U.K. hit (Depending which chart you reference it was #1 or #2 there), but no single was released Stateside.
Why? Who knows. The album still hit #1, but had the misfortune of coming out one week before Sgt. Pepper. Just one week at the top as a result, but it stayed at #2 behind Pepper for several weeks after.
The lack of single release probably explains why none of the songs from Headquarters has stayed in the public eye the same way the Monkees’ big hit songs have. Nearly everything from Sgt. Pepper continue to be popular album tracks (That album had no singles either), but Pepper continues to stand tall S THE album of 1967. And the Beatles were the Beatles. There was them, and everyone else.
Anyhow, just as “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” would’ve been a massive hit single had it been released as a single, I think “Randy,” or perhaps “You Just May Be the One,” “Shades of Grey,” or “For Pete’s Sake” would’ve been massive hits had any of those actually been singles. Foolish decision to not release a single.
Headquarters is a terrific album, and I wish the four Monkees had continued to develop their group identity. An even better album was to come with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, Jones Ltd. (They had a little extra help on that one, but what band didn’t at the time? The Monkees still played on it) I hope we get a long awaited Super Deluxe Edition of that gem soon!
Joe Marchese says
Apologies if my wording wasn’t as clear as you’d have liked or perhaps was warranted regarding the lack of a single; I’m certainly aware that no US single was released off “Headquarters,” though I’m not as certain as you that any of those songs (much as I love them - and in the case of “You Just May Be the One,” consider it to be one of their best) would have had the same impact as The Monkees’ earlier, hook-ier singles. Agreed that a PISCES set would be terrific, indeed. Here’s hoping! Thanks for your comment!
Guy Smiley says
Hey Joe (No gun in your hand, I presume?),
Thanks for the response. No offense taken.
Impossible to say, of course, to say whether Headquarters would’ve scored a hit U.S. single had one been released. “Randy” was a very U.K. -centric song that might not have scored the same in the States, but then The Monkees were hot at that point, so anything they released might’ve hit as big as the previous singles.
At the very least, “Shades of Grey” has hit single written all over it, and might’ve marked a sea change for them as being a more “mature” song. It might’ve changed their critical reputation for the better.
I think “For Pete’s Sake” had enough of a hook to be a hit. Perfect little “Summer of Love” anthem with a great Micky vocal. Being the closing credits song for season 2 of The Monkees TV show wouldn’t have hurt it’s chances either had they released it as a single that fall, when the show returned.
Actually, a one-two punch of “”Shades,” followed by “Pete’s” as singles might’ve been a great idea. Alas… We’ll never know.
Anyhow, terrific write-up! Thanks, Joe.
Johnnie Adams says
Donny C. Hampton says
I agree that "For Pete's Sake" and "Shades Of Gray" would've made excellent singles, perhaps as a two-sider. However, I'm glad that "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" made it out as a single, as that is one of my favorite Monkees tunes. Can't get enough of that mix of Folk, Latin and Gospel that Jeff Barry did so well in the late Sixties.
Bruce Padgett says
How ironic that 50+ years later, both Pepper and HQ warrant enough respect to receive extensive archival retrospectives. To think that the Monkees were initially dismissed by many as Beatles knock-offs!
It’s all about group chemistry, truly. To this day, the Fabs and pre-Fabs have an undefinable “something” in their recordings which make each group unique. Get four guys in a recording studio together, and who knows what may result? For both these groups, the elements which form true artistry.
Brian from Canada says
If you've seen Echoes Of The Canyon, the younger musicians note while looking at albums of the mid-/late 60s based in LA that each band was essentially a supergroup: each is good on their own, but together they were great because they could hand off duties when someone else in the band had an idea.
For me, that encapsulates both Beatles and Monkees: solo, they're good but together they had a special magic. These are the types of albums that benefit from reissues like this because you can appreciate the level of creativity of it.
Guy Smiley says
I still need to see that film... I think they perform (The Monkees song) “She” in the movie!
Johnnie Adams says
Well said, I agree with everything you wrote.
Guy Smiley says
Aw, thanks (If you meant me)!
Guy Smiley says
One last comment… Peter does sing lead on “Shades of Grey,” but so does Davy.
Davy sings the opening verse (“When the world and I were young…”) and then Peter takes over on the next verse.
"You Just May Be The One" should have been the single off of Headquarters. The bridge is the hook. It would have sounded great coming out of an AM radio in 1967.
Guy Smiley says
Indeed it would’ve!
It’s a fine song, and it’s too bad they didn’t give Mike an A-side as one final kick in the pants to Kirshner on his way out the door!
James Regan says
I hope they do a RSD release of the remix.
Bob Ecker says
Just my guess why not single was pulled from Headquarters is the timing. "Little bit me" was a hit in Spring 67 and then "Pleasant Valley Sunday" a hit in summer 67. An excellent Carole King commentary on life in the suburbs after she and Gerry moved to NJ out of their NYC apartment. Some killer guitar hooks in that song and my all time favorite of theirs. I presume Chip had that song recorded knowing it would be the next Monkee single so no need to use a song off Headquarters. A better catchier song than anything off Headquarters. The Colgems management really blew it for the band when they released D.W. Washburn a novelty type song about a drunk as follow up to the great Valleri. And the band blew it by not doing a big summer tour in 1968. Beatles and Stones as two examples toured for 3 years straight before taking a break. As an org fan from 67 I bought the first 3 LP's in Mono because it was a dollar cheaper at $2.80 than Stereo. Played them at a friends house thinking I got such a deal since sound was coming out of both speakers felt like 10' tall. Only to have his mom say in stereo you get different sounds out of each side, I fell to 10" tall. Lesson learned and only stereo and hundreds of LP's after that. Another big botch was the "Head" cover should have used the movie poster instead to tell the public this was a movie ST. But just 6 songs on that LP also a mistake should have cut the incidental stuff and put extra songs on Side 2 as the Beatles did on their UK releases. Just my opinion on some of their career mistakes, if they wanted to continue as a band after the TV show ended. I also can say I actually saw "Head" in a movie theater in a 2'd run showing in 1970 when it was the second feature to Dean Martin's "The Wrecking Crew" his Matt Helm secret agent. Great in the CD age when you now have more space to put on extra tracks that would have never seen the light of day before. Pisces - for me is their best album. Birds - too much a hodge podge. That cover design was bad just too busy too much stuff for a cover. Sgt Pepper could say also busy but all the stuff was to one theme heads of famous people. Also getting late in the day to keep issuing all these box sets us org fans are getting beyond the buying years, and close to getting rid of stuff. This is more for younger fans who came on later. 🙂
hi bob. those last 3 lines bout sum it up for me. see my earlier post. these box sets are TOO late in time. i only boughta few box super ( 6) and that was rory gallaghers. deuce and self titled,.the beach boys feel flows ,who sell out,love forever changes. kinks arthur, no new single cds. got the revolver box its on its way cost $95 with post. so thats 7.