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!