50 Years Ago: The Monkees Storm the Charts With Their Second Album, ‘More of the Monkees’
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The Monkees‘ TV show made its debut in the fall of 1966. At first, the music for the series was meant to be background for the story, and the records were designed as no more than quick cash-ins to the program. But something very few people thought of: What if the songs were really good, and the band became huge? That’s exactly what happened when the Monkees’ debut single, “Last Train to Clarksville,” soared to the top of the chart not long after the series premiered.
By the end of the year, the group had scored a second No. 1 hit with “I’m a Believer,” and their self-titled debut album sat at the top of the album chart for 13 weeks. It wouldn’t be knocked out of the top slot until early 1967, when More of the Monkees replaced it at No. 1.
Released in January 1967, the Monkees’ second album followed the formula set by their debut, featuring first-rate songs written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and Neil Diamond. Plus, the group’s Michael Nesmith contributed two songs, including the fan favorite “Mary, Mary.”
Most of the lead vocals on More of the Monkees are split between Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. Nesmith gets to explore his country roots on the self-penned “The Kind of Girl I Could Love,” while Peter Tork takes over for the offbeat fuzz blast of “Your Auntie Grizelda.” Dolenz shines bright throughout. From the primal garage-band buzz of “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” to the pure pop of “Sometime in the Morning” to the bubblegum blast of “I’m a Believer,” he proves why he had one of the purest voices during the golden era of pop and rock.
Though skeptics scoffed, the four guys who played the Monkees on TV were fast becoming a genuine rock ‘n’ roll band. By the time of the album’s release, they had already made their concert debut in late 1966 in Hawaii, followed in early 1967 by various live dates across the U.S.. Rushed out while the band was on the road, the second album was not without some controversy. Don Kirshner, the music supervisor behind the show and the records, treated Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith and Tork as disposable pawns in his game — which didn’t sit too well with them.
“The second album was so angering,” Tork told Andrew Sandoval in the book The Monkees: The Day by Day Story of the 60s Pop Sensations. “He was almost militantly out to cut us out of the process. The album came out without our having heard it, and on the back of it is nothing but Donnie congratulating himself for having hired all these other musicians. We were playing our music onstage, and we were righteously pissed.”
Despite the album’s huge success, the four members were so unhappy that Nesmith erupted during a meeting with Kirshner, demanding more control over what was released under the Monkees’ name. Nesmith was reminded that he was under contract and advised to keep quiet. After putting his fist through a wall, he said, “That could have been your face.”
The Monkees eventually wrestled control from Kirshner, taking over the records and the TV show. “Egos were getting bruised,” Kirshner recalled in an episode of Behind the Music. “I was winning, and people were jealous of it. One day I walked into my office, and I saw two security guards, with the office locked, and they escorted me out of the building.”
More of the Monkees immediately eclipsed the sales of the group’s debut LP, and would go on to become the biggest-selling album of 1967, staying on top the Billboard chart for 18 weeks. Their next two albums would also reach No.1, making the Monkees the year’s chart champs by holding down the top space for a total of 29 weeks with four different albums.
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