The best Monkees songs underscore how their music has stood the test of time, decades after the group first popped onto our TV sets. Their albums, it's since become clear, were some of the best pop music of the '60s and beyond. That made narrowing things down no small task, but we dug deep to compile this list of the Top 10 Monkees Songs ...
'For Pete's Sake'From: 'Headquarters' (1967)
Written by Peter Tork, this ode to the youth culture of the times – released just before the "summer of love" kicked in – was from the Monkees' third album. Headquarters was their own creation – and yes, that means the instruments were played by the group! It contained no hit singles, but still made it to No. 1 – only to be toppled after one week by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Monkees ultimately sat in the Beatles' shadow at No. 2 for nearly three months. "For Pete's Sake" was also used as the closing theme for the Monkees television show's second season.
'I'm Not Your Stepping Stone'From: 'More of the Monkees' (1967)
This is the first and certainly not the only track worthy of inclusion on this list of Top 10 Monkees Songs to come from their second album. Even though Paul Revere and the Raiders put it to vinyl first, the Monkees' version remains definitive. Tough, snotty vocals from Mickey Dolenz give it a jolt of garage-punk attitude.
'Circle Sky'From: 'Head' (1968)
A Mike Nesmith barn burner, "Circle Sky" was featured in the Head film via a live performance – yes, once again with the Monkees actually playing their own instruments! – cut in with footage from the Vietnam war. Chilling stuff for a so-called "manufactured teen band." Elsewhere, Dolenz's 1969 song "Mommy & Daddy" also features lyrics about Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination and drugs.
'You And I'From: 'Instant Replay' (1969)
Written by Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick, this deep cut features a tough-as-nails guitar solo from Neil Young. Believe it or not, "You And I" isn't the only Monkees track that features Young; his Buffalo Springfield bandmates Stephen Stills and Dewey Martin sat in, too. Peter Tork's friendship with Stills actually dates back to the early '60s, when both were struggling folkies.
'Daily Nightly'From: 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.' (1967)
A psychedelic masterpiece, this Mike Nesmith original's surreal poetic lyrics tell the tale of the Sunset Strip riots of 1966. The recording also features the first appearance of a Moog synthesizer – owned and played by Micky Dolenz – on a pop record. "Star Collector," another song on this same album, found electronic music pioneer Paul Beaver – later of the Beaver and Krause duo – on Moog, as well.
'Pleasant Valley Sunday'From: 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.' (1967)
Co-written by Carole King, this ode to suburban complacency made it to No. 3 on the charts. With a guitar riff to die for, and a production that makes the record blast out of the radio, "Pleasant Valley Sunday" has remained a highlight of the Monkees' catalog. The guitar riff was supposedly a take on the Beatles' "Paperback Writer."
'Valleri'From: 'The Birds the Bees and the Monkees' (1968)
A Boyce and Hart gem (one of many), and another stellar performance from Davy Jones. This song went through a couple different incarnations and was originally featured in episodes of the TV show during the first season. But this re-recorded take actually went to No. 3 in the winter of 1967. Note the stunning guitar work courtesy of session giant Louis Shelton. Footnote: For whatever reason, Mike Nesmith called "Valleri" "the worst record ever made." We beg to differ.
'The Porpoise Song'From: 'Head' (1968)
Quite simply one of the most beautiful records ever made. Written by King and Gerry Goffin, this surrealistic slice of psychedelia, beautifully sung by Dolenz (with Jones on the high harmonies), was the main theme from Head. Dolenz doesn't get nearly enough credit as one of the greatest vocalists in pop music.
'Daydream Believer'From: 'The Birds the Bees and the Monkees' (1967)
Another No. 1 hit, this time circa 1967 and featuring the sugar-sweet vocals of the dearly departed Davy Jones. "Daydream Believer" was written by John Stewart, a former Kingston Trio member who later hit with "Gold." Pure pop music rarely gets any better than this.
'I'm a Believer'From: 'More of the Monkees' (1967)
What better end to a list of Top 10 Monkees Songs than with their biggest and most enduring hit? "I'm a Believer" sat at No. 1 for seven weeks and, along with "Last Train To Clarksville," is the song probably most identified with the Monkees. It was written by a young Neil Diamond, but the group made it their own thanks to the dynamic vocals of Mickey Dolenz. This song also helped More of the Monkees to an 18-week run at No. 1, making it one of the biggest selling pop albums of the '60s.