Friday, 16 April 2010

A Monkees Single That Almost Wasn't And One That Never Was

Before anything else I want to apologise for the scarcity of post here of late. Work has been extremely busy this week, not to mention allergy season is in full swing. Between the two I have felt worn out much of the week.

Anyhow, for the weekend I have a post planned on the power struggle between made for TV rock group The Monkees and Screen Gems' music supervisor Don Kirshner. In anticipation of this event, I thought I would give you two Monkees songs tonight. The first was a single that was swiftly withdrawn after its initial release. The second was a song which The Monkees wanted to release as a single, but circumstances would ultimately prevent its release until nearly thirty years later.

Before going onto the songs, however, I would guess some background is in order. The sitcom The Monkees debuted on September 12, 1966 on NBC. From the beginning Columbia's television branch, Screen Gems, had planned to market the music created for the series. Unfortunately, this would bring Don Kirshner, president of both Colgems (Screen Gems recording label) and Screen Gems-Columbia Music, Inc. (Screen Gems' music publishing arm) and hence music supervisor on Screen Gem's TV shows into the picture. Not only did Don Kirshner insist on selecting the singles they would release, but he would not even let them play their own instruments on their records (even though Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were both skilled musicians). This rubbed both Mike and Peter the wrong way, and they soon led a rebellion against the so-called "Man with the Golden Ear." Eventually Colgems and The Monkees reached an agreement whereby The Monkees would be allowed to play their own instruments and they would be given more control over the songs they would perform.

This lead us directly to the first song in question. In January 1967 Don Kirshner held a "Monkees" recording session in New York of the songs "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" by Neil Diamond and "She Hangs Out" by Jeff Barry. The session was produced by Jeff Barry and the only Monkee whose vocals were featured on the record was Davy Jones. In the wake of the agreement between Colgems and The Monkees, Don Krishner approved the pressing and distribution of a single with "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" as the A-side and "She Hangs Out" as the B-Side, without The Monkees' approval. Copies were released in Canada and the songs started to receive airplay in both Canada and the United States, so The Monkees and Colgems soon learned of Kirshner's violation of the agreement. The single was withdrawn and Don Kirshner paid dearly for his hubris. Not only did The Monkees producers Bob Rafaelson and Bert Schneider fire Kirshner as the series' music supervisor, but Screen Gems fired him as president of Colgems and Screen Gems-Columbia Music, Inc.

While Don Kirshner recorded "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" as the next Monkees single, The Monkees had their own ideas about their next single. Mike Nesmith had brought in Chip Douglas, then bassist for The Turtles, to produce their own sessions. As the first single with them playing their own instruments, The Monkees selected "All of Your Toys," a song by Mike's friend Bill Martin, backed with Mike's own song "The Girl I Knew Somewhere." Unfortunately two circumstances would prevent "All of Your Toys" from being released as The Monkees' third single. The first was that "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" had already been publicised as The Monkees' next single, even if it had been by Don Kirshner in an unethical manoeuvre. The second was a rule that Colgems had that The Monkees could only record songs published by Screen Gems-Columbia Music, Inc. "All of Your Toys" had been published by Tickson Music. Screen Gems did offer to buy "All of Your Toys" from Tickson, but they refused to sell. This not only prevented "All of Your Toys" from being the band's next single, but from even appearing as an album track. The Monkees' recording of "All of Your Toys" would not see the light of day until Rhino Records released in 1987 Missing Links, their first compilation album of previously unreleased Monkees material.

Ultimately, the third single of The Monkees would be "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," backed by "The Girl I Knew Somewhere (rather than "She Hangs Out"). While Neil Diamond fans may wish to disagree with me, I personally think "All of Your Toys" is the better song. Indeed, it is a much darker, more complex song, much more characteristic of The Monkees (whose songs included "Last Train to Clarksville," about evading the draft, and "Daily Nightly" about the Sunset Strip riot). Indeed, I ahve to wonder if The Monkees did not choose the song because it described to some degree their feelings bout Krishner ("I don't want to be just like all of your toys....").


Millie said...

Great post! I LOVE All of Your Toys!

It's such a compelling song, with such an utterly fascinating tune! Haha!

But, seriously, I'm excited for the upcoming post too! I had been planning on posting my next in my Monkees series this weekend too!

Mercurie said...

"All of Your Toys" is a great song. It's a shame The Monkees couldn't release it in 1967. I think it would've shocked those who had written them off as a manufactured band!

Anyhow, what is funny I have that post on The Monkees and Kirshner planned today, and I totally forgot today is Kirshner's birthday!