I’ve decided that since many of the people I know on Tumblr are Monkees fans, I’m going to do a Monkees Song Of The Day. I’m going to go through all the Monkees’ songs, at least those on Spotify, and post the relevant entry from my book about the band’s music. If you want to buy the book, it. and my other books, can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Hickey/e/B0057GM3KW
Pleasant Valley Sunday
Writers: Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Lead Vocalist: Micky Dolenz
Other Monkees present: Peter Tork (piano), Michael Nesmith (guitar and backing vocals), Davy Jones (backing vocals and percussion)
If ever proof were needed that the Monkees were capable of producing great pop records without the involvement of Don Kirshner, this is it.
With an instrumental track by Tork, Nesmith, Douglas and Hoh (with additional acoustic guitar by Bill Chadwick and possibly Dolenz), this shows that the band could, when left to their own devices, create spectacular pop singles.
Every band member gets to shine here - Dolenz of course takes the lead vocal, and does his usual superb job, Nesmith plays the Day Tripper-esque guitar riff (composed by Chip Douglas) and adds harmonies (and the Dolenz/Nesmith harmony blend, while underutilised, is one of the band’s most thrilling elements), Tork adds the piano part under the middle eight (which otherwise would have seemed woefully poor, having as it does only a single chord), and Jones gives the vocal performance of his life, on the nasal, sarcastic `ta ta ta ta’ section.
Given that the song itself is relatively weak, being just an example of the mid-60s tendency to cruelly mock people for daring to want a comfortable life (see for example every song George Harrison ever wrote), the power of the track must be attributed entirely to the performance, production and arrangement. And every element here is spot-on (as can be heard on the `karaoke’ version made available on a Japanese best-of CD, where every detail of the backing track can be heard).
It’s not the song itself that made this a hit, but Douglas’ riff and the understanding of dynamics. This track builds from a relatively sedate beginning towards an almost orgasmic peak, with the riff and Nesmith and Dolenz’s wailing being lost in a wall of reverb that in turn gets fed back on itself. The ending wouldn’t be out of place on a Led Zeppelin record, but because it’s been contextualised as part of a piece of simple pop music, no-one blinked an eye.
Quite rightly, this is a favourite of the band members - Peter Tork recorded a truly odd remake of it with his band The New Monks in 1980, for example - because of all their classic singles, it’s the only one which allowed them all to shine as a group.