After two hit albums filled with songs written (and largely played) by other people, the Monkees agitated for – and eventually won – the opportunity to write their own songs and play their own instruments on their third record, 1967’s Headquarters. For a group known as “the Prefab Four” that had been selected for a television show to look handsome and sing what they were told, the results could have been disastrous.
They were anything but. Headquarters contained songs that embraced the folk- and psychedelic-rock movements of the day, without losing any of the pop touches that made the Monkees hit makers. And a hit it was – the album climbed right up the chart to No. 1, where it logged a single week, after which it spent 11 weeks at No. 2, behind the album that replaced it – the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
On the 55th Anniversary of this landmark album, a super deluxe limited edition can be found exclusively at Monkees.com.
To celebrate, let's listen to five of the best tracks off the original:
“You Told Me”: The first track on the record is a Mike Nesmith-written and -sung cut that could have fit comfortably on the Beatles’ Revolver. There’s a kaleidoscopic feel here – sort of like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” only with a banjo underpinning the entire thing instead of a sitar. Its effect is to draw the listener in, letting them know something special is about to unfold.
“Shades of Gray”: The wistful nature of this mid-tempo ballad is calming, and a little sad. First Davy Jones, then Peter Tork, sing of the fleeting nature of innocence and its definitives, of knowing right from wrong, truth from untruth, who to love and whom to be wary of. The music is the perfect complement – cello and French horn carry the countermelody, and Nesmith’s steel guitar provides subtle color.
“You Just May Be the One”: This is one of Mike Nesmith’s finest creations. The lyrics express a simple sentiment – the need for loyalty and understanding in a relationship – and the jangly, Byrds-y guitars drive it home. But the middle eight (the “I saw when you walked by” part) is the killer, and you can hear echoes of it in bands like the Jayhawks, the Mavericks, and early Wilco. Folk rock didn’t start here, but Americana might have.
“No Time”: “No Time” seems like a lift of the Beatles’ “I’m Down,” with Mickey Dolenz shouting gibberish (the first verse) and abstractions that sound like bits of eavesdropped conversations (the rest of the verses). It’s silly, but it rocks.
“Randy Scouse Git”: It’s a song of two minds – verses describing a whimsical party scene; the choruses launching bromides at someone offensive to the singer’s sensibilities. The title sides with the chorus – a “randy Scouse git” is a rude pejorative to Brits, so when the song was released as a single in the U.K., the record’s sleeve bore a different title: the highly creative “Alternative Title.”
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