“I Wanna Be Free” is a song written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart that was first performed by The Monkees and appeared on their debut album The Monkees in 1966. It was released as a single in some countries, reaching the Top 20 in Australia. It was also covered by The Lettermen.
Boyce and Hart wrote “I Wanna Be Free” for the Monkees before the group was even put together. Along with “(Theme from) The Monkees” and “Let’s Dance On,” it was one of the first songs written for the group. It was also the only song written for the Monkees’ first album which was not written under deadline pressure. According to Allmusic critic Matthew Greenwald, the song was an attempt by Boyce and Hart to write a song like The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Like “Yesterday,” the instrumentation for “I Wanna Be Free” incorporates a string quartet. The instrumentation also incorporates acoustic guitar and harpsichord. Davy Jones sang the vocals.
A faster version of the song was recorded with Micky Dolenz sharing the vocals with Jones. This version appeared in the TV series and as a bonus track on some releases of The Monkees.
The song appeared in a number of episodes of The Monkees TV series, including the pilot episode and “Success Story.” It was also included on the Monkees’ debut album, in part to insure that the album included a gentle ballad. Since then, it has appeared on many Monkees’ compilation albums, including Colgems’ The Monkees Greatest Hits, Barrel Full of Monkees, Arista Records’ The Monkees Greatest Hits, Rhino Records’ Greatest Hits, The Monkees Anthology and The Best of The Monkees. It also appeared on the live albums Live 1967 and Summer 1967: The Complete U.S. Concert Recordings.
Allmusic’s Matthew Greenwald calls the song a “positively beautiful and wistful statement of teenage coming of age” and also praises its melody. Greenwald also considers the song important in helping the Monkees gain a pre-teen audience, noting that Jones’ “angst-filled” live performances of the song were especially effective at eliciting emotional responses from the girls in the audience. Fellow Allmusic critic Tim Sendra finds the song “achingly sweet, even a little soulful in a very British way.” CMJ New Music Monthly author Nicole Keiper referred to the song as “heavenly.” However, Digital audio and compact disc review magazine referred to the song as an “inconsequential teeny ballad.”
According to Boyce, “I Wanna Be Free” was Jimmy Webb’s favorite song and even inspired the song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” which Webb wrote for Glen Campbell and which became a top 10 hit on the country music charts in 1967.
“I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet” is a song by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, which was recorded by The Monkees during the 1960s.
The first Monkees version of the song was recorded on October 26, 1966, during the period when the band did not perform their own instruments as much on their recordings. This version was produced by Jeff Barry, and was used in a first-season episode of their series (“Dance, Monkees, Dance” and “In the Ring”; the show’s credits mistakenly list the title as “I’ll Be Back On My Feet Again”). The record was slated to be included on More of the Monkees, but was pulled from the album’s lineup, and never originally released.
During 1967 and 1968, the Monkees remade several of their earlier songs, including “Valleri” and selections that appeared on their Headquarters album, after the band had graduated to playing more of their own instruments on record. During sessions for their Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album, the Monkees tried a remake of “I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet”, but did not complete it.
The next version of the song was recorded on March 9 and March 14, 1968, after the Monkees had become their own producers. It was markedly different from their first version, including the use of a brass section and an extra chord change (from D Major to D minor, where the first version had stayed on D Major). This version appeared on their 1968 album The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees.
The original recording was finally released in 1990, as part of the compilation album Missing Links, Volume II, which featured many of the “television versions” of the Monkees’s songs.
“Yes I Will”, also known as “I’ll Be True to You”, is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Russ Titelman. The song was first recorded in 1964 by British Beat group The Hollies who released it as a single in January 1965 where it peaked at number 9 in the United Kingdom. Two versions of this song were released by the Hollies. An alternate take with prominent acoustic guitars and a different intro was included on the band’s 1968 Greatest Hits album in the UK since the original single version was only available as a mono mix, and EMI wanted all tracks in stereo, for which only the alternate take existed. This is often described as an “erroneous” version because it does not reflect what was heard on the single. Other examples of this practice include Stay from 1963 in which the famous guitar solo in the middle-eight was recorded live as the mono mix was being made, meaning the stereo version has a different solo, the one that was previously recorded on the multi-(4) track studio tape. A version of the song titled “I’ll Be True to You” was recorded by The Monkees and included on their 1966 self-titled debut album. Australia’s Twilights also recorded a version on their eponymous 1966 album.
“(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” is a rock song by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. It was first recorded by Paul Revere & the Raiders and appeared on their album Midnight Ride, released in May 1966.
The song is simple musically, with a repeating verse chord progression of E major, G major, A major and C major, and a repeating bridge in cut time of E major, G major, A major, and G major.
It is best known as a hit for The Monkees (US #20), released in November 1966, (making it the first Monkees B-side to chart). Musicians featured on the Monkees recording are: Micky Dolenz (lead vocal); Tommy Boyce (backing vocal); Wayne Erwin, Gerry McGee, and Louie Shelton (guitar); Bobby Hart (organ); Larry Taylor (bass); Billy Lewis (drums); and Henry Levy (percussion).
The Monkees’ version differs between the single version, stereo album version and mono album version. In the stereo version, the track’s title is sung just before the second verse, whereas on the single and mono album versions, this segment is left instrumental. Additionally, the stereo version has an edit in the fadeout. The mono album version does not have this edit and therefore has a longer coda. The single also does not have the edit, but it fades the song earlier than the mono album. All Monkees hits compilations through the mid-1980s used the stereo version, and afterwards used a stereo mix of the single version.
“Listen to the Band” is a song by The Monkees that was released on Colgems single #5004 on April 26, 1969. Written by Michael Nesmith, it is the first time Nesmith sang lead vocals on a Monkees A-side single. Running 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the song is about a man finding solace in music after a romantic break-up. “Listen to the Band” was first heard on The Monkees TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee as a live performance with Peter Tork making his last appearance before leaving the Monkees. The one-hour special aired on NBC on April 14, 1969.
“Someday Man”, the original A-side was heavily promoted in trade ads and was designated as the ‘plug side’ on the promotional single. However, DJs began to recognize the superiority of the B-side, “Listen To The Band” and this justified Colgems making an updated picture sleeve.
The studio/single version of the song was recorded on June 1, 1968, and went to #63 on the Billboard chart. “Someday Man”, a non-LP song written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, was sung by Davy Jones and charted on the Billboard chart at #81). “Listen to the Band” is from The Monkees record album The Monkees Present, released on Colgems 117 on October 1, 1969. The album version runs 2 minutes and 45 seconds, 15 seconds longer than the single version. The Monkees were by now a trio (Dolenz, Nesmith, and Davy Jones), Peter Tork having left in December 1968.
The song includes a long held cadenza on the electric guitar that rises from G to the key of C with the accompaniment of the organ, before Nesmith repeats the spoken title of the song to “Listen to the Band”. The song features a brass section that plays during the instrumental section, as if the Brass were the band. The song ends with the recorded sound of an audience cheering for the band, sourced from the album 144 Genuine Sound Effects on the Mercury Hill label.
After The Monkees disbanded in the early 1970s, Nesmith re-recorded the song with The First National Band and appeared on their album Loose Salute. The updated recording faded in through the first verse and reached full-volume on the words “Listen to the Band”.
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” is a song by Neil Diamond that was released by The Monkees in 1967 (see 1967 in music). Davy Jones sang the lead vocal (this was Jones’ first lead vocal on a Monkees single). It went to #1 in the US Cashbox charts and #2 on the Billboard charts. The record’s B-side was Michael Nesmith’s “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”, which also charted on Billboard, peaking at #39.
Neil Diamond never made a studio recording of the song (as he had done with “I’m a Believer”), but he did perform the song in his live shows of 1967. At least one recording of such a performance exists and circulates, done at New York’s Bitter End club and currently available Video on YouTube.
“Mary, Mary” is a song written by Michael Nesmith. It was first recorded by The Butterfield Blues Band for their 1966 album, East-West. The Monkees, featuring Nesmith, would later record the song themselves. The rap group, Run–D.M.C., revived the song in the late 1980s with a cover version that hit the R&B and pop charts in the United States.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was the first group to record and release the song commercially, featured as a track on their 1966 album East-West. In addition to Butterfield, musicians to play on the track include Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. Curiously, no songwriter credit is listed for “Mary, Mary” on East-West.
On July 25, 1966, Nesmith produced and recorded the song for The Monkees at Western Recorders in Hollywood, California. Micky Dolenz sang lead, and Mike used the crack group of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew to beef up their sound, including; James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Michael Deasy and Larry Knechtel. Their version was released on the album More of the Monkees in 1967 and became a number five hit in Australia in 1968.
“Randy Scouse Git” is a song written by Micky Dolenz in 1967 and recorded by The Monkees. It was the first song written by Dolenz to be commercially released, and became a #2 hit in the UK where it was retitled “Alternate Title” after the record company (RCA) complained that the original title was actually somewhat “taboo to the British audience”. Dolenz took the song’s title from a phrase he had heard spoken on an episode of the British television series Till Death Us Do Part, which he had watched while in England. The song also appeared on The Monkees TV series, on their album Headquarters, and on several “Greatest Hits” albums. Peter Tork has said that it is one of his favorite Monkees tracks.
“Take a Giant Step” is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and released by the American band The Monkees in 1966. It was also covered in 1969 by singer Taj Mahal.
The song was released as the B-side to the band’s single “Last Train to Clarksville” and also as the closing track on side 1 of their debut album The Monkees. Micky Dolenz sang the lead vocal.
The song is presented as a plea to a heartbroken girl to move on from her past romantic disappointments, and to “learn to live again at last”, by “taking a giant step outside your mind”. Critic Eric Lefcowitz describes the song as “proto-psychedelic.”
The song was later covered by singer Taj Mahal, in a significantly rearranged version, and included as the title track to his 1969 double album release Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home. It was also covered by Taj Mahal’s band Rising Sons on their 1992 self-titled album.
Tear Drop City is a single by The Monkees released on February 8, 1969 on Colgems #5000 recorded on October 26, 1966. The song reached No. 56 on the Billboard chart. The lyrics are about a man who feels low because his girlfriend has left him. Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, it was the first single The Monkees released as a trio (Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Davy Jones; Peter Tork departed December 1968). Micky Dolenz performed the lead vocal. Boyce and Hart produced and arranged the song.
The flip-side was “A Man Without a Dream”, with Davy Jones doing the lead vocal. Notably, it was the first Monkees b-side since “Take a Giant Step” (off their debut single) not to chart, a sign of the group’s waning popularity.
Both single sides were from the album “Instant Replay”.