The world lost one of the great pop icons of the 1960s this Wednesday when Davy Jones of The Monkees died of a heart attack at age 66. Though a manufactured pop group in one of the most literal senses, The Monkees still left behind one of the finest pop back catalogues of the late '60s, and still managed to be an enduring influence and presence for future generations of music fans and performers. As Dr. Zweig once said on The Simpsons, "The Monkees weren't about music, Marge. They were about rebellion, about political and social upheaval." OK, that might have been a stretch, but still.
In honor of Davy, enjoy our playlist of ten Monkees and Monkees-related songs to get your weekend started off right. We didn't include "Daydream Believer" since we assumed that was the first song you listened to over and over upon hearing the news of Davy's death, but if not, if you wanna just listen to that one ten times in a row instead, we won't be insulted.
THE MONKEES, "WORDS"
One of the group's best minor hits, 1967's "Words" featured a more garage-rock side of The Monkees, and probably could've fit in just fine on the original Nuggets compilation of forgotten underground rock cuts of the '60s. A hazy, near-psychedelic verse of Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork trading off vocals like a conscious and subconscious gives way to one of the band's hardest-hitting choruses, so big it needs to change keys mid-stream each time. All that, plus a nice Hammond organ solo on the bridge. A true gem.
THE THRILLS, "BIG SUR"
Hype band of the early-'00s The Thrills never really went on to greatness, but they left behind a couple very lovely, West Coast-indebted pop numbers, perhaps the best of which was So Much For the City's "Big Sur." Lead singer Conor Deasy calls back to one of the famous TV themes of the '60s on the song's first verse: "Hey hey you're the Monkees / People said you monkeyed around / But nobody's listening now." Hmmm.
RUN-D.M.C., "MARY MARY"
For one of their bigger hits of the late-'80s, legendary rap trio Run-D.M.C. reached back to Monkees single "Mary, Mary," changing the chorus from "Mary Mary, where ya goin'?" to "Mary Mary, why ya buggin'?" (OK, so the song was technically originally by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, but since Run actually sampled Mickey Dolenz's voice on their version, we're guessing that they were more familiar with the Monkees version). THey're not the only rapper artist to have a hit built around a Monkees song, though—quirky '90s rapper Del tha Funkee Homosapien's best-known song, "Mistadobalina," was based off a sample from Monkees nonsense album track "Zilch."
THE MONKEES, "SHE"
No, not the original version of the Green Day song—though how cool would that be?—though another one of the Monkees' better album cuts, a thrashy number with some highly pretty Beach Boys-esque harmonies. Like "Words," "She" was a Boyce and Hart-written number, and like "Words," it also features an organ solo on the bridge. Talk about a lost art in modern pop music. Hey, it worked once...
THE MONKEES, "FORGET THAT GIRL"
Hey, an actual Davy Jones lead vocal! "Forget That Girl" was one of the Monkees' lovelier numbers, a sighing, chiming song of heartbreak with some more pretty backing harmonies and a whole lot of maracas-shaking. If you were to tab one Monkees song in bad, bad need of a modern-day indie-pop cover—or at the very least, an appearance on the soundtrack to a wistful Wes Anderson movie—this would certainly be it.
For the second half of our Monkees Weekend Playlist, including Neil Diamond and Ginuwine (yes, Ginuwine), click NEXT.
NEIL DIAMOND, "I'M A BELIEVER"
"I'm a Believer," arguably The Monkees' most enduring pop hit, was written by a then-not-quite-so-well-known Neil Diamond. If that trivia fact had been previously unknown to you, it will seem a lot less surprising after listening to Neil's own version of it, which makes it sound...well, it makes it sound a whole lot like a Neil Diamond song, complete with "Cherry, Cherry"-esque piano breakdown and everything. The Monkees version is still probably a little breezier, but for historical purposes, Neil's version should probably be listened to at least once.
THE MONKEES, "THE GIRL I KNEW SOMEWHERE"
A Michael Nesmith-sung b-side to the more popular "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" stil managed to make the US top 40 on its own merits, reaching #39 in 1967. Not too much to say here, just another damn good lovelorn song. Band had a bunch of 'em, you know?
GINUWINE, "WHAT'S SO DIFFERENT?"
One of the more outside-the-box Monkees samples of recent years came courtesy of producer Timbaland on R&B singer Ginuwine's 1999 hit "What's So Different?" Timbo took the frenetic guitar intro from The Monkees' hit "Valleri" and inserted it as a subtle musical interjection throughout the song's verses and choruses. It actually makes more sense in the Ginuwine song than it ever did as that weird-ass "Valleri" intro. We can't vouch for the Godzilla samples later in the song though.
MINOR THREAT, "(I'M NOT YOUR) STEPPIN' STONE"
The Monkees may have been close to the antithesis of what punk rock was about, but they did get a decent number of punk covers over the years, particularly for their early hit "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," covered not only by hardcore heroes Minor Threat, but ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders and UK punk O.G.'s The Sex Pistons as well. It makes a little bit of sense, with the song's general message of defiance and whatnot--more sense than a whole lot of punk covers of "Last Train to Clarksville" would make, anyway.
THE MONKEES, "PORPOISE SONG (THEME FROM HEAD)"
Another less obvious one of The Monkees' most-covered songs is "Porpoise Song," the recurring theme from their super-surreal, brazenly psychedelic 1968 movie Head, which may or may not have ruined their careers, but certainly didn't help. Regardless of soundtracking, the song is an awesome psych-pop number that could hold its own against anything on Magical Mystery Tour, and has since been reappraised by artists ranging from The Church to And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and was even included in another ultra-disorienting movie 33 years later, Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky.
Got your own Monkees or Monkees-related jam? Let us know about it in the comments section.