For every record-biz weasel who whines that he doesn’t hear a single, there are legions of fans who hear one just fine, thanks. 45s Are GO! celebrates the singles that never were, but should have been.
THE MONKEES: “For Pete’s Sake”/”You Just May Be The One”
Colgems, 1967; LP tracks from the album Headquarters
What were they thinking?
In 1967, The Monkees were arguably the hottest rockin’ pop combo in the world. Regardless of whether or not we believe the (disputed) claim that the group’s record sales in ’67 were greater than the combined totals of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, there’s no denying that The Monkees were, at the very least, one of the most popular recording acts around. By ’67, the made-for-TV group–Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork–had succeeded in securing some small level of autonomy regarding the records that bore their brand name. After two blockbuster Monkees albums concocted as sweet-sounding puppets to the music and entertainment machine, The Monkees’ third album Headquarters would feature the band as players, co-pilots of this new flight into the fancy of pop rock ’67. Nesmith found a sympathetic producer in former Turtles bassist Douglas Farthing Hatelid (aka Chip Douglas), and the resulting album hit # 1 in Billboard.
It stayed there for one whole week. Once The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, The Monkees were relegated to the # 2 spot for the remainder of the burgeoning summer of love. It’s not likely that anything–anything–could have been more popular, more omnipresent, than the counter-cultural flashpoint that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Sgt. Pepper was only the second rock album ever to reach # 1 without the benefit of a hit single.
Headquarters, of course, was the first.
What were they thinking?
I’m not saying that a big radio hit from Headquarters would have buoyed the album above Pepper; again, really, nothing in the summer of ’67 was going to compete with that Splendid Time Guaranteed For All. But the decision to not issue a U.S. single off Headquarters still seems puzzling, maddening, more than five decades after the fact.
Looking back, there are a few factors to consider, I guess. The Monkees were, as noted above, in transition in ’67, transforming themselves from cogs in a pop machinery into more active participants in that machinery. It’s possible that the suits running Colgems Records lacked confidence in the hitmaking ability of Monkees Mark II. It’s also possible that the label was worried about overexposure, taking care not to milk its cash cow to a premature demise (as we’ll discuss below). And it’s also possible that the folks in charge of such things heard the tracks on Headquarters, and did not hear any potential hits. If the latter, then again: what were they thinking…?!
Even without 45 rpm validation, some Headquarters material eventually received exposure on the group’s TV show. “For Pete’s Sake,” co-written by Tork with Joseph Richards, became the show’s closing theme in its second season, an abbreviated version playing over the credits at the end of each episode. An earlier version of Nesmith’s “You Just May be The One” (sometimes referred to as “You May Just Be The One”) had appeared in some individual first-season episodes. “Randy Scouse Git,” “No Time,” and “Sunny Girlfriend” were also used during the show’s second season. However, by the time the second season commenced in September of ’67, the more than three-months old Headquarters LP was practically a golden oldie. (On the other hand, a number of Headquarters tracks were edited into summer reruns of the first season’s shows, giving them at least a little bit of contemporaneous airplay push.)
Meanwhile, as “Randy Scouse Git” became a # 2 single in England (under the less-rude name “Alternate Title”), The Monkees went from the March ’67 release of “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”/”The Girl I Knew Somewhere” to the July ’67 release of “Pleasant Valley Sunday”/”Words” without a new 45 for the American singles market. From our smug 21st century vantage point, a mere four months elapsed between 45s seems like a flash of nothing; in the fast-paced pop world of 1967, it meant that Headquarters went entirely unrepresented in the American Top 40.
To be fair, we have to concede that Colgems never succumbed to the temptation to strip mine The Monkees’ albums for singles; there had been just one 45 release (“Last Train To Clarksville”/”Take A Giant Step”) off the eponymous debut LP, just one (“I’m A Believer”/”(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”) off the monster-selling More Of The Monkees, and then the non-LP “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”/”The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” All of this–three albums, four singles (including “Pleasant Valley Sunday”)–hit radio and retail in the space of less than a year. No time, baby. While that’s a lot of product in a short span, it nonetheless shows a remarkable level of restraint at Colgems, given how hot The Monkees were in ’66 and ’67.
There certainly should have been a single taken from Headquarters. The album had some potential hit fodder, from the raucous workout “No Time” to the wistful “Shades Of Gray” to Nesmith’s “Sunny Girlfriend.” I do not think any of those would have been an optimal choice, nor do I believe a single of “Randy Scouse Git” would have duplicated the track’s British success.
But a double A-side of “For Pete’s Sake”/”You Just May Be The One” would have been among the best singles of 1967. The peace-and-love vibe of “For Pete’s Sake” is perfectly emblematic of its day without seeming dated or trite, a still-compelling reminder that we were born to love one another, in this generation, in this loving time. “You Just May Be The One” is my favorite Headquarters track, a straightforward, country-tinged pop tune that belies Nesmith’s protest that he wasn’t suited to writing straightforward pop tunes. All four Monkees play on both tracks: “For Pete’s Sake” features Tork on guitar, Nesmith on organ, Dolenz on drums, Jones on tambourine, Chip Douglas on bass, and Micky singing lead with backing vocals by Micky, Davy, and Peter; other than some backing vocals by Douglas (with Micky, Davy, and Peter), “You Just May Be The One” is only The Monkees, unaided, the four guys from the beach house singin’ and playin’ like the real band they’d somehow become.
The release of this or any single off Headquarters would not have had much effect on the real-world trajectory of The Monkees’ career. Their next album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. was released in November of ’67, just a little over a year after the world heard The Monkees for the first time. Pisces was their fourth and final # 1 album; 1968’s The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees would peak at # 3, and The Monkees would never again crash the top 10 of the Billboard album chart. “Daydream Believer” (# 1) and “Valleri” (# 3) would be their last two Top 10 singles. As the TV show ended and their popularity ebbed and faded by late ’68, the imaginary gravitas of one extra pop hit 45 back in the summer of ’67 wouldn’t have mattered in the long run.
Woulda been nice, though. “For Pete’s Sake” ultimately achieved some level of pop recognition and immortality simply because so many folks wound up hearing it in the ubiquitous reruns of the TV show. Although the song had only been the show’s closing theme during its second and final season, it wound up being edited into the commonly-seen episodes of the first season as they aired in reruns on Saturday morning and in syndication in the ’70s and beyond. In a way, it actually is the hit it should have been, a well-known and well-loved part of The Monkees’ canon. “You Just Me Be The One,” however, is frequently omitted from compact collections of The Monkees’ best. That should not be.
We know The Monkees’ legacy survived the downturn and downfall of fortunes it suffered in 1968. I still wish the original run of success had lasted longer (and that their brilliant ’68 movie Head and its magnificent soundtrack had found an audience at the time of their release). And I still wish there had been more, starting with the obvious notion of releasing a freakin’ 1967 single off a # 1 album by one of the most popular recording acts in the land. What were they thinking? Love is understanding. You know that this is true. “For Pete’s Sake”/”You Just May Be The One” is a single that should have been. That’s what I’m thinkin’, anyway.
You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby!
Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-Op, Ray Paul, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, The Slapbacks, P. Hux, Irene Peña, Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave Merritt, The Rubinoos, Stepford Knives, The Grip Weeds, Popdudes, Ronnie Dark, The Flashcubes, Chris von Sneidern, The Bottle Kids, 1.4.5., The Smithereens, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Hit Squad, The Rulers, The Legal Matters, Maura & the Bright Lights, Lisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records.