The Monkees – The Monkees: #405 of best 1,000 albums ever!

The Monkees - The Monkees

There’s something about a band that was put together to star on a comedy TV show (which features the band) that is really groundbreaking for the mid-1960s.

But then I think: surely this band can’t be taken seriously on a musical level, right? But that quickly turns into my being delightfully surprised by how great The Monkees are – and especially their self-titled 1966 debut record – even putting aside that they were getting up to antics like this on a weekly basis.

Blessed with top notch industry songwriters and even in the face of a public backlash for not playing their own instruments, The Monkees had a remarkable run. I’m partial to their self-titled LP as it ironically sounds pure British Invasion in the best kind of way.

With this band, you have start with the start, so to speak, which is “(Theme From) The Monkees.” I love the quasi-mysterious feel to the verses, like it’s almost hinting that this is a spy show, before ripping open for the glorious chorus.

“Last Train to Clarksville” is wonderfully Beatles-y, and has an earnestness and seriousness that would never make me think of a “fabricated” band that was put together for a TV sitcom had I not know already.

And indeed, the songwriting pair of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were literally attempting to make “Last Train to Clarksville” as Beatles-ish as possible.

Boyce has said that the song’s opening guitar part (played by Louis Shelton) was an attempt to emulate the type of memorable and clearly identifiable riff that the Beatles had used in songs such as “I Feel Fine“, “Day Tripper” and “Paperback Writer.”

For reasons that must have solely do with the fact that they both reference trains, I always associate “Last Train To Clarksville” with “Driver 8,” by R.E.M., which is off of Fables of the Reconstruction (#638 of best 1,000 albums ever).

“I Wanna Be Free” is a sweet and gentle number that both helps to give The Monkees their own sound while showing off that they had strong songwriters undergirding their earliest efforts.

There’s some really fun stuff available on the “deluxe” version of The Monkees, including the “Monkees Radio Spot,” which gives you a flavor for the unique mix of earnestness and tongue in cheek goofiness that the lads possessed.

Another track, “All the King’s Horses,” that was not included in the original release might be my most favorite track on the album at the moment. It’s perfect mid-‘60s pop meets garage rock.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to The Monkees

One of the reasons that the 1960s were a unique and fascinating time is because it had at least three distinct eras in terms of popular culture*. The Monkees album and TV show took off in 1966, but a few short years later the mood and culture of the U.S. had changed remarkably.

* One of the reasons that the TV show Mad Men is so brilliant is that it effectively guides us through these eras over the course of the series.

Enter The Monkees who, along with a writing and producing team that featured none other than a young Jack Nicholson, made a movie called Head. The cast includes a bunch of stars, including Teri Garr, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, boxing great Sonny Liston, and Ray Nitschke. Talk about eclectic!

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it’s one of the strangest and easily the most psychedelic movie I’ve ever seen. Dig the trailer.

Ah, the late ‘60s.

Some stats & info about The Monkees

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Pop Music, AM Pop, Garage Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4 out of 5 stars
  • When was The Monkees released? 1966
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #405 out of 1,000

The Monkees on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Monkees that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Hey, hey, we’re The Monkees and people say we monkey around. But we’re too busy singing to put anybody down

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.