AKA the songs I’d give to a non-Monkees fan to convert them
So Rolling Stone magazine ranked the top best Monkees songs:
- “Daydream Believer”
- “I’m a Believer”
- “Last Train to Clarksville”
- “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
- “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
- “Porpoise Song (Theme from ‘Head’)”
- “Listen to the Band”
- “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”
I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with most of this list.
“Clarksville” is a well known song, it was their first hit, it’s important in the Monkees’ history, and it had a hidden meaning that was really edgy for its time, but I don’t think the song is all that great. Maybe it’s just because I’m biased against hit singles by my favourite bands, but I also feel like it’s sort of stuck in the sixties.
I’ve never liked either version of “Valleri”. Maybe it’s because I’m biased against songs with girl’s names in the title that aren’t mine (which actually isn’t true, because I do like “Angie”, “Carrie-Anne”, “Layla”… and I like “Joanne”, which is a Mike Nesmith song, and if I don’t like songs simply because they’re about another girl and I’m jealous, you would expect I would dislike Mike’s “Joanne” more than I dislike Davy’s “Valleri”).
I do like “She”, but I think like “Clarksville”, they’re both a bit aged.
I have to also say, despite being the most well-known Nesmith Monkees tune, I’m not a huge fan of “Listen to the Band”. Maybe because it just feels “old” to me, since it was the first Nesmith tune I was introduced to back on the 1995 Greatest Hits album. I like the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee version so much better, minus of course the hour-long ending. I’m just not a fan of the album version, and even moreso I’m not a fan of his solo version.
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” is boring, and also just not a good song in Monkees history in terms of the “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” single fiasco.
I don’t know what the requirement is for a “best songs” list. Best musically? Best vocally? Most catchy? Most make-you-wanna-dance-y? Most well-known? I don’t know; I think they all kind of play into it. But if I try to set aside my bias towards Mike and against mushy Davy songs and try to come up with ten songs that I think are quite good and have a real Monkees feel to them, I would pick these ones.
This list is in sort of chronological order, but starting with their genuinely great songs so the first song isn’t a stupid one. Also, I suppose this list is kind of the songs I would tell a non-Monkees fan to listen to to try to get them into the band.
- “Daydream Believer”
- This is their most iconic song, and it definitely deserves a place on any Monkees best song list. The 7A intro, the video, the nonsensical sing-a-long-able lyrics. And the Monkees actually played on it — Peter on piano and Mike on guitar.
- “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
- This is a fun song and it makes me feel happy and nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced. Peter and Mike are featured on piano and guitar, and Davy, Peter, and Mike all provide some nice backing vocals and harmonies.
- “Goin’ Down”
- It’s fun and catchy and fast and Micky does a great job singing all those lyrics. Mike and Peter play guitar.
- “Gonna Buy Me a Dog”
- Okay, this one is certainly not a “good song”, but it’s so Monkees. It’s silly and wonderful and the reason Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart would never have more than one Monkee in the studio at a time.
- “You Told Me”
- Here’s my one Nesmith-written/sung pick. It’s the opening song from Headquarters, which is, of course, the quintessential Monkees album. I had to have one country style song on here, because Mike was 1/4 of the group, and he put that style into a lot of their songs. All four Monkees played on this song.
- “No Time”
- It’s wonderful and fun (can I say “fun” enough?!), and if the “Daydream Believer” video wasn’t so well-known, I would say it was the best Rainbow Room video. It was written all four Monkees (but credited to the engineer as a thank you), and all four play on this tune.
- “She Hangs Out”
- It’s so Davy, and it just makes you want to Davy dance. Is it even possible to listen to this and not dance? I think I like the Missing Links version better than the album version, but maybe I heard that version first. Mike and Peter are featured on guitar and organ respectively.
- “Porpoise Song (Theme from ‘Head’)” – single version with the full outro
- It’s lovely and Head is lovely and trippy and it’s got a big old orchestra and Micky’s a great singer okay.
- “As We Go Along”
- This might be one of the songs where I couldn’t remove my personal bias. It’s my favourite Monkees song sung by Micky, but I think it’s also a genuinely good song even to some who isn’t even a Monkees fan. It’s just so sweet and summery and happy and loving and blue skies and I can’t describe it, but I love it so much. (This was supposed to be a serious list. Great job, Jenny.)
- “It’s Not Too Late”
- Okay, if any song doesn’t deserve to be on this list, it’s this one, but I think it’s special. It’s one of the only worthwhile songs on Justus (other than maybe “Unlucky Stars”), and it’s sad and happy and how could a Davy song possibly be my favourite song on an album? It was written by Davy, and all four Monkees played on it.
There aren’t any Peter songs, because he only had a handful of them in the first place, and you never see Peter songs on this kind of list any way. If I were to include one though, it would be “Long Title”, because Head and trippy and psychedelic.
I thought about adding “Cuddly Toy”, but I think it’s too similar to fellow Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD. song “She Hangs Out”; they’re both all about the Davy dance vibe. I also wanted to add “Sometime in the Morning” in there, which I think is lovely, but like “She”, I think it’s not aged that well, and I think Micky’s remake of it on Remember (not the one on King for a Day) could possibly be better. Listening to the two, you can see how much his voice has improved.
I didn’t put “I’m a Believer” on there, though it probably should be, because it’s also iconic and better than “Clarksville”.