Lex on Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees)

One of my most prized possessions is an autographed copy of Mickey Dolenz’s book, I’m A Believer.  My Aunt Ava scored the book for me while I was practicing for my band’s debut at the prestigious Roxy Theater in Hollywood.  To this day, I show off the book when the subject of the Monkees comes up.

Even before I started school, I would watch the Monkees’ television show.  When the Monkees would suddenly burst into song, I would use pencils to drum on the family furniture.  For me, Mickey’s character on the show was quick-witted, heart felt, funny, and just plain fun.  His improvised antics, as well as the songs, are still fun for me all these years later on DVD.

Just a few of my favorite Mickey Dolenz vocals include the following:

1.  “Take A Giant Step” – From the Monkees debut album in late ’66, this Goffin-King pop gem utilizes Mickey’s gift for a vocal that really connects to the listener.  Mickey bobs and weaves the song’s counter melodies to great effect in the bridges and choruses, while the music supplies a really neat backdrop of musical sounds.  Hearing it today, I still get goosebumps.

2.  “Mary Mary” –  This groovy piece of “mountain funk,” written by fellow Monkee, Mike Nesmith, comes from their album, More of the Monkees.  Mickey’s hypnotic vocals just grab the ears, and don’t let up until the end of the song with the manic and energetic cries of “Mary, where ya goin’ to.”  James Brown must have been proud of Mickey’s imitation.

(Sidebar:  Just to think that the Monkees actually released 3 albums in 1967, and gave the Beatles and the Stones a run for their money.  What group could actually do that today?)

3.  “Randy Scouse Git” – from Headquarters.  This is one of Mickey’s many stand-out moments as a singer, as well as composer and drummer.  His lyrics are like poetry, very much like John Lennon and Bob Dylan during this period.  His vocals beautifully show off the contrast of soft-singing balladeer to full-tilt, note-perfect howl.  Dig those beautiful tympanis through out the song!

4.  “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Words” (a tie) – Both of these cool pop tunes come from the band’s fourth release, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. Both songs have that certain wail that Mickey gets before he heads into a highly intense chorus.  They are well-written songs that are sung with great depth and emotion.  “Pleasant Valley Sunday” does indeed have that groovy “psycho-jello” ending, but “Words” has that dramatic reading of the final bridge and chorus that makes a great vocal statement.

5.  “As We Go Along” – Hardcore Monkees fans got to hear this song the first time around when it was issued as part of the soundtrack for the Monkees movie Head.  By the time this song came around, the original television show was canceled, and their music had lost its main “platform.”  I finally heard this lost pop classic, penned by Carole King and Toni Stern, in the mid-80s, when the soundtrack and movie were re-released.  I believe that this is Mickey’s best vocal.  He even admits that it was a bitch to sing this oddly metered number.  But the single vocal is absolutely gorgeous.  This song is highly recommended by me.

And there you have only a few of my favorite Mickey Dolenz vocal performances.  I purposely left out “Last Train to Clarksville,” and “I’m a Believer,” because, well, you know about those classic vocals.  Honorary shout-outs to “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,” “Mr. Webster,” “Sometime In The Morning,” and “Shorty Blackwell” (another Dolenz composition).

Anyone care to chime in with their favorite Mickey Monkees track?

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com).

(Please note: the original release date of Headquarters is May 22, 1967.)

Currently listening:
Headquarters (Deluxe Edition, 2 CD)
By The Monkees

~ by Poppermost on April 1, 2009.

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