The Monkees - The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees (1968)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 12:43 AM

The year 1968 brought mixed returns for The Monkees. Their television series was cancelled, their first motion picture project, Head, failed at the box office, and in December, Peter Tork left the group. However, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was another successful album, yielding the group's sixth million-selling single in "Valleri" and yet another number one in "Daydream Believer", a bittersweet pop song from the pen of former Kingston Trio member John Stewart. Perhaps no other two tracks define Davy Jones as a pop music singer more than these two hits.

After gaining complete artistic control over their musical direction and finally being allowed to play instruments on their own records in early 1967, the monumental success of Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. began to somewhat rebuff the critics who propagated that The Monkees was a band of talentless individuals who were simply lucky enough to gain recognition through their 'manufactured' origins.

The desire and focus, however, to remain as a complete band unit in the studio quickly evaporated after the Pisces album, when, much to the dismay of Tork, each individual band member began to produce his own sessions with his own selected studio musicians, often at entirely different studios around the Los Angeles area. An agreement was made to label all finished efforts as 'Produced by The Monkees', but in reality, beyond a few exceptions, most of the recordings featured on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees revert back to the recording process of the first two albums—less group dynamics—except now each band member was fully in charge of the sessions. Chip Douglas, producer of The Monkees' previous two albums, fully expected to continue as the band's representative in the studio, but found the individual Monkees more interested in exploring their own diverse musical backgrounds with their own friends rather than relying on Douglas as the central figure.

Those diverse musical backgrounds, while making for an interesting mix of styles and sounds on Monkees albums, most likely also contributed to the downfall of The Monkees as a self-contained studio band. Four different musical outlooks resulted in less and less harmony in the recording process after Headquarters, and the results of that fracture are found on this album—Jones' Broadway rock, Michael Nesmith's country and western leanings, and the rock and soul of Micky Dolenz. Unfortunately for Tork, even though several of his compositions were considered for release on Birds, his participation is almost zero on this album; he appears only on "Daydream Believer." He spent the rest of his Monkees tenure struggling to find his footing in the studio now that the band was no longer working organically.

Despite all the intrigue surrounding the sessions that produced The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, several songs stand out as some of their finest recorded work. "Tapioca Tundra", a wildly experimental piece of poetry put to music by Nesmith, charted surprisingly well as the b-side to "Valleri" at #34, perhaps the strangest song to hit American top 40 radio ever[citation needed]. "Auntie's Municipal Court", another Nesmith composition, featured an excellent double lead vocal by Dolenz and Nesmith, and "Zor and Zam" boasts some of the best Dolenz vocals ever recorded. Veteran Monkees tunesmiths Boyce and Hart contribute another classic to the proceedings in the psychedelic "P.O. Box 9847", while Jones submits perhaps his finest composition to date in the orchestral "Dream World".

The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the fifth album by the band, was also the first Monkees album not to go to number one, instead charting at number three and eventually selling over a million copies.

For record collectors and diehard Monkees fans, the extremely rare U.S. mono album (COM-109), released in a limited quantity as mono albums were being phased out by 1968, has become a highly-sought item for its unique mixes that differ from the common stereo versions (most notably on "Auntie's Municipal Court"). Most foreign mono copies feature the stereo mixes reduced to one channel.
01. Dream World
02. Auntie’s Municipal Court
03. We Were Made for Each Other
04. Tapioca Tundra
05. Daydream Believer
06. Writing Wrongs
07. I'll Be Back Up On My Feet
08. The Poster
09. P.O. Box 9847
10. Magnolia Simms
11. Valleri
12. Zor and Zam
Bonus tracks
13. Alvin
14. I’m Gonna Try
15. P.O. Box 9847 (alternate mix)
16. The Girl I Left Behind Me (early version)
17. Lady’s Baby (alternate mix)

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