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Recording Sessions for The Monkees

Fall 1965
"(Theme From) The Monkees", "Let's Dance On", "I Wanna Be Free"
P: Boyce/Hart
Boyce and Hart recorded their own demos of these songs for the pilot episode of the TV series. A short version of the theme song and both fast and slow versions of "I Wanna Be Free" were recorded. The Boyce and Hart demos remain on the original (unaired) edit of the pilot episode. Monkees versions of all of the songs would later be produced.

1965
David Jones album release - David Jones.

David Jones single release - "Dream Girl"/"Take Me To Paradise".

David Jones single release - "This Bouquet"/"What Are We Going To Do?"

David Jones single release - "The Girl From Chelsea"/"Theme For A New Love".

September 1965
Mike Nesmith single release - "Just A Little Love"/"Curson Terrace".

October 1965
Michael Blessing single release - "The New Recruit"/"A Journey With Michael Blessing".

November 13, 1965
Filming - TV series pilot.
During this time, Peter stayed at Mike and Phyllis Nesmith's apartment which gave the two Monkees an opportunity to play music together and actually co-compose some pieces, according to Tork.  Unfortunately, nothing further is known of these Nesmith/Tork compositions.

1965
David Jones TV performance - "The Merv Griffin Show", performed "Where Is Love?"

David Jones TV performance - "Shindig", performed "What Are We Going To Do?"

January 1966
Michael Blessing single release - "Until It's Time For You To Go"/"What Seems To Be The Trouble Officer".

Early 1966
Michael Blessing TV performance - "The Lloyd Thaxton Show", performed "Until It's Time For You To Go".

February - April 1966
Rehearsals
The four boys had been chosen as Monkees and filmed the pilot episode of the TV series in November of 1965. After the series was sold, the four regrouped and began to explore musical directions in early 1966. In April of 1966, the group auditioned for Columbia, Capitol, and RCA. Although Capitol offered to sign the group even without its television series (according to Ward Sylvester as told by Peter Tork), RCA was chosen due to the link with NBC, and the Colgems record label was established. Also at this time, the boys were preparing to film the TV series by training with Jim Frawley.

April 1966
"The Girl I Knew Somewhere", others
Presumably, the group recorded the Nesmith composition all on their own with Nesmith on guitar and vocals, Tork on bass and keyboards, and Dolenz on drums. Unfortunately, the recording would not see the light of day due to the recruitment of Don Kirshner as music coordinator of the TV show. The song would be recorded again a little less than a year later. Presumably, a large number of other tracks of The Monkees' first efforts were produced as well. Nesmith has been quoted as saying "about a hundred" tracks were recorded. Unfortunately, none of these tapes have been located.

May 31, 1966
Filming - TV series.
The TV show began filming on this day which lasted from 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. However, the group's schedule would soon become even fuller with nighttime recording sessions. Throughout The Monkees' TV show seasons, they would also appear in Kellogg's Cereal commercials.

Mid-1966
"(Theme From) The Monkees", "Tema Dei Monkees"
P: Boyce/Hart
At the first scheduled recording session with Boyce and Hart, the four were to sing the theme song in unison. Instead, the group ended up in a wrestling match, so the session was called off. An early working version of the theme song including Boyce's and Hart's vocals is included as a bonus track on Rhino's CD of the debut album. A similar but not identical backing track of the theme song was also used for the Italian version of the song, "Tema Dei Monkees", which was released on an Italian album in 1967. The song was later expanded by editing it with sections of the album version of the theme and issued as the Italian B-side of "Valleri". The backing track of "Tema Dei Monkees" was also used as the karaoke version for a Japanese CD, The Monkees Rule.

Hollywood
"Kellogg's Jingle"
This commercial jingle was sung by Micky with the instrumental backing track borrowing riffs from the theme song. It was eventually released on Missing Links 3.

Hollywood
"Yardley's Black Label"
The Monkees recorded this TV jingle, the master tape of which has not been located.

June 10, 1966
7:00 P.M.-?
"Take A Giant Step", "Let's Dance On"
P: Snuff Garrett
This first official recording session involved a session group of:  Sonny Curtis (guitar), Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (piano and organ), Ray Pohlman (eight-string bass), and Glen Campbell and James Burton (both 12-string electric guitar).  Garrett and arranger Leon Russell recorded Goffin/King's "Take A Giant Step" plus Boyce/Hart's "Let's Dance On", with Davy handling lead vocals on both.  Basically, clashes between the group and producer resulted in Garrett being released as producer and the two tracks being shelved and, unfortunately, eventually lost.  It should be noted that the boys were also filming the first season episodes at this time, from late May through July.  Both songs would be produced by Boyce/Hart not long afterward.

June 25&26, 1966
7:30 P.M.-12:15 A.M.
RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
"All The King's Horses", "The Kind Of Girl I Could Love", "I Don't Think You Know Me"
P: Nesmith
This second official session and first produced by Nesmith involved arrangement by Donald Peake; guitarists James Burton, Glen Campbell, and Al Casey; Larry Knechtel on organ; Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon on drums; Gary Coleman on percussion; plus Robert West. Mike and Micky handled all vocals. "All The King's Horses" mysteriously remained unreleased on record until it was included on Rhino's Missing Links, Vol. 2, despite being featured on the television show in a different mix. The song dated back to 1963, and a version from that time, possibly featuring the Mike, John & Bill group, has been circulating. With the exception of an acoustic guitar rather than electric, this early version's arrangement is identical to The Monkees' version! "The Kind Of Girl I Could Love", cowritten by Nesmith and Roger Atkins, was issued on More Of The Monkees, and "I Don't Think You Know Me" (Goffin/King) would be left unreleased for many years. Eventually, Rhino released a version of the song with Nesmith vocals on Missing Links and Micky's version as a bonus on their debut album CD. A third version featuring Peter would be recorded during the second album sessions.

July 5, 1966
2:00-7:30 P.M.
RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
"(Theme From) The Monkees", "Tema Dei Monkees", "Let's Dance On", "This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day"
P: Boyce/Hart/Jack Keller
At the insistence of Don Kirshner, Jack Keller supervised Boyce and Hart's first official recording session with the group. The full-length version of the theme song and this version of "Let's Dance On" were recorded with Micky singing lead and Tommy Boyce on backup. Sections of the backing track of the theme would later be used again for the Italian B-side to "Valleri" in 1968, "Tema Dei Monkees". Davy sang "This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day". The musicians included Bobby Hart's band The Candy Store Prophets: Gerry McGee on guitar, Larry Taylor on bass (who didn't make the session in time for "Let's Dance On" which explains the absence), Hart on organ (and backing vocals on "Let's Dance On"), Billy Lewis on drums, and Gene Estes on percussion. Additional guitarists included Wayne Erwin and Louie Shelton, while Joseph Ditullio played cello on "This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day". All three songs were included on the debut album. A second session was necessary for the theme song.

July 7, 1966
8:00-11:30 P.M.
Western Recorders Studio #2, Hollywood
"Gonna Buy Me A Dog", "So Goes Love", "Papa Gene's Blues"
P: Nesmith
Basically, sessions for the first album were separated into two camps: Boyce/Hart and Nesmith. Whereas Boyce and Hart only brought in one Monkee at a time after the disastrous aborted session with all four, Nesmith attempted to involve the whole group as much as possible, though due to Kirshner's strict policy, most of the instrumental work was still handled by session musicians. Arranger Don Peake also played guitar along with James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, James Helms, and in the case of "Papa Gene's Blues", Peter Tork. Evidently, this was Tork's first official session work, as Boyce and Hart had rejected him as a vocalist. William Pitman played bass; Hal Blaine, Frank DeVito, and Jim Gordon played drums; and Gary Coleman handled percussive work. Although a version of Boyce/Hart's "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" with Nesmith on vocals was attempted, it was never finished. The song, featuring Micky and Davy, would be produced by the writers later on. Davy actually sang this song on The Farmer's Daughter TV show, pre-Monkees! "So Goes Love", written by Goffin/King, was sung by Davy and would eventually be released on Missing Links, though culled from a later session. Mike sang lead with Micky on harmony vocals on "Papa Gene's Blues" which was one of two Nesmith songs on the debut album.

July 9, 1966
2:00-9:00 P.M.
RCA Victor Studio C, Hollywood
"Take A Giant Step", "Saturday's Child", "I'll Be True To You"
P: Boyce/Hart/Jack Keller
Boyce and Hart's second session, with Jack Keller, once again featured only Micky and Davy. The Candy Store Prophets again provided most of the instrumentals with Boyce playing acoustic guitar on "Take A Giant Step" and singing backup on "Saturday's Child" (by David Gates). Evidently, Tommy Boyce gave Peter Tork a try on lead vocals for "Saturday's Child" but erased the undesirable results. Jack Keller played piano on "Take A Giant Step"; Bobby Hart played glockenspiel (also on "I'll Be True To You"); and Bob Cooper provided the oboe. Once again, Erwin and Shelton played guitar on these sessions. Micky sang the first two songs, while Davy sang Goffin/Titleman's "I'll Be True To You". The mono and stereo mixes of the song differ slightly. All three songs were included on the debut album with "Take A Giant Step" also making the B-side of the group's first single. An alternate mix (without backing vocals) of "Take A Giant Step" aired on the television show, and Peter later recorded a solo version of the song.

July 18, 1966
8:00 P.M.-12:00 A.M.
RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
"Sweet Young Thing", "You Just May Be The One", "I Won't Be The Same Without Her"
P: Nesmith
Essentially the same musicians as those on Nesmith's previous session were used for this session. Michael Deasy replaced James Helms and Don Peake as one of the guitarists, and Bob West was the new bassist. For "Sweet Young Thing", Jimmy Bryant provided the fiddle. "Sweet Young Thing" was the only song to be immediately released, although "You Just May Be The One" was featured prominently on the TV show. This version of the song was finally released on Missing Links, Vol. 2. The group would record it again for Headquarters. "I Won't Be The Same Without Her" was left in the can until the release of Instant Replay in 1969. Nesmith cowrote "Sweet Young Thing" with Goffin/King who also wrote "I Won't Be The Same Without Her". Evidently, Kirshner was trying to steer Michael in a more commercial, less country direction. Nesmith was the sole composer of the magnificent "You Just May Be The One" which the group did perform on their first tour.

July 19, 1966
2:00-7:30 P.M.
RCA Victor Studio A, Hollywood
"I Wanna Be Free", "(Theme From) The Monkees"
P: Boyce/Hart
Apparently, both the slow and fast versions of this song were produced on this day. For the slow version, the following musicians were used: Gerry McGee and Louie Shelton on guitars; Michael Rubini on harpsichord; Bonnie Douglas and Paul Shure on violins; Myra Kestenbaum on viola; and Fred Seykora on cello. Davy handled the lead vocal on the slow version, and both Micky and Davy sang on the fast version of the song. While both versions of the song were featured in the pilot episode of the TV show, the slow version made the album, while the fast version can be found on Missing Links, Vol. 2. A karaoke version of the recording was released on the Japanese TheMonkees Rule. Apparently, the vocals for the album version of the theme song were recorded at 2:20 on this day.

July 23, 1966
2:00-8:00 P.M.
RCA Studio #1, Hollywood
"Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day", "Gonna Buy Me A Dog"
P: Boyce/Hart
This session featured The Candy Store Prophets as well as Wayne Erwin and Louie Shelton. Tommy Boyce played acoustic guitar on "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day", while Keith Allison (future Raider and Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart guitarist) provided the harmonica. Micky handled the vocal on the former, while both sang and joked on this new version of "Gonna Buy Me A Dog". Both made it onto the album. Also, a straight version of "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" was recorded but never released. Tommy Boyce wrote "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" with Steve Venet. The mono and stereo mixes of the song differ slightly.

July 25&26, 1966
Surprisingly, both Nesmith and Boyce/Hart produced sessions (and in the case of Boyce/Hart, a very long one) on this day at different studios with Micky Dolenz participating in both! However, it seems that Nesmith's session was intended for the second album.

7:00 P.M.-3:00 A.M.
RCA Victor Studio A, Hollywood
"Last Train To Clarksville"

RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
"I Can't Get Her Off My Mind"
P: Boyce/Hart

Although all four Monkees were given tries at singing lead on "Clarksville", Micky Dolenz sang the lead on the released version with The Candy Store Prophets, Wayne Erwin, Louie Shelton, Tommy Boyce (acoustic guitar) and David Walters (percussion) doing the backing track. Unfortunately, the vocal takes from the other three were erased. The tune of course went on to become the group's first release, single, gold record, and #1. It was also included on the album. The group would remake the song as part of a medley for their TV special in 1997. "I Can't Get Her Off My Mind" was recorded with the same band and Davy singing. This early version was finally issued as a bonus on Rhino's CD of the debut album. Davy did sing this at The Monkees' first concerts, and the group later rerecorded it for their third album It is assumed that this was the last recording session intended for the debut album, although a couple more sessions were produced before a break in time between sessions occurred.

Summer 1966
"So Goes Love"
P: Nesmith
Sometime during the debut album sessions, this song would be recut. It was finally released on Missing Links.