documenting the optical sounds of '60s pop, Acid Punk & Psychedelia

The Monkees: Budget label album (Sounds Superb) 1974

A Monkees LP collection of their hits – a souvenir of a genuine phenomenon

I was a pre-teen kid for most of the 1970s and one of the constant enjoyments in my life was watching The Monkees TV show, usually broadcast every time we were off school during the Summer six-week holidays.

Over the subsequent decades and into my adult life, I’ve spent many hundreds of pounds on Monkees records and CDs, books and magazines, VHS videos and Blu-Ray box-sets.

Yesterday I found a “Best Of” The Monkees LP for £3 from Scope, a British charity shop. It’s in immaculate condition, perhaps never even played. All it required was a quick clean with some Spin Care record cleaner and it was ready to spin on my turntable.

Magical sounds of course, in true stereo, none of those inappropriate fold-down pressings.

The weird thing is that I actually never knew this budget label Monkees album existed! The track list was the usual Monkees popular tunes from 1966/67 era but including “Listen To The Band”, a later period recording from 1969.

Sounds Superb was a budget line label launched in October 1973 by EMI Records Ltd and is a subsidiary of Music For Pleasure Ltd. It served mostly for reissues and compilations.

A comprehensive appreciation of the songs on this Monkees LP compilation, including vintage music press reviews, adverts and studio recording information & dates.

(Theme From) The Monkees

This was the lead off track on their debut LP “The Monkees” (RCA Victor RD 7844) released in Britain on the 20th January 1967.

  • Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
  • Lead vocal: Micky Dolenz
  • Backing vocals: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Wayne Erwin, Ron Hicklin
  • Guitar: Wayne Erwin, Gerry McGee, Louie Shelton
  • Bass: Larry Taylor
  • Drums: Billy Lewis
  • Tambourine: Gene Estes
  • Organ: Bobby Hart
  • Finger snaps: Unknown
  • Recorded at RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, California; July 5 (2:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m.) and 9, 1966
  • Produced by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Jack Keller

Last Train To Clarksville

The first Monkees record “Last Train To Clarksville” / “Take A Giant Step” (RCA Victor 1547) was released in Britain on the 14th October 1966.

  • Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
  • Lead vocal: Micky Dolenz
  • Backing vocals: Peter Tork and Davy Jones
  • Acoustic guitar: Tommy Boyce
  • Electric guitars: Wayne Erwin, Gerry McGee and Louis Shelton (intro/main riff)
  • Bass: Larry Taylor
  • Drums: Billy Lewis
  • Percussion: Gene Estes
  • Recorded at RCA Victor Studio A, Hollywood, California; July 25, 1966 (7:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m.)
  • Producers: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart

Interesting, this. An American hit and the general treatment suggests the boys have studied the Beatles at close hand.

But here again, it has original moments and builds well at a good brisk pace. The backing is strong; though an outsider for the charts we’re tipping it. Flip is not so distinctive, song-wise. (Record Mirror – 15/10/66)

Having big success with “Last Train To Clarksville” in America. It sounds rather like the Beatles on their LP’s a year ago with that shivering tambourine and break-up drumming, actually (Disc & Music Echo – 15/10/66)

Tina: I like that. I’d buy it. It sounds like the Beatles.
Ike: Yes. That’ll be a hit. To me it’s got a Beach Boys sound. It’ll be a big record here and in America. It sounds as if it was cut on the West Coast. It sounds like the same studios that the Beach Boys use. Who is it? The Monkees? I like that. (Ike & Tina Turner, Blind Date – Melody Maker – 22/10/66)


This was the lead off track on their second RCA Victor LP “More Of The Monkees”, released in Britain on the 25th March 1967.

Daydream Believer

UK single A-side “Daydream Believer” / “Goin’ Down” (RCA Victor 1645) released in Britain on the 10th November 1967.

  • Written by John Stewart
  • Lead/backing vocals: Davy Jones
  • Harmony vocal: Micky Dolenz
  • Electric guitar: Michael Nesmith
  • Piano: Peter Tork
  • Producer/bass/percussion: Chip Douglas
  • Bell: Bill Martin
  • Drums: Eddie Hoh
  • Violin: Nathan Kaproff, George Kast, Alex Murray, Erno Neufeld
  • Trumpet: Pete Candoli, Al Porcino, Manuel Stevens
  • Piccolo trumpet: Manuel Stevens
  • Trombone: Richard Noel
  • Bass trombone: Richard Leith, Philip Teele
  • Arrangement: Shorty Rogers
  • Recorded at RCA Victor Studio A, Hollywood, California; June 14, 1967 and RCA Victor’s Nashville Sound studio, Nashville, Tennessee, August 9, 1967

It must be very hard for the Monkees to turn out singles. By that I mean that for a long time they had a very identifiable sound – which became boring.

So they turned to trying out new things and consequently started to sound like almost any other US group.

This is more apparent than ever on this single and they probably felt it, too – so as a sort of truce, they have got a beginning with the voice (speaking) of master Davy Jones just so we are SURE.

The rest is pretty and has some nice things going on in there. If it wasn’t the Monkees I’d say it was a bit complicated for the chart. But it is, so it isn’t. (Disc & Music Echo – 18/11/67)

Davy Jones is heard chatting with the producer and muttering under his breath just prior to his launch into rather a jolly ballad, sung with Davy’s usual skill at wrenching emotion and inducing screams.

It’s a good song, and, after all, the Monkees could hardly be allowed to make a bad record or there would doubtless be a chain of firing throughout their organisation.

The Monkee Machine is still ticking over with cunning efficiency. (Melody Maker – 25/11/67)

Listen To The Band

UK single B-side of “Someday Man” (RCA Victor 1824) released in Britain on the 6th June 1969.

  • Written by Michael Nesmith
  • Arranged by Shorty Rogers (Horns only)
  • Lead vocal by Michael Nesmith
  • Electric Guitar: Michael Nesmith
  • Guitar: Wayne Moss, and Mike Saluzzi
  • Steel Guitar: Lloyd Green
  • Bass: Norbert Putnam
  • Drums: Jerry Carrigan
  • Percussion: Unknown
  • Piano: David Briggs
  • Keyboard: Michel Rubini
  • Harmonica: Charlie McCoy
  • Brass: Don McGinnis
  • Trumpet: Bud BrisboisBuddy Childers and Ray Triscari
  • Trombone: Dick Nash
  • Tuba: John Kitzmiller
  • Produced by Michael Nesmith

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

UK single A-side “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” / “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (RCA Victor 1580) released in Britain on the 31st March 1967.

After last week’s extensive coverage of this disc by practically everyone else on the NME staff, it remains for me to tie up the loose ends.

Alan Smith said it reminds him of “Twist And Shout,” while Jeremy Pascall likened it to “La Bamba” – and since both of those tunes stem from the same source, that’s a pretty fair description.

I like the pipe-organ effect, and it has a tremendously happy, toe-tapping feeling. Melodically not so strong as “Believer,” but quite obviously a No. 1.

Flip: Another snappy item with an irresistible rhythm. But, my goodness, how like the Beatles of two years ago. It’s huge fun, but certainly not inventive. (NME – 01/04/67)

I’m A Believer

UK single A-side “I’m A Believer” / “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (RCA Victor 1560) released in Britain on the 30th December 1966.

  • Written by Neil Diamond
  • Lead vocal: Micky Dolenz
  • Backing vocals: Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork
  • Electric guitars: Al Gorgoni, Sal DiTroia
  • Acoustic guitar: Neil Diamond
  • Organ: Stan Free
  • Electric piano: George Butcher
  • Tambourine: George Devens
  • Bass: Russ Savakus
  • Drums: Buddy Saltzman
  • Produced by Jeff Barry
  • Arranged by Artie Butler
  • Recorded in New York City, October 15 and 23, 1966

This looks like it will be the Monkees’ first really big hit here. Written by one of my favourite gentlemen – Neil Diamond – it’s about hoe he saw her face and that was that, he became a sworn believer in love. Good for him.

This is well produced and has some very nice breaks and sexy noises when they say ‘love’. They get a nice warm sound on organ which gives the record a very strong and yet casual movement. Nice. (Disc & Music Echo – 31/12/66)

Very big in America with hits like “Last Train To Clarksville” under their collective belt, the Monkees sound as if they are due for a breakthrough here.

They have a nice organ and guitar sound that will appeal to Carnaby street hipsters at least, if not the entire nation.

It’s quietly overblown, and has a jumping quality that reminds of the Sir Douglas Quintet. Monkees time is upon us. (Melody Maker – 24/12/66)

A rather gentle beat ballad with easy-on-the-ear melody . . . About lads finding love at long last and becoming believers. Current TV series starts at the New Year and their in person impact could guide it high in the charts. Certainly stronger than their debut here. (Record Mirror – 24/12/66)

Record Mirror – 24/12/66

I Wanna Be Free

Taken from their debut LP “The Monkees” (RCA Victor RD 7844) released in Britain on the 20th January 1967.

  • Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
  • Lead vocal: Davy Jones
  • Acoustic guitar: Wayne Erwin, Gerry McGee, Louie Shelton
  • Harpsichord: Michel Rubini
  • Violins: Bonnie Douglas, Paul Shure
  • Viola: Myra Kestenbuam
  • Cello: Fred Seykora
  • Recorded at RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, California; July 19, 1966 (2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.)
  • Producers: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart

Pleasant Valley Sunday

UK single A-side “Pleasant Valley Sunday” / “Words” (RCA Victor 1620) released in Britain on the 11th August 1967.

  • Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
  • Lead vocal by Micky Dolenz
  • Harmony vocals: Michael Nesmith
  • Backing vocals: Davy Jones and Peter Tork
  • Electric guitar: Michael Nesmith
  • Acoustic guitar: Bill Chadwick (and, possibly, Micky Dolenz)
  • Bass: Chip Douglas
  • Drums: Eddie Hoh
  • Shaker: Eddie Hoh
  • Congas: Eddie Hoh
  • Electric piano: Peter Tork
  • Recorded at RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, June 10 and 11, 1967

The one thing I like about the Monkees is the hardness they’re now getting into their records. Before, their recordings always sounded cotton woolly and sleepy and really rather boring.

Now they are really trying and getting something going. “Alternate title” brought it to my attention most forcibly, and this follows the same pattern.

A Carol King, Gerry Goffin number about the drag of living in American suburbia it is sung by Master Micky Dolenz with an urgency on the guitars and an ending very similar to “Alternate.”

It will be very interesting to see, this summer of their image and no TV programme to keep plugging away, just how well this will do. (Disc & Music Echo – 12/08/67)

I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone

UK single B-side “I’m A Believer” / “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (RCA Victor 1560) released in Britain on the 30th December 1966.

  • Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
  • Lead vocal: Micky Dolenz
  • Backing vocals: Tommy Boyce
  • Guitar: Wayne Erwin, Gerry McGee, Louis Shelton
  • Organ: Bobby Hart
  • Bass: Larry Taylor
  • Drums: Billy Lewis
  • Percussion: Henry Lewy
  • Produced and Arranged by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
  • Recorded at Western Recorders, Studio #1, Hollywood, July 26, 1966

Shades Of Gray

Taken from their LP “Headquarters” (RCA Victor RD 7866) released in Britain on the 30th June 1967.

  • Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
  • Lead vocals by Davy Jones and Peter Tork
  • Backing vocals: Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork
  • Steel Guitar: Michael Nesmith
  • Bass: Jerry Yester
  • Drums: Micky Dolenz
  • Tambourine: Davy Jones
  • Piano: Peter Tork
  • Maracas: Davy Jones
  • Cello: Frederick Seykora
  • French Horn: Vincent DeRosa
  • Engineered by: Hank Cicalo
  • Recorded at RCA Victor Studio C, Hollywood, March 16, 22 and 23, 1967

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