On Second Thought: The Monkees – The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees (1968)

An astoundingly successful television show combined with a barrel full of hit singles spurred the Monkees into becoming one of the biggest bands of the late ’60s.

Comprised of Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, the group may have been revered by millions, but were hurled heaps of abuse by ignorant critics. Mistakenly viewed as a fabricated band, the Monkees actually did play their own instruments and, although a good chunk of their songs were authored by other people, their original tunes were just as valuable and vibrant as anything the Beatles, the Kinks, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones were cranking out.

Here on The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees (Colgems Records), which marked the group’s fifth studio album, the fantastic foursome continued to wield their mojo to aesthetic effects. Country currents, surrounded by a bit of a psychedelic fringe supervises the scene on “Auntie’s Municipal Court,” a touch of exotica is applied to the Latin-flavored “Tapioca Tundra,” and “I’ll Be Back Up On My Feet” shuffles and skips to a catchy clutch of bright and bouncy rhythms.

The sweet and precious sentiments of “Daydream Believer” and the penetrating pop rock of “Valleri,” which reached No. 1 and No. 3 on the charts in the fall of 1967 and the winter of 1968 respectively, are also included on the disc, as well as anti-war meditations of “Zor And Zam” that booms with power and authority. Looking for love in the classified ads is the topic covered in the herky jerky motions of “PO Box 9874,” a spacey droning din washes over “Writing Wrongs” and “Dream World” sparkles and shimmers with gloss and polish.

Kingpins of genre-blending, the Monkees perform a great job flaunting their mercurial talents on this album. A pleasing variety of styles and structures, ranging from ragtime sounds to orchestrated lushness to experimental hoodoo to commercial pop to sugar-frosted balladry bleed through the record. Dangerously contagious hooks and melodies, complemented by the band’s exciting vocals and on target harmonies further frame the material.

Crafted of interesting curves, The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees thoroughly represents the band’s ability for stretching boundaries and creating imaginative impressions while doing so. To be sure, the Monkees garnered the majority of affection from the pre-teen set, but those listening closely to their music knew all along how phenomenal they really were.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://bloggerhythms.blogspot.com Charlie

    While the debate rages on whether the Monkees records are good music or not and if they are Hall of Fame worthy, as some suggest, are different arguments it is true they were a pre-fabricated band. They didn’t get together on their own, they were put together by the producers of a TV show and on the majority (but not all) of their songs someone else did play the instruments. I believe there was only one album where the four of them played on every track. (I think it was their third one). On this album, Peter Tork’s only contribution was the piano intro to “Daydream Believer.”

    I’m not knocking their talent but they were inhibited by the TV network who wanted things done a certain way. When they got a chance they did prove they were good musicians.

  • JC Mosquito

    The first two Monkees’ are good in a kind of “Pre-Fab Four” way. Headquarters is a document of a garage band at work, and Pisces, Capricorn, Aquarius and Jones Ltd. combines the best elements of both, as well as a maturity that only became possible as the counterculture moved into the mainstream.

    But as for The Birds, the Bees, and the Monkees…… sorry – it’s the beginning of the end. You can hear their success becoming unraveled, particularly in the poor song choices from a band whose biggest strength was always their ability to pick good songs to play.

  • davy jones

    the monkees are more rock n roll than some of the hacks in the watered down rock n roll hall of fame