Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles (2015): Books

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Best known for writing “(Theme from) The Monkees” for the popular TV show, as well as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” and “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight,” the songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart experienced great success in the 1960s. Hart’s autobiography Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles traces his beginnings as a middle-class kid from a religious family in Phoenix to his success as the co-writer of some of the most listened-to pop songs ever.

Bobby Hart moved to California to join the U.S. Army Reserve, and eventually settled in Hollywood to pursue a musical career. He married his high school sweetheart, and they raised two sons while he worked for a company that manufactured labels for vinyl records. This job gave way to a recording career after Hart’s song “Be My Guest” became a hit for Fats Domino. As Bobby Hart’s musical dreams came true, however, his family life unraveled and his first marriage ended in divorce.

Hart soon teamed up with songwriter Tommy Boyce. After penning songs for Jay and the Americans and Chubby Checker, among others, they became staff songwriters at Screen-Gems Music. Screen Gems was working on a TV series about a fictional rock group — the Monkees. Boyce and Hart became songwriters and producers for the Monkees, after Carole King and Gerry Goffin failed their “audition” with the band. (The boys apparently brought Carole King to tears.) At the last minute, Boyce and Hart were tagged to write and produce the initial music for the Monkees. The duo’s “Last Train to Clarksville,” inspired by the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” became the Monkees’ first big hit.

For the Monkees second album, Bobby Hart writes, music director Don Kirshner phoned the songwriters and suggested the album should have a song titled after a girl. Tommy Boyce then told Kirshner the duo had already written one — even though it hadn’t been written yet. They wrote the song “Valleri” in Bobby’s car, on the way to see Kirshner. Hart admired Tommy Boyce’s “chutzpah and sheer nerve,” and the duo had another hit on their hands. By May 1967, Boyce and Hart had 17 of their songs in albums at the top of Cashbox’s charts, recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders, Herman’s Hermits and Andy Williams.

About a year after the TV show debuted, the Monkees parted ways with Don Kirshner to write their own material. This meant the end of a lucrative gig for Boyce and Hart. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the duo gained fame for being performers in their own right. They released the their own hit in “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight,” toured extensively, and appeared on the sitcoms I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched.

Hart remained grounded through the whirlwind of concert tours, personal appearances and interviews, which reached its peak for Boyce and Hart in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The duo amassed a fortune, sports cars and homes in the Hollywood Hills, but there were bad business decisions and a shady manager along the way, too. Many entertainers were involved in social causes in the 1960s, and Boyce and Hart were no exception. They became spokesmen for lowering the voting age to 18, even writing a song for the movement — “L.U.V. (Let Us Vote).” The 26th Amendment to the Constitution, lowering the voting age to 18, was ratified by the states in 1971.

Boyce and Hart had one last major show biz success in the mid 1970s. They teamed up with Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz for a tour as Dolenz Jones Boyce and Hart that was dubbed “The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em and The Guys Who Sang ‘Em” in 1975. (Dolenz contributes the foreword to Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles.) The quartet released an album of original material, taped a TV special and toured the U.S, and became the first American rock band to play in Singapore.

Bobby Hart’s dedication to his spirituality runs through Psychedelic Bubblegum, so if you’re looking for gossip or anything salacious, you won’t find it here. One of Hart’s spiritual influences was the Paramahansa Yogananda. (George Harrison was also a devotee of Yogananda, and Hart recalls a discussion he and George had about their spiritual teacher.) The book contains a few pages with advice on “Stepping Stones thru the Potholes of Life,” inspired by Hart’s experiences.

After Boyce and Hart faded out of the spotlight, Bobby Hart continued songwriting, releasing a solo album and receiving an Oscar nomination for the song “Over You” from the Robert Duvall film Tender Mercies. Tommy Boyce committed suicide in 1994 after suffering from depression for many years following a brain aneurysm.

An inspiring autobiography, Bobby Hart’s Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles gives us a behind the scenes look at the work that went into some of the most memorable hits — and one of the most memorable TV shows — of the Swinging ’60s.

Jade Blackmore

Jade Blackmore

Jade Blackmore has written about classic rock, hard rock/metal and indie films for EarCandy Mag, Rock Confidential, Cinema Sentries, Perfect Sound Forever and Entertainment Today, among others. Her past day jobs in the entertainment industry included stints with Mix Magazine, Bourne Music and Boxoffice Magazine. She lives in Los Angeles. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Jade Blackmore
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