Home of Monkee Magic: a Book about a TV show about a Band

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Monkees Script Project: The Pilot

When we last saw the Monkees in the Pilot script, they were gathering outside Rudy’s Record Rack.  Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?


The Monkees cluster outside the doorway to the store, their heads close together.  they look around furtively, then, in unison, they lift their wrists to check the time.  None of them wear watches.  They nod in agreement and burst into the store wearing trenchcoats.

Three of the boys carry guitar cases.     CUT TO:


It’s a medium-sized store.  Racks display all the current hits.  There are a half-dozen listening booths facing the street.  On the wall behind the counter and cash register there are photographs of dozens of popular teenage groups, all with fond inscriptions to Rudy.  There are some instruments for sale (guitars, drums, amplifiers).  RUDY GUNTHER is at the counter.  Rudy is forty-five, an ex-Marine Sergeant who still wears what’s left of his hair in a crew cut.  His sixteen-year old daughter, JILL, is filing records.

The Monkees enter.

(British accent)
All right, everybody.  Stand exactly where you are.



She looks confused.  Rudy turns from the counter.  Jill stops, comes forward.



We have you covered.  (points ring menacingly at people in store)  I have a death ray in my ring!

(points foot at people)  I have a poison dart in my shoe!

I have a Giant in my washer!

Mickey and Wool Hat give Peter a dirty look.

(with guitar cases as guns)  O.K …. This is it.


The Woman screams. 


(mock scream)  Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

PULL BACK:  The Monkees are performing.  They finish “The Monkees Theme”. 


Filed under Monkees Pilot Script Monkees script project

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California Dreaming: God Only Knows


Rubber Soul had been a shock to Brian Wilson’s sense of the music industry. When he heard the Beatles’ most recent album in late 1965, he realised for the first time that it was possible to do a whole album with a cohesive feel and no filler [FOOTNOTEIn fact the album he heard, the American release, was not the album the Beatles had put together — four tracks were removed from the British release and two added from Help!, giving it arguably a more coherent style than the original album.]. He’d already started work on the Beach Boys’ latest album, having recorded a version of an old folk song, Sloop John B, and a new track he called In My Childhood, but hearing the latest work from his rivals pushed him on to decide that the new album would contain none of the joke tracks, doo-wop covers, or generic surf instrumentals that had been featured on the band’s previous records. This would be an entire album with only good tracks on it.

With the Beach Boys touring for much of the time without him, Wilson had to turn to different methods of making records. While up until early 1965 the band themselves had played on nearly every backing track, now the majority of the sessions were to feature the Wrecking Crew, and with Mike Love not around Wilson had to look for a different songwriting partner.

He found the lyricist he wanted in Tony Asher, an advertising copy-writer who had little previous experience of songwriting. What Asher did have, however, was the ability to understand and empathise with Wilson on an emotional level, and translate Wilson’s feelings into words he felt comfortable singing. In a period of a few weeks, the two had written Wouldn’t It Be Nice, You Still Believe In Me (based on the earlier In My Childhood), Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), Caroline No, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, Here Today, That’s Not Me and God Only Knows — the core of what would become the Pet Sounds album.

Of all of them, probably the most meaningful for Wilson was God Only Knows, one of several songs where, inspired by a suggestion of Asher’s, the two tried to craft a song that would stand up alongside standards such as Stella By Starlight and Stardust.

Taking initial inspiration from the melody of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Wilson turned the initial melodic idea into possibly the most beautiful thing he ever wrote. There’s only twelve bars of actual musical material, other than the key change for the instrumental bridge, but those twelve bars have a wonderful harmonic ambiguity to them, full of minor sixths, diminished chords, and dissonant bass notes, with the song only resolving straightforwardly at the end of the verse, yet the whole thing feels beautiful, effortless, and inevitable.

Asher’s lyrics had a similar sense of simplicity, but were in their own way at least as experimental. Starting the song “I may not always love you…” and having the word “God” in the title of a secular song were both bones of contention between him and Wilson, but Asher prevailed, and his lyrics, which on the surface are a simple love song but in fact communicate as much about depression and insecurity as any of the songs on the album that are more explicitly about those subjects, remained intact.

The song took time to get right in the studio, too. Wilson’s original idea for the instrumental break — a lounge sax solo — was so bad it could almost have sunk the record, but thankfully he took on pianist Don Randi’s suggestion to play through the chord sequence staccato, and one of the most effective instrumental parts of any Beach Boys track was created. And while it was obvious from the start that Carl Wilson should sing lead on the track, as the youngest Wilson brother had recently blossomed into an astonishing vocal talent, what the rest of the vocal arrangement should be was less obvious. At one point during the sessions, all six Beach Boys, plus Brian Wilson’s wife and sister-in-law, plus Terry Melcher, were all singing “bop bop” backing vocals as block chords.

Thankfully, Wilson stripped this down, and the end result features just three voices. Carl Wilson sings lead, with Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston adding backing vocals in the middle section, while at the end there’s a simple call-and-response vocal round, with Brian Wilson taking the high and low parts while Johnston answers him in the middle.

The result is one of the most beautiful recordings in the history of popular music, perfect in every note from the French horn and flute on the intro through to Brian Wilson’s falsetto “What would I be without you?” on the fade. The song is one of the best ever written, and Carl Wilson’s double-tracked lead vocal is so astonishingly good that from this point on, for the next few years, he would be the band’s de facto lead vocalist, even though he’d only taken two solo leads before.

The only question now was how Brian Wilson could top an album many were already calling the greatest ever…

God Only Knows

Composer: Brian Wilson and Tony Asher

Line-up: Carl Wilson (vocals, guitar), Brian Wilson (vocals), Bruce Johnston (vocals), Hal Blaine (drums), Jesse Erlich (cello), Carl Fortina and Frank Marocco (accordion), Jim Gordon (percussion), Bill Green and Jim Horn (flute), Leonard Hartman (clarinet, bass clarinet), Carol Kaye, Ray Pohlman and Lyle Ritz (bass) Leonard Malarsky and Sid Sharp (violins), Jay Migliori (saxophone), Don Randi (piano), Alan Robinson (French horn), Darrel Terwilliger (viola)

Original release: Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys, Capitol T 2458

Currently available on: Pet Sounds Capitol CD, plus innumerable compilations.

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Monkees Script Project: The Pilot

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the opening scene of the aired episode Here Come the Monkees.  Here’s what I had to say about it in the book:

You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

The pilot’s most jarring flaw is the scene that writers Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker put at the very beginning of the story.  You remember it, don’t you?  It’s a dark, self-contained “man-on-the-street” sketch about hypocrisy, starring… Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker.  As an intense dose of cynical satire it would have worked perfectly on Laugh-In or The Smothers Brothers or even Saturday Night Live.  Where it doesn’t work well is as the opening scene of a lighthearted television series about a happy-go-lucky band of young musicians. 

What were they thinking?  Why did Rafelson and Schneider let them get away with it?  This is the very first chance for The Monkees to make a good impression on an audience, and the two writers stick in a “look at us, aren’t we clever?” vanity scene for themselves.  It wastes a full minute of a story that runs (once you subtract commercials, credits and screen tests) only 18 minutes. 

Worst of all, the scene introduces Mike, Micky and Peter to the viewers as hooligans, fighting three-against-one against a guy much smaller than any one of them. 

So my first observation about the pilot script is, of course, that it doesn’t begin with that misbegotten Man  on the Street scene.  It starts—fancy that!—by showing each of the Monkees, one at a time, doing something clever. 

Whether the description of Peter wearing glasses is meant to be a hint at some deep intelligence is not all that relevant; I’m pretty sure that the description was originally written of the cypher character S. J. who was portrayed by several different actors in the screen tests.  (“I’d like to help S. J., but I can’t—he’s feeble-minded.”)  Was S. J. and/or Peter supposed to be smart?  One thing’s for sure—he was supposed to be a capable surfer.  Interesting that we never do see any of the Monkees actually surf. 

Mike is zipping along through town on a motorized skateboard.  I’m not sure what that’s supposed to tell us about him, except perhaps that he’s mechanically inclined.  Or lazy.

Micky, on the other hand, is shown to be outright dishonest, in a very small-scale way.  He cleverly avoids paying for a parking space by putting a fake “Out of Order” sign on a parking meter.   I’ll clue you in to what’s coming up—the Monkees of the pilot are no angels.  They’re not the hooligans of the Man on the Street scene, but they’re not model citizens, either.   Having heard that the pilot scored poorly in part because the test audience (which was made up of viewers of all ages) found the guys to be unlikeable, I think I can see why that happened.  Micky’s petty larceny in this opening sequence is not an isolated incident. 

Davy, the one “character” who was certainly already known when the script was written, is shown to be a bit helpless but resourceful.  His scene with the bewildered Little Old Lady  is actually the opening salvo in an elaborate running gag that, due to the last-minute editing, was gutted out of recognition.  

One last thought.  If you set the Man on the Street scene aside, the first scene of Here Come the Monkees (as it aired) featured Rudy telling Wool Hat to take the guys to a country club for an audition.  If you don’t want to involve the whole setup of Rudy’s Record Rack, why not start with that scene?  For that matter, why not jettison the Man on the Street scene altogether and include these four charming vignettes instead? 

Filed under Monkees Pilot Script Monkees script project

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For what it’s worth, I believe they did film these opening sequences.  Two of them ended up in the opening and closing credits of the unaired (test) version of the pilot.  Though I doubt they bothered to film the lone surfer (Peter?  Peter!) at the crest of a magnificent wave.  They could have used stock footage for that.

These scenes were likely edited out to help make room for the screen tests.

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Monkees Script Project: The Pilot

I’m going to start posting about the Monkees Pilot script, but I’m going to do it differently this time.  Shorter posts, more of them, but only about the bits that are very different from what is on the screen.  And no scans—this time, there’s nothing scribbled in the margins worth seeing.  I’ll just type out the relevant parts. 

Also, I’m not going to number the posts, or provide links to previous posts.  If you want to follow them, or if you see one and want to see more, just click on one of the tags. 

Here’s the first taste, the very beginning!


A lone surfer rides in on the crest of a magnificent wave… wearing a black wet-suit and horned-rimmed glasses.  He is PETER.

Peter carries the board onto the beach.  A pick-up truck is parked close to the water.

Then he quickly unzips his wet-suit.  He is fully dressed, wearing a seersucker jacket, shirt, tie and slacks.      CUT TO:


WOOL HAT is travelling down the street at an unvelievable fast pace.  ZOOM IN - people react.  Then camera PANS DOWN.  Wool Hat is on a motor skate board.          CUT TO:


This is outside Rudy’s Record Rack (as described later).  MICKEY pulls up on a Honda.  He immediately takes a canvas bag out of the saddle bag on the Honda.  He hops over to the parking meter.  It reads VIOLATION.  He places the bag over the top of the meter.  It reads:  OUT OF ORDER.

SWISH PAN from the meter to DAVY, who is across the street.


A busy street corner with no traffic light.  Cars are hurrying by endlessly.  Davy is trying desperately to cross the street.  he makes several quick attempts, but no car will stop to let him cross.  Davy sees a LITTLE OLD LADY standing next to the bus stop sign on the corner.  He casually goes up to her, takes her arm and proceeds to cross the street.  He holds his free arm up high and stops traffic as they cross. The Little Old Lady looks around confusedly.  As Davy and the Little Old Lady get to the other side, traffic starts moving behind them.  Davy bows gratefully to the bewildered old lady and walks away.

Thoughts?  I have a few!

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The Peter Tork Face Appreciation Society Presents:

Peter’s Fresh Face in ‘Here Come the Monkees’ (The Pilot) 1x10

I counted, once upon a time, the number of words he spoke in the pilot.  If I remember correctly, the total came to 39.  Most of which, I think, you’ve captured here. 

(You’ve also captured the only moment in the pilot when Peter’s name is mentioned.  “I’d like to help Peter, but I can’t.  He’s a bird-brain.”  For what it’s worth, Mike’s name only comes up in the interview segment, and Micky’s name is never mentioned at all!)

(via cellomouse)

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From this magnificent interview with Monkees writer Treva Silverman:

Interviewer:  I see that something unusual happened in the middle your involvement with [The Monkees].  You handed in a script—you were credited as Lee Sanford for some reason.  All your other scripts were in your own name, and yet you have a pseudonym on one episode.  How did that happen?  Was this you we’re talking about? 

Treva Silverman:  Yeah.  What happened was … Gerry Gardner and Dee Caruso were the story execs… story editors.  And they rewrote a script of mine.  You know the term “punch it up”?  In my opinion, they punched it down.  I loved what I had written, and I didn’t love how they rewrote it.  So, my feeling was… not really my work.  But I want to get residuals, so I’m not going to take my name off. 

The main focus of my review of this episode—written before I had heard this interview—was that it was very uneven. The dialogue in the first act sparkles and zings, and the second act is rather flat. Now I have to wonder what it was that Caruso and Gardner “punched down”?

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