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

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The 12 Days of Christmas Monkees

Day 3 - Decorating the tree with Davy

At the 2013 convention I had a chance to ask Micky one question during the Q&A.  Knowing that he had been a director and producer of television programs after his Monkees career, I thought he might appreciate a question about the behind-the-scenes mechanics of making The Monkees, I asked him whether the show ever had a stunt coordinator, or used safety harnesses, or special padding, or what preparations and precautions were used for stunts.  This is exactly the sort of scene I had in mind—though I was also thinking of his fall from the balcony in The Chaperone, some of the flips and falls on the beach in I Was a 99 Lb. Weakling, or the rope ladder scene in Art, for Monkees’ Sake.

Unfortunately, the answer I got was “I don’t remember.”  Which is probably true.  It’s also possible that he’s simply not interested in talking about such things.  Regardless, I wasted valuable Q&A time. 

Now that I see the gif, and can watch that moment in isolation, I see that Davy is not actually falling onto the tree; he’s taking a careful dive to the right of the tree.  There’s probably something very soft and not too far away for him to land on.  And he’s not really up as high as he seems—the camera is below knee level, and it’s pointing upward toward the balcony.  But the railing of the spiral staircase is frighteningly close to Davy’s head as he falls, and they’re clearly relying on him to pull the tree down rather than making it fall by other means.

In other words, I still want to know if they used any safety equipment, or had a stunt coordinator, or if they practiced the jump without the tree before they filmed the scene. 

For that matter, I wonder… IS THAT REALLY DAVY FALLING?

(via a-slightly-tarnished-masterpiece)

Filed under Episode gifs and photos

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California Dreaming: Good Vibrations


Ever since he was a child, Brian Wilson had been fascinated by the concept of ESP. David Marks’ mother had claimed psychic powers, and impressed many of the people in their community, including the Wilsons, when Brian was growing up. But when he came to write a song about it, he didn’t think of Marks’ mother, but of his own. He had asked her, when he was a child, why dogs seemed to like some people and be angry at others, seemingly with no reason, and she had told him that dogs picked up “vibrations” from people — some good, some bad.

So when in February 1966, Brian went into the studio to record a song about ESP, the obvious title was Good, Good, Good Vibrations, especially since he was currently recording an album that would end with dogs barking and that was titled Pet Sounds — because sounds are, of course, a type of vibration too.

But the track he cut wasn’t quite right — it had the basic structure of a decent pop song, somewhere in between God Only Knows and Here Today from the album he was working on, and with the electro-theremin he’d used on I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, but slightly funkier than any of those. But that’s all it was, a decent pop song.

What Brian Wilson had in his head was something more complex than that — not just a pop song, but a “pocket symphony”, a piece of music that would be at least as complex and interesting as Rhapsody In Blue, with distinct movements and changes, but in a three minute span.

He worked at it intermittently over the next few months, going into the studio every few weeks to cut a new version of his track, with different permutations of instruments — maybe a Hammond organ instead of the harpsichord? Maybe a bass harmonica? — but never getting the sound he wanted.

He put it aside for a while, eventually convinced that he just couldn’t get the record out of his head and onto vinyl, and considered offering it to an R&B artist like Wilson Pickett, whom he thought the song might suit — presumably thinking that the two-chord shuffle of the chorus as it was originally conceived (although even in the earlier versions, the song goes up a tone halfway through the chorus, a trick Wilson reused from California Girls), which was clearly inspired by Marvin Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness?, would better suit Pickett’s stye than the Beach Boys’. However, a few months later Wilson’s friend David Anderle asked if he could have the song for Danny Hutton, a new singer with whom he had been working. Persuaded of the song’s commercial possibilities, Wilson returned to it.

But there was a problem. He needed a set of lyrics for the song. Tony Asher, the lyricist for much of Pet Sounds, had come up with a set of lyrics for him to sing to get a feel for the track, but those lyrics (“she’s already working on my brain/I only look in her eyes, but I pick up something I just can’t explain”) were only scratch lyrics, far too on the nose, and Asher had never got round to finishing them before going back to his advertising job.

Around this time, Wilson encountered Van Dyke Parks, a young session musician and arranger. Parks was younger than Wilson, but he had already had a rather extraordinary life — among other things, he had played music with Albert Einstein as a child, had appeared as Tommy Manicotti in The Honeymooners [FOOTNOTE: He was one of multiple actors to play the role, and isn’t the actor in the surviving episodes, but definitely appeared in at least one episode, and probably more.], and had been the arranger on The Bare Necessities for the Disney film The Jungle Book.

Parks was a hyper-intelligent, astonishingly talented man, and he and Wilson quickly hit it off and began writing new, experimental, songs that were wildly different from anything the Beach Boys had done before, with allusive stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Parks refused to write new lyrics for Good Vibrations — he didn’t want to get involved in a song that had already had seven months’ studio time, off and on, and thought it best that it be completed without him — but he did suggest the final missing element for the song. Carl Wilson had already suggested a cello be used in the choruses, but Parks’ suggestion that the cello be playing fast triplets gave the chorus the rhythmic impetus it needed.

Wilson eventually edited together an instrumental track using bits of five different sessions — the verses from the very first session in February, the quiet organ bridge from a session in September, and so on — and rather amazingly, it all came together perfectly. The result was a perfect mixture of psychedelia, R&B, and sunshine pop, a glorious, euphoric rush, but evoking almost religious feelings in the extended bridge section, and with a strange, haunting, eeriness in the chorus. It’s a perfectly-structured song, and a lesson in dynamics that puts Phil Spector to shame.

It still needed lyrics, however, and Mike Love eventually came to the rescue, writing the lyrics in the cab on the way to the studio for the final vocal session. Love’s lyrics are far, far cleverer than they’re normally given credit for, grounding the listener in the real, sensory world in the first verse, talking about how the woman in the song looks (“the colourful clothes she wears and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair”), sounds (“the sound of a gentle word”) and smells (“the wind that lifts her perfume through the air”), before the chorus and its extra-sensory concerns, and the altogether stranger second verse. It’s still a boy/girl love song, but it’s infinitely more well-crafted than the original, clunky, lyrics. Love is not always the most original lyricist, but when given really good material he can rise to the challenge, and this is his finest moment, and every bit the triumph for him as it is for Wilson.

Carl Wilson took the lead beautifully (with Brian dropping in the phrases “I hear the sound of a” and “when I look”, which go out of Carl’s comfortable range — luckily at this point the two brothers were practically indistinguishable vocally, and most people can’t hear the edit until it’s pointed out to them), and Love’s doo-wop bass vocal part instantly became one of the most memorable hooks of the Beach Boys’ career.

The song became their third US number one, and their biggest hit to date. To this day it often tops critics’ lists of the best singles of all time. The Beach Boys were on top of the world, and with these new songs Brian and Van Dyke had been writing, things could only get better…

Good Vibrations

Composer: Brian Wilson and Mike Love

Line-up: (NB, this lineup contains everyone who played on any of the sessions that were used for the final master. Some of them may have, for example, only played on the choruses on a take where only the verses were used) Brian Wilson (vocals, tack piano, Carl Wilson (vocals, Fender bass, rhythm guitar, percussion), Dennis Wilson (vocals, organ), Al Jardine (vocals), Mike Love (vocals), Bruce Johnston (vocals), Ray Pohlman, Lyle Ritz, Bill Pitman, Jimmy Bond, and Arthur Wright (bass), Larry Knechtel, Don Randi, Al de Lory, and Mike Melvoin (keyboards), Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon (drums, percussion), Frank Capp, Tony Asher, Terry Melcher, and Gary Coleman (percussion), Paul Tanner (electro-theremin), Plas Johnson, Jay Migliori, Steve Douglas, Jim Horn, and Bill Green (woodwinds), Tommy Morgan (harmonica, bass, harmonica, jew’s harp), Jesse Erlich (cello), Emil Richards (vibraphone)

Original release: Good Vibrations/Let’s Go Away For A While, The Beach Boys, Capitol 5676

Currently available on: Smiley Smile UMG CD, plus innumerable compilations.

Filed under I've been looking forward to this one. And now I'm looking at it. California Dreaming Beach Boys

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A few notes about the last section of the pilot script

The Swedish Rhythm Kings are described as dropping their instruments and running to the exit when told to report to their embassy.  In the episode, they carried their instruments (leaving the drums behind) and marched away in a dignified fashion.  Not only was this a better execution of the scene, it was probably at least 200% easier to film.  Never mind the expense and bother of dropping a clarinet, accordion and violin on the floor. 

The character who did the most talking in the Let’s Dance On scene was the interviewer, who seemed desperate to get somebody to make a comment into his microphone.  None of that was in the script.  Not one bit.  Which is rather ironic, given that the Interviewer was played by scriptwriter Paul Mazursky.   

The freeze-frame title card joke “A typical teenager?”  and “No, a friend of the Producer,” were not in the script. 

In the aired episode, Mrs. Russell has four lines.  Two, way back in Act I:  “Don’t you think you’ve been spending too much time with that boy?  When you should have been studying.”  And the second:  “Oh, dear.”  Later, in the party scene, she has two brief exchanges with her husband:

What are you crying about?

It’s so sad!

And then, as the episode draws to a close:

I’m in terrible pain… but I like it!

Oh, Charles!

I point it out now, simply because NOT ONE OF THOSE LINES IS IN THE SCRIPT.  According to the script, Mrs. Russell never speaks a word.  She is present when her daughter comes home at 1:00 am, she is present when Vanessa announces that she failed her history test, she is present at the party.  She cries (Russell asks her why!) and she dances with her husband while he is in terrible pain.  But she never says a word.  What we have here is a non-speaking role being expanded to a speaking role.  More importantly, we have a cipher character being expanded to a participant.  Thank God!  Because it would have been patently absurd to show all these family interactions with a mother who doesn’t have a word to say. 

The final scene’s most significant change—no, the most wonderful, delightful, inspired and heartwarming change between script and screen in the entire episode—is just four little words spoken by Mr. Russell.  In the script, he says, “I’m in terrible pain.”  The script doesn’t even say that he is dancing as he says it.  There are no stage directions, no instructions about emotional state or facial expressions.  Russell could be having a heart attack, for all the script shows.  But on the screen, he is dancing enthusiastically with Mrs. Russell, and he adds those four magic words:  “But I like it.” 

He likes it!

I’ve said it before, and this one line makes me more certain than ever:  this episode is all about Vanessa and her daddy.  And it’s Mr. Russell alone who experiences any personal growth because of the events of Here Come the Monkees.  

Finally, Mazursky and Tucker sign off with an unexpected bit of cynical self-mockery.  “BEGIN UNEMPLOYMENT FOR ALL CONCERNED.”  Ironic, as Mazursky and Tucker would not write for The Monkees again. 

That’s the last of the blog posts about the pilot script.  I still have scripts for Monkees in a Ghost Town and The Case of the Missing Monkee.  Are you interested? 

Filed under Monkees script project Monkees Pilot Script Monkees The Monkees

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So cute together 3

kay sorry its late and im drawing a blank - whats the first screen shot from?

It’s from “Monkees race again”,Iirc it’s from when Mike and Peter are seeing off Davy in the Monkeemobile at the start of the race. (cue several minutes of tedious drag car racing footage that isn’t particularly amusing etc)

Reblogged for the testy-truth. 

(via lovethemonkees)

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It came up in the episode discussion for Monkee vs. Machine in Zilch Podcast #13.  JB Guggins’s office was a set that was used three times (that I know of) on The Monkees. 

Screenshots shamelessly lifted from the Sunshine Factory.  CoolCherryCream, can I just buy you a drink?

As much as I’ve watched this show you’d think I’d notice this before.

I’m just glad (relieved!) that I got it right.  Jeff brought up the question of where the scene was filmed, and I said that the same set was used in Dance, Monkee, Dance and probably at least one other episode.  I was about 57% sure of the first reference, but the second was a complete shot in the dark.  Whew! 

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Sunday morning inspiration: perhaps the reason why Monkees at the Movies was held back so many months was because it depicts the Monkees as they were in the pilot: mischievous and crafty, deliberately sabotaging a rival simply because they felt slighted. Frankie was a conceited jerk, and Kramm was a clueless boob, but they weren’t exactly doing anything illegal, or unethical, or improper. The Monkees disrupted the making of I Married a Creature from Out of Town simply because they got their feelings hurt.

I had been asserting that the Monkees are unfailingly polite and respectful, outside of the pilot—and particularly, outside of the pilot script, as I have been blogging. Perhaps I need to refine my theories.

Filed under Monkees The Monkees Monkees at the Movies

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coolcherrycream replied to your post “Monkees Script Project: The Pilot (14 of 14)”

I know it’s a bit late for this suggestion, but have you considered placing [sic] after the misspellings in the original scripts? That should clear up any confusion. :)

Oh yes, I did!  But then I realized that putting [sic] after every instance of Mickey [sic] might make people think that Mickey’s [sic] name was “Mickey [sic].”  And then the whole idea sort of made me sic.  :-)

Filed under coolcherrycream No seriously--I did consider it!

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Looking ahead to the next episode for the Zilch Colorcast Commentary, I realize that I am missing some information.  Information which, I hope, y’all may be able to help me obtain.  It has to do with the music substitutions in the episode Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers.

In the summer of 1967, A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You and The Girl I Knew Somewhere were edited into the episode.  In 1970, the song Do You Feel It Too? was used.  But I’m not entirely clear HOW they were used.  There are three songs in the episode:  a dance sequence before the commercial (Let’s Dance On), a dance sequence after the commercial (Steppin’ Stone) and a narrative romp/chase scene (Last Train to Clarksville).  

Does anybody have this episode on tape, or have vivid memories of seeing the episode on TV with any of these songs?  Can you tell me which song went where?

I imagine it would have been challenging to swap out any of the three songs.  The two dance sequences are overlaid with dialogue; the editors would have had to be able to strip away the music without losing any of the dialogue.  And the romp ends with a few seconds of a Clarksville performance, but with no closeups of Micky’s face so I suppose it could be any song they’re playing. 

Filed under Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers