Following a successful tour of England, where they got to hang out with the real Fab Four, the Monkees managed to stage a coup, ousting Don Kirshner as supervisor of their music. Now they were determined to make their next album on their own, choosing the songs themselves and playing all the instruments. While it had all the potential of a massive train wreck, Headquarters turned out great, giving them the respect they felt they’d more than earned.
They didn’t just try to duplicate their on-screen image, either. While Micky proved to be a competent drummer, Mike expanded his expertise to learning pedal steel guitar. And Peter relinquished the bass duties to producer Chip Douglas, adding a variety of tasteful keyboards throughout. (Davy, of course, played the hell of out his maracas.)
With a jokey count-in, “You Told Me” gallops in, complete with banjo, setting up what would soon be called country rock, continued on “I’ll Spend My Life With You” (a Tommy Boyce-Bobby Hart song, and an excellent choice). Their producer offered up “Forget That Girl”, Davy’s first vocal on the LP and a nice one. “Band 6” was probably not the best choice of a track to show off their instrumental prowess, but if you listen closely you can just hear Nesmith find his way through the Looney Toons theme. Another song first heard on the TV show, “You Just May Be The One”, is here given a better vocal and tighter all-around performance. “Shades Of Gray” is something of a serious song, splitting the vocal between Davy, Micky and even Peter. And Davy does a tapdance routine on the still charming “I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind”.
Peter was definitely on a roll here, as “For Pete’s Sake” predicted the spirit of the Summer of Love, and was even tapped to be the closing theme of the TV show. Another Boyce-Hart song, the eerie “Mr. Webster”, takes a page from the Kinks, complete with surprise ending. Mike’s last and best contribution to the album proper is “Sunny Girlfriend”, so simple yet so catchy. As with side one, the middle position is taken by a novelty, in this case the superior round “Zilch”. The band gets to rock (and Micky gets to scat) on “No Time”, before the chilly suburban vibe of “Early Morning Blues And Greens”, a surprisingly cynical Davy vocal over Peter’s layered keyboards. Micky’s tympani drives “Randy Scouse Git”, a response to their British tour, as infectious as it is inscrutable.
In the tradition of the Beatles, no singles were released from the album, but those who bought the 45 of “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” might have flipped it to experience “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”, their greatest song and performance. When Rhino released their expanded CD, however, an earlier take was included, along with other full band performances of lesser musical quality. The later Deluxe Edition did include the single, but unfortunately also gives too much attention to the pile of dreck that Davy, ever the company man, added vocals to in the last days before the Kirshner era ended.
These are most likely of interest only to the collectors who’d rued their exclusion from Headquarters Sessions, a bold step taken by Rhino’s Handmade division, which specialized in limited editions of albums that even Rhino geeks would consider extreme. Following in the pattern of the similar treatment of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds box, these three CDs follow the album’s (and the band’s) progression as the tracks developed from first takes to final mixes, with lots of time given to session outtakes and backing tracks, to demonstrate how well these guys actually managed to play together.
The Monkees Headquarters (1967)—4
1995 reissue CD: same as 1967, plus 6 extra tracks
2007 Deluxe Edition: same as 1994, plus 30 extra tracks