Peter Tork of the 1960’s boy band The Monkees has died at age 77. The Monkees were created for American television, for a show meant to be a fictional version of the Beatles as portrayed in “Hard Days Night. The group was comprised of Tork and Mike Nesmith, both serious musicians from the folk world, and former child actors Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz. Tork’s role was to play “Ringo,” acting as a comedic foil for the band.
The Monkees were a smash hit, with a top-rated TV show and box office success as well. Their music became very popular, but the group eventually wanted to be taken seriously. They recorded “Head,” a 1968 movie and album that confounded fans with its psychedelic feel. Over the years, Monkees songs gained credibility as excellent pieces of pop that almost everyone is familiar with. There have been a number of great covers:
Run DMC – “Mary, Mary”
Nesmith wrote “Mary, Mary” and recorded
“Mary, Mary” is a song written by Michael Nesmith. It was first recorded by The Butterfield Blues Band for their 1966 album, East-West. Later, Nesmith lent the song to The Monnkees. In the late 1980’s, Run DMC turned it into a hit on the R&B and pop charts in the U.S.
The Sex Pistols – “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”
The Sex Pistols covered “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” during a concert for the 30th Anniversary of Never Mind The Bollocks, Live From Brixton Academy on October 10, 2007. The Pistols turn it into a great punk tune, with Johnny Rotten breaking in on the lyrics several times to yell “I am not your Rolling Stone.”
Vanilla Fudge – “I’m A Believer”
Neil Diamond wrote the smash hit “I’m a Believer.” It was recorded by The Monkees and became a number 1 hit. Several artist have covered the song, including Smash Mouth (an unbelievably bad cover tune for the movie “Shrek”), Human Nature (which made it white gospel music), and Wanda Jackson (the Queen of Rockabilly).
Vanilla Fudge was a psychedelic rock band that eventually incorporated the sounds of early heavy metal. They were best known for their long covers of songs like “You Keep Me Hanging On.” In their cover of “I’m a Believer,” the band makes the song heavy without losing the melody.
Anne Murray – “Daydream Believer”
Make fun of Anne Murray if you want, but the Canadian songstress ruled the country and pop charts in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Her cover of “Daydream Believer” hit No. 12, the highest charting Monkees cover song.
Tambourine – “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
Pleasant Valley Sunday was written by Carole King and became one of The Monkees’ biggest hits. King turned up to play the song on Gilmore Girls (season 5 episode “To Live and Let Diorama”). Good covers of the song are hard to come by, but the best was from an obscure Dutch pop band from the 1980’s, Tambourine. Their cover blends harmonies over well-crafted 80’s pop reminiscent of Katrina & the Waves.
The Peddlers – “Last Train to Clarksville”
For a completely different take on the country-tinged “Last Train to Clarksville” check out the cover by The Peddlers. ThisBritish jazz and soul trio of the 1960’s and ’70’s turned the song into something you might hear in the bar of a Marriott as played by a jazz outfit on Adderall.