2 songwriters felt a Monkees album was “the chance of a lifetime”

The Monkees broke through with their debut album: Monkeys. A pair of songwriters thought they had “the chance of a lifetime” when they were hired to produce the album. Additionally, the songwriters spent months obsessing over the Prefab Four’s image and musical direction.

Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith of the Monkees | Bettmann / Contributor

Many of The Monkees’ most famous songs were written by the same pair of songwriters

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were a songwriting duo called Boyce & Hart. They wrote Monkees songs such as “Last Train to Clarksville”, “I Wanna Be Free”, and “Valleri”. In his 2015 book Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees and Turning Mayhem Into MiraclesHart discussed Boyce’s reaction when they were chosen to produce the Monkees’ self-titled album.

“Tommy reflected, ‘Some of the most prominent record producers of all time had been in studios around the world recording Monkee records before we even had our chance,'” Hart wrote.

“’Yeah,’ I replied, ‘why were we the ones who finally got the go-ahead to produce the Monkees’ debut album?’ recalls Hart.

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Boyce & Hart felt that other producers didn’t see the Monkees’ debut album as anything special.

Boyce and Hart came to a conclusion about why they stood out. “For busy veteran record producers, this was just another in a long list of ordinary projects and sessions,” Hart wrote. “For us, it was the chance of a lifetime!

“In the 11 months between our first meeting with the show’s producers and our first recording sessions with the band, Boyce and I were almost obsessed with thinking about and planning our big break,” Hart continued.

“Having created in our mind a clear musical image and sound for the band, we were able to easily update it when [Monkees supervisor Don] Kirshner finally returned our project to us,” Hart added. “Boyce summed it up succinctly, ‘We had done our homework and we were ready.'”

Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart pointing fingers at each other

Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart | ATM Archives / Contributor

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How the album and its lead single charted in the US and UK

Monkeys became a huge success. The album exceeded the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks, remaining on the chart for a total of 102 weeks. It remained on the chart longer for all subsequent Prefab Four albums in the United States. Monkeys also included the band’s premiere Billboard Hot 100 Single #1: “Last Train to Clarksville.”

The Official Map Company reports Monkeys was also a hit in the UK. There the album reached No. 1 for seven of its 37 weeks on the chart. In the UK, “Last Train to Clarksville” became a more modest hit, peaking at No. 23.

Other producers might have considered Monkeys ordinary, but for Boyce & Hart, it was “the chance of a lifetime”.

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