Peter Tork’s 10 Best Monkees Songs: Critic’s Picks


In 2016, The Monkees’ Peter Tork recalled when his fictional 1960s band ate from the Tree of Knowledge — and realized their real-life potential. During a lull in filming their goofball NBC sitcom The Monkees, they idly flicked the switches on the amplifiers they have been pretending to play by means of — and have been astonished to seek out they weren’t props in any respect.

“We turned them on and started to play, by no means having performed collectively earlier than,” he defined to the positioning I Like Your Old Stuff. “Everybody bought up and danced, so it’s not like they ran cowering from the room holding their ears!”

Tork, singer Davy Jones, guitarist Michael Nesmith and drummer Micky Dolenz might greater than maintain a tune in actual life; the Monkees transcended their TV roots to change into rock ‘n roll greats. And their multi-instrumentalist Tork, who sadly handed away Thursday (Feb. 21) of most cancers at 77, was essential to their story.

If the Monkees have been focus-grouped as America’s reply to Beatlemania, then Tork — the oldest of the group, with musical capability greater than lady attraction — was their Ringo. Dolenz and Jones have been chosen by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider their for comedic capability: the previous starred within the kiddie TV present Circus Boy, the latter performed the Artful Dodger within the Broadway musical Oliver!.

But the place his bandmates bought by on character, Nesmith and Tork have been downright veterans; Tork was already a Greenwich Village folkie who was proficient on a number of devices. When future Crosby, Stills and Nash singer-songwriter Stephen Stills flunked his audition for the TV band, the producers requested somebody with a equally “open, Nordic look” — and Stills name-dropped Tork.

From the fanged storage rock of “Your Aunt Grizelda” to the jazzy, droning “I Believe You,” he made his personal memorable mark on their catalog. It’s onerous to think about “Daydream Believer” with out Tork’s iconic piano intro — or “You Told Me” with out his Greenwich-bred banjo line. And after Tork left the band in 1968, he could have had essentially the most attention-grabbing Monkee afterlife, monitoring banjo for George Harrison’s zonked Wonderwall Music, forming a blues band known as Shoe Suede Blues and diving into Zen meditation.

As the quiet counterpart to his magnetic bandmates, Tork could slip beneath the radar as essentially the most nondescript Monkee. But his talents as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist can’t be denied. In honor of the late Monkee’s life and legacy, listed here are his 10 biggest Monkees cuts.

“Your Auntie Grizelda” (More of the Monkees, 1967)

Tork’s first Monkees lead vocal is the non secular father of the Kinks’ “Wicked Annabella,” one other impolite, fuzzed-out rocker about avoiding a unpleasant girl. But the place “Annabella” evokes a sinister crone, the Diane Hildebrand/Jack Keller co-write “Your Auntie Grizelda” evokes a extra relatable archetype: a bitter, judgemental relative. With his yelping, off-key alarm over Auntie performing “so righteous making fudge” and “judging others over tea,” Tork’s hilariously pitchy efficiency will put the worry of Grizelda in your coronary heart.

“Shades of Gray” (from Headquarters, 1967)

This Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil-written tune was the primary Monkees observe the place they performed their very own devices — and Tork took its co-lead vocal. Lyrically, it means that the grownup world can’t be decreased to a cut-and-dry, binary actuality; of their efficiency, Jones’ fragile tenor sounds misplaced within the clouds, the dry-voiced Tork earthbound. It’s an early peek into the Monkees’ brilliance.

“Come On In” (from Missing Links Volume Two, 1968/1990)

An unfairly shelved outtake from 1968’s The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees that wouldn’t be launched till 1990, the Jo Mapes-written “Come On In” captures a very aching, fragile vocal from Tork. Like his pal Stephen Stills on “Hot Dusty Roads,” through which a 20-year-old makes the mannish supply of “lovin’ and a spot to take off your sneakers,” Tork strains past his years in these lyrics about grownup loneliness.

“Tear the Top Right Off My Head” (from Missing Links Volume Three, 1968/1996)

This jocund Tork unique additionally hit the cutting-room flooring till the 1990s — disgrace, because it’s one in every of his sunniest duets with Dolenz. Tork would enhance as a wordsmith — his lyrics about “going blind” and “freaking out within the afternoon” much less counsel a crush than a 911 emergency — however his lovestruck efficiency on “Tear the Top Right Off My Head” makes it a nifty deep lower.

“Can You Dig It” (from Head, 1968)

The Monkees by no means reached the modern heights of The Beatles, however Head is nonetheless their Yellow Submarine — a movie soundtrack that works as a casual art-rock effort in its personal proper. If “Can You Dig It” evokes the 1960s’ most drained slogan on the floor, the music therein is filled with surprises: Tork digs deep right into a wild, clattery raga that advantages from his guitar prowess.

“Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?” (from Head, 1968)

Head is filled with darker, extra philosophical themes than one would normally count on from The Monkees, from a tough rocker set to Vietnam War footage to a Harry Nilsson cowl about being deserted by one’s father. And if one desires to push the Yellow Submarine comparisons, then “Long Title” may very well be Tork’s “It’s All Too Much” — a loud, overwhelmed jam about love’s existential crises.

“MGB-GT (Live)” (from "Heart and Soul" 7”, 1987)

Featuring an ungainly cowl sleeve of inner-tubed Monkees and an immediately dated yacht-rock sound, Pool It! was the group's first album in 17 years — and a vital catastrophe. While the album stays finest prevented, Tork’s “MGB-GT,” an ode to the titular British sports activities automobile unloaded on the “Heart and Soul” single, is a beautiful, revved-up nation gem. “Folks, this little automobile of mine/ Was like a kitten purring throatily,” he describes to his grease-monkey viewers, like his previous GT is the stuff of legend.

“I Believe You” (from Justus, 1996)

The Monkees rang of their 30th anniversary with Justus, their ultimate album to function Jones, Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork. While it doesn’t maintain a candle to 2016’s rejuvenated Good Times!, the set is well worth the worth of admission for the remake of Nesmith’s traditional “Circle Sky” and Tork’s moody unique “I Believe You.” It’s his David Crosby second: jazzbo chords, a bizarre, loping rhythm, ethereal choral vocals wafting in from the rafters.

“Little Girl” (from Good Times!, 2016)

If the Monkees' output within the a long time following their '60s stardom principally resulted in diminishing returns, 2016’s Good Times! proved they’d one left in them. Crucially, the Monkees returned to their unique components, tackling contributions from modern-day pop-rock greats — Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger — and making them their very own. Despite all that borrowed starpower, Tork himself steals the present: first with Goffin and King’s traditional “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” after which along with his mellow, wizened unique “Little Girl.” In this revitalized Monkees outfit, Tork clearly nonetheless had gasoline within the tank.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” (from Christmas Party, 2018)

In a victory lap from the success of Good Times!, the Monkees checked yet one more field for his or her profession in 2018: a Christmas album. This time round, they tackled quite a lot of yuletide classics, some reverent (Robert Wells’ “The Christmas Song”) and a few cheeky (Big Star’s “Jesus Christ”). Tork’s model of “Angels We Have Heard on High” is his final vocal for the Monkees — over his trusty, plucking banjo, he steps away from the raucous Christmas celebration to poignantly invoke heaven.

That’s how we’ll keep in mind Tork: whereas not as flashy, foolish or outsized as his bandmates, it’s not possible to examine the Monkees with out him.