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Feb 06

THE MONKEES – “I’m A Believer”

Popular86 comments • 5,536 views

#228, 21st January 1967

My feelings about the Monkees and their music are entirely entangled with my feelings about their TV show, and childhood TV in general. Pop music wasn’t a big deal in my house growing up, and I had no real idea of the Monkees as ‘a band’, even if they played a band in the show: I just didn’t know what that might mean or what a band might do.

There was a massive gap, it seemed to me, between American shows like the Monkees, or the Banana Splits, and British programmes like Ivor The Engine, or Fingerbobs, or Bagpuss. (Of course now I know that these shows were made for very different agegroups, but they would run together during the UK school holidays so I consumed them as a whole.) I preferred the British shows, by a long way – the Monkees upset and annoyed me, their shows seemed to make no sense, and though just as plot-light were more frantic: talking about it to Pete the other day, he described the American style excellently as “nothing happens all at once”. The Monkees seemed to be always running about – I could not imagine the genial hippies who fronted or narrated Fingerbobs or Ivor running anywhere. Those presenters reminded me of my parents, who would tell me a story and then leave me to my imagination. The Monkees reminded me of my nursery school teachers, forever chivvying me to join in and have fun.

(The running about in the American shows, of course, wasn’t because American kids were much livelier than British ones: it was mostly because the budgets were bigger and so children’s programme making wasn’t confined to tiny broomcupboard studios which necessitated the crafts-and-puppets approach the UK output took.)

I went wandering down this route when I was trying to figure out why I’ve always had such a blindspot about the Monkees. “I’m A Believer” is professional, slick pop, crammed with hooks and imaginative touches – and I often love professional, slick pop. I’ve danced to this song, I’ve thrown shapes on the “I’m in love!” parts, I can listen to it now and hear some subtle, surprisingly soft vocal touches: it’s a terrific bit of craft and full of heart and enthusiasm too. I ought maybe to be right behind the Monkees as some kind of godfathers of the artificially created band. Instead, even as I enjoy the record, I can still feel my five-year-old self, nervous and uncomprehending, faced with the Monkees’ kind of televised fun and resenting it.

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Comments

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  1. 76
    Lena on 1 Mar 2012 #

    I wrote a bit about “Daydream Believer” – I was in a bit of a mood about their not being taken seriously, which sort of colors the posting, but obv. I had to post this: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/03/perfectly-imperfect-monkees-daydream.html

  2. 77
    wichita lineman on 1 Mar 2012 #

    Here’s something I’ve written about why I love the Monkees.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/mar/01/the-monkees-believer-davy-jones

  3. 78
    swanstep on 1 Mar 2012 #

    @wichita, 77. Spot on.
    @Lena, 76. Thanks especially for that link to Star Collector. Not heard that one before. That’s a pretty wonky/weird synth lead for 1967!

  4. 79
    wichita lineman on 2 Mar 2012 #

    Re: Star Collector. Micky Dolenz was among the first two or three people to own a Moog in Britain, maybe the world. Along with Star Collector, he came up with this even odder Moog-based song on the Pisces Aquarius Capricorn & Jones album:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXEHgsa11Uk

    I like the way the other Monkees look on, not quite sure what to do (except Cool Hand Mike). Here’s Micky in the LA Weekly, who reckon it’s the first pop record ever to feature the Moog (anyone got another suggestion?):

    “Ahh, my little Moog synthesizer. It was actually a pretty difficult thing to use,” he said, recalling how those first-generation synthesizers had to be physically rewired for every different sound the musician might want to use.

    “I threw a party for John Lennon one night, and he sat there at the Moog for four hours making flying saucer sounds. It was great for flying saucer sounds. I sold it to Bobby Sherman, I think he still has it.”

  5. 80
    swanstep on 3 Mar 2012 #

    @79, wichita. Thanks, that’s cool.

  6. 81
    swanstep on 17 Jun 2013 #

    Woo-hoo, The Monkees’ somewhat psychedelic ‘Porpoise Song’ is used rather brilliantly in the latest Mad Men (one of the best eps of the season).

  7. 82
    wichita lineman on 17 Jun 2013 #

    ENOUGH MAD MEN SPOILERS!!!!

  8. 83
    hectorthebat on 3 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 133
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    2FM (Ireland) – Top 100 Singles of All Time (2003) 38
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1960s (2008)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 73
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 602
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Les Inrockuptibles (France) – 1000 Indispensable Songs (2006)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  9. 84
    phil6875 on 12 Apr 2015 #

    Famously The Monkees are one of only six artists to have simultaneously held the top spot in the U.S. and U.K. singles and albums charts and this is the single they did it with. ‘The Monkees’ being the album.

  10. 85
    Tommy Mack on 12 Apr 2015 #

    Is this the only example where the single is from a different album? (Rather than just a non-album single)

  11. 86
    DanusJonus on 12 Apr 2015 #

    On a technicality, because ‘Day Tripper/We can Work it Out’ came out on the US Capitol release ‘Yesterday and Today’, I suppose you could say that this is another half example of where the single is from a different album?

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