The Monkees’ second album More of the Monkees was released on January 9, 1967 in an attempt to cash in on the group’s’growing popularity. The problem was it was released without really consulting any of the individual Monkees to begin with and they discovered the album was released when they were on tour.
The album provides an interesting dilemma; Even if the band doesn’t write their songs themselves, one assumes that there’s input on the way songs are arranged on the album, which takes are used, etc. Likewise, while each member sang on More of the Monkees, none of them played instruments. After all, the Monkees were originally created as a fictional band for a television show–the music career only happened once executives realized album sales were outpacing television ratings. It was only after the success of More of the Monkees that the members lobbied the group’s creators to let them play their instruments on future records, giving them more artistic input and control over the final product.
As such, More of the Monkees provides an interesting dilemma: how much input from the Monkees is needed to consider an album as by the Monkees?
These thorny questions of authorship do nothing to hide the fact that More of the Monkees is an amazing album. The songwriting credits are a veritable who’s-who of 1960s songwriters: Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka. This is very much a pop album, the Monkees at their peak boy band. More of the Monkees consists of a squeaky clean 1960s sound, occasional fuzzy guitars being the only hint of anything remotely approaching anything resembling ‘rock’. Some might see this as a disservice, but while the songs are a bit cookie cutter and a bit safe (especially when compared to future Monkees work), they’re not BAD. The songs are also peak boy band. On “The Day We Fall In Love,” Davy Jones (billed as the heartthrob/cute one of the band) describes the hypothetical day he and whatever teenage girl he’s singing this to fall in love, speaking it instead of singing it, painting memories of a picture perfect day that’s sure to make teenage hearts flutter as one girl whispers to her best friend “he’s totally talking about me.”
And yet, there’s an underlying sadness throughout. The bright poppy sound hides lyrics about unhealthy attractions and failed relationships. One of the more amusing songs, “Your Auntie Grizelda” is a two and a half minute grump session about Auntie Grizelda and how she absolutely hates the narrator. The first lines of the album, from the song “She” are “she told me that she loved me.” The rest of the song that follows is a beautiful pop anthem, with lively guitars and an entertaining keyboard break, about missing a woman who treated the narrator like dirt, realizing that he missed a woman who “laughed while I was crying.” The dichotomy of sadness in the lyrics but happiness in the instrumentation seeps through the entire album. Still, this hidden sadness makes sense: In an interview band member Micky Dolenz describes the fictional Monkees as “…a band (as portrayed on the TV show) that was never successful.”
But you can’t talk about More of the Monkees without mentioning the final song of the album, the song that helped bring the Monkees to the top the charts for weeks, and perhaps one of the greatest pop songs of all time: “I’m a Believer.” Even if the rest of More of the Monkees was awful (which it isn’t!), the album would be worth it for “I’m a Believer.” That surf rock opening, that insanely catchy chorus, those tight harmonies, the fun that Dolenz has singing on that final “I’m a believer, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” every little aspect of “I’m a Believer” works and ties together in such a way that makes the song legendary. And with the context of the album, it’s even better. So much of More of the Monkees is navigating sadness underneath bright, pop music. “I’m a Believer” addresses that sadness and punches right past it, culminating in a beautifully optimistic piece where the lyrics finally match the music.