Fab or Prefab?
Who outsold both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in 1967?
The Monkees. Yup, that fabricated pop foursome created to star in a television series. It didn’t hurt that the group benefitted from the exposure provided by the show (exploiting the music video format in a pre-MTV era), from some capable contributing songwriters and arrangers and from well-produced recordings. The group scored several number one hits during the show’s run (1966-1968). A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You became the band’s first big hit of 1967, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts and #1 in Cashbox rankings. By the way, this song was written by a guy who had, in the previous year, given the group a hit with I’m a Believer… Neil Diamond.
Incidentally, here’s a supreme example of unlikely pairings. During The Monkees 1967 summer tour, their opening act (for a short time) was a guy named Jimi Hendrix. Don’t believe me?
What is the connection between The Monkees and The Lovin’ Spoonful? Apparently when the creators of The Monkees first began their search for the show’s stars, they considered casting an existing (established) band in the roles. And the group they had settled on was a New York-based folk/rock ensemble… The Lovin’ Spoonful. Fortunately for the group (I suspect) and pop music, John Sebastian had already signed the group to a record company… an arrangement which would prohibit Screen Gems from marketing the show’s music on record. And, if The Monkees (Dolenz, Tork, Jones and Nesmith) fared well commercially from this arrangement, The Spoonful did all right too (with seven top ten hits in this same period). One of my favourites is You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice (1966), a sentiment shared by Brian Wilson. I have read that he was inspired to write God Only Knows in part because of the Spoonful hit. Here it is…
Zally (Zal Yanovsky) and Sebastian were previously in a group called The Mugwumps with Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty (those two later forming half of The Mamas and Papas). And… Zalman (his full name) was a Canadian… born in Toronto and would later return to Kingston to open a restaurant- Chez Piggy.
Zal left the band in 1967 (from circumstances relating to a drug bust)… and was replaced by Jerry Yester. Now… Jerry is brother to Jim Yester of The Association (whom we will address in the next two posts) and produced The Association‘s Renaissance (2nd) album. Jim actually joined a reformed Spoonful (with only Boone and Butler from the original group) briefly in the early 1990’s.