Top 10 Monkees Songs

Boy Band Pioneers

The Monkees
The Monkees. Photo by Keystone Features / Getty Images

The Monkees were the first boy band put together through auditions to take over the top of the Billboard pop charts. They were a model for countless boy bands to come over the next decades. At their peak, they recorded "I'm a Believer," the biggest song of 1967.

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"I'm a Believer" (1966)

Monkees I'm a Believer
The Monkees - "I'm a Believer". Courtesy RCA

"I'm a Believer" was written by Neil Diamond. He originally recorded the song himself, but when the Monkees released it as the first single from their More Of the Monkees album in November 1966, it quickly went to #1. "I'm a Believer" remained at #1 for seven weeks and was the bestselling record of the year for 1967. It is estimated to have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. "I'm a Believer" appeared on four consecutive episodes of the TV show The Monkees. Jeff Barry, a veteran of classic girl group and Phil Spector efforts, produced "I'm a Believer." Among the top session musicians who appear on the record are Al Gorgoni, Sal Ditroia, Dick Romoff, and Artie Butler.

The pop-rock group Smash Mouth covered "I'm a Believer" in 2001 on the Shrek soundtrack and hit #25 on the pop singles chart. Neil Diamond recorded a new version of "I'm a Believer" on his 1979 album September Morn. He included new lyrics.

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"Last Train To Clarksville" (1966)

Monkees Last Train to Clarksville
The Monkees - "Last Train To Clarksville". Courtesy Colgems

The Monkees debut single "Last Train To Clarksville" was written and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The pair had such a close connection to the success of the group that they formed a group and toured with Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones in the mid-1970s playing classic Monkees songs. The musical style of the song includes influences from the Beatles' hit "Paperback Writer." "Last Train To Clarksville" was a #1 hit song two months after the TV show The Monkees debuted in September 1966.

Although not explicit in the song, many assumed the lyrics refer to a soldier leaving to fight in the Vietnam War. Songwriter Bobby Hart disagreed with that assessment and said the town name was selected because it sounded good. He also stated the "Oh No-No-No" line in the lyrics is a direct response to the "Yeah Yeah Yeah" associated with the Beatles.

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"Daydream Believer" (1967)

Monkees Daydream Believer
The Monkees - "Daydream Believer". Courtesy RCA

John Stewart of the legendary folk group the Kingston Trio and his solo smash "Gold," wrote "Daydream Believer." He intended it to be part of a trio of songs about suburban married couples. Producer Chip Douglas brought the song to the attention of the Monkees. It is his voice that interacts with lead vocalist Davy Jones on the humorous spoken word intro. All four members of the Monkees play in the track, and Peter Tork created the piano introduction. "Daydream Believer" was the final #1 pop hit single by the group spending four weeks at the top of the charts.

Canadian singer Anne Murray covered "Daydream Believer" in 1979 and reached #12 on the U.S. pop chart. John Stewart recorded it himself in 1971. In the wave of Monkees nostalgia in the 1980s, a remixed recording of "Daydream Believer" was released as a single and peaked at #79 on the pop chart. 

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"Pleasant Valley Sunday" (1967)

Monkees Pleasant Valley Sunday
The Monkees - "Pleasant Valley Sunday". Courtesy RCA

The legendary songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday," a piece of social commentary about status symbols and suburbia. The inspiration for the name of the song was a street named Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange, New Jersey. To gain some control over the recording process, Mike Nesmith invited producer Chip Douglas to helm the production. "Pleasant Valley Sunday" featured musical input from the entire group and landed at #3 on the pop singles chart. It also climbed to #11 on the pop singles chart in the UK.

One distinctive, memorable element of the song's recording is the introduction of layers of reverb and echo at the end until the music turns to noise before fading out. The MTV marathon of Monkees TV episodes in 1986 was titled Pleasant Valley Sunday. It launched a wave of new interest in the group.

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"A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (1967)

Monkees A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You
The Monkees - "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You". Courtesy RCA

"A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" was the second Neil Diamond song released as a single by the Monkees. It was the group's first single to feature Davy Jones on lead vocals. Reportedly "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" was recorded with no input by any of the Monkees beyond Davy Jones, and they do not appear on the record. The record inflamed the conflict between the Monkees and record label personnel over artistic control of the group's music. Music executive Don Kirshner, promoter of many of the Brill Building songwriters, was fired over the issuing of "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" as an unauthorized single. The label pulled the record from distribution but then reissued it with a new B-side since fans and radio stations had already jumped on the song as the band's next release.

The new Monkees album More of the Monkees hit stores with no participation by the group members other than vocals. Led by Michael Nesmith, the group began to lobby the producers of the TV show for more input into their music. They would eventually win the argument but at the cost of commercial success. There is no confirmation in credits available, but some believe the backup vocals on the song are the voice of Neil Diamond.

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"(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" (1966)

Monkees More of the Monkees
The Monkees - More Of the Monkees. Courtesy RCA

"(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" is the B-side for the Monkees' biggest hit single "I'm a Believer." It is one of the heavier rock songs recorded by the group. It became a hit on its own peaking at #20 on the pop chart. The song was written and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Other than the lead vocal by Micky Dolenz, no actual group members appear on the recording.

The first recording of the song was by the pop group Paul Revere and the Raiders. "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" was notoriously covered by the legendary punk band the Sex Pistols. The band Modern Rocketry had a top 10 dance hit with their cover of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" in 1983.

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"Porpoise Song" (1968)

Monkees Porpoise Song
The Monkees - "Porpoise Song". Courtesy Colgems

Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote "Porpoise Song" for the Monkees' feature film Head. It utilizes psychedelic rock styling with echo distortion of the lead vocals. Chimes, bells, and water sounds are all used in the mix. The Monkees produced the song themselves along with Gerry Goffin. "Porpoise Song" was a relative commercial failure, along with the movie, but it represents the group as an intact musical unit with a distinctive artistic direction. Live porpoise sounds appear in the recording. "Porpoise Song" appears twice in the movie ​Head at the beginning and end. It peaked at #62 on the Billboard Hot 100.


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"That Was Then, This Is Now" (1986)

Monkees That Was Then This Is Now
The Monkees - "That Was Then This Is Now". Courtesy Rhino

Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees recorded "That Was Then, This Is Now" in 1986 as part of a wave of 20th-anniversary celebrations of the group's music. It rode the burst of nostalgia on to the pop charts and climbed into the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. In response to the new success, Davy Jones joined Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz to record the album Pool It! for release in 1987. It peaked at #72 on the album chart. "That Was Then, This Is Now" was written by Vance Brescia for his group the Mosquitos. They recorded it in 1985 and released it as the title track of an EP.


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"D.W. Washburn" (1968)

Monkees D.W. Washburn
The Monkees - "D.W. Washburn". Courtesy Colgems

"D.W. Washburn" was the first single released by the Monkees following the cancellation of their TV series. Without the promotion available via the weekly show, the song failed to make the pop top 10. The legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote "D.W. Washburn.". It remains a good example of a folky style often favored by the group when they were in control of the recording process. Without support from their TV show, "D.W. Washburn" only reached #19 on the pop charts. It was the final top 40 pop hit for the Monkees until their nostalgic return in 1986.

The Coasters released their recording of "D.W. Washburn" three months after the Monkees. The song appears in Smokey Joe's Cafe, the Broadway revue of songs written by Leiber and Stoller.

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"Valleri" (1968)

Monkees Valleri
The Monkees - "Valleri". Courtesy Colgems

Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, "Valleri" was originally recorded in 1966 and included in The Monkees TV show in 1967. However, it was never officially released as a single. In 1968, with the Monkees in control of their own artistic process and producing their own music, "Valleri" was re-recorded with an added brass section to be included on the version on the album The Birds, The Bees, and the Monkees.

Mike Nesmith was against releasing "Valleri" as a single, but record label overruled him. The song became a #3 pop hit and was the group's final top 10 pop hit. It was also their last to receive a gold certification for sales. Also featuring the #1 hit "Daydream Believer," the album The Birds, The Bees & the Monkees hit #3 on the album chart, was certified platinum, and was the final Monkees album to reach the top 10.

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