One day, you’re going to be sitting at team trivia night at your very favorite dive bar, sucking down Bud Lights and laughing with your friends, and the DJ-turned-game-show-host is going to ask the question:
What was the B-side to “Pleasant Valley Sunday?”
You should really have me on your team, because I totally know this one. In 1967, The Monkees released one of the albums on which they insisted on playing their own instruments, and the double-sided hit single featured “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and one of my personal favorite Monkees songs, “Words.”
This song starts out sounding so very sixties, like maybe it would fit perfectly in a Broadway revival of Hair. I mean, there are chimes, man. But it picks up quick, and Micky Dolenz belts out a hook that’s catchy enough to make you dance around in the driver’s seat even though you’re stuck at a red light and the truck driver in the lane next to you is pointing and laughing (really happened, twice). There’s a little gravity in there, too–the lyrics highlight the love-and-lies of a relationship, and there’s just enough ire and desperation in his voice to drive the point of it home.
When I was a kid, if ever my dad got roped into babysitting my cousins and me, he’d cue up his VHS taped-off-the-TV episodes of The Monkees’ television show. In our infinite childhood wisdom, we called them “the funny Beatles” (we had a lot to learn). “Words” featured in the end credits of the “The Monkees in a Ghost Town” episode, which I vividly remember because it is also the episode that featured an aging Lon Chaney, Jr, as a bank robbing villain (seriously, you need me on your trivia team).
Generally speaking, I prefer Michael Nesmith’s contributions to The Monkees cannon more than anything else, but I’ve found myself queuing up this Micky-powered hit constantly lately. It’s not the hard rocking, let’s-prove-we’re-musicians sound of, say, “Not Your Stepping Stone,” but it works and works well. Give a listen: