The latest in our popular songwriter series spotlights Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the duo whose instinctive marriage of folk-rock and pre-bubblegum teen pop created and defined the Monkees sound.
Boyce and Hart each started out as teenage rock’n’rollers in late 1950s Los Angeles and first met in 1960. Their formative years are represented here with ‘Be My Guest’, written by Boyce for Fats Domino in 1959, ‘Beverly Jean’, one of the handful of Boyce compositions recorded by Curtis Lee and ‘Too Many Teardrops’, an early Bobby Hart solo single.
By 1963 both had relocated toNew York, where they began writing as a team. They made their big breakthrough the following year with ‘Come A Little Bit Closer’, a Top 3 hit for Jay & the Americans, which helped land the twosome a contract with leading music publishers Screen Gems.
They reached the peak of their success and creativity in 1966, writing for and producing the Monkees. Three of the group’s best recordings are here, and a further six songs popularised by them are featured in less-frequently heard, but equally good, mostly pre-Monkees versions, including ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ by UK fuzz-beat combo the Flies and ‘She', an almost hit for Del Shannon. By the end of 1966 the Monkees had recorded nearly 50 titles, 21 of them Boyce and Hart songs – quite an achievement considering they were in competition with Carole King, Gerry Goffin and the rest of the Screen Gems stable.
Apart from the duo’s joint compositions, the collection also features examples of their work with other co-writers. ‘Never Again’ by the Royalettes and ‘Hurt So Bad’, as defined by Little Anthony & the Imperials, stem from Bobby Hart’s spell collaborating with Teddy Randazzo. ‘Action’ – the theme for TV’s Where The Action Is, here by Paul Revere & the Raiders – and ‘Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day’ by Sir Raleigh & the Cupons represent Tommy Boyce’s brief partnership with Steve Venet. And Wes Farrell gets a look-in via three songs co-written with Boyce and Hart.
Come 1969 Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were stars in their own right, with four hit singles and three albums to their name. This CD kicks off with ‘I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight’, a power-pop precursor from 1967 and the pair’s biggest hit as performers.
By Mick Patrick