You Just May Be the One

A Monkees playlist of Michael Nesmith country rockers.

You Just May Be the One

Sometimes a story isn’t a culmination of knowledge or reporting, but rather a passageway into the subject. Being a Michael Nesmith fan since my musical adolescence of the 1970s didn’t prepare me for my new obsession: the Monkees through a prism of Papa Nez.

When I bought my first Monkees LPs in the used record emporiums of Berkeley, they were in the same batch as the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Cream, and the Who. There was no discernible difference in a sense. They were all good.

“What Am I Doing Hanging ’Round?” from 1967’s Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD turned me onto the tall, side-burned Texan on The Monkees television show, already into its second or third life in syndication by the time my best friend Steve and I chortled along. Nesmith’s ringing vocal and the song’s jangle emptied into a knockout chorus begging for listener harmonies. Only in revisiting the song for this week’s Music feature did I discover that unlike most Nesmith vocals on Monkees records, he didn’t actually write the tune. Now I’m gonna have to pick Michael Martin Murphey’s Geronimo’s Cadillac.

Moreover, the three other Nesmith vocals on the same LP – also penned by others – were entirely new to me. “Salesman” opens Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones with a tangy kick, while “The Door Into Summer” summons CSNY. Best of all other than “What Am I Doing Hanging ’Round?,” Nesmith’s summer of love vocal on “Don’t Call On Me” floats.

“Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun to Care),” one of Nez’s post-Monkees twang standards, already sounds like a million dollars as an early demo on the 2-CD deluxe version of More of the Monkees, but the group’s Nashville sessions around the time of Head, uncovered on Rhino’s Listen to the Band box set, roll out one gem after another. “Carlisle Wheeling,” with its tender banjo, meets the fiddle hootenanny of “St. Matthew,” and both belong on their own Nesmith-centric Monkees collection.

Listen to the Band also titles a roundup of Nesmith’s cowboy 1970s, while Rio: The Best of Michael Nesmith catches up his later catalog with an infusion of Lone Star tropicalia. Live at the Palais, a few pesos at Waterloo Records recently, dusts up another vinyl Nesmith treat easily uncovered around town. There's myriad Nesmith discs in the ether. Unlike Gram Parsons, Nesmith could – and can – sing, and his wealth of releases always yields previously unknown treasure. That most Monkees reissues boast the fat roots of such work makes one wonder what music lost when Gram Parsons left the Byrds after making only Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Here’s a Papa Nez playlist drawn from the Monkees' classic period, LPs one through six – 22 songs in 59 minutes:

“Papa Gene’s Blues” (alt. stereo mix/The Monkees deluxe)
“Sweet Young Thing” (The Monkees)
“You Just May Be the One” (TV version/The Monkees deluxe)
“Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun to Care)” (demo/The Monkees deluxe)
“The Kind of Girl I Could Love” (More of the Monkees)
“Sunny Girlfriend” (Headquarters)
“Salesman” (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD)
“The Door Into Summer” (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD)
“What Am I Doing Hanging ’Round?” (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD)
“Don’t Call On Me” (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD)
“Tapioca Tundra” (The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees)
“Nine Times Blues” (disc 3, Listen to the Band)
“Carlisle Wheeling” (disc 3, Listen to the Band)
“St. Matthew” (disc 3, Listen to the Band)
“Listen to the Band” (disc 4, Listen to the Band)
“Good Clean Fun” (disc 4, Listen to the Band)
“Some of Shelly’s Blues” (disc 4, Listen to the Band)
“Circle Sky” (mono mix, Head box)
Live medley: “You Just May Be the One”/“Sunny Girlfriend”/“You Told Me”/ “Circle Sky” (Head box)

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Michael Nesmith, the Monkees, Gram Parsons

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