Saturday, April 21, 2018

Certain Songs #1190: The Monkees – “Last Train To Clarksville” | Medialoper

Album: The Monkees
Year: 1966

Over 50 years later, the authenticity debate rages on.

There are literally still people who care only that The Monkees were artificially created because a TV executive saw A Hard Day’s Night and exclaimed “hey, we gotta get us one of those!” I’m not one of them: I loved the TV show as a kid, and again as an adult, and the Monkees were perhaps the first example of an artist whose critical reputation grew as the people who loved them as kids became adults.

Not to mention, since we’ve gone into a more overtly pop-oriented era, those old debates seem, well, old.

Sure, most of the first album was written by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, and only Mike Nesmith as a songwriter & producer and Peter Tork as a guitarist contributed more than just vocals, but lets put it this way: there are as many songs on The Monkees with a Monkee playing on them that there are songs on Pet Sounds with a Beach Boy playing on them.

And while none of The Monkees songs got to the level of “God Only Knows,” they still put out a spate of killer singles, leading off with the almost-country “Last Train to Clarksville,” anchored by a Louie Shelton guitar riff that’s continually stutter-stepping and a fantastic wailing backing vocal of “traaaaaiiiiiiiiin.”

Take the last train to Clarksville
Now I must hang up the phone
I can’t hear you in this noisy
Railroad station all alone
I’m feeling low
Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no

And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home

That last line, along with Mickey Dolenz’s almost-desperate lead vocal is the only hint that “Last Train to Clarksville” is about something darker than getting together with his baby for a hookup: the guy in the song is a soldier heading off for Vietnam, which maybe the kids knew, and maybe they didn’t.

What they did know was that this was high-quality popular music, and “Last Train to Clarksville” was the first of The Monkees #1 singles in the U.S.

Fan-Made Video for “Last Train to Clarksville”

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