Like everything else during The Monkees imperial phase, the pace at which they released singles moved at the speed of light: Gerry Goffin & Carole King’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was their fourth Top 5 U.S. single in less than a year, and — following on from the artistic freedom they wrested for Headquarters — it was the first one where actual Monkees contributed significantly to the musical mix.
So that’s Mike Nesmith playing the jangling guitar hook that kicks the song off and anchors it throughout, and the piano hook on the long, arching bridge was played by Peter Tork. And Davy Jones, um, played the maracas, and along with Nesmith, provided the backing vocals.
Meanwhile, Mickey Dolenz sang the suburban-skewering lyrics with his usual aplomb.
The local rock group down the street
Is trying hard to learn their song
They serenade the weekend squire
Who just came out to mow his lawn
Another pleasant valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care
Because he played the goofy jokester on the TV show and his miming of the drums during the videos was pitched somewhere between “can’t play” and “don’t care,” people tend to overlook the fact that Dolenz was a helluva singer. There’s a reason that it’s his voice on most of their hit singles, and nearly all of the rock ‘n’ roll songs on their initial albums.
But just listen to his performance on “Pleasant Valley Sunday:” a bit low-key in the verses, and then taking off in the choruses, with Jones & Nesmith in tow. Then, on the near-psychedelic bridge he totally nails the end, reaching for the sky with way he sings “scenerrrrrrrrrrrreeeey.” It’s so great that he doesn’t even bother to sing any words for the next verse, singing “ta-ta-ta-ta” instead, as drummer Eddie Hoh crashes against himself.
In the end, of course, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” starts circling in on itself, until it fades out into a hail of distortion and fuzz.
“Pleasant Valley Sunday”
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