Nearly everyone remembers The Monkees from the '60s- the TV show, Monkeemania, Davy Jones and all, but few understand the genius behind the group, the songwriters who toiled to give The Monkees the hits with which to be successful. Though many songsmiths were employed to make The Monkees the "overnight sensations" they became, the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart standout. Why?
"Last Train to Clarksville?" A number 1 Boyce and Hart hit. "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone?" The B-side of the mega-selling "I'm a Believer." "Words?" The flip-side of "Pleasant Valley Sunday." "Valleri?" A number 3 pop hit. And at the height of their behind-the-scenes success with The Monkees, when Mickey, Davy, Mike, and Peter rebelled against their pre-fabricated image and began to write and produce their own songs,
Tommy and Bobby became recording artists themselves, putting out three albums with top 10 hits like "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" and "Alice Long (You're Still My Favorite Girlfriend)." All told, Rolling Stone reports they wrote over 300 songs and sold more than 42 million records. Other estimates rate it at 85 million. Prolific?
They even penned the theme for a little NBC soap opera called "Days of Our Lives" and that theme song has played every Monday through Friday since 1965!
Based on the West Coast, they were the counterpart to all the Brill Building talent that New York City had to offer, though some may argue, without the staying power of a Gerry Goffin- Carole King or a Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich team. Still, they had an ear for infectious Top 40 pop- the bouncy, bright melodies that later would be dubbed "sunshine pop" and which would be the perfect segue into that later '60s phenomenon, bubblegum.
Tommy Boyce did have some success on his own before he ever met Bobby Hart. He penned or co-wrote "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" for Curtis Lee and "Be My Guest" for Fats Domino. He'd even written and recorded a single, "I'll Remember Carol" which peaked at number 80 on the Billboard charts in the fall of 1962. Yet, Bobby Hart was no slouch either, helping write "Hurt So Bad" for Little Anthony and the Imperials.
They met around 1964 and soon after, authored "Come a Little Bit Closer" for Jay and the Americans. In 1965, they signed with Screen Gems Music, the music publishing arm of Columbia Pictures' TV production unit, Screen Gems. Soon, their newest assignment would be to write music for a new 30 minute situation comedy to star four actors who would portray an up-and-coming musical group on NBC.
They did it all (almost). Writing the songs, performing and producing them initially, the Monkees themselves only had to sing over Boyce and Hart's vocals when the time came to release the songs.
In 1967, the Boyce and Hart team set out on their own recording journey, eventually producing three albums and even appeared on other shows in the Screen Gems stable- Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Flying Nun. Bobby Sherman's TV show, "Getting Together" was reportedly based upon Boyce and Hart. Bobby Sherman was portrayed as a songwriter along side Wes Stern as his partner in the 1971 ABC sitcom.
About this time, however, the winds of musical change had begun to alter the course of popular music and the duo split up. Later, they reunited with former Monkees Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones in 1975, performing the songs that made them all famous. Touring as "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart," they recorded a few albums and toured extensively, even as far as Japan.
After a few years of this, they split again, but remained friends to the end. In 1983, Bobby Hart was nominated for an Academy Award for his song "Over You" for the film "Tender Mercies." Tommy Boyce continued to write and produced for such acts as Iggy Pop, Del Shannon, and Meat Loaf, working from the United Kingdom for a time.
Sadly, Tommy Boyce had struggled with depression since suffering a brain aneurysm in 1993 from which he never fully recovered. He shot himself to death in November 1994.
Bobby Hart remains involved in the music business today and is currently working with producer Kevin T. Baldwin on a musical based on his partnership with Tommy Boyce. The title is "Sunshine Pop - Stories from the Boyce and Hart Music Machine."
After more than 40 years, the fruits of the Boyce and Hart partnership are still heard everyday on oldies radio. Sunshine Pop indeed.
About the author: David Galassie is a human resources specialist in Columbia, South Carolina. In his free time, he pursues popular culture- comic books, animation art, and music. A frequent contributor to Rewind the Fifties, he chronicles the more notable acts of the 1960s as well as many obscure bands and one hit wonders.
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