And he thought he heard the echoes of a penny whistle band
And the laughter from a distant carousel
And the brightly painted line of circus wagons in the sand
Fading through the door into summer.
I have been hearing Michael Nesmith singing “The Door Into Summer” in my head for days, ever since Monkees Live: The Mike and Micky Show made its debut on my beloved turntable. The song was co-written by Chip Douglas, who produced some of the “Pre-Fab Four’s” most memorable recordings and makes a cameo appearance in the introduction to one of those recordings, “Daydream Believer.” (He’s the studio voice who says “7-A.”)
To start off on a further tangent, I recently finally read the Robert A. Heinlein novel that I must presume gave the song its title. Heinlein’s wife is credited with first putting the words together. According to the story, their cat was crying pitifully at the door to go outside but balked at the cold, snowy scene that greeted him. Heinlein tried opening other doors but the cat still wouldn’t go out. That was when Virginia Heinlein said, “Oh, he’s just looking for a door into summer.”
“I threw up my hands, told her not to say another word, and wrote the novel The Door Into Summer in 13 days,” Heinlein told Albert Bester in an interview that appeared in the 2000 retrospective of Bester’s work, Redemolished.
But enough digression. “The Door Into Summer” is a prime example of the miracle of the Monkees: They are one of the best pop-rock bands to emerge in the 1960s, and their music has endured long beyond the two seasons of the TV show for which they were first brought together. This band was not a group of friends or family who got together in the traditional origin story of pop icons; they were selected by casting directors.
Somehow, by selecting Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones from hundreds of auditioning actors and musicians, the TV folks assembled just the right combination of personalities to make magic. It didn’t hurt that they supplied the young men with songs by some of the era’s finest songwriters – Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, Gerry Goffin & Carol King, and actually the list goes on and on – but I can’t imagine the TV folks thinking that more than a half-century later, the surviving members of their manufactured pop group would still be performing to adoring crowds and producing a marvelous two-record live recording of what has become several decades of work.
Pretty much all of the popular songs are there, opening with “Last Train to Clarksville,” the Boyce-Hart song that dominated Top 40 radio in August 1967 and heralded that something special was coming to TV a few weeks later, and closing with “I’m a Believer,” the Neil Diamond song that was their second No. 1 single and proclaimed that “Clarksville” wasn’t a fluke.
Nesmith, who is a talented and eclectic songsmith in his own right, contributes a dozen of his best nuggets, like “You Just May Be the One” and “Mary Mary” and, from their post-TV treasure chest, “Circle Sky” and “Listen to the Band.”
Dolenz, not as prolific, did write one memorable tune that he named “Randy Scouse Git,” and here he shares a story I did not know. Their U.K. record company wanted to release it in England as a single but demanded an alternate title because, you see, in Brit speak that phrase is rather rude. He resisted for a time but finally relented and told them what to call the song, which hit No. 1 on the U.K. pop charts as “Alternate Title.”
Tork and Jones are represented as well – Before “The Door Into Summer” became my earworm, I was hearing Micky sing Tork’s song “For Pete’s Sake” over and over: “Love is understanding, don’t you know that this is true, love is understanding, it’s in everything we do.” And somehow the voices of backing singers Coco Dolenz and Circe Link combine in a way that you’d swear Davy Jones was in the house.
All told, Nesmith and Dolenz perform 25 tunes from their catalog here, and it is a very entertaining journey indeed.
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W.B.’s NaNoWriMo progress report – as of midnight Nov. 4
Novel 1 – 408 new words, 51.3% to 40k goal
Novel 2 – 40% to 40k goal
Plan for end of 2021 – in progress
Plan for 2022 – in development
(I know a 700-word blog post doesn’t count against novel writing, but I mention it here anyway)