Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On my turntable (Monkees edition): Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, ltd.

Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones ltd (1967)
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, ltd (or PACJ as I'll call it, because it's such a long friggin title!) is the Monkees music peak, in my opinion. By this point the band knew what they were doing, and along with producer Chip Douglas they made an album that beautifully captured the "summer of love" vibe of 1967. The album's first single, released in July, 1967 ("Pleasant Valley Sunday" b/w "Words") was a knockout, hitting #3 on the singles chart, indicating the more daring and psychedelic direction the band was headed with their music.
July, 1967

On PACJ the Monkees brought in session musicians to augment their own playing. Only one track, "Cuddly Toy", maintains the band formula employed on the former LP, the wonderfully organic Headquarters. I can't say that I blame them -- Headquarters was a big effort, one that was perhaps too big to continue replicating if you're also shooting a weekly television series and performing world tours to thousands of shrieking kids. Although PACJ was recorded amidst all this chaos, it is considered by many fans to be the group's best effort.

PACJ is one of my top five favorite albums of all time. There isn't a dud on the LP. My earliest memories of PACJ date back to pre-school; My brother and I were lent the first four Monkees albums from a neighbor down the block, and since we were too young to know about proper record care we just scratched the hell out of them, so she let us keep them. When I hear PACJ today it still reminds me of early spring mornings and the smell of crayons.

Fancy items of interest, in my opinion:
  • PACJ features the first use ever of a synthesizer on a rock record. At the time only three Moog synthesizers existed in the world, and one of them belonged to Micky Dolenz. The incredibly far-out song "Daily Nightly" (written by Nesmith) prominently features Micky playing the instrument, creating noises that were unlike anything the public had ever heard.
  • Curiously, The Monkees released the single "Daydream Believer" one month before the release of PACJ, even though the song is not included on the album. The single's b-side, the scorching "Goin' Down", remained a b-side only track, although at one point it was considered for inclusion on PACJ. "Daydream Believer" was eventually included on the band's fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968).
  • The Monkees use of psychedelic substances was beginning to influence both their music and their television show. There are occasional moments on the show where The Monkees are noticeably stoned, the most obvious being the interview segment at the end of the "Fairy Tale" episode (which is followed by a fantastic clip of "Daily Nightly" with Micky sitting at his Moog)
  • PACJ was recently issued by Rhino as a budget CD (just the album, no extras). If you've never heard this album, now's your chance to pick it up at a very reasonable price. The album is also available from Sundazed records on high quality 180g vinyl.  

Up next: The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees...

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