Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN, AND JONES LTD
49 years ago today, The Monkees were sitting atop the Billboard 200 with their fourth album, thereby providing the group with their fourth consecutive chart-topping LP. Sadly, the streak would stop there, but four #1 albums in a row is nothing to sneeze at.
Like HEADQUARTERS before it, PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN, AND JONES LTD found the members of The Monkees playing their own instruments, if not quite to the same extent as they had on the previous album, but there was a notable shift in the material, with Michael Nesmith taking lead vocals on five tracks and Mickey Dolenz only singing on three tracks. Dolenz certainly wasn’t being left out in the cold, though: in addition to his vocals, he also made history by making The Monkees’ album one of the first ever to feature a Moog synthesizer. Indeed, as most Monkees fans know, it was Micky’s personal Moog, and it was one of the first 20 Moogs ever sold.
Although only one single was released from PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN, AND JONES LTD, it was one of the group’s most memorably efforts: “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. There were plenty of other viable contenders in the mix, however, including Jeff Barry’s “She Hangs Out,” Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Love is Only Sleeping,” Harry Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy,” Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s “Words,” and Michael Martin Murphey’s “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?” And that’s not even mentioning Nesmith’s songwriting contributions, “Daily Nightly” and “Don’t Call on Me,” or “Star Collector,” the Goffin/King composition which closes out the album and features some serious Moog action.
The Monkees were no more The Beatles than The Beatles were The Monkees, but if you wanted to force a comparison between the two bands, then it’s easy to view PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN, AND JONES LTD as their SGT. PEPPER. It’s all over the place stylistically, but the results are among the best of the band’s career. It’s a bit more underrated than it ought to be, however, so if you’re finding this premise difficult to accept, this would be perfect time to give it another spin. Trust us: it’s better than you remember…unless you remember it as being great, in which case it’s just as good as it’s always been.