Both members of The Monkees have their birthdays today! Happy birthday to Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith. Below is an excerpt from Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear, by Rich Podolsky.
With all the publicity he had received, Kirshner was getting quite a requtation, and his ego swelled a little more once he began guiding the musical career of the Monkees.
In 1965, producer Bob Rafelson approached Bert Schneider with an idea. Rafelson was inspired by the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night, which not only featured the group’s songs but showed their happy-go-lucky wackiness as well. He wanted to do a TV series with four actors who would play a wacky American foursome. Schneider agreed and the two formed their own company, Raybert Productions, and sold the show to Screen Gems.
Screen Gems put out a wide casting call and finally settled on Americans Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Englishman Davy Jones. The company planned a weekly TV show, which would feature the group’s slapstick antics and a song or two.
For the music, the company relied heavily on Kirshner. And he delivered. He selected and executive-produced all of their songs, several of which were written by Jeff Barry and Neil Diamond, two of the decade’s greatest songwriters. For their first single, Kirschner carefully picked “Last Train to Clarksville,” which was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who were new in the Kirschner stable.
After “Clarksville” went to No. 1, Kirshner somehow talked Neil Diamond into giving the Monkees “I’m a Believer,” even though he wanted to record it himself. At the time, Diamond was already a successful performer, having struck with “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry,” the latter reaching No. 6. Talking him into giving up “I’m a Believer” may have been Kirshner’s greatest accomplishment for Screen Gems.
In 1958, long before he created and hosted Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the most dynamic rock-and-roll series in television history, before he developed the Monkees and created the Archies, Don Kirshner was a 23-year-old kid with just a dream in his pocket. Five years later he was the prince of pop music. He did it by building Aldon Music, a song publishing firm, from scratch. This is about how he did it – with teenage discoveries Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka, and more.
By 1960, at the ripe old age of 25, Kirshner had built the most powerful publishing house in the business, leading Time magazine to call him “the Man with the Golden Ear.” In five short years he coaxed and guided his teenage prodigies to write more than 200 hits. And they weren’t just hits, as it turned out, but standards – including “On Broadway,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “I Love How You Love Me,” “Who Put the Bomp,” and “The Locomotion” – songs that have become the soundtrack of a generation. “We weren’t trying to write standards,” said one songwriter. “We were just trying to please Donnie.”