Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart are well known through their Monkees connection and through the many songs they wrote for other artists (a nice collection of those can be found on an Ace UK compilation called ACTION! THE SONGS OF TOMMY BOYCE AND BOBBY HART), but Tommy Boyce also made his own records, both before he hooked up with Bobby Hart and on occasion after. I vaguely remember as a childhood Monkees fan seeing a Tommy Boyce album (see pic) on RCA’s budget label, Camden, which came and went quickly. I always wondered what was on that because as a child I had no idea of Boyce’s previous history....and didn’t even know these were old recordings, although even as a child I knew Camden was a budget label because my parents had 99-cent albums on Camden. Boyce released 5 singles on RCA from 1961-63, and that material filled the Camden album, and can also be found here.

Boyce first recorded for Dot circa 1959-60, then moved on to RCA for a few years, then on to MGM and Colpix...all that material is on this CD (with 29 tracks), as well as a few early-to-mid 70s recordings that have a stripped-down basic-rock quality that sounds not unlike what was issued a few years later by those older artists who went “new wave” (think Peter Noone and THE TREMBLERS).

Yes, there are some saccharin early 60’s tracks here with pizzicato string solos instead of guitar solos, but between those, there are some excellent rocking singles, and fortunately his first RCA single, Along Came Linda, sounded like a cross between The Kalin Twins and Del Shannon, so he was not pegged solely as a dreamy “teen idol” type. Another single is cut from the Del Shannon “Hats Off To Larry” cloth, a few of them have a Dion-like flavor, one has a Frankie Ford ‘New Orleans’ feel, and a few of them could have been done by Rick Nelson at Decca or Johnny Burnette at Liberty. Also, anyone who records a single clearly influenced by Freddy Cannon’s “Abigail Beecher” (was it THAT big of a hit that it spawned imitations?) is a friend of mine (Little Suzy Somethin’)--he even does the Cannon-esque “Woo” at the end of the lines! Heck, there’s even a single inspired by The Newbeats (P’s and Q’s)! Boyce did not miss a trick, and he did it all well.

By the time he moved to MGM in 1965, he was echoing the jangly west-coast sound on “Pretty Thing,” and moving on to Colpix, his single of the “Where The Action Is” TV theme song (which he wrote) truly rocks out.

In the 66-67 period when he recorded as a solo for A&M and into the late 60’s, he was moving more into a style that had elements of west-coast singer-songwriter as well as Sunshine Pop (I can imagine this material fitting well into the playlist of Andrew Sandoval’s or Steve Stanley’s online radio shows). There’s also a quirky mostly-acoustic track from this period called “Alice My Sweet,” which is about Boyce’s relationship and history with his guitar, which could have become a novelty hit in some alternate universe.

The early 70’s material includes a single issued under the name “Christopher Cloud,” which is a cover of the old standard “Zip A Dee Doo Dah” done in the style of Free’s “All Right Now!” And the album ends with both sides of a 1962 single by The Destineers, an R&B vocal group that Boyce produced for RCA.
What is NOT included here is the material Boyce is best known for--The Monkees-related things, the Boyce and Hart material, and the 70’s things with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart. What’s clear from this 29-track European grey market collection is that Tommy Boyce, who had much more commercial success as a songwriter and a member of a duo (and a quartet with the ex-Monkees) than he had as a solo artist, was a multi-talented man who could write and perform solid mainstream rock-and-roll and pop-rock material in any style the label or the producer wanted. He needed to cover a lot of bases doing the material for the Monkees (and the somewhat saccharin earlier material prepared him well for writing songs for Davy Jones), and you can hear the roots for a lot of that here. Boyce died in the 1990’s, only 55--had he lived longer, he could no doubt have made a good living on the casino-oldies circuit performing the many hits he and Bobby Hart wrote. Unfortunately, the once active TommyBoyce.com website has now become vacant, looking for someone to acquire the domain.

Those looking for garage-y rock and roll should not go near this album--but I’ve tried to drop enough names in this review so that those who are so inclined will discover this collection, throwing together 29 obscure tracks for about 35 cents each. If you are a serious Monkees fan, you will probably be excited to discover this body of work from the man who was one-half of what was the early Monkees sound, before they took over their own career.

I’m also old enough to remember Boyce and Hart’s appearance on the Bewitched TV show (Boyce is the one in the cowboy hat and fringe jacket), which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/8hydnv1XSBA

1 comment:

Spin Turlock said...

Funny, I just bought a version of "Blow You A Kiss In the Wind" credited to Boyce solo..