The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for the ‘Boyce and Hart’ Category

Hey Hey! They’re Boyce and Hart – And You Can Help Complete Their Documentary!

with 8 comments

Boyce and Hart Movie Poster

For a few years in the halcyon days of the sixties, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were on top of the world. Singers, songwriters and producers, Boyce and Hart – individually or collectively – were behind some of the most enduring hits of that era or any other: “Last Train to Clarksville,” “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Hurt So Bad,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “Valleri,” “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” and of course, the immortal “Theme from The Monkees.” As if turning out hits for The Monkees and so many others wasn’t enough, Tommy and Bobby recorded three hip albums for A&M Records as a performing duo.  They reached the Top 10 in 1967 with “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite,” which crackles with youthful abandon, energy and, frankly, a killer AM radio-ready hook. Yet the Boyce and Hart story isn’t as well-known as the team’s most famous songs. That’s all about to change, however, with the upcoming release of Boyce and Hart: The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em. And this feature-length documentary needs your help.

The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em, for the first time, fixes the spotlight on the lives and career of Tommy Boyce (who died in 1994) and Bobby Hart (who is very much alive and a key participant/narrator in the film). It’s not Boyce and Hart’s first brush with the silver screen; the team wrote music for such motion pictures as The Ambushers and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. On television, the duo also had a high profile. Not only were they The Monkees’ favorite and most recorded songwriters, but the telegenic tunesmiths made appearances on I Dream of Jeannie (opposite no less a personage than Phil Spector!), The Flying Nun and Bewitched. On the latter sitcom, Tommy and Bobby played what was arguably their grooviest concert ever – at the otherworldly affair for the elite “in crowd” of witches and warlocks, The Cosmos Cotillion! Elizabeth Montgomery even joined them during the episode to perform their 1969 single “A Kiss in the Wind” as good witch Samantha’s deliciously scheming cousin Serena. Samantha hoped to send those “howling hippies” back to Earth, but even she couldn’t help dancing along!

In addition to their work onscreen and on record, Boyce and Hart also were active participants in the sixties political revolution. Their final A&M single was entitled “L.U.V. (Let Us Vote),” and advocated for the right of teenagers to vote and the voting age to be reduced to eighteen. But by the end of the decade, the duo had broken up, torn apart by personal and professional conflicts. In the mid-seventies, however, they were reunited with The Monkees’ Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart, touring around the world and releasing both a studio and a live album. After the new group disbanded, they turned their attention once again to solo endeavors. Hart went on to receive an Academy Award nomination in 1983 for his song “Over You” for the film Tender Mercies; Boyce contributed to a number of recordings by artists including Iggy Pop and Darts.

The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em is a labor of love for writer-subject Hart, writer-producer-director Rachel Lichtman and writer-producer Andrew Sandoval. On such indispensable projects over the years as Varese Sarabande’s 1995 various-artists compilation The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and 2005’s A&M anthology I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight: The Best of Boyce and Hart – not to mention the numerous Monkees projects which he has spearheaded for the Rhino label – Sandoval has kept the B&H flame burning bright.  The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em promises to raise the duo’s profile even higher. According to the film’s official information, it has been compiled from “never-before-seen home movies, photographs and audio interviews combined with one-of-a-kind archival television clips, set against the Boyce and Hart songs that outsold both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined in 1967.” No, that’s not a misprint! Narrator Bobby Hart is joined in the film by Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith, Kim Fowley and Keith Allison, all of whom have given new interviews. (Paul Revere and the Raiders’ Allison is also the subject of Real Gone Music’s recent release In Action: The Complete Columbia Sides Plus! for which I provided the liner notes based on an interview with Keith. It features “Action Action Action” and “I Wanna Be Free,” both penned by Boyce and Hart!) Vintage commentary from the late Boyce is also featured as an integral part of the film.

Where do you come in? Hit the jump for full information on how you can be a part of this important undertaking! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 14, 2014 at 09:55

Ace Goes Where the Action Is! Label Celebrates the Songs of Boyce and Hart, Don Covay, Otis Blackwell

with 4 comments

Chain, chain, chain…chain of fools…

Don’t be cruel…to a heart that’s true…

Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees…people say we monkey around…

Those three songs are still among the most recognizable in rock and soul, yet they barely scratch the surface of the songwriting careers of Don Covay, Otis Blackwell and the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, respectively.  Ace Records has recently searched the discographies of all of those gentlemen to create the latest entries in the label’s definitive Songwriters Series.

Though tour itineraries have often been known to include some off-the-beaten path locales, perhaps no venue was more far out than the one Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart got to play in 1970: the Cosmos Cotillion, the otherworldly bash for the “in” crowd of witches and warlocks.   As if writing some of the Monkees’ most beloved songs wasn’t in and of itself a guarantee to immortality, Boyce and Hart attained it among some actual (well, for television!) immortals, when they joined Elizabeth Montgomery on the sitcom Bewitched for the most groovy magical happening this side of the Witches’ Convention.  At the Cosmos Cotillion, the duo performed “A Kiss in the Wind,” their 1969 single said to have been penned by “good witch” Samantha’s devious cousin Serena!  And although that catchy composition isn’t among the 26 tracks on Action! The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, this new release is still the most comprehensive collection ever of the team’s greatest hits, and makes a fine companion to Varese Sarabande’s 1995 The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.

This fun-filled new anthology chronicles the Boyce and Hart story not only via their joint compositions but by those crafted with other co-writers.  Tommy and Bobby first befriended each other in 1959, and began seriously writing as a team in 1963, but their career together didn’t really take off until they were paired in 1965 by Screen Gems.  The music publisher and television offshoot of Columbia Pictures was home to three shows on which Boyce and Hart eventually guest-starred (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun) and a little sitcom called…The Monkees.  But prior to taking Hollywood by storm at Screen Gems, Boyce and Hart had, individually and collectively, amassed hit after hit.  Boyce was just 19 when he wrote “Be My Guest” for Fats Domino in 1959.  He co-wrote Curtis Lee’s Phil Spector-produced “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” in 1961; though it’s not included here, the B-side “Beverly Jean” (also helmed by Spector) is present.  As for Hart sans Boyce, he wrote one of Little Anthony and the Imperials’ most enduring songs when he joined Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein to compose “Hurt So Bad” in 1965.  A lesser-known Randazzo/Hart tune for the Royalettes, “Never Again,” is one of this compilation’s highlights.  But the first major Boyce/Hart song was 1964’s “Come a Little Bit Closer,” the slice of sly storytelling and pop perfection that became that group’s biggest chart hit.

The mariachi-flecked “Come a Little Bit Closer” led to the Screen Gems contract, and Boyce and Hart were on their way when they were assigned the task of writing demos for a “fab faux” known as The Monkees.  Soon, Boyce and Hart scored a production deal for the group, as well, writing and producing The Monkees’ first No. 1 (“Last Train to Clarksville,” performed here by The Standells).  Although Boyce and Hart’s days were numbered as The Monkees asserted more creative control over their destinies, some 24 of the duo’s songs were recorded by the group.  Three have been selected here: the dynamic “Valleri” and “P.O. Box 9847” and the ubiquitous “(Theme From) The Monkees.”  Other Monkees songs, in addition to “Clarksville,” are heard from other artists, including The Flies’ 1966 “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” and Sir Raleigh and the Cupons’ “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day,” both of which predated the release of The Monkees’ own versions.  Trivia note: Dewey Martin of Buffalo Springfield was the Cupons’ frontman!  1966 was a particularly good year for the team of Boyce and Hart; nearly one-third of this anthology is drawn from that twelve-month period including the Columbia single of “Action, Action, Action” sung by Where the Action Is star Keith Allison.  This rip-roaring theme song replaced Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon’s “Where the Action Is” (written by Boyce and Steve Venet) on Dick Clark’s ABC-TV programVersatile singer-guitarist Allison, later of Paul Revere and the Raiders, followed the single up with an In Action LP which also featured Boyce and Hart’s “I Wanna Be Free.”

In 1967, the hot A&M label signed Boyce and Hart as a performing team, and from their three A&M long-players comes the infectious title track of their second album.  It was their biggest hit as performers: “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.”  As much as any of the tracks written for The Monkees, the song captured Boyce and Hart’s mastery of the pop song aimed at the teenage crowd but so elegantly constructed as to “have legs.”  It opens this compilation with a burst of pure energy.  Like all good things, though, Tommy and Bobby’s partnership came to an end in 1970, though both artists resurfaced apart and together, and remained friends until Boyce’s death by his own hand in 1994.  With hits and rarities from Del Shannon, The Shangri-Las, Dino, Desi and Billy, Chubby Checker, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Action! will transport you to some very groovy times, indeed.  Mick Patrick and Harvey Williams supply the copious liner notes, with an essay and track-by-track annotation.  Bring on Volume 2, please!

After the jump: there’s more action ahead with Don Covay and Otis Blackwell! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 19, 2012 at 10:05