Q&A: Andy Partridge Talks About the Monkees

Q&A: Andy Partridge Talks About the Monkees

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For self-respecting music fans, Andy Partridge is rightly revered as one of the most important songwriters in popular music based on his stellar work in XTC.

But away from his own work, Partridge is a huge fan of rock and roll, from Pink Floyd to the Beatles, The Byrds to The Hollies, Small Faces to The Kinks, and all groups in between.

He’s also a diehard Monkees fan. So when he received the call to submit new songs for a Monkees album, he woodshedded and delivered a parcel of pop jewels embroidered with Monkee magic.

Andy shares his love of the Monkees and how he came to pen You Bring The Summer, a track off Good Times!, the group’s first new album in two decades.

You’ve been an uber Monkees fan since the beginning. How did the Monkees first come to your attention?

the monkees good times album art

Andy Partridge: I was the usual pop kid, you know, raised on the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and so on. British pop really,I didn’t find any American groups I could like. Then the Monkees hit our TV screens when I was 13 and I was hooked.

Great songs, funny fellas, what was not to like?  It also compounded in me the Hard Day’s Night and Help! thing of ‘the groups all live together and have a great time, with girls falling at their feet.” As a poor kid just into his teens, from a council estate in a nowhere town…well, gimme some of that. They helped set the mold that being a musical smartass was the way for me.

Share the backstory about your being the winner in a Monkees Monthly contest back in the late ’60s.

Andy Partridge: Two of my best friends got those little black and white photo magazines, Beatles Book and the Stones Book, so I decided I’d get Monkees Monthly, and we’d all swap around. At the time my mother worked at a local newsagents and I have to be honest, I don’t know whether those magazines were bought for me, or just…fell into her bag.

Was never really sure {sorry mum}. Ha ha. There was a drawing contest in one issue, draw a Monkee, so I thought I’d enter …for a giggle, not thinking I’d win.

XTC-VirginEpic

I knocked up a caricature of Micky as I was really into making caricatures of my school friends, pop musicians etc. Micky seemed the easiest to draw so I’ll do him. Blow me down, I was only one of the four winners. Got £10, a huge sum for me then. My dad said he’d give me the £11 extra needed for me to by a secondhand Grundig tape recorder for £21 ,which really helped launch me on the road to writing and recording.

With that band being such a part of your DNA, are there any XTC/Dukes of Stratosphear songs that have been sprinkled lightly with Monkee dust?

Andy Partridge: Not really, as the Monkees very only gently psychedelic. The Dukes aimed at the more overtly psyche groups like Floyd, Beatles, Satanic Majesties era Stones. Actually my favorite of the Monkees albums was Pisces Aquarius, which is about as far out as they got. Loved that record and still do. Daily Nightly and Star Collector are great little psych “lite” numbers.

What is the Monkees studio album that ticks the boxes for you and why?

Andy Partridge: Well, Pisces was my fave as I said, but I did have them all to pick from. Pisces was a combination of excellent songs with a light spray of space dust in the form of Micky’s Moog, there’s a TV series I’d love to see, Micky’s Moog. I reckon Meet the Monkees or Headquarters are in joint second places though?

Pick a few familiar and deep Monkees tracks that you favor and share why they resonated with you then and now.

Andy Partridge: Oh man, impossible…Pleasant Valley Sunday. Great song, delivered with spunk, great guitar riff and harmonies, wonderful production…and I LOVED that ending where everything was pushed deep into the reverb chamber.

A trick I ‘borrowed’ for the end of the XTC number Great Fire.

Clarksville of course; man that guitar intro. I STILL can’t quite play that quite right. Oh, Zor and Zam was another goodie. Actually, all in all Randy Scouse Git is probably my all out fave…Too many, too many Ken.

Did you have a chance to see the Monkees live in the UK in 1967 or when they reunited and toured as a foursome in the ’90s?

Andy Partridge: I think there may have been a bus from my school to go and see them live in 67, but I couldn’t afford the cost. To be honest I’m not the sort of person who enjoys seeing bands live, never have I ever been. It’s all about the records for me, that’s where the magic lives, in that black plastic.

In the 90’s I was aware of their tour, but was still not a gig goer. Had the records, thus I had the voodoo.

What was the thinking behind the type of songs you’d submit or the Monkees project?

Andy Partridge: I knew from Andrew (Sandoval), their manager, that they wanted to go back to the classic 66/67 sound, which I was in complete accordance with, and let’s face it, the Monkees are not about synths and samples {unless it’s Micky on his Moog bleeping and sweeping psychedelically} or all those mechanical sounds of this week’s pop.

An acoustic guitar powered bounce along, with a twanging electric hook and instant melodic song was what was required, and I enjoyed supplying a couple of those. I cut my songwriting teeth on their early material, I’m their torch bearer. They couldn’t have come to a better tailor.

Was there trepidation on your part give the chance that your songs would not be picked?

Andy Partridge: Oh big time. My chance to say ‘thank you’ and…they might not like it, EEEEKK!!? Thankfully they did, so phew!

As you know, there are many periods of the band, first two albums of bubblegum pop, artistic renaissance/Pinocchio becoming a boy era of Headquarters, psychedelic freakout era with Head.  Was there a certain era you wanted to salute with the song you submitted to the project?

Andy Partridge: I guess just the archetypal Monkees song, if such a thing exists? It would have to be instantly appealing, as all their great stuff was. It would have to have more hooks than a fishing tackle shop and stick in your head straight away…with a big dollop of joy involved. I’m not a very good keyboard player, so the demos had to be guitar powered and I have to admit to allowing my inner Neil Diamond roam free…except more in tune.

There was an ache that Davy isn’t around, as I’d love to have a go at a vaudeville style, hoofer song just for him too.

Were there specific elements you felt the songs needed both musically and lyrically to be a “Monkees” song?

Andy Partridge: Twanging guitar line, a la Clarksville, Love is Only Sleeping and Pleasant Valley Sunday, that was a MUST.  Also a cheeky kind of lyric with a dash of surrealism, like Micky’s for Randy Scouse Git, which had to be retitled for English release as it means ‘horny Liverpool bastard’ over here.

Something that BBC radio would have had a problem with. I didn’t flesh out my demos with harmonies as I didn’t want to dictate to them, I was really excited to hear what they’d come up with in that department? It had to have joy. Even the saddest Monkee song is delivered with a twinkle of “yeah, but it’ll get better soon”. Love ’em for that.

How did you first hear the news that you passed the audition?

Andy Partridge: Email. Felt wonderful for days.

Talk about full circle…From a personal sense of satisfaction, what’s it like for you, a first generation Monkees fan, to have a song on the new CD, one that’s being pegged as a single and one that sits at number two in their track list?

Andy Partridge: I could not believe it. Like a weird dream, where I dreamed I wrote a song or two for one of my favorite all time bands and then they recorded them, and made one a SINGLE!? Then I woke up, and found I had that I couldn’t make it up. If I’d have said this to the thirteen year old me, he would have laughed…and then rang the lunatic asylum.

What’s it like for you to to see the musician credits for your song taken from the liners? Not all the tracks on the album feature Micky, Mike and Peter but yours does. Well done!

Andy Partridge: That feels SO nice. I also know that Bobby Hart of Boyce and Hart plays keyboards on my other accepted song, Love’s What I Want For Us All, as I have the photo of him doing so. I’m flattered to the Nth degree.

There a nice line in You Bring The Summer, “the birds and the bees will fly around me…Even though we’re deep in January…When you come around, you bring the summer.” Was that a nod to the Monkees album, The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees?

Andy Partridge: Actually, the line I wrote was “Birds bees and Monkees will fly around me”, just to get Micky to self refer to one of my favorite albums of theirs. But he changed it at the last minute, I’m not sure why? Oh well. That smacked my cheekiness down a bit.

Have you heard the Monkees’ finished version of You Bring The Summer? If so, what are your impressions?

Andy Partridge: I’ve heard two versions, an early mix and vocals and a second far superior take and mix. It sounded just like…….the Mamas and Papas, ha!

It’s a dream man, I haven’t woken up.

It’s them playing and singing, giving it the full Monkee. They sound like the Monkees on MY song. Wow!

Besides You Bring The Summer, you sent on more songs for consideration. Can you describe them and let us know if any will be used by the band for a future release?

Andy Partridge: The two I wrote especially for them, and built with their classic style in mind were You Bring the Summer and Love’s What I Want. I know that You Bring The Summer is the first single, but I’m not sure what they’re doing with Love’s yet? B side, extra track, don’t know? I also sent over a few half sketched ideas and a couple of finished songs that I thought might suit, but they did go for the bespoke numbers in preference.

If any individual Monkee needs any more songs, I’d be delighted to supply.

Lastly, this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Monkees coming to life. What makes them special?

Andy Partridge: The same thing and a totally different thing; that makes other pop groups special and unique. They had a style and a way of singing and playing that is VERY recognizable and delightful. Their acting in the TV series was funny and so genuinely lovable.

It made a very deep impression on me; this goofy kid looking for something to emulate and use to pull himself up and out of poverty, and something to conquer a lack of confidence with. They were a great template for me.

No Monkees….means no XTC.

8 Responses to "Q&A: Andy Partridge Talks About the Monkees"

  1. Elizabeth   June 7, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    I wonder if Partridge knows the 1971 Micky Dolenz solo track “Easy On You,” featuring Peter Tork. It has a completely different Moog sound than the songs on The Monkees’ PISCES, more like a Martian skiffle band. (I became obsessed enough with “Easy On You” to blog about it recently, and I still think it should have been a hit.) Anyway, this interview made me very happy!

    Reply
  2. lonerose   June 7, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    I learned we share the same birthday, November 11! I’m one yr younger. I was also a huge fan of the Monkees at the same time you were back then. I can hear your excitement as one, clear as day because you sound like I did. Lol. Thanks so much for sharing your talent as a songwriter – I’m sure you helped in making Good Times an outstanding record.

    Reply
  3. Robert   June 8, 2016 at 12:38 am

    That is a sweet interview with Andy Partridge!! I think I still have a Dukes of Stratosphere” cassette somewhere!!… I love the tone of admiration that Andy has. Ben Gibbard has expressed his too.. this is soo heartwarmingmly full circle.. it’s a great time to be alive and a fan of music and the Monkees!!

    Reply
  4. Wiggsey   June 8, 2016 at 12:42 am

    That is a sweet interview with Andy Partridge!! I think I still have a Dukes of Stratosphere” cassette somewhere!!… I love the tone of admiration that Andy has. Ben Gibbard has expressed his too.. this is soo heartwarmingmly full circle.. it’s a great time to be alive and a fan of music and the Monkees!!

    Reply
  5. Wayne klein   June 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Excellent interview! The “Love” snag is going to be on the Japanese release of the album as an extra track.

    Reply
    • Wayne klein   June 9, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      That should read Love song. Darn spell check!

      Reply
  6. david riverstone   August 30, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Could I email Andy Partridge? I’d like to talk with him about the origins of his song Dear God. I love this song and lyrics.

    Reply
  7. tomcanty87   September 9, 2016 at 2:22 am

    Great interview.
    That’s probably the first time i ever heard someone say something about liking records more than live.
    I used to think the same and still do.

    Reply

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