Davy Jones died yesterday. That news got me thinking about another member of the Monkees team I had once the honor to hang out with — also now in his grave – Tommy Boyce. Most of the Monkees’ songs were written by either Neil Diamond or the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
It was a snowy December evening in Nashville when I ran into my friend Keith Christopher. I said, “Guess who I met last night — Tommy Boyce!”
“No kidding,” said Keith. “I saw him just last week on I Dream of Jeannie.”
“He was down at Tavern on the Row, holding court with a big crowd of people around him.”
“Maybe he’s there tonight.”
“Let’s go see.”
Tommy Boyce was there, but without the crowd. I gave him a big hello, and he remembered me. At his invitation Keith and I slid into the bench across the table from him and prepared to hear some stories.
Tommy was ready to tell some stories. He got the title of “She” from the card catalog at a library, where he used to go hunting for titles. “We weren’t getting anywhere until we learned this: always write from the title.” He called Bobby Hart from a booth in the library and they wrote the song over the phone. He also said Barbara Eden was a very nice person. And he told us how he came to write for the Monkees.
“I got a call from Donny Kirshner. He said, ‘I need a theme song for four guys who will do anything, anytime, anywhere.’ So my partner and I took a guitar, left our office and started walking down Sunset Boulevard. I had the Dave Clark Five song “Catch Us If You Can” in my head. I loved the way it started with the big A minor chord. So I strummed an A minor and sang, ‘Here we come, walking down the street.’ People were staring at us, so I had my next line: ‘We get the funniest looks from everyone we meet…’”
As the evening wound down, Tommy wanted to show us his acoustic guitar. We went out to the parking lot. It was snowing. His Jeep, with a front tag that said “Elvis,” was parked under a large tree. Tommy extracted the guitar and we started singing Monkees songs. A group of carolers came down the street, singing in a sort of on-pitch, professional sort of way that made me think they were union backup vocalists – and really who else would go caroling in the middle of the night on Music Row? They dropped “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” and joined us in a circle in the falling snow, all singing together “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone.”