On February 21 we lost The Monkees’ multi-instrumentalist Peter Tork. We look back at his work with this popular ‘60s band who saw a resurgence in the MTV era in the ‘80s and again in recent years with new recordings.
By Warren Kurtz
Left to right: Peter, Micky, Davy, Mike
Flip side: Words
A side: Pleasant Valley Sunday
Top 100 debut: July 22, 1967
Peak position: 3 (A side) / 11 (flip side)
In the summer of 1967, the year when The Monkees were the No. 1 album act in Billboard, Peter Tork made his singles debut as a vocalist joining Micky Dolenz on the flip side “Words.” Like their debut single “Last Train to Clarksville” and the subsequent single’s successful flip side “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “Words” was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. This song, with a psychedelic sound, had Micky sing lines one and three of each verse followed by Peter on lines two and four.
In the ‘60s, Peter also traded vocals with Davy Jones on “Shades of Gray” from Headquarters, the album that also included Peter’s composition, co-written with Joseph Richards, about love, understanding and freedom called “For Pete’s Sake,” which was used as the closing number on the second season of The Monkees’ television show.
Peter sang lead vocals on “Your Auntie Grizelda” from the quartet’s best selling album More of The Monkees. He, along with the other Monkees and Diane Hilderbrand, co-wrote “Goin’ Down,” the fast paced flip side of “Daydream Believer.”
In the late ‘60s, after their television show was cancelled, Peter was the first Monkee to leave the group, followed by Mike Nesmith, until the Monkees were a duo of Davy and Micky in 1970 before disbanding.
In 1976, Davy, Micky and Peter reunited for The Monkees’ 10th anniversary to record The Monkees Fan Club single “Christmas is My Time of Year.”
In the 1980’s, MTV helped bring back popularity to the group, playing episodes of their mid-‘60s television show. Rhino released Monkees albums, keeping the same label design as the original Colgems red and white label. In 1986, Micky and Peter, for The Monkees’ 20th anniversary, released the single “That Was Then, This Is Now” which reached No. 20. Davy rejoined the group for the album Pool It the following year, which included Peter’s song “Gettin’ In,” fitting the times musically, with a slight Men Without Hats style.
In the 90’s The Monkees appeared on episodes of the television show “Boy Meets World” where Peter had a recurring role as the father of Topanga Lawrence, played by Danielle Fishell.
In 1996, all four Monkees reunited for the 30th anniversary album Justus. Peter’s “Run Away from Life” was in line with “Gettin’ In” from the prior decade. In 2016, all four members, including Davy posthumously, were included on their 50th anniversary album Good Times! Peter was featured on the Gerry Goffin and Carole King composition “Wasn’t Born to Follow.” Last year, The Monkees’ Christmas Party was released with Peter singing “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
In recent years, Peter toured with The Monkees and led his group Shoe Suede Blues. He passed away at his home in Connecticut at the age of 77.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.