The other day at The Record Room I found a mint copy of The Monkees’ Instant Replay on Colgems. It was the last album I needed to complete my collection of early-era Monkees records; the first LP they released after Peter Tork left the group in 1969. The 1985 Rhino reissue of this record turns up occasionally, but I was holding out for an original; this one had the original shrink wrap and a $2.69 price sticker from Totem department store.
The clerk who rang up my sale grabbed a copy of Changes from under the counter. “We’ve got $100 on this one,” he told me. “I’m not sure we’ll get that much.”
“I’ll bet you will,” I said. “It’s the last Monkees album on Colgems, one of the rarest. It’s in great shape, and that’s the original press.”
The guy laughed. “I don’t know that there was a second pressing of this one,” he said, handing me my bagged-up vinyl score for the day.
Andrew Sandoval would know, I thought to myself. A few days later I called Sandoval to talk about The Monkees, that pop-rock platinum-selling perennial launched in 1966 as a TV cash-in on the Beatles’ success. I forgot to ask Sandoval if Changes had gotten a second pressing; he was slammed for time, having just returned from a record show where he found a rare Jan and Dean 45 for his collection, and had about a half-hour to talk before the Monkees sound check at a Portland concert hall.
Sandoval is that rarest of things: a super-fan who wound up managing the band he loves. “It wasn’t something I aspired to,” he admitted to me. “In 1989 I was working for Rhino Records, doing a Monkees out-takes compilation called Missing Links 2, and from that I got to know the guys. Over the years we developed some real trust.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic grounded the band last year, Sandoval found himself trapped at home with nothing to do. He spent several months completely overhauling The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation, a book he’d published in 2005. He’s added entire sections about the group’s demise in the late 60s, and focused on those last few Monkees albums, the ones that came out as the group’s popularity was waning and the ones I’ve been obsessed with lately.
“Those records are a major focal point of my revised book,” Sandoval assured me. “I wanted to highlight that period because so little is known. All those artistic left turns they took on those last albums, where people were saying, ‘You ruined the Monkees, you killed them, you should have just kept doing the pop stuff like when you first started out.’ But if they hadn’t made all those weird records, you and I would not be talking now.”
When CBS began airing Monkees reruns on Saturday mornings in 1969, the network spliced in songs from those “weird records,” but it didn’t work. “The record label was looking at how Monkees records were selling in 1966 and comparing those huge numbers to the sales of the newer albums,” Sandoval explained. “And kids didn’t buy Monkees records in the same numbers anymore. So those albums were considered failures.”
Like me, Sandoval likes those weird Monkees records. He’s a record collector who owns all the Monkees albums and singles but said he’s not a completist; he doesn’t feel compelled to own all seven domestic variations of the soundtrack to Head, the Monkees movie from 1968.
“There are fans who do collect everything,” he reminded me. “They know all the details. They’ll ask Michael Nesmith who the guitarist is on a particular track, and if he says he doesn’t remember they say it means he’s lost it. A lot of fans don’t see that the Monkees are pretty humble about their work, and they haven’t studied every detail of every song they recorded. The only Monkee who knew all their records inside and out was Davy, and he’s gone. He still knew the bongo parts on ‘Can You Dig It.’ Fans want absolute answers, and sometimes when it comes to the records, there are none.”
If fans are occasionally annoying, Sandoval still considers it part of his job to make them happy.
“Sometimes the Monkees will be saying, ‘Hey, let’s go out on stage and do reggae versions of our songs,” he said cheerfully. “And I’ll be saying, ‘No, fans want to hear more songs from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones,” referring to the band’s fourth album. “Your fans are asking for that.”
The Monkees farewell tour strikes a happy medium, offering both the band’s many hits and some deeper, fan-favorite cuts from more obscure later albums.
“In both cases, there’s something about the Monkees music that’s special,” Sandoval said. “On opening night, Micky was singing ‘As We Go Along’, and I got tears in my eyes. These records were supposed to be quickly made trash that would sell to little kids, but all these years later, you can tell they always were a lot more than that.”
The Monkees. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, September 19. Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets are $56.50 to $76.50. Visit the Celebrity Theatre website.