Justus, an original studio album that was released during The Monkees’ 30th anniversary in 1996, is the first album to feature The Monkees writing, producing, and performing all the songs entirely by themselves, and the last album to feature all four Monkees.
Monkees have always been famously maligned for not writing their own
songs and playing their own instruments on the majority of their hit
recordings in the 1960s. Still, The Monkees at one point outsold both
The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined, proving that music
lovers and buyers connect above all else with the songs themselves
and the singers who sing them.
Justus, The Monkees prove that in addition to being fine
singers, they are also excellent musicians. In fact, they’re so
good that it’s easy to forget that they’re playing the
instruments in addition to singing. Micky Dolenz plays drums, Davy
Jones plays percussion, Peter Tork plays bass and keyboards, and
Michael Nesmith (the predominant holdout from various Monkees
reunions throughout the years, and the one who looks the least like
his former self) plays guitars.
favorite songs on the album are Nesmith’s progressive, rollicking
redo of his Monkees tune “Circle Sky,” the Nesmith-penned rant
rocker “Admiral Mike” with aggressive, in-your-face vocals by
Dolenz, the Dolenz hard rocker “Regional Girl,” Tork’s
Cars-like “Run Away From Life” sung by Jones and featuring an
‘80s-style synthesizer solo, Tork’s haunting “I Believe You,”
Dolenz’s self-reliance and self-empowerment ode “It’s My Life,”
and Jones’s album-closing anthem “It’s Not Too Late.”
light of the fact that Davy Jones is the first of The Monkees to
leave us, it’s especially fitting that his are the last lead vocals
on the album, especially on a song that could be as much about the
relationship of The Monkees as it is about the relationship of a
of this, no matter what the remaining Monkees do or don’t do, they
will never have any unfinished business.
Monkees Tidbit: I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Tork in the early
1990s at a local cable television station where I had been working.
Tork was the latest in a long line of vintage celebrity guests on the
poor man’s David Letterman show that was produced there. I was
working master control for the station (I had nothing to do with the
show at the time), and Tork came in asking for a bandage for his
nicked finger. (I had actually met him earlier in the evening and
gotten his autograph on a Monkees LP.) I don’t remember whether I
was able to give him a bandage or had to refer him somewhere else,
but, ah, what a memory! --RM