“Pleasant Valley Sunday” was The Monkees’ fourth Top 5 US hit and Gold Record in less than a year, helping cement their stardom. But, though it’s heavily associated with the happy-go-lucky, manufactured TV rock band, the lyrics are utterly different than any of their other big hits. Written by the legendary Goffin-King after the couple moved to the suburbs, the lyrics mock suburban life and cast a critical eye on materialism. They contrast with the upbeat music, music upbeat enough to fool listeners into thinking it’s a happy song.
Admiral is the covers project of The High Seasons/Sputnik/Jehova Waitresses/Terrible Parade bassist Alan Grandy. He started the project nine years ago with a full band tribute to The Beatles’ Please Please Me. This time, he’s created a full-length tribute to The Monkees’ fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.. “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was the only hit song from that album. Grady’s given his version the new title Songs the TV Taught Us (why not name a Monkees tribute after a Cramps album?). And this time it’s just him playing all the instruments.
Grandy takes a far more sedate approach to this upbeat folk rocker. He replaces the famous guitar riff with a banjo, and Mickey Dolenz’s strident lead vocal is replaced with a voice that is half whispered. The pace is noticeably slower too. Whereas, if you’re paying attention to the original, it sounds like The Monkees are criticizing the people who live in the suburbs, or mock celebrating them, it sounds like Grandy is merely sad, perhaps even wistful.
It’s certainly a peculiar take on the song’s lyrics, but it’s not like the original was a clear match between lyrics and music either. What’s fun is how low-key this version is, how sedate and how folky. None of the bombast of the original recording is present and it’s just Grandy and a couple of instruments.
Check it out, and click through for the full album: