Tomorrow & Me: Michael Nesmith’s And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ at 50

How this classic 1972 solo album helped further the Monkee’s Americana ascent

Back cover of And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, 7a Records 1972/2022

Once a Monkee, always a Monkee? Mike Nesmith proved decidedly that wouldn’t be the case.

Granted, he had made that clear in the immediate aftermath of his departure from the so-called Pre-Fab Four — his first four albums in the company of his various combos, the First National Band and its successor, The Second National Band — that he had more serious intents in mind.

His affection for country music had been apparent even with the Monkees, as evidenced by the original songs he contributed to the band during its heyday — “You Just May Be the One,” “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”, “Mary, Mary,” and “Listen to the Band,”chief among them. Not surprisingly then, he was judged to be one of two true musicians in the band — Peter Tork could claim that distinction as well — and, equally significantly a source for songs beyond their outside stable of songwriters (Goffin and King, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart, etc.).

Notably too, Nesmith’s efforts weren’t confined to his own interests. Two of his most memorable compositions — “Different Drum” and “Some of Shelly’s Blues” — became seminal songs for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, respectively.

Michael Nesmith And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, 7a Records 1972/2022

Buoyed by the confidence he felt in the fact that he could successful operate on his own, And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’, released in August 1972, made an even more profound leap into the realms of a singular stance. Although all of its songs had been written either before or during his tenure with the Monkees, it proved to be a singular statement both conceptually and philosophically. It was a decidedly stripped down affair, a daring choice in a pop-centric world. So too, with only the sole support of legendary Nashville session man Red Rhodes on pedal steel, it clearly eschewed any hint of commercial consideration. The title itself bore that out; Nesmith later claimed it was meant as a sarcastic rebuke to his record label’s constant demand that he write consistent commercial fodder.

Notably, the one song that fit that bill, “Different Drum,” departs dramatically from the hit version recorded by the Stone Poneys, given a folksy flavor that brings it closer in spirit to the early take by the Greenbriar Boys, the group that recorded it originally in 1966. Nesmith imbues it with an honesty and emotion that best reflects some rural  roots.

So too are several other entries that also reflected those down home designs. “The Upside of Goodbye,” “Listening,” “Keep On,” “Harmony  Constant,” and “Two Different Roads” are among the most astute examples, courtesy of course of the flourishes of Rhodes’ pedal steel and Nesmith’s steady strum and evocative vocals. Notably, he signed off on the liner notes as “Papa Nez,” a moniker he’d use repeatedly throughout his solo career.

When Nesmith passed away late last year, most of the obits referenced his tenure in the Monkees, not surprisingly so. After all, whenever anyone passes away who once made an indelible impression on our younger years, there’s more than a whiff of nostalgia invariably intrudes. In Nesmith’s case however, he should also be remembered as an early Americana innovator who, along with The Byrds, the Dirt Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco helped breach the barriers between country music and rock ‘n’ roll.

And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’ was one of those records that proved the boundaries were being broken. 

 

 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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