“Last Train to Clarksville” was the first hit single by The Monkees in 1966. The song was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart who had written hits for Jay & the Americans (“Come a Little Bit Closer”) and Paul Revere and the Raiders (“(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”). They would end up writing many hit songs for The Monkees and also the theme song foe the TV Show.
Much has been written over the years about The Monkees not being able to play their instruments. The truth the four guys were hired as actors and had to spend much time on the recording stage. So most of the music was recorded ahead of time and then after filming the TV show one or more of the group would come in and add vocals. Mike Nesmith had recorded before joining the group but without much success. Peter Tork had played banjo and guitar in Greenwich Village folk clubs before moving to LA. Davy Jones was had achieved some success on the musical stage in New York. He had appeared with the cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show the same night The Beatles made their first appearance. Micky Dolenz had been a child actor and had starred in the Saturday Morning series Circus Boy (under the name “Mickey Braddock”). He would end up doing most of the lead vocals. He didn’t know how to play the drums when he was hired for the TV show but quickly learned.
The Monkees TV show would only last two years but the group lasted until 1971. Even though Davy Jones died in 2012, Dolenz and Tork toured in 2016 as The Monkees. Nesmith only played with them at one concert.
“Last Train to Clarksville” was the top song on the Cash Box record chart for the weeks of Oct. 23 – Nov. 5, 1966. It was on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for just the week of Oct. 30 – Nov. 5. The Monkees will be back on the top of the charts at the end of 1966.