What isn't widely known is that Mike Nesmith of The Monkees was an accomplished songwriter before becoming part of the TV group. And probably the best-known he wrote was "Different Drum."
This video is of Nesmith and fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz in concert singing the song, with Dolenz. It comes from Sept. 15, 2021, not long before Nesmith passed away in December, so it's clear that he's not in the best shape here, though Dolenz is enthusiastic and sings the lead. Dolenz introduces it with a wonderful story about how Nesmith wrote the song before The Monkees, but it hadn't sold yet and offered it to the producers -- and explains why they didn't end up singing it.
(He's a guest on an episode of the Naked Lunch podcast I've been posting here, and tells the story in even greater and funnier and more loving detail. I'll be posting it in the coming weeks, though have a bunch of other episodes before it.)
It's hard not to prefer the glorious version by Linda Ronstadt, which just soars -- and which started a great career. But the driving rendition here is terrific, as well. And the studio version of the song that Dolenz recorded for his Dolenz Sings Nesmith album is longer and even better, I think, than the live performance here on stage.
Okay, just for the sake of completeness and comparison, here is that studio recording I mentioned above. It's got a different, better arrangement. I still prefer Linda Ronstadt's rich, ethereal version, but this is very good, and a very valid, strong "driving" interpretation. Hers comes across perhaps more about personal independence, and this seems a bit more about not being ready to put down roots anywhere.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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