Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Boyce & Hart - Out And About

(A&M, 1967)

Fresh back from a weeklong fact-finding mission to the West coast, and I’m happy to report that the trip was a success, as I did indeed find many facts. Even at this distance I can hear your eyebrows arching in a questioning manner, so let me present a sampling that will prove my investigatory prowess. FACT: You can assemble a strong Moody Blues collection for under $10. FACT: People in San Francisco wear what seem to be fashionable hats. FACT: Gothy drag queens do not always provide funny commentary to Death Wish 3. FACT: Third-story house-fires spread horizontally (to the third floors of adjacent buildings) rather than downward. FACT: Sometimes passersby without warning punch a bacon-wrapped hot dog that you’re holding for another member of your party. See? Those are just five of the many, many truths that I gathered over the course of my research on that crazy side of the country, and I’m sure we’ll discuss those and more at great length in the weeks to come, so “stay tuned,” as they say. Right now, however, it’s time to have a frank one-on-one about Boyce & Hart, two guys I first became aware of while watching a Bewitched rerun on a high-school sick-day years ago. The episode in question is cornier than the corniest corn you’ve ever shucked, but it led me to a song – “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight” – that I’ll forever swear is one of the best bubblegum-pop records of all time. Unforgettable. Perfect, even. And while I can’t look the internet in the eye and claim that they ever bettered that masterpiece, there are more than enough goodies in their discography to warrant a little digging: not only did Boyce & Hart write many of the Monkees’ best hits, they also put out a handful of gold-medal singles and a few fun-timey albums (except that last one, which has all the “serious” material on it). Take this single, for example. Cocksure, bass-driven verses build to peppier shouted choruses (“Out and about!!”) after a thumping drum bridge that’d do those badasses the Dave Clark Five proud. The arrangement is near genius, with those tension-building bursts of rhythm guitar, layered backing vocals, and sawing violins all surfacing, reappearing, and overlapping in the most effective ways possible in order to deliver a simple message of teen boredom and freedom. Turning the record over, “My Little Chickadee” is the sort of drippy, Tin Pan Alley goofiness that Davy Jones would warble on a Monkee album, but it at least displays a certain level of jokey self-awareness in its Jimmy Durante-style spoken bits. Still, forget about it; “Out and About” is king here, and it’s solid evidence of these guys’ brilliance. Pop fans oughta hear ’em or be sorry. FACT!

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