After leaving The Monkees in 1970, Mike Nesmith was at a musical crossroads. He wanted to continue writing and recording music. At the same time, he was eager to leave behind his Monkee Mike persona. He formed the First National Band by merging his love for country music and rock and roll. However, The Monkees’ influence appeared to make its way into his new group’s first single from him. It sounded exactly like a song on the band’s fifth studio album, The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees.
‘The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees’ was the group’s last album as a foursome
Nesmith, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, and Davy Jones’ last recording as a foursome was The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees. Peter Tork would exit the band for good in 1968.
Subsequently, the album contains one of the band’s most enduring hits, “Daydream Believer,” whose B-side was “Goin Down.” A second song, “Valleri,” charted, backed by Nesmith’s “Tapioca Tundra.”
The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees was the first of the group’s albums not to reach No. 1, hitting a high spot of No. 3 on the charts. However, the LP still sold a million units thanks to the success of “Daydream Believer.” However, the release had an enduring tune whose melody would be borrowed by Nesmith for his first post-Monkees release with The First National Band.
The First National Band’s ‘Joanne’ sounded eerily like The Monkees’ ‘Magnolia Simms’
“Magnolia Simms” was a track on The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees. The song featured Nesmith yodeling and picked up on the old-timey style popularized in 1967 by Paul McCartney in The Beatles’ hit, “When I’m 64.” “Magnolia Simms” ended with scratches, skipping, and slight feedback, which slow to its overall vintage sound.
Mike wrote the song with Charlie Rockett, one of two collaborations with Nez that made it onto The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees. The other tune was Auntie’s Municipal Courtco-written with Keith Allison.
While “Magnolia Simms” is a tune beloved by Monkees fans for its offbeat nature, it wasn’t a hit for the band. However, after Nesmith left The Monkees and formed The First National Band, a song with a similar melody emerged on their first album, Magnetic South.
For longtime Monkees fans, it was clear “Joanne” had similar chords to “Magnolia Simms.” The lyrics were changed, but each was a melancholy love song to a particular woman.
The similarities between the two tunes were not lost on longtime Monkees fans. Listen to the two songs above for the similarities in music and lyrical styling.
Mike Nesmith was able to temporarily leave his Monkees past behind with The First National Band
As The First National Band began to tour famous clubs such as The Troubador in LA, California, Nesmith told promoters not to associate him with his Monkees past. However, they continued to link the singer and songwriter to the television show.
Nonetheless, The First National Band received some solid reviewsincluding from the LA Times, whose pop critic wrote the following story.
“Since The Monkees were such a blatantly contrived musical group, Nesmith will have to convince some doubters on the contemporary scene that any Monkee has any real talent. “His songs by him, many of which are in a country-rock flavor, have much of the same snap, rapid tempo shifts, and broad appeal of Neil Diamond’s work,” Robert Hilburn wrote.
The First National Band’s “Joanne” peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard charts in late 1970.