Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were some of the most prolific and happenin’ dudes on the Sunset Strip. From Brill Building songwriters to artists and performers in their own right, one could argue that the duo’s freewheelin’ image and can’t-miss winning streak defined the 1960s youth. At least the working, successful, swanky-partyin’ kind of youth.
Now, a new film entitled Boyce & Hart: The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em documents the dynamic partnership of two fellas that helped write the soundtrack to an era, scoring chart-toppers for the Monkees, Jay and the Americans, Fats Domino and, oh yeah, themselves. Premiering to rave reviews in New York earlier this year, the documentary will be featured at the Don’t Knock the Rock Music and Film Festival in L.A. on August 7. (Click here for tickets and more information.)
Though they were already seasoned veterans by the time the Monkees project rolled around, Boyce & Hart quickly became synonymous with hits like “Last Train to Clarksville” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (as well as producing the — at first — fictional band). In 1967, the teen mags took notice, and in a rare twist, featured the guys behind the music.
The below article from Flip‘s July 1967 issue falls at an interesting time in the Monkees’ history. The group had just released its masterpiece, Headquarters, in May. For those that aren’t familiar with the story, that album was the first produced solely under the made-for-TV band’s discretion, meaning they controlled every aspect of the music. Perhaps to give some validity to the group’s “manufactured” image, Boyce & Hart talk about the democracy within the group, and the inspiration for “She” from More of the Monkees… a library?
Meanwhile, that same month, the slightly more astute magazine Hit Parader published the first of its two part interview/profile on the group. Editor Jim Delehant asked about the genesis of the partnership, and how Boyce & Hart scored the Monkees gig. (Much of this is also documented in the film, and it’s neat to also read it in a contemporary publication.) He also, interestingly, posed the million dollar question, “The Monkees don’t play their own instruments, do they?”
Also a significant element of this interview are the answers regarding Tommy & Bobby’s own musical ambitions. Bobby’s band, the Candy Store Prophets, who were instrumental (heh) in backing the Monkees, gets a mention and a photo, while Tommy admits they both “want to sing,” hence why they’ve hired a publicity firm.
The following month, Hit Parader concluded its two-part profile of Boyce & Hart. A highlight includes Tommy’s goal of fronting a “slapstick” outfit, utilizing his hidden yodeling talents.
Ostensibly, Tommy gave up his yodeling dream. Instead, he and Bobby hit the studios themselves, releasing three albums before the end of the 1960s. Their biggest smash, I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight, peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart in ’68, and although their catalog may be small, it’s mighty. A personal favorite of mine is 1967’s “Out and About,” which the duo also “performed” on I Dream of Jeannie the same year. From Teen Tunes and Pinups, November, 1967:
For awhile, it looked like Boyce & Hart were the newest teen sensations. There were even rumors of their own Monkees-style TV show. They were charismatic, charming, good-looking and talented.
Then, in 1971, Tommy Boyce had had enough of the demanding entertainment lifestyle and pulled the plug on it all. After that, Boyce and Hart never really united again, except for a 1976 tour with Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones as, you guessed it, The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em and The Guys Who Sang ‘Em.
Sadly, Tommy Boyce took his own life in 1994 after suffering seizures caused by a brain aneurysm. Bobby Hart, however, has plowed on, barely slowing down from project to project since the 1960s. It’s rumored he even has a new book coming out later this year.
And, of course, the documentary, which will immortally paint this dynamic duo as the Golden Boys of the 1960s, and, hopefully, finally restore them to their rightful place in pop music history.