Anyone who has grooved to Rhino Records’ outstanding compilation Where the Action Is!: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968, that labels’ amazing string of Monkees reissues, or other rereleases by giants ranging from The Band to Elvis Costello to The Beach Boys to The Kinks to Love, owes a big thanks to Andrew Sandoval. Since publishing his fanzine New Breed in the mid-‘80s and moving on to his role as one of Rhinos’ top annotators and reissue producers, Sandoval has been the voice of classic pop and rock. With the publication of The Monkees: The Day by Day Story of the ‘60s TV Pop Sensation in 2005, he solidified his reputation as The Monkees’ finest chronicler. Andrew Sandoval recently talked with Psychobabble about his book, Nuggets, and especially, his upcoming deluxe edition of The Monkees’ Head soundtrack.
Psychobabble: A job as a reissue producer—especially one who gets to work on such plum projects—sounds like a Rock geek’s dream. How did you get your start in this line of work?
Andrew Sandoval: I started writing about music when I was fourteen. I independently edited and published a music fanzine and things took off from there. A friend named Dave Jenkins introduced me to a guy called Bill Inglot. He was working for Rhino on reissues and I started to interview him for my magazine in late 1988. A variety of meetings led to me working on The Monkees’ Missing Links Two compilation as liner notes writer and I’ve been starving ever since.
PB: Although you’ve worked with a lot of artists, you’re probably best known for those Monkees projects. What sparked your interest in the group initially?
AS: I saw the show in 1977 on my local Metromedia station, channel 11. I really loved the music and started to seek out their records, which were out of print excepting an Arista compilation, which I was totally unaware of. My father saw someone try and trade in some of the albums to a store and the guy at the counter refused them. My dad followed him home and bought me the albums. I grew up with the first five LP’s – no hits albums – and loads of Beatles records. In 1986, when the show reappeared on MTV, the level of scholarship and interest in The Monkees increased and I certainly learned a great deal in the process. Not only was the music great but this was a band with a fascinating and sometimes convoluted history.
PB: Your book The Monkees: The Day by Day Story of the ‘60s TV Pop Sensation does a better job of organizing that convoluted history than any other Monkees bio I’ve read. I’ve always been amazed by the exhaustiveness of “Day by Day” books such as yours. What kind of time and work goes into putting one of them together?
AS: It took about 15 years to research and compile the book. The first fourteen years were done mostly on days off and weekends. There were mountains of magazines to plow through, as well as all of the session tapes. Ironically, just as I was completing the book, a lot of newspaper resources came online. That might have saved me about five years. As it was, I did enjoy reading every issue of Billboard, New Music Express, and Daily Variety from the period of 1965-1970. The actual completion of the book was done in 2004 from June to roughly January of the following year.
PB: The excellent Birds, the Bees, & the Monkees box set you produced recently really emphasizes how much fine material the guys’ recorded during those sessions, as well as the fact that the resulting album could have been better if (head of Colgems records) Lester Sill chose different songs to include on it. Do you have any insight into the thought process behind compiling the original album?
AS: I think Lester tried his best, but there was no real producer for the album. It makes you really appreciate the work of Don Kirshner and Chip Douglas in the first two sets of albums respectively. Lester did have a hand in selecting the songs on Headquarters and Pisces, but these were more focused works. Birds, Bees is sprawling; It would have made a fascinating double album.
PB: There were also a lot of terrific songs cut during the Head sessions that aren’t included on the deluxe edition: “Some of Shelly’s Blues”, “How Insensitive”, “Nine Times Blue”, “St. Matthew”, etc. Most previous Monkees deluxe editions covered the full breadth of what was recorded during sessions for each given album, but the deluxe Head mostly only covers songs that wound up on the original album. What was the rationale behind this, and does it mean we can expect the outtakes on a deluxe Instant Replay eventually?
AS: I hope that stuff will be on an expansion of Instant Replay. Head is very specific in concept and content. I felt that the balance of the album would be thrown off by including things that don’t relate to the Head story. Meanwhile, something like “War Games” should probably have been saved for Head. The bottom line is that the music is getting out there, and in mostly a coherent and sympathetic fashion.
PB: I assume that those live cuts on the second disc hail from the Salt Lake City show that yielded the version of “Circle Sky” included in the Head movie. According to The Monkees: The Day by Day Story…, the show was poorly engineered and Nesmith had to rerecord his vocal for “Circle Sky”. What can we expect regarding the quality of these recordings and why are only Nesmith’s songs from the show on the box set?
AS: Nesmith’s voice was the only one actually committed to tape. The others appear only as distortion and reverby leakage on the tracks. It is a poorly engineered recording, and though some band tracks are good, The Monkees were there to play “Circle Sky”, and that seems to be the only reason they taped Michael’s other vocals.
PB: Around the time ‘The Monkees: The Day by Day Story…’ was released, I recall reading an interview in which you said that there were plans to remaster and rerelease the TV series. Five years down the road, is this still in the works, and if so, do you think fans might finally get to view the show with alternate audio tracks featuring the songs that were dubbed on the episodes for reruns?
AS: I would love that and I feel the shows could be significantly upgraded. It is really up to Rhino at this point, and would require spending money on new transfers and some research. The market is such that this is a long shot, but it is something I am very passionate about.
PB: Another of your more recent productions, Where the Action Is!: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968, is a real stunner. Are there any other Nuggets comps on the way?
AS: I compiled a few single disc Nuggets collections, which may appear via Rhino Handmade in the future. These are genre and label based and not location specific. I hope the Nuggets boxes will continue, but I haven’t heard any rumblings about this recently.
PB: Do you have any other interesting projects in the pipeline we can expect in the near future?
AS: Rhino Handmade are issuing some of my other projects soon. These include a two disc edition of The Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn, an expanded Triangle and a collection of Warner recordings by Tom Northcott. I am also at work on some Pye era Kinks releases for Universal UK.
PB: Thanks Andrew, and I’m really looking forward to those Kinks releases and the expanded Triangle!