Last Train to Clarksville
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|"Last Train To Clarksville"|
|Single by The Monkees|
|from the album The Monkees|
|B-side||"Take a Giant Step"|
|Released||August 16, 1966|
|Recorded||July 25, 1966 at RCA Victor Studio B, Hollywood, California|
|Label||Colgems single #1001|
|Writer(s)||Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart|
|Producer(s)||Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart|
|The Monkees singles chronology|
"Last Train to Clarksville" is the debut single by The Monkees, released August 16, 1966, and later included on the group's 1966 self-titled album, which was released on October 10, 1966. The song was recorded at RCA Victor Studio B in Hollywood, on July 25, 1966. and was already on the Boss Hit Bounds on 17 August 1966. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 on November 5, 1966.
The song has been compared to The Beatles's "Paperback Writer", particularly the "jangly" guitar sound, the chord structure, and the vocal harmonies. The Beatles song had been number one in the US charts three months earlier.
The plot involves a phone call to his wife, or his girlfriend, from a young man who has been drafted, requesting that she "take the last train to Clarksville" so that they might have one last night together before he has to leave for his deployment on his morning train, because he does not know if he will be coming back from the war.
Bobby Hart said of writing this song: "We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There's a little town in Northern Arizona I used to go through in the summer on the way to Oak Creek Canyon called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn't know it at the time, [but] there is an Air Force base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee—which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn't be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn't really make a protest song out of it—we kind of snuck it in."
Hart got the idea for the lyrics when he turned on the radio and heard the end of The Beatles' "Paperback Writer". He thought Paul McCartney was singing "Take the last train", and decided to use the line when he found out McCartney was actually singing "Paperback Writer". Hart knew that The Monkees TV series was pitched as a music/comedy series in the spirit of The Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night, so he knew emulating The Beatles would be a winner. To do that, he made sure to put a distinctive guitar riff in this song, and wrote in the "Oh No-No-No, Oh No-No-No" lyrics as a response to The Beatles's famous "Yeah Yeah Yeah".
The song was used in a U.S. Army–produced film, shown to new inductees as early as November 1967, and at least in the big induction center at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. It played as the film showed new recruits getting off the train at Ft. Jackson, and would get a big laugh from the men watching.
On April 27, 2014 US President Barack Obama commented in a live international global news conference with the Malaysian Prime Minister that the tune is a "good song."
The partial transcript is as follows:
PRIME MINISTER NAJIB: Forty-eight years ago, a United States President first stepped onto Malaysian soil.
Back then, TV was black and white.
The Monkees were topping the U.S. charts with “The Last Train to Clarksville.” (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s a good song. (Laughter.)
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|UK Singles Chart||23|
Ed Bruce covered the song in a March 1967 single on RCA.
Los Larks covered the song in 1967 on their album Sound Go-Go.
The Argentinean singer Jhonny Tedesco and Los Supersonicos covered the song in 1967 on an album titled Jhonny Tedesco con los Supersonicos.
The Shadows performed an instrumental version of the song in 1968 on their album From Hank, Bruce, Brian & John.
Riblja Corba, a 1980s Serbian rock band, did a cover which it called "Zadnji voz za Cacak".
On January 15, 2008, a cover of the song was made available as downloadable content for the music video game series Rock Band. The January 2009 issue of PlayStation: The Official Magazine lists The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" as fourth on its list of Rock Band's "Five Most Unexpectedly Rockin' Downloadable Songs".
The Grascals recorded a bluegrass rendition of the song on their album The Famous Lefty Flynn's.
Michael Jackson recorded a more up-tempo version of the song in the summer of 2000.
When Boyce & Hart Band guest-starred on I Dream of Jeannie episode #306, "Jeannie the Hip Hippie", as a Monkees-esque band, Jeannie assembles to fill in for a band that cancels out on Mrs Bellows' charity event so the men can all take vacation, "Last Train to Clarksville" is used as the background music. Boyce and Hart and two other performers also perform two other songs. None of the songs are credited at the end of the episode; however, The Boyce & Hart Band, as well as Phil Spector, are listed in the end credits.
Plastics released a cover of the song on a 7" flexi disc included with their first album, Welcome Plastics.
In 2001, the Crawdaddies recorded a Cajun Rock version of the song for their album Spice It Up.
- The Monkees Greatest Hits Rhino Entertainment R2 75785 Liner notes
- "KHJ's 'Boss 30' Records In Southern California! Issue No. 59 - Previewed August 17, 1966". 1966-08-17. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
- Ashley Brown, ed. (1990). Marshall Cavendish Illustrated History of Popular Music Six (Reference ed.). Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 1-85435-021-8.
- "Rock Band' Five Most Unexpectedly Rockin' Downloadable Songs", PlayStation: The Official Magazine (January 2009): 58.
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November 5, 1966 (one week)
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