Last Train to Clarksville

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"Last Train to Clarksville"
US single cover
Single by The Monkees
from the album The Monkees
B-side "Take a Giant Step"
Released 16 August 1966
Format 7"
Recorded 25 July 1966
RCA Victor Studios, Studio A
Hollywood, CA
Genre Rock
Length 2:46
Label Colgems #1001
  • Tommy Boyce
  • Bobby Hart
Certification Gold (RIAA)
The Monkees singles chronology
"Last Train to Clarksville"
"I'm a Believer"

"Last Train to Clarksville" is a rock song. It was 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.[1] The song, written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart was recorded at RCA Victor Studio B in Hollywood, on July 25, 1966.[1] and was already on the Boss Hit Bounds on 17 August 1966.[2] The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 on November 5, 1966.[3]


The song, written by the songwriting duo Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart,[4] has been compared to The Beatles' "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 lyrics tell of a man phoning the woman he loves, urging her to meet him at a train station in Clarksville before he must leave, possibly forever. The Vietnam War was then going on, and what was not made explicit was that the song was about a soldier leaving for the war zone.

It is often said that the song refers to Clarksville, Tennessee, which is near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the home of the 101st Airborne Division, which was then serving in Vietnam. However, according to songwriter Bobby Hart, it was not specifically written with that town in mind.

Hart said: "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 Army 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."

Though "Clarksville" is in the song title, the video accompanying the song on the Monkees' TV show showed a sign pointing to "Clarkesville."

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".

Although LA's "Wrecking Crew" provided the instrumentals for many early Monkees' hits, Boyce and Hart's band the Candy Store Prophets did the session work for this song. The lead guitar was written and played by Louie Shelton. [5][6]

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.[citation needed]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1966–1967) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
Chart (1966) Peak
Canada RPM Magazine 1
Chart (1967) Peak
UK Singles Chart 23


  • Ed Bruce covered the song in a March 1967 single on RCA.
  • A cover by Plastics appears on the 1979 album Welcome Plastics. A rerecorded version was released on a flexi-disc coupled with the 1981 album Welcome Back.
  • 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".[7]


  1. ^ a b The Monkees Greatest Hits Rhino Entertainment R2 75785 Liner notes
  2. ^ "KHJ's 'Boss 30' Records In Southern California! Issue No. 59 - Previewed August 17, 1966". 1966-08-17. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  3. ^ Ashley Brown, ed. (1990). Marshall Cavendish Illustrated History of Popular Music Six (Reference ed.). Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 1-85435-021-8. 
  4. ^ Kotal, Kent; Forgotten hits. "The Music of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart". Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "Last Train to Clarksville,"
  6. ^ Obituary: Jesse Ed Davis, LA Times, 24 June 1988
  7. ^ "Rock Band' Five Most Unexpectedly Rockin' Downloadable Songs", PlayStation: The Official Magazine (January 2009): 58.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"96 Tears" by ? & the Mysterians
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
November 5, 1966 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Poor Side of Town" by Johnny Rivers