Last Train to Clarksville

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"Last Train to Clarksville"
The Monkees single 01 Last Train to Clarksville.jpg
US single cover
Single by The Monkees
from the album The Monkees
B-side"Take a Giant Step"
ReleasedAugust 16, 1966
RecordedJuly 25, 1966
RCA Victor Studios, Studio A
Hollywood, CA
LabelColgems #1001
  • Tommy Boyce
  • Bobby Hart
The Monkees singles chronology
"Last Train to Clarksville"
"I'm a Believer"

"Last Train to Clarksville" was the debut single by the Monkees. It was released on August 16, 1966, and later included on the group's 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 August 17, 1966.[2] The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 on November 5, 1966.[3] Lead vocals were performed by the Monkees' drummer, Micky Dolenz.[4] "Last Train to Clarksville" was featured in seven episodes of the band's television series, the most for any Monkees song. The song was also covered by Flatt and Scruggs.


The song, written by the songwriting duo Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart,[5] has been compared to the Beatles' "Paperback Writer",[by whom?] 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. There was no explicit reference to war in the song but its last line, "And I don't know if I'm ever coming home", was an indirect reference about a soldier leaving for the Vietnam War.[citation needed]

It has often been presumed 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, that was not the case. Instead, according to Hart, "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 Clarkdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarkdale, 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 storyline. 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."[citation needed]

Although "Clarksville", a common U.S. place name, is in the song title, the video accompanying the song on the Monkees' TV show showed a sign pointing to "Clarkesville", which is a much more rare spelling now used only for a town in Georgia.[citation needed]

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 that McCartney was actually singing "paperback writer". Hart knew that The Monkees TV series was being pitched as a music/comedy series in the spirit of the Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night, so he was hoping that by emulating the Beatles the song might lead to a successful single, which it did. To help ensure that, he decided to include a distinctive guitar riff and wrote in the "Oh No-No-No, Oh No-No-No" lyrics as a response to the Beatles' famous "Yeah Yeah Yeah".

Boyce and Hart's band, Candy Store Prophets, did the instrumental session work on the recording.[6] Their lineup included Boyce, Wayne Ervin and Ventures Gerry McGee on guitar, Hart on keyboards, Larry Taylor on bass-guitar, Billy Lewis on drums and Gene Estes on percussion. The lead guitar part was written on the spot and played by Hollywood session musician Louie Shelton on a Fender Telecaster and Fender Super Reverb amp. Wayne Ervin played chords and Gerry McGee assisted with lead guitar flourishes. Louis who at the time was a relatively unknown session guitarist was specifically hired by Boyce and Hart to participate in the NBC Monkees television project. He would become a highly sought session musician afterwards and would eventually become a mainstay on Monkees recordings.[4][7]

Chart performance[edit]


Riblja Čorba version[edit]

"Zadnji voz za Čačak"
Singl - 1987 - Zadnji voz za Cacak.jpg
Single by Riblja Čorba
B-side"Lud sto posto A-side cover by John Peel indie favoritea The Passmore Sisters."
ReleasedMay 13, 1987
Format7" single
GenreHard rock
Songwriter(s)Boyce and Hart, Bora Đorđević
Riblja Čorba singles chronology
"Nesrećnice nije te sramota"
"Zadnji voz za Čačak"

"Zadnji voz za Čačak" (trans. "Last train to Čačak") is a song by Serbian and former Yugoslav rock band Riblja Čorba, from their 1987 album Ujed za dušu.

B-side features the song "Lud sto posto" ("100% Crazy").

The single was not available in the shops, but given as a gift with an issue of Politika Ekspres

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Zadnji voz za Čačak" - 2:44
  2. "Lud sto posto" - 4:15


Other versions[edit]

  • Ed Bruce covered the song on a March 1967 single on RCA.
  • Jerry Reed covered the song on his 1968 album Alabama Wild Man.
  • Bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse McReynolds recorded an instrumental version on their 1972 Hilltop Records album Mandolin Workshop.
  • 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.
  • A cover by crossover metal band Ludichrist appears on their 1986 debut album, Immaculate Deception.
  • A cover by Cassandra Wilson appears on her 1995 album New Moon Daughter.
  • 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".[13]
  • Four Tops covered the song on their album Reach Out, issued in July 1967.


  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". August 17, 1966. Archived from the original on June 24, 2010. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  3. ^ Ashley Brown, ed. (1990). Marshall Cavendish Illustrated History of Popular Music. Six (Reference ed.). Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 1-85435-021-8.
  4. ^ a b "Last Train To Clarksville by The Monkees Songfacts".
  5. ^ Kotal, Kent. "The Music of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart". Forgotten hits. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  6. ^ Sandoval, Andrew (2005). The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the 1960s TV Pop Sensation. Thunder Bay Press. p. 46.
  7. ^ Arax, Mark; Feldman, Paul (June 24, 1988). "OBITUARIES : Backed Up Major Artists : Jesse Ed Davis, 43; Noted Rock Guitarist". The Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Last Train to Clarksville". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  9. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 25 November 1966
  10. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1966/Top 100 Songs of 1966".
  12. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Archived from the original on August 12, 2016. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "Rock Band' Five Most Unexpectedly Rockin' Downloadable Songs", PlayStation: The Official Magazine (January 2009): 58.

External links[edit]