Written by: Mike Nesmith
Acoustic Guitars: Bernie Leadon, Kenny Edwards, Al Viola
Harpsichord: Don Randi
Bass: Lyle Ritz
Drums: Jim Gordon
Concert Master: Sid Sharp
Produced by: Nikolas Venet
Engineered by: John Kruse & Peter Abbot
Recorded at: Capitol Studio B, Los Angeles, May 1967
Perhaps, I’m feeling a bit melancholy upon learning the sad news of Linda Ronstadt losing her splendid voice to Parkinson’s. Growing into my teens, I fell for a number of women singers during the unique time that was the 60s. And Linda, then running with The Stone Poneys, would enjoy the kind of hit that not only guaranteed attention and admirers, me included, but ignited her solo career
Different Drum was that song.
I’ll admit Linda reminded me of my mother — and I’m nowhere a Freud believer, by the way (if you’re flashing back to Psych 101 with that confession). Her German, English, and Mexican ancestry no doubt approximating some of mom’s looks. But, that voice certainly was unique to her. The kind with an element of sheer yearning when heard. One I’d follow “…till the cows come home.”, as the tejana that bore me would say.
Very much a part of the L.A. music scene back then, one that became known for the “sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll” lifestyle us old-timers associate with, you could say she was “…in it but not of it”, paraphrasing a Stevie Wonder song. Never fell prey to the extent as others during the era, so at no time she was left by the wayside. As her discography bears out.
While almost everyone and their grandmother on the left coast in the music crowd did drugs, like her (as she admitted to in her new memoir Simple Dreams), she recently told Mary Jordan of the Washington Post in her music article this week,
“…they weren’t really her thing: “My addiction was to reading.””
Another characteristic she shared with mom, and now my daughter.
Still, given all the music hits she generated over the decades since the 60s, I come back to her first. The song given to her by Michael Nesmith, he of The Monkees’ fame. Himself a talented songwriter and performer, Nesmith wasn’t showcased near enough, in my opinion, within the rock group. You know, the one essentially pure construct. American producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider’s idea “…of a TV show about an imaginary band [...] that wanted to be The Beatles”, as singer Mickey Dolenz confessed years later.
The notorious fact was the Monkees foursome did not play their own instruments, at least in the beginning, which tinged the group and the TV program for some time afterwards once word got out.
An irony of Different Drum was the song being credited to the Stone Poneys at all, which featured their only true talent, Linda Ronstadt, at the time. She was the only band member of the group involved with its recording. Studio musicians were brought in by label producers to back her on the track — many of the same Los Angeles session players who played on The Monkees early LPs. Yes, I’m speaking of vinyl, as extraterrestrials hadn’t brought us CDs as yet, if you must know (that is a joke).
Released in 1967 on The Stone Poneys Evergreen Vol. 2 album, the song reached as high as #13 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and #12 on the Cash Box magazine singles chart. Of course, with Linda giving voice to the melancholy lyrics that told her lover why they couldn’t be together, it forced a gender change for the song Nesmith wrote. Still works, nonetheless. So, as I let the gravity befalling (a German word, mind you) one of my all-time favorite singers set in, I’ll just re-listen to the tune that forever caught me in a moment, and a singer.
Like Linda Ronstadt herself, it’s a song that will never, ever, be struck down in my book.
You and I travel to the beat of a different drum Oh can't you tell by the way I run Every time you make eyes at me Wo-oh You cry and moan and say it will work out But honey child I've got my doubts You can't see the forest for the trees Oh don't get me wrong It's not that I knock it It's just that I am not in the market For a boy who wants to love only me Yes, and I ain't saying you ain't pretty All I'm saying is I'm not ready For any person place or thing To try and pull the reins in on me So good-bye I'll be leaving I see no sense in this crying and grieving We'll both live a lot longer If you live without me Oh don't get me wrong It's not that I knock it It's just that I am not in the market For a boy who wants to love only me Yes, and I ain't saying you ain't pretty All I'm saying is I'm not ready For any person place or thing To try and pull the reins in on me So good-bye I'll be leaving I see no sense in this crying and grieving We'll both live a lot longer If you live without me