Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Friday Song: Different Drum

stone-poneys-linda-ronstadt-evergreen-2-

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
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9 Responses to “Friday Song: Different Drum”

  1. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

    Thanks so much, for highlighting one of the favorite songs from my misspent youth!

    Linda Ronstadt has got a lovely set of pipes. And early on, with The Stone Poneys (Who would later evolve into The Eagles) made some signature tunes.

    ‘Different Drum’ is one. And is a wonderful example of vocal range and delivery. Very close to “Vocalese”, at which The Manhattan Transfer excels. Also an intriguing take on Mr. Nesmith’s original work.

    It’s kind of a shame that the unsung heroes, like Mr. Nesmith, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon wrote some great lyrics and either sold their works before fruition or had them hijacked.

    Linda’s other signature tune is ‘Willing’, written by Lowell George and delivered by Little Feat. Both are superb!

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Great to hear you’re a Linda Ronstadt fan, Kevin. Highlighting Nesbit’s version of his song, certainly another fave, and Linda’s ‘Willin’ make for a fab twosome to add here. Well done, my friend. Thank you 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. Francis Hinchey

    Michael: I enjoyed reading your thoughts on one of my favorite singers, Linda Ronstadt. Coincidentally, I recently picked up a Ronstadt vinyl album that includes Different Drum. Fittingly, it was recorded by LA-based Capitol Records. Album is called Retrospective, pressed in 1977.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Hi, Francis! Great to hear you are another fan of Linda’s. Y’know, I have that same album, on vinyl, that I picked up at Amoeba Music earlier this year. So many great songs on two LPs. You have great taste ;-). Many thanks.

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      Reply
  3. cindybruchman

    I love her voice. What a great album! Mike was my favorite Monkey…Glad he took his hat off. I had no idea he wrote this. What a great post, Michael!

    Like

    Reply
  4. Rachel

    Awesome post, Michael! I’m a fan of Linda Ronstadt but am much more familiar with her later work so it was really cool to learn here about some of her earlier works.

    Ah, the Monkees… childhood memories are running rampant through my head right now. 🙂

    Like

    Reply

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