The recent revival of the Monkees–Good Times entered Billboard’s Top Album chart at Number 14–had me waxing nostalgic for the group’s old hits–namely the Monkees’ “She.”
I remember I was about 8 when I took the record from the sleeve of the More of the Monkees album cover and placed it on my Mickey Mouse turntable. The opening chords of “She” squealed from the lo-fi speaker, and I wasn’t impressed at first. But then the Monkees opened with three-part harmony, singing “Sheeeeeee….” and Micky Dolenz answering with “She told me that she loved me,” moving from a E chord to a D chord–very hard-sounding, angry, even primitive. They repeated it, and then something wonderful happened.
The next part. The fifth note of the E chord, a B, modulated chromatically up to a C, creating an augmented chord, then to a C# before moving back down the scale. As I have said before, such chromatic movements create tension in a song, and in this case, Dolenz’ bitterness in the verses gives way to utter despair (“Why am I standing here / Missing her and wishing she were here“) because of these three notes.
As an 8-year-old, I had no idea what a chromatic modulation was. I just felt the despair of the notes, sounding sad and beautiful at the same time. It was as if that one verse had flipped on my pop music gene (If the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” hadn’t done it already), and even more, a light had been turned on in my musical mind. I wanted to hear more. My heart yearned for it. (Never mind the sophomoric “Hey!” that followed later. I tried to ignore that.)
The rest of “She” isn’t much, but it took those three notes to turn me into a Monkees fan–and a student of pop music for life.