Sunday, November 16, 2014
"Pleasant Valley Sunday" - Carole King Demo (1966)
Here’s Carole King’s demo recording of “Pleasant Valley Sunday” which she co-wrote with her then husband Gerry Goffin. He wrote the lyrics about the life they were then leading living in a suburban development in West Orange, New Jersey.
Demos are recordings made by artists who are writers and not necessarily performers. The demos are shopped around to various artists in the hopes that one of them will score a Number One hit with their own version of the song. The resultant royalties due the writer are enormous when a record goes Gold or Platinum. In the days before she recorded her own songs, Ms. King made a small fortune in this way. That was before she released her blockbuster album “Tapestry” in 1970.
The Monkees had the big hit with this one. Of course they aren’t really playing all the instruments as they appear in the film below. Chip Douglas, their music producer, played bass on this one, after showing Mike Nesmith which strings to play on guitar to make the signature riff.
Notice the absence of that riff in Ms. King’s version and you will understand the difference between being a writer and a performer. That riff is actually a variation of George Harrison’s guitar part on “I Want to Tell You” from the Revolver album. Peter Tork did actually play the piano and Davy Jones shook the maracas while Mickey Dolnez sang the lead vocal.
The record peaked at Number 3 and still gets plenty of airplay today. It’s always an interesting experience to compare a writer’s version of a song to the “hit” by someone else. More often than not I enjoy the writer’s version more. But in this case, I have to go with the Monkees.