Boyce & Hart, the songwriting and (later) performing team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, are most famous for writing several of the Monkees' big hits, including "Last Train to Clarksville," "Valleri," and "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone." Together and separately, they also wrote or contributed to hits by several other acts in the 1960s, including Freddy Cannon, Curtis Lee, Little Anthony & the Imperials, and Jay & the Americans. In 1967 they began recording on their own as a duo, landing a Top Ten hit the same year with "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite." Based in Los Angeles, Boyce & Hart were a West Coast equivalent to the kind of craftsmanship and methodology espoused by Brill Building songwriting teams, although their material was less meaningful and enduring than Goffin-King's or Barry-Greenwich's. They emphasized bright, happy, AM radio melodies with room for lots of vocal harmonies, an appropriate vibe for the Monkees and other acts; it was typical of the L.A. late-'60s pop/rock that would retroactively be dubbed "sunshine pop."
Boyce, the older of the pair, had a history that long predated the Monkees, co-writing a Top Ten hit for Fats Domino in 1959 ("Be My Guest"). Around the early '60s, he met Hart and the pair spent some time in New York in the mid-'60s, where they (with Wes Farrell) wrote the Jay & the Americans hit "Come a Little Bit Closer." Throughout the first half of the 1960s Boyce wrote or helped write material without any Hart involvement, including hits by Cannon ("Action") and Lee ("Pretty Little Angel Eyes"), while Hart had a piece of the songwriting for Little Anthony & the Imperials' "Hurt So Bad." It wasn't until 1965 that the Boyce-Hart partnership took off in earnest, as they were signed to the Screen Gems publishing company. They knocked off some energetic pop/rockers that were recorded by bands like Paul Revere & the Raiders ("[I'm Not Your] Stepping Stone") and the Leaves ("Words"), as well as the theme for the soap opera Days of Our Lives.
They found themselves in the right place at the right time when they were commissioned to write a few songs for the pilot episode of The Monkees (including its famous theme song). Because the Monkees were going to be on TV every week, they needed a steady supply of songs fast, which helped assure that Boyce & Hart placed many of their tunes with the group. These included not only a few hits, but also many album tracks; about half the songs on the Monkees' first album were Boyce-Hart tunes. The Monkees even redid some Boyce-Hart songs, such as "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," "Words," and "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day."
Boyce & Hart's material may not have been the first choice of what the group -- and specifically their most experienced songwriter, Mike Nesmith -- wanted to record. But Boyce-Hart's knack for AM-friendly pop hooks and chipper, just-this-side-of-bubblegum arrangements were very much in tune with the image projected by the group on their show. Boyce & Hart were also involved in the Monkees' first two albums as producers, a role they returned to on the Monkees' albums in 1969 and 1970.
Starting in 1967, Boyce & Hart also recorded on their own for A&M Records. Aside from "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite," however, none of their efforts made the Top 20 or came close to that song in quality, although "Alice Long (You're Still My Favorite Girlfriend)" and "Out & About" both made the Top 40 and "We're All Going to the Same Place" and "Goodbye Baby" charted in lower positions. Boyce & Hart split up, both as songwriters and performers, at the end of the 1960s, although they teamed up with ex-Monkees Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones to perform and record for a while in the mid-'70s as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. Boyce committed suicide in November 1994 after a lengthy struggle with illness and depression. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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