(We Three) Monkees "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" (1976 fan club single)
As noted in an earlier post, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones of the Monkees attempted a full reunion of the original quartet in 1976, but Michael Nesmith declined, and Peter Tork's whereabouts were unknown. So Dolenz and Jones recorded and toured with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart that year instead. However, Tork did turn up by the end of 1976, and he helped record a Christmas fan club single with Dolenz and Jones, titled "Christmas Is My Time Of Year". The trio was unable to simply bill themselves as the Monkees, due to copyright issues, so they called themselves by their three individual names for this single. The single also reunited them with sometime Monkees producer Chip Douglas, who co-wrote the A-side with his fellow ex-Turtle Howard Kaylan.
The 1976 fan club issue came with no picture sleeve, and some promo copies had no B-side. “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” is a likably jovial three minutes of Yuletide cheer, with lyrics that celebrate the celebratory and family-friendly mood of the holiday season. Dolenz and Jones take turns on the lead vocals, surrounded by musical passages that echo “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World”. Tork played the organ; Douglas provided steel guitar and bass.
As for the copies that did have a B-side, that side featured Davy Jones softly crooning Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas", gently accompanied by acoustic and steel guitar. Passable.
In 1986, another pressing of the single with both sides remixed was circulated by Chip Douglas at Monkees conventions, around the time of the 20-year anniversary reunion tour. This issue came with a picture sleeve, and billed the trio as "We Three Monkees". The remixed version of “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” had a more synthetic drum sound, which was fashionable in the mid-‘80’s; this version turned up on the 1988 Rhino compilation Cool Yule Volume 2. The remixed “White Christmas” is an improvement over the 1976 version, adding strings and a touch of piano.
So, did the Turtles ever record “Christmas Is My Time Of Year”? Not exactly, but the song was originally recorded and released on a 1968 single by a one-off Howard Kaylan side project called the Christmas Spirit. Kaylan’s collaborators reportedly included Douglas, Mark Volman, Linda Ronstadt, and Byrds-to-be Gram Parsons, Clarence White, and Gene Parsons. It’s difficult to find a complete and definite list of participants, but whoever was involved in this version, it is inferior to the eventual Monkees recording. The original lyrics are of a more personal nature, but otherwise, many of the same ingredients are present, including a country-based guitar sound. The snippets from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World” are delivered vocally here, instead of instrumentally, by Bessie Griffin & the Gospel Pearls. Unfortunately, this version is too hectic, with the song’s various ingredients (especially its countless vocal turns) put together in chaotic fashion. Douglas co-produced this version with Kaylan, but without the smooth professionalism that he would later bring to the Monkees’ version. (Note: This song was recently included on the 2016 Turtles compilation All The Singles).
Lastly, the B-side of that 1968 Christmas Spirit single was “Will You Still Believe In Me”. It was a mellow folk-rock ballad sung by Chip Douglas, with a harmony vocal by Linda Ronstadt. It was written by Bobby Kimmel, Ronstadt’s bandmate from the Stone Poneys. It’s imperfect but pleasant enough, with Douglas singing in a warm tenor. The vocal interaction between him and Ronstadt is not unlike that of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris in the duets they would record a few years later. Therefore, it's possible that this session may have had an impact on Gram's musical development. Both songs from this once-rare Christmas Spirit single are currently available digitally as part of the 2004 compilation album Out Of Nowhere: The White Whale Story Volume 2.
Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" b/w "White Christmas" (single) (Christmas CDS-700) 1976
a. "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" - Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork
b. "White Christmas" - Davy Jones
We Three Monkees...Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" b/w "White Christmas" (single) (Christmas CDS-702) 1986
a. Christmas Is My Time Of Year
b. White Christmas
The Christmas Spirit “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” b/w “Will You Still Believe In Me” (White Whale WW 290) 1968
a. Christmas Is My Time Of Year
b. Will You Still Believe In Me