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Often, The Monkees‘ songs were used in certain scenes on the group’s television show. For example, an early Prefab Four song was meant for a scene that depicted The Monkees’ Davy Jones sad on a beach. Notably, the track appeared on the album The Monkees, which became a global smash.

The Monkees' Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz on a beach
The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz | Keystone Features/Getty Images

The same two songwriters wrote several hit songs by the Prefab Four

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote songs together under the name Boyce & Hart. They wrote Monkees songs such as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Valleri,” and “Words.” In his 2015 book Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem Into Miracles, Hart recalled learning that the Prefab Four would be the “American Beatles on television.”

“The concept struck a chord with us right away, and when we learned that the music used in the show would also be released on records, Tommy lead the verbal whirlwind to convince [television producer Bert] Schneider that we were his guys,” Hart recalled. “Tommy and I were excited about the sales potential of combining phonograph records with weekly television.”

Boyce & Hart immediately felt 1 of their songs would work for a scene starring The Monkees’ Davy Jones

Schneider gave Boyce & Hart some requirements. “Bert told us that the pilot episode would require three original songs, a romantic ballad, a dance number called ‘The Chase,’ and a theme song called ‘The Monkees’ that would open and close every show,” Hart wrote. “The next few days were spent enthusiastically planning and coming up with material for our latest assignment.”

Boyce & Hart decided a song they already wrote would work for the show. “We immediately thought of a song we had recently written called I Wanna Be Free,’ perfect for the Davy Jones walking-along-the-beach-after-breaking-with-his-girlfriend friend scene,” Hart recalled. “Then we quickly came up with a song you could dance to for the party scene.”


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How The Monkees’ ‘I Wanna Be Free’ performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

The Monkees never released “I Wanna Be Free” as a single in the United States, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The track appeared on the group’s self-titled album. The album topped the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks, staying on the chart for 102 weeks in total. None of the group’s other albums stayed longer on the chart, even though More of the Monkees spent longer at No. 1.

The Official Charts Company reports “I Wanna Be Free” did not chart in the United Kingdom either. Meanwhile, The Monkees became popular in the U.K. The album hit No. 1 for seven weeks, staying on the chart for 37 weeks altogether.

Boyce & Hart didn’t write “I Wanna Be Free” for the Prefab Four — but the group brought the song to the masses.