How Misheard Beatles Lyrics Inspired One of the Monkees’ Hits
The parallels between the Beatles and the Monkees are numerous and obvious. After all, the Monkees were formed to capitalize on the popularity of the Fab Four’s early films. In addition, the Monkees made records that had similarities to the Beatles’ music.
One of the Monkees’ most famous hits is “Last Train to Clarksville.” It has a memorable, driving beat. Interestingly, “Last Train to Clarksville’ exists because of a misheard Beatles lyric.
How misheard Beatles lyrics inspired one of the Monkees’ biggest hits
According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, the theme song to the Monkees’ sitcom was written by the songwriter team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The duo are commonly known as Boyce and Hart. In addition to the show’s theme, Boyce and Hart are responsible for “Last Train to Clarksville.” The song came about when Hart initially heard the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.”
Stereogum reports Hart misheard the lyrics and thought the Beatles were singing the words “take the last train.” After that, he realized the lyrics to “Paperback Writer” had nothing to do with a train and consequently decided to write a song around the phrase “take the last train.” “Take the last train” is certainly an intriguing phrase. It evokes a sense of urgency.
The lyrics of the song also took inspiration from the Beatles in another way. At the time “Last Train to Clarksville” was released, one of the Beatles’ most famous hooks was “yeah, yeah, yeah” in the chorus of “She Loves You.” Inspired by this, “Last Train to Clarksville” uses “no, no, no” as a hook.
The deeper meaning to ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ – and what it meant to Micky Dolenz
The Monkees have a reputation for making bubblegum pop. Their music got more experimental as time went on, but people often assume their early hits have no depth. Surprisingly, there’s actually a deeper meaning to “Last Train to Clarksville.” According to The Vietnam War: A Primary Source History, the song is about the Vietnam War.
Micky Dolenz told Rolling Stone “It’s about a guy going off to war. Frankly, it’s an anti-war song. It’s about a guy going to Clarksville, Tennessee, which is an army base if I’m not mistaken. He’s obviously been drafted and he says to his girlfriend, ‘I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.’ Considering that it was a Monkees song and the first one, I was always surprised that the record company even released it unless it just went right over their head.”
Dolenz has a happy memory of hearing “Last Train to Clarksville” on the radio for the very first time. “Davy [Jones] and I were renting a house up in the Hollywood Hills. We were pulling up to this big, beautiful rented house in Beverly Hills when [the radio announcers] went, ‘Here they are, the Monkees’ ‘Last Train to Clarksville.’ We pulled over and just had the biggest grins on our faces.”