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The made-for-TV group The Monkees were given very little control of their musical output, which didn't sit well with their guitarist Mike Nesmith, who found out after he joined the ensemble that session musicians would be playing on their albums and hired guns would write their songs. Nesmith was a talented performer and songwriter, and he proved it with this tune, which he wrote before he joined The Monkees. He explained in 1971: "Most of the songs I did write, they didn't want, so on the last few albums I didn't contribute much in the way of material. I took them 'Different Drum' and they said all it needed was a hook. They asked me to change it and told me it was a stiff. I couldn't change it, and took it to Linda Ronstadt, who recorded it two weeks later, and it became Number One."
Like "Me And Bobby McGee
," this is a song written by a guy that switched genders when a female recorded it. With a male narrator, the girl is tying him down, and he has to leave her to strike out on his own. With Ronstadt singing it, the girl become the one who is reigned in, and leaves her man so she can do her own thing. Notice that she ends up describing the guy as "pretty," which makes a lot more sense when it was Nesmith singing about a girl.
Nesmith recorded this himself in 1972 on a solo album called And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'.. Nesmith had a substantial solo output after The Monkees TV show was canceled.
Ronstadt was with her first band, The Stone Poneys, when she recorded this. It was credited to the group even though she was the only band member to appear on the song; studio musicians were brought in to back her up - many of the same Los Angeles session players who played on The Monkees records. When ths song became a hit, it prompted Ronstadt to leave The Stone Poneys to start a solo career.