Different Drum

Album: Evergreen Volume 2 (1967)
Charted: 13
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  • Mike Nesmith wrote this song in 1964, two years before he joined the made-for-TV group The Monkees. At the time, he was developing his skills as a folk singer - a far cry from the Hollywood-enhanced shenanigans and high-gloss pop songs The Monkees were known for. In 1965, he met John Herald, guitarist for a bluegrass/folk group called The Greenbriar Boys. They played songs for each other, and Herald loved "Different Drum." He brought it to his group, slowed down the tempo, and released it on the group's 1966 album Better Late Than Never! Linda Ronstadt heard this version and recorded it with her group The Stone Poneys (named after the Charlie Patton song "Stone Pony Blues), which is by far the best-known version of the song.
  • Like "Me And Bobby McGee," this is a song written and originally recorded 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.
  • In this song, Ronstadt is ready to bail on a relationship, claiming they are very different people and she doesn't want to be tied down to one person anyway. It's a variation of both the "I want to see other people" and the "It's not you, it's me" breakups. Mike Nesmith wrote it in character - he was newly married and his wife was pregnant.
  • The Monkees were given very little control of their musical output, which didn't sit well with 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 pitched for 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."
  • The Stone Poneys were a folk trio of Ronstadt, Kenny Edwards and Bobby Kimmel. They released their first album earlier in 1967, and it went nowhere. This song was included on their second album, Evergreen Volume 2, later that year and appeared to be headed toward a similar fate. In dire financial straits, the band was driving to a meeting with their record company when their car broke down on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. At the gas station where they ended up, they heard this song playing on the radio - it had been added to the playlist at KRLA-AM, a huge station in LA. Suddenly, they had a hit on their hands.

    Their fortunes improved, but the song only took them so far. After one more charting single ("Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water" - #93) the band broke up. Ronstadt went solo and charted a few minor hits from 1970-1974 before landing a #1 in 1975 with "You're No Good," launching her to stardom.
  • Bobby Kimmel did most of the songwriting in The Stone Poneys, who generally shared vocals like Peter, Paul and Mary. These songs rarely suited Linda Ronstadt's voice, but when she heard "Different Drum" by The Greenbriar Boys, she thought it was a perfect fit and a great opportunity to take a lead vocal.
  • Mike Nesmith played a short, intentionally awful version of this song on the "Too Many Girls" episode of The Monkees TV series. The episode aired December 19, 1966, which was shortly before Ronstadt released the song.
  • Fittingly, this song was far different than previous Stone Poneys material, and the male members of the group, Kenny Edwards and Bobby Kimmel, didn't even play on it. Ronstadt envisioned the song as an acoustic piece, but their producer, Nick Venet, had different ideas. When the group showed up for the three-song session at Capitol Records' Studio B in Los Angeles, there were a number of studio musicians there. Edwards and Kimmel played on two of the songs, but when it came time to record "Different Drum," they watched from the control room as the seasoned studio pros worked up the song under Venet's direction. Among the musicians:

    Don Randi - harpsichord
    Al Viola - guitar
    Jimmy Bond - bass
    Jim Gordon - drums

    There was also a string section conducted by Sid Sharp. Gordon and Randi also played on many of the Monkees recordings in place of the actual group.
  • Ronstadt did one run-through of the song before recording her vocal, start to finish, in the next take. As she developed her vocal talents, she came to hate the way she sounded on the song. "Today I will break my finger trying to get that record off when it's on," she said in the 2016 book Anatomy of a Song. "Everyone hears something in that song - a breakup, the antiwar movement, women's lib. I hear a fear and a lack of confidence on my part. It all happened so fast that day."
  • The Monkees were in their second (and final) season when this song reached its chart peak in January 1968. Mike Nesmith heard it for the first time on a Philadelphia radio station when the group was riding together in a limousine.
  • 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 series was canceled.

Comments: 27

  • Tizzylish211 from Canyon Lake, CaActually, my son-in-laws father wrote the original song. He sold it and gave up the rights. Quote from him on messenger “
    About 60% of my lyrics were used for $500. ( the important ones, in my opinion) I gave the rights to anything along with it. “

    I will ask him if he still has a copy of the original lyrics.
  • Andodoug from TorontoLeaving the "I ain't sayin' you ain't pretty" line is genius - it totally works, sounds way less sexist than a guy saying it, and made me think of her backing band pretty boys the Eagles
  • Love70and80 from MiamiLovely voice of Ronstadt and beautiful song of old Monkees Mike!
  • Joe from Lubbock, TxMy girlfriend made me listen to it in late December, 1967 and said that's how she felt about our relationship. Broke my heart.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenI try to imagine how this would have been as a Monkees song. It wasn't their type of song, but I think Davy might have pulled it off.
  • Marty from MichiganI have (2) Evergreen 2 LP's. One of them is a Scranton pressing and Different Drum is the long version. My other version is LA pressing and Different Drum is a short version like the 45 single. What continues to be strange about this is they both say they are 2:45 long.
  • Bob from Calabasas, CaBobby Kimmel of the Stone Poneys was out of the music business for awhile in the 80’s and worked as a real estate agent in West LA. He represented my wife and me when we sold our condo in 1988. He was a good agent and a cool guy. We attended a concert together, where he introduced me to Karla Bonoff.
  • Sam from New YorkMonkees episode "Too Many Girls": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDgF-A_kGVg
  • Henry from Sanford, FlI love the vocals of Linda Ronstadt on this song. Her voice is so believable in terms of passion and delivery of the lyrics. The range of vocals is even-keeled. I just wish the song was a little longer. The song is 2:40, but it seems like it just drops, if that makes any sense.
  • David from Astoria, NyIt was originally recorded by some folkies from the East Coast called the Greenbriar Boys. The Linda Ronstadt version is pretty much a note for note cover. I think it was the first song Mike Nesmith sold.
  • John from Beltsville, Md"It's not you, it's me"...yeah right!
  • Bobby from Grand Rapids, MiNo doubt this a great song, until the woman your in love with plays it for you to explain why you and her cant be together. Happened to me.
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaWow, the video on this page is priceless! A young Linda Ronstandt standing on a tiny stage and belting out those soaring vocals "So-o goodbye..." without the lush strings backing her--just a small band--the Stone Ponys, I suppose. One of the best videos I've seen here.
  • Bob from Orange, TxNesmith has released studio and live versions of this song. He mixes a talking blues style with occasional visits to the melody lines that Rondstadt sings in her version. Rondstadt seems anguished; Nesmith is straight-forward, matter-of-fact. He uses an additional verse, mostly spoken, prior to the last one: I feel pretty sure that you'll find a man who'll take a lot more than I ever could or can, and you;ll settle down with, and I know that you'll be happy.
  • Bob from Orange, TxNesmith does this great song in a talking blues style that wanders from time to time into the melody lines that Rondstadt used. He also uses an additional verse prior to the last one (think in terms of a long run-on sentence): I feel pretty sure that you'll find a man who'll take a lot more than I ever could or can and you'll settle down with him and I know that you'll be happy.
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnI had no idea she sang this song, it's gorgeous.
  • Jay from Brooklyn, Ny"Knock it" and "market" only rhyme if you are from Boston.
  • Malicious Matt from Squatney, -Michael "Nez" Nesmith wrote this song about a guy who is not ready to commit to one girl, and Linda Ronstadt recorded it as a song about a girl who isnt ready to commit to one guy... Its a great song, whoever sings it IMO.
  • Madison from Norway, MeMike sang this in a Monkee's episode (a part of it, anyway). The Monkee's were appearing on a TV show and they brought Mike on and he played a part of it really fast and he was mumbling through it (trying to be like a backwoods bumpkin). I'm pretty sure this was the same episode where Mickey kept doing impressions and saying 'You're the dirty rat that killed my brother!!' and Peter was doing magic tricks. How I miss that show....
  • Guy from Wellington, New ZealandSorry that's not strings -- it's a baroque-style piano harpsichord, isn't it?
  • Guy from Wellington, New ZealandIncredibly catchy tune -- one of my faves. The lyrics are one of those tear jerkers about some poor sap who can't get the message -- see also The Doobies' "What a Fool Believes". The twangly baroque-style strings are cool but the best thing is Ronstadt's fantastic voice. If she sang this to me I don't think I'd ever get over it!
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThis is also notable for the bizarre combination of a country music lyric and Ronstadt's somewhat emphasized twang with British psych-pop 'classical' strings and harpsichord a la Left Banke.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnThe Stone Poneys were 2 other guys besides Linda.
    About 4 years later, when, as a solo artist, she needed a backing band for a tour, she hired some random musicians who were hanging around the Troubabdor (L.A. nightclub that was a Folk mecca in the early 70's).
    Included in that backing band were Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who later recruited Randy Meisner, then Bernie Leadon, finally forming the Eagles.
  • Forrest from Los Angeles, CaDidn't some of the Stone Poney's go on to form the Eagles?
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was the song that put linda Ronstadt on the musical map in 1968. One of my favorite songs from that year.
  • Mike from Ipswich, EnglandPerhaps the most fabulous and versatile female voice in popular music, she has handled folk, country, rock and roll, soul, punk-edged rock as well as classic ballads from the 30s and 40s, Gilbert and Sullivan, La Boheme, and even Spanish Language material with her powerful emotional beautiful voice. Mike, Ipswich, England.
  • Jeff from Boston, MaThe Stone Poneys took their name from Delta bluesman Charlie Patton's song "Stone Poney Blues".
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