by Randal Hill
The Monkees’ Daydream Believer on Colgems Records spent four weeks
atop the Billboard chart. Twelve years later, Anne Murray’s remake on the Capitol imprint reached a whole new audience. The iconic ditty has been recorded by such diverse acts as the Four Tops, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Susan Boyle. Daydream Believer has been played on the radio over 4 million times. Yet this classic hit came very close to never being recorded—all because of a single word.
In the mid-1960s, folk singer/ songwriter John Stewart found himself at a Hollywood party, chatting with record-producer pal Chip Douglas, who
was currently cranking out hits for the Monkees, the wildly popular made-for TV
Beatles knockoffs. Douglas asked Stewart if he had any good material for
Stewart answered that he did indeed have one really good tune and, with his guitar, auditioned Daydream
Believer on the spot for Douglas, who then requested a tape of the song. Before long, Stewart handed Chip a single-song cassette. Only three days
later, Douglas called with great news: the Monkees wanted Stewart’s creation.
Well, there was just one caveat, Douglas cautioned. Colgems Records
wouldn’t let lead singer Davy Jones say “funky,” a commonly used “hip” word
but one that lacked a specific definition and was therefore open to a wide
variety of interpretations.
Douglas explained that the lyric line, “Now you know how funky I can be”,
would have to be changed to “Now you know how happy I can be”.
“You once thought of me
As a white knight on a steed.
Now you know how happy
I can be.”
Stewart was miffed. “’Happy’
doesn’t even make sense,” he grumbled.
Douglas pressed the issue. “John, if [Jones] can’t sing ‘happy,’ they won’t do it.”
Stewart knew that a Monkees release of Daydream Believer could easily become a worldwide smash. After a thoughtful pause, he grinned and replied, “Well, ‘happy’ is working for me real good right now.” Stewart always remained grateful
for Daydream Believer. “It didn’t just pay the rent,” he once candidly claimed.
“It has kept me alive all these years.”
Randal C. Hill, a former disc jockey, English teacher, record collector and author,
confesses to being hopelessly stuck in the past when it comes to music appreciation.
He lives on the Oregon coast and can be reached at email@example.com.