THE ORIGINAL: Neil Diamond (1967)
Don’t be confused by the fact that Neil Diamond’s version of this song came out after the Monkees’ version. Neil recorded it before the Monkees, but it was released a year later.
This original version will remind you of “Holy Holy” or “Cherry,” because they all have a similar vibe, kind of “churchy” because of the prominent hand claps, the B3 organ that lilts along, and his upbeat vocals.
The more I think about it, the early days of Neil Diamond remind me of the guys who sang in huge outdoor tents during church revivals in the 60s. The recording of this sounds odd, like the tape was damaged somehow, too much treble happening and you can barely hear the guitars and bass in the background because it’s too muddy. But that’s okay, because it’s 2:45 of some very snappy-peppy, feel good, good-time music!
THE COVER #1: The Monkees (1966)
The Monkees did a great cover. It follows Neil’s original arrangement, but it’s done better. Micky’s lead vocal is more emotional and really great, as are his multitracked background vocals, with a little bit of Davy.
The guitars are louder, the handclaps are softer and the B3 is a perky standout. This was a huge hit for them and a very wise choice for a cover. It’s as if Neil wrote it for them.
THE COVER #2: Smash Mouth (2001)
Smash Mouth’s version is very, very, very 2001. It’s been compressed, the B3 is replaced by some weird synths, and the rest of the “instruments” sound almost industrial, like KMFDM recorded this as a joke.
The signature lead vocal by Steve Harwell can’t compare to Micky or Neil, but keeping in mind that this was done for the movie Shrek, this mess makes sense. I’d rather hear their song “Walkin’ On The Sun” 500 times.
THE COVER #3: Weezer (2010)
This was done for a Shrek sequel, Shrek Forever, so this is the first time I’ve heard it. It follows the basic arrangement, but it’s very guitar heavy, you can hear the hand claps and what’s supposed to be the B3, but it’s just so weird.
Rivers Cuomo’s vocals don’t sound like him. They’re way too snappy-peppy. He sounds like he drank a case of Mexican Cokes and a suitcase filled with Pop Rocks in the studio.
I’m really stunned that they did this. How much did they get paid for this?
WHO DOES IT BETTER?
As much as I love me a hot and sexy troubadour during a Hot August Night, the Monkees win this, hands down. Oh sure, I could have ignored Smash Mouth and Weezer, but I wanted to make sure you suffered like I did. You’re welcome!
NOW YOU DECIDE!