The Monkees‘ hit “Last Train to Clarksville” was almost named after an actual town in Arizona. Subsequently, one of the writers of the song decided to give it a different title. The title of “Last Train to Clarksville” had a significance of its own.
How The Monkees’ songwriters thought of the name of the song
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, also known as Boyce and Hart, were songwriters who worked for The Monkees from the band’s inception. They wrote several songs for The Monkees’ self-titled debut album. In his 2015 autobiography Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem Into Miracles, Hart discussed coming up with the title of “Last Train to Clarksville.”
“That night we tossed around destinations to complete the title,” Hart wrote. “We discarded the usual suspects, Detroit, Seattle, and Philadelphia, deciding that our story could be more easily told if we placed it in a rural setting. Finally, Tommy asked, ‘What are the names of some of the little towns in Northern Arizona where you used to go every summer?’”
Hart named a few towns. “I thought of ‘Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood, Clarkdale,’” he remembered. “He cut me off at ‘Clarkdale.’ ‘Clarkdale,’ he repeated. ‘Or better still, how ’bout Clarksville?’”
The name “Clarksville” had a significance of its own. During a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Micky Dolenz said Clarksville is a town in Tennessee that hosts an army base. In actuality, the town borders an army base. This worked because “Last Train to Clarksville” is a song about a soldier going off to war.
The impact of ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ on pop culture
“Last Train to Clarksville” had an impact on pop culture. The song repeatedly appeared in The Monkees’ sitcom. Ed Bruce, The Four Tops, Jerry Reed, and others recorded covers of the song.
The track even inspired a joke in The Simpsons. In the episode “The Bart of War,” Chief Wiggum mistakenly believes “Last Train to Clarksville” is a Beatles song.
“Last Train to Clarksville” became a hit even if doesn’t reference that town in Arizona.
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