Hart, in his debut, tells of how his jagged path through the music industry led to heartbreak—but also to happiness.
This snappy yet reflective memoir opens with an episode that’s emblematic of its narrator. While struggling to make it in Hollywood, Hart listened to the radio and detected an unsatisfying insincerity in the DJ’s voice. Hart’s desire for authenticity, and his connections in entertainment, would go on to propel him on a remarkable journey through the music world. He left his hometown of Phoenix to start six months of active duty in the U.S. Army Reserve in Monterey, California, and soon found himself entangled in the glamour and grit of Hollywood—that “circus of extremes for the senses with its bright lights and colorful characters”—while working for a company that manufactured labels for vinyl records. His own recording career, though, began one fateful Saturday, when he booked studio time for himself and became amazed at the possibilities that emerged when he combined his musical background with skillful sound engineering. What followed were years of risk and uncertainty and powerful collaborations with other musicians—as well as love, loss, and friendship. Hart candidly depicts his hyperactive, out-and-about lifestyle as a musician and songwriter who struggled to balance the work that gave his life meaning with his commitment to his family. Sometimes the strain proved too much, and his relationship with his first wife deteriorated as a result. Along the way, countless projects with his songwriting partner, Tommy Boyce, rolled by, as did the tumultuous cultural and historical events of the 1960s. Before long, the duo was writing songs for The Monkees, including “(Theme from) The Monkees,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” and “Valleri.” In the memoir’s most captivating pages, Hart recounts the stratospheric rise of that artificially engineered musical group. Particularly engaging are Hart’s anecdotes about his own songwriting process; he recounts, for instance, that the song fragment that eventually became “Last Train to Clarksville” was inspired by a mishearing of the Beatles’ 1966 single “Paperback Writer.”
A highly detailed autobiography by a unique figure in American cultural history that will interest historians and pop-culture aficionados alike.