Chip Douglas: Producer of Pure Pop

the turtles

“Douglas Farthing Hatlelid” may be the least rock ‘n’ roll name since “Terence Nelhams Wright.”  Back in the day, Hatlelid went by “Chip Douglas” and Wright became rocker “Adam Faith.” Today, radio station playlists are thankfully Faith-less, while Chip’s solid producing work with the Monkees still fills airtime.

He left his home in Hawaii for Los Angeles where he played bass in the modestly successful Modern Folk Quartet alongside banjo whiz Henry Diltz.  Diltz later wound up a famed photographer, shooting iconic album covers for the Doors (Morrison Hotel) and the first Crosby, Stills and Nash LP. Chip then joined a group that, in 1967, knocked the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” out of the #1 slot. “Happy Together” by The Turtles featured Chip’s arrangement of the horn section and the “bah-bah-bah-bah-bah” backing vocals. Then his pal  Mike Nesmith gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse (but didn’t know how to do): produce the Monkees. Chip stated in a 2022 interview conducted by Plastic EP: “This happens to other people, not little old me. When I told Mike I didn’t know how to produce, he said ‘Don’t worry. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.’”

But before Chip stepped into a studio, he and the Monkees had to step into a suite in the Beverly Hills Hilton to meet the head honcho who decided what songs the Pre-Fab Four group would record: Don Kirshner.

Chip remembers Kirshner giving himself and the band the lowdown. “Don said, ‘There are certain decisions with regard to the various tunes and things like that which will remain mine and you’ll get 1½% royalties.  And I remember Kirshner or his lawyer said, ‘It’s like we’re offering a point and a half of the Beatles, Chipper.’” Don then played the group demos he wanted them to record which included “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and “Sugar, Sugar.”

Chip was not impressed.

“Everything struck me as so bubblegum.  I heard ‘Sugar’ and it was the epitome of the most bubblegum song.”

Chip left the meeting.  Nesmith, arguing that the group should have the final say on songs they recorded and play their own instruments, drove home his point by driving his fist through a wall and informing Kirshner: “That could’ve been your face.”

Chip and the group were now free to hone their craft in the form of the Monkees’ Headquarters album.  Chip succinctly noted, “It may not have the best rhythm, drums, bass, and R&B sound to it but there’s a charm to it.”

It was Chip’s work on “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” arguably two of the best songs of the ’60s, that proves he learned how to be a crackerjack producer. One of the lessons Nesmith may have taught his pupil was “How To Convince a Songwriter to Change a Word.” Chip skillfully applied it when he  convinced “Daydream Believer’s” composer, John Stewart, to change his original lyric “Now you know how funky I can be” to “Now you know how happy I can be.”

In a 2006 interview, John challenged Chip about the change; reasoning, “Jeez, Chip. That doesn’t even make sense. Chip said, ‘Let me put it to you this way, John. If Davy can’t sing ‘happy,’ they won’t do it. And I said, ‘Happy’s working real good for me right now.’ And that song has kept me alive all these years.”

On “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” Chip was pinching guitar riffs from George Harrison. “I used to sit around at night and smoke a little something and play my guitar and come up with ideas and one of them was that guitar riff which is a kind of a variation on one of the Beatles’ things, which is in a different key and the song is ‘I Want to Tell You.’  But it’s much slower and a different arrangement of the notes but it’s the same notes and I just speeded it up and put my own twist on it.”

Chip added musical twists to three Monkees albums, and produced Davy Jones’ 1991 Christmas album (It’s Christmas Time Again) which was released in 2020 and featured vocals by Davy’s daughter, Annabell, Mickey Dolenz and his sister, Coco.  These days, Chip splits his time between Hawaii and California and “is working on a pedal steel album with my son, Tyler.”

-Mark Daponte

Photo: Chip Douglas (second on upper left) as part of The Turtles (public domain)

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9 comments on “Chip Douglas: Producer of Pure Pop

  1. Sue Morgan

    Interesting article. Thanks. Just a point though: Coco is Micky Dolenz’s sister, not daughter.

  2. Daniel Crowe

    First knew of Chip Davis via Mannheim Steamroller (a kind of high-fidelity pop ensemble), but great to learn of his history including his role in the “Happy Together” arrangement.

    • Gregg Porter

      Different people; Chip Davis and Chip Douglas.
      (And I enjoy the music each of them has been involved with.)

    • Brad K.Aves

      Wow, I never really looked into Chip’s career, and we may have crossed paths last night by total accident?.
      Anyway, I’ve got a crazy story that goes way back in his career, actually, all the way back to 1966 1967?, and back to when the Turtles used to “practice” in somebody’s grandma’s garage in LA.
      I actually lived across the street from that garage when I was a kid, and those houses nor the street even exist anymore. The street was called Goebal Avenue, and is all now LAX..
      I have a favor, If one of you can get ahold of Chip, and see if he can confirm the story, and, ask him if he remembers the Desert Tortoise they had also? (This geta funny)

      Thank you
      Brad K. Aves

  3. Gary Theroux

    Excellent article but I wouldn’t be so fast to put down Adam Faith. While 1965’s “It’s Alright” peaking at #31 was his only U.S. Top 40 hit, in his native England Adam piled up no less than 24 1969-66 hits, 11 of which went Top 10 and two hit #1.

    • Agreed. Adam Faith is not to be sneezed at. His career intersected with The Bee Gees, Deep Purple, David Essex, Leo Sayer, and other notables. He was also a great actor–check out STARDUST and his part in the 1960 British noir NEVER LET GO (with an absolutely oil bad guy played by Peter Sellers–never knew he could play a villain so well).

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I worked with Davy Jones for 20 years and got to spend time with Chip–a modest man with significant talent.

  5. Kudos to Chip Douglas for a great music career. I’ve enjoyed his work since Happy Together.

  6. Thad Rosenfeld

    “What number is this, Chip?”

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