Michael Nesmith’s catalogue has always been a vast treasure trove for Monkees fans. Take the dreamy “Rio,” a 1977 track that was accompanied by one of the first-ever music videos. Or 1970’s “Joanne,” Nesmith’s first and only hit with his First National Band. The song remains a cult favorite — even Brian Williams requested it during a performance at the Beacon Theater earlier this year.
On Friday, Nesmith released Cosmic Partners: The McCabe’s Tapes, a live album from 1973 recorded inside a guitar shop in Santa Monica. Backed by Red Rhodes’ sparse pedal steel, the intimate performance captures Nesmith at his most vulnerable. “I was lost musically, lost financially, lost professionally,” he told Rolling Stone on Tuesday. “I really didn’t know what to do. And my only friends were the musicians I was playing with. I was playing old-time folk songs, basically the songs I came out to L.A. with.”
“Tomorrow and Me” echoes this melancholy. The acoustic ditty clocks in over 5 minutes, with Nesmith coming to terms with his despair: “I’ve forgotten how long I’ve been sitting here/Watching my reflection in a disappearing beer,” he laments over Rhodes’ melting pedal steel. “The loneliness is so thick you can slice it/The emptiness is too much for me to fight it.”
The song originally appeared as the opening track to 1972’s And the Hits Just Keep on Comin,’ the same album that contained “Different Drum,” which Linda Ronstadt turned into a hit in 1967 with the Stone Poneys. “I think he liked it,” Ronstadt recently told us about the song. “It made him lots of money.”
Nesmith will tour with Micky Dolenz as the Monkees in 2020, and he’s in no hurry to book shows with his First National Band. “If I was in the shape I was in back in McCabe’s, I’ll book it myself,” he says. “Give me a call! Send me a check! But I’m very, very dialed-down now. I’m no longer having any notions of superstardom. The notions I have are of eternal peace and happiness, so I’m going to keep working through that. And the only place I’ve ever found that is in my music.”