“Different Drum” by Stone Poneys (ft. Linda Ronstadt)

It has been offered that Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” centers on a character (the vocalist) who has come to the realization that she and her boyfriend (the addressee) are romantically incompatible. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Stone Poneys's Different Drum at Lyrics.org.

Or as she poetically puts it, the two of them are “travel(ing) to the beat of a different drum”And it is true that to some degree, it does read as if they are in a serious relationship. Or at least that would be the most logical explanation as to why it is put forth that the addressee is “crying and grieving” upon being definitively rejected by the vocalist. 

But it should also be noted that some of the lyrical content, especially during the first half of the song, also suggests that the addressee is someone who is now trying to get with the singer.

That said, regardless of which of those ways a listener may interpret the premise, one thing that is clear is that said addressee has fallen in love with the singer. And it can be ascertained that she has feelings for him also.

It can likewise be said that Linda is actually the more mature one in this relationship. She knows the way the addressee feels about her is not reciprocal. In other words, he wants to lock her down in a monogamous kind of way.

Meanwhile, the vocalist is at a stage where she’d rather play the field. Moreover, in the second verse she seems to imply that the addressee isn’t too intelligent. But all lyrics of “Different Drum” considered, what she is rather exerting in that regard is that she doesn’t understand why he would still want her so badly, even though he knows she’s not likewise into him like that.

In Conclusion

So considering that she also seems to like the addressee also, on the part of the vocalist this would be a mercy rejection or dumping, so to speak. Again as implied by the second verse, she could most likely string him along if so desired. But Linda is rather letting him know straight up that ultimately they have contrasting relationship goals and that she is not interested accordingly, as in being willing to date him now only to break his heart even more later on.

Lyrics to "Different Drum"

Who wrote “Different Drum”?

This song was written by Michael Nesmith (1942-2021). At that time, Michael was concurrently serving as a member of The Monkees, a pop band who also starred in a very-popular, self-titled television show. 

He pitched the piece to his bandmates, but the higher-ups in the organization rejected it. So the first musical act that actually ended up releasing a recorded version of “Different Drum”, in 1966, was a NYC outfit known as The Greenbriar Boys. And just to note, Nesmith had specified that the featured narrative was not based on his real life.

Michael Nesmith was given an opportunity to perform a shortened, parody version of “Different Drum” on The Monkees show in 1966. Also, he did get around to dropping an official rendition of the tune as featured on his 1972 solo album And the Hits Keep on Comin’

Successful Version

The musical act that went on to have a hit with this song was the L.A.-based Stone Poneys. In some cases they may rather be referred to by monikers such as the Stone Poneys with Linda Ronstadt or featuring Linda Rondstadt. That said, it should be noted that in reality Ronstadt was a co-founder and official member of the crew.

By the looks of things, there were two primary reasons that the producers of The Monkees didn’t accept this song. First is that Michael Nesmith had written it before becoming associated with the act. So whereas it deals with a somewhat serious topic, The Monkees were rather established more as a comical, bubblegum pop crew. 

Secondly and relatedly, they were primarily made-for-TV. They were not a famous band who were subsequently granted a TV show, like say The Jackson 5. So it’s like said producers didn’t even consider Nesmith a serious musician in the first place, though he did in fact prove to be.

Stone Poneys

Unfortunately for the other two members of Stone Poneys – guitarists Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards (1946-2010) – it was one those types of situations where the lead vocalist, Linda Ronstadt, was the undeniable star of the show (as inferred by the cover art to this single and as buttressed by the fact that Kimmel and Edwards did not play on this song). 

So out of the trio, Capitol targeted her specifically for a contract, and of course Ronstadt did go on to have a legendary solo career. Though consequently Stone Poneys itself went defunct. Actually they were only extant for a few years, from 1965-1968.

Within that time, Stone Poneys dropped three studio albums. 

When did Stone Poneys release “Different Drum”?

“Different Drum” was released by Stone Poneys during September of 1967. It was the second single from their sophomore album, “Evergreen, Vol. 2”. And this song did in fact prove to be the band’s sole hit. It is actually their only single to have a respectable show (breaking the top 20) on the Billboard Hot 100.

Different Drum

More Facts

Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” was produced by Nick Venet (1936-1998). Nick was a Capitol Records employee who worked with many artists of that day, most notably The Beach Boys, a contemporary of The Monkees.

“Different Drum” actually represents the first hit in Linda Ronstadt’s discography. However, she has looked back with disdain on her performance of it (despite initially being attracted to the piece as opposed to songs traditionally written by her bandmates). 

Ronstadt developed this less-than-favorable view of her vocals on this track due to the fact that she was a relative amateur at the time and laid them down in only two takes. However, one key figure who did actually appreciate her rendition was Michael Naismith, who even incorporated Ronstadt’s style into his own version.

This song was a top 20 hit in all of the countries it charted in, i.e. the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (breaking the top 10 in the latter two cases).

Considering that this song was in fact written by Nesmith, initially the gender pronouns read as being relayed from a man to a woman, not vice versa as in Stone Poneys’ version.

1 Response

  1. Special Heshel says:

    Interesting, one reason the song is so powerful is because it is song by a woman and not a man as the original is by. At the time which boy wouldn’t want to be in love with such a pretty girl like Lind Ronstadt. The song just wouldn’t be as accepted if sung by Mike Naismith

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