The high energy blazing tempo, the classic riff, the syncopations, the modulations, the passionate vocals and harmonies, the crazy reverbified outro. This song rocks. Hard.
The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” has a great recurring guitar riff that was played by Michael Nesmith on an electric (presumably a Gretsch). The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, but “The Riff” itself was composed by Chip Douglas, the producer of the track [and the album that it comes from: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. (1967)]. Douglas also ripped out the tasty bass line on this track. The guitar riff was inspired by the Beatles’ “I Want to Tell You.”
It may take a while to feel the timing on this one. At first listen, the first note sounds like it falls on beat one, but once the band comes in, it becomes clear that the first note is actually an eighth note pickup on the “and” of the fourth beat. In the outro of the song, listen to the juxtaposition of the riff against the band, the syncopation that results is magical.
Play this with a pick. The riff makes use of a lot of slurs (pull-offs and hammer-ons). There are also a few quick position changes, but these are made simple by the open A-string pedal tones. Make use of the open notes as opportunities to quickly move to the next position.