Have you heard the totally hip 60s hit I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone?
It transports us to an imaginary cool scene with mini skirts, Afghan coats, and dancers doing the Watusi. It’s the best!
If you know the song, you’ve probably heard the version by The Monkees. But did they write it?
Let’s find out!
Who Originally Wrote I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone?
The songwriting duo Boyce and Hart originally wrote I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were singer-songwriters in the 50s. Each moved to Los Angeles to pursue their musical careers long before meeting.
Although Boyce and Hart released material on their own, both were more successful at writing material for other artists such as Fatz Domino and Tommy Sands.
Boyce and Hart were highly sought-after songwriters during the mid-60s. Their partnership started in 1959 and remained strong for the next three decades. They wrote hits for artists such as Little Anthony and The Imperials and Chubby Checker.
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote more than 300 songs, whether as a team or solo artists. Their work includes TV theme songs for shows like Bewitched and Days of Our Lives.
Boyce and Hart’s most successful union was with the 60s rock band The Monkees. In 1965,
Screen Gems’ TV production company created a TV show around a then fictional band called The Monkees. The company hired Boyce and Hart to write the songs and soundtrack.
Over 400 real musicians auditioned, and the four who were hired played together outside of the TV show. Boyce and Hart wrote several hits for The Monkees, including Last Train to Clarksville and The Monkees Theme Song.
What Was the Creative Process for Steppin’ Stone?
The songwriting duo initially wrote Steppin’ Stone for marketing to popular garage bands of the time. Coined in the mid-60s, the term garage music was a literal reference to bands who played and recorded in their garage.
This was punk before the word punk existed. Kids who wanted to play simple, angst-driven songs plugged into electric amps. The simple repetition of major chords sped up in one part, then slowed back down, aimed to please the youth.
The song lyrics come right out of the gate covered in resentment. You’re trying to make your mark in society. You’re using all the tricks that you used on me.
The singer is setting their boundaries with a girl who they feel used them to climb the social ladder.
Although I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone isn’t based on one particular person, it doesn’t need to be to have an effect. Feeling used and mistreated is a well-seasoned subject matter for rock songs. And in this case, they delivered it with simplistic rockin’ brilliance.
Who First Recorded I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone?
I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone was first recorded and released by Paul Revere & The Raiders in May 1966. Formed in 1958 By Paul Revere, he took advantage of sharing the same name as a 1770s American patriot. They performed in Revolutionary War-style costumes and played surly songs with conviction and grit.
Paul Revere & The Raiders released 28 studio albums and went through numerous line-up changes over their five-decade career. I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone appeared on their fifth album, Midnight Ride.
The album charted in the top ten and was certified Gold. Paul Revere & The Raiders were radio favorites of the late 60s and 70s. In addition, they performed regularly on Dick Clark’s rock and roll TV show, Where The Action Is.
What’s the Most Popular Version of Steppin’ Stone?
Boyce and Hart were a perfect fit for the band that would become The Monkees. They got along famously with singers Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz.
It’s no wonder the most popular version of I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone was the November 1966 cover by The Monkees. It reached the Billboard Top 20, an incredible feat for a B-Side track.
Micky Dolenz’s rich, emotional delivery of the lyrics makes the Monkee’s version most memorable. When the song speeds up, you wonder if Dolenz is declaring his stance to the girl or himself. I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone charted #1 in several US and Canadian cities, such as Vancouver, Detroit, and Honolulu.
Both Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz continued to perform the song live throughout their careers as solo artists.
Incredible Punk Covers
Given the attitude written into the original composition by Boyce and Hart, it’s not surprising that two of the most famous punk bands ever also covered the song.
The Sex Pistols covered the song live during their first concerts in 1975 and 1976. This includes their Legendary 1976 gig at Lesser Free Trade Hall – the event that started punk. The song was recorded and released in 1979 and again in 1980, charting in the top 25 in the UK.
Minor Threat was the second punk band to cover I’m Not Your Steppin Stone. Minor Threat was a short-lived yet critically important band in American punk history. The band was formed in Washington D.C. in 1980 by Ian MacKaye. MacKaye paved the way for the do-it-yourself model of pressing and releasing your own records.
Minor Threat’s two-minute cover of Steppin’ Stone never hit any charts, but it’s not like they wanted to. Their fast and ferocious 1981 cover is one of the best punk covers of all time.
The Flies released one of the most fantastic versions of Steppin’ Stone in October 1966. Although The Flies only lasted three years and only released three singles, they were a known force in the 60s scene. If The Flies were good enough to open for The Who and The Moody Blues, they’re certainly worth a listen.
Has I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone Appeared in Movies or TV Shows?
Of Course! The TV comedy series The Monkees played Steppin’ Stone frequently. Producers often used it in montage sequences with the band getting in and out of trouble.
The 2007 film I’m Not There also included The Monkees’ cover. This unconventional narrative film about Bob Dylan features Dylan’s songs almost exclusively. But there’s a fantastic party scene featuring I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone. The song was also in episode one of The Queen’s Gambit.
Steppin’ Stone also appeared in a film involving The Sex Pistols right when they were breaking up. Director Julien Temple’s film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle is a mockumentary about The Sex Pistols, including all Pistols band members except singer Johnny Rotten who refused to be in the film.
Of course. Band Manager Malcolm McClaren spliced Rotten’s voice from some 1976 recordings into the 1978/79 audio for the film. Talk about a swindle!
The Evolution of Steppin’ Stone Was…
Absolutely Hip! If you haven’t heard Steppin’ Stone yet, explore some of the many ways to give it a listen. Rent the movie I’m Not There and sink into the party scene. Or you can YouTube each version and compare. If you like 80s psychedelic garage rock, we think you’ll love it!
Have you already heard I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone? What’s your favorite version?