"Different Drum" was the only hit by the Stone Poneys; the only hit recorded with Linda Ronstadt on lead vocals prior to the start of her solo career; and the only Top Twenty single written by Mike Nesmith, even though he was the primary songwriter in the Monkees, one of the most commercially successful groups of the late 1960s. Although Nesmith wrote quite a few songs that the Monkees recorded, and these represented the more serious and country-folk side of the band, these were given far less exposure than the songs that group recorded for big hits, which were usually crafted for them by top pop-rock singer-songwriters. "Different Drum" itself was never recorded by the Monkees, though a prior version had appeared on a 1966 album by the bluegrass band the Greenbriar Boys. "Different Drum" has an extremely attractive lilting, slightly bittersweet melody, stated right off in the brief instrumental intro, where a trilling guitar plays the main riff, backed by harpsichords. Despite the title, the song isn't so much an anthem of marching to one's own "Different Drum" as a lament that the two lovers in the song travel to beats of a different drum, dooming their relationship. Ronstadt puts her earnest all into her vocal, necessary as the lyrics are unusually wordy for a '60s pop song, sometimes inserting more syllables into lines than the rhythm really warrants. Too, the song doesn't follow a conventional verse-bridge-verse structure; the bridge lasts an eternity by hit parade standards, though it suitably reflects the protagonist's verbose confusion and reluctance to commit. Nik Venet's imaginative production steers furthest away from the folk-rock of the song's core during the instrumental break, which features an unaccompanied classical-flavored harpsichord, perhaps influenced by the Beatles' "In My Life." Classical violins join the harpsichord when Ronstadt comes back in with her vocal. The Greenbriar Boys' obscure original version, incidentally, is far more languid and countrified than Ronstadt's cover, with a more sorrowful tone than Ronstadt's more serious, almost defiant interpretation of the lyrics. Kenny Edwards of the Stone Poneys has recalled that the group's initial attempt at recording the song was much closer to the Greenbriar Boys' original than the one used on the hit single, on which none of the Stone Poneys played. Nesmith would eventually record the song himself in the early 1970s.