I had something else planned to post but I found out that Mike Nesmith passed away. Nesmith was a big inspiration to me. There is no question…Nesmith would have made it without the Monkees…he was a talented writer, actor, producer, novelist and a very good Texas guitar player. He wrote some great country rock songs, Elephant Parts, and even a hit for Linda Ronstadt’s band The Stone Poneys…Different Drum.
While watching the reruns of the Monkees I bugged my mom to buy me a green wool hat with buttons but you can’t buy them off the shelf. She got me a green stocking cap…it wasn’t the same but I was happy. When the Monkees are mentioned some people cringe but they still have a place in my 5-year-old heart…plus how many bands can say that Jimi Hendrix opened up for them? Although that might be the worst pairing ever.
I’m not saying they deserve to be remembered with the best bands ever. Not at all but they do need to be recognized for their influence on a couple of generations. They influenced a lot of kids to form bands…mostly because of their weekly prime-time television show and ensuing hit singles. In the 80s they had a big comeback with a tour and massive airplay on MTV… I got to see them then…without Nesmith though.
They were a lot of fun. I thought WOW… I must be in a band one day. Little did I know that being in a band was not living in a cool place at the beach and having adventures at every turn…not to mention everyone getting along…it just doesn’t happen that way…but it is a special feeling being in a band with an us against them attitude and a great growing experience.
After I went through the Monkees faze I discovered the Beatles, The Who, Stones, Kinks…anything British but I still have a soft spot for some of the old Monkees songs.
The Monkees basically took A Hard Days Night movie humor and made a television show around a life of a mid-sixties rock band. Kids wanted to form bands after seeing them romp around the screen with girls…who wouldn’t want that gig? Michael Stipe from REM has said he was influenced by them.
They were not allowed to play on their first couple of albums…only sing…The Monkees were put together by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider for Screen Gems with two real musicians in the band…Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork… Micky Dolenz (he did sing in cover bands before The Monkees) and Davy Jones could sing and act…. and Mickey quickly learned drums.
When news came out that they didn’t play on their albums they were roundly criticized in the 1960s. They fought Don Kershner who controlled what they sang…. and won… The funny thing is many sixties pop bands didn’t play on their records and the Monkees actually started to play their own instruments on their third album (Headquarters) and writing some songs for every album afterward.
In the second season of their tv show they started to gain more control. Some of those last episodes are very pot influenced…especially the episode called “The Frodis Caper”… It is surreal and broke the fourth wall…the second season is worth a watch…all of them are fun but the 1st season is more formulaic.
I still like many songs by them…anything written by Michael Nesmith (famous also for Elephant Parts), Pleasant Valley Sunday, Randy Scouse Git, Steppin Stone and Saturday’s Child.
All in all, they ended up singing and playing on some of the best-known sixties pop-rock hits.
I’ll just add one more thing…he Monkees belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.