Mike Nesmith (1942-2021) and the Monkees influence

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.

….

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

46 thoughts on “Mike Nesmith (1942-2021) and the Monkees influence”

  1. I grew up watching this show after school and loved the Monkees as did all my contemporaries. I was sad to hear of his passing. Somewhere I may still have a cassette of an album he recorded post Monkees era.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was how I came to love them: after school via TV reruns. I wasn’t aware of it then, but the band was no more. Possibly the final, duo-album, Changes had come out? But I think my awareness was after that. I had his two, later solo albums From A Radio Engine and Infinite Rider on LP. I came to pick up his First National Band albums, used, over the years.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I still play music now…not professionally but the reason I started was because of them. From them I went to the Beatles.

        I had the First National Band albums but I have never heard From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing album…thanks for reminding me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes he did. Folk singer, pop star, and a pioneer of video. He was the one member that I think would have made a name for himself with or without the Monkees.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post, Max, and sad Mike checked out! Looks like he wasn’t in the best of health during his final years.

    When I first learned The Monkees were a “fake band” created for some TV series, I did not take them seriously. I guess it must have been around the time I started picking up the guitar. As such, playing an instrument was very important to me to be a “real music artist.”

    My initially opinion about The Monkees quickly changed once I realized how well done their songs were. Plus, as you rightly pointed out, two of the guys actually were musicians from the get-go, and by their third album, they all played instruments. So they certainly became a real band.

    Taking a quick glance at Wikipedia’s article about Nesmith, I see he has a pretty impressive discography outside The Monkees – I had no idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elephant Parts was a music-video that he won awards for…he was a pioneer in that. It’s odd that they eventually turned into a real band. Nesmith is the one that brought that about…he said he didn’t like duping people.

      He wrote some really good country-rock songs.

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    2. Yes. It’s those post-Headquarters albums by the Monkees that get really interesting. They’re full of great musicianship and songwriting. Even Present (when they became a trio) and Changes (when they became a Mike-less duo). Because of Mike, Present is the stronger of the two.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve told people and commented…even without the Monkees…Nesmith would have done something I fully believe.

        Those albums without Peter and then Mike are better than what people think.
        They had some of the best singles of the 1960s no doubt. Have you ever seen that Monkees TV special? It has a live version of Listen To The Band with Buddy Miles coming in.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes. Seen ’em all. Even the one they did for ABC-TV to promote Justus in ’96. A reissue label needs to put all the Monkees TV works, specials into a box DVD set.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes they do…I think Rhino had the rights to them last.
        They might now do it…and why they are not in the Hall of Fame is baffling to me…except that Jann Wenner doesn’t like them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. RIP Mike N. Even with his age it was a bit of a shock, given that he was on the road touring with Micky only weeks ago and from reports, seemed fine.
    I’d forgotten that he wrote ‘Different Drum’…what a fine song that is.
    As a kid I think he was my favorite Monkee, probably if for no other reason than that Canadian-looking toque (hat)! And I agree, they should be in the Rock Hall for their output and their influence, for sure. Not to knock Motown, but The Temptations and Four Tops didn’t play instruments and almost never wrote their own songs but no one says they aren’t worthy. The Monkees at least played and wrote some of their material.
    Off topic, hope you and your home are OK. I guess those storms tore quite a path through your area last night? I am halfways amazed we didn’t get any storms… they started kicking up about 40 miles east and to the north of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I wasn’t expecting this at all…like you said I saw him in an interview not long ago and he seemed fine.

      Thanks Dave…yea it was rough last night but we got no damage here…We took Bailey to the airport this morning….he is on his way to Germany….he is sooo nervous…just about the flights etc….

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  4. Yeah – me too. I grew up with The Monkees as the soundtrack to my young life. The Beatles were nothing to me! Never forget being taken by my Dad to see the movie (not sure if Mum was there too) an what an impression that made on me. In fact, The Monkees and Batman 66 are still my heroes.

    I’ve been trying to get the Monkees TV series on DVD here in UK, but it seems never to have been released in UK format. Same happened with Batman 66 until a few years ago, so still hoping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found the Beatles after the Monkees but the Monkees were my beginning for sure. I was the generation after so like I said…when I was 7 in 74 I thought they were still playing.

      There are some DVD and Bluray players that will play both formats. I’m a big fan of Buster Keaton and I could only find a UK format of his documentary….I found it online and bought it…it plays because I found a player that takes both..good luck on finding them! Their shows are enjoyable as you know.

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  5. Back when there were only 3 channels, everybody watched the same things. There is a specialness about those times we only see once in awhile now (e.g. Tiger King in the time of covid.) Even though all of The Monkees were cute and contributed to the silliness of the show, Mike Nesmith was always my favorite. He was the one who often was the voice of reason in the chaos. So sad to learn of his passing yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was sad to hear about Nesmith. I grew up watching the reruns and talked my mom to call and order their Greatest Hits album from the TV commercial. I still have that copy on vinyl. One I will never part with. It was also the first vinyl I ever bought as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was a talented guy. His talent got glossed over because of the Monkees fame. They did have a funny show and the later ones really stretched the limits…they were pot based and you can tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. He also made some great movies. “Repo Man” and “Tapeheads” are a couple of his films, both cult classics and films I have watched multiple times. His talent will be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jann Wenner doesn’t believe they belong there for sure.
      I must go there and this summer I’m picking between the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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