Showing posts with label the monkees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the monkees. Show all posts

Friday, December 10, 2021

Mike Nesmith

My first teenage crush was the Monkees. But it was an odd crush ~ I claimed the group as my "friends".  At eleven my world was upended when my parents up and moved us to a new town in a new state. I was at that awkward age, and being painfully shy didn't help matters. Barely anyone in my new class talked to me, and I sure wasn't about to initiate a conversation. Thus, the highlight of my life was alighting the bus on a Monday afternoon, tromping up to our cramped apartment, and waiting 'til seven o'clock, when The Monkees TV show came on.

I had a study hall period in the middle of each day, a cavernous hollow room on the second floor of my turn of the century school. It held approximately one hundred desks, with the study hall teacher perched at his own desk high up on a stage in the front. I don't know what any of the other kids did (I suspect "studying" wasn't one of those things), but as for me, I whipped out a spiral notebook and my multi-color pens and wrote letters to each individual Monkee. I think Mickey got the green pen, Davy the red, Peter was assigned the blue, and Mike the purple. Of course I didn't actually mail any of the "letters" (duh); in hindsight I think they were a way for me to spill my guts and my loneliness. I took them very seriously.

I didn't even particularly like the TV show, except for the songs. But these guys were my friends, so I sat through a half hour of silliness in solidarity.

Most girls favored Davy Jones, but Mickey Dolenz was my favorite. Peter Tork was just a goofy guy who sometimes plinked the piano. Mike was a puzzle. He never got to sing lead on any of the hits. He just stood there strumming his guitar, wearing his green knit hat, but he seemed happy enough to be doing what he was doing. 

I read later that Mike didn't like being part of The Monkees, that the formulaic tunes picked for the group cramped his style. This turned out to be a myth.

“Quite the contrary,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “It was a nice part of the résumé. It was a fun for me, and a great time of my life..." (source)

Nesmith's roots were apparently in country rock, but to be honest, after the group broke up I didn't follow his career. I do know that Linda Ronstadt grabbed this Mike-penned song after the Monkees' producers nixed it for the group:

The last performance of the two remaining Monkees:

Mike Nesmith passed away December 10. Davy is gone, Peter is gone; now only Mickey remains.

Rest in peace, old friend.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Sixty-Four Years of Music ~ Continued

Musical Doldrums

I continued aboard the pop music train until around 1968. If one peruses the top hits of '68, it's apparent that music took a nosedive. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe The Beatles were tired. Maybe the Summer of Love ruined everything. Maybe my life was falling apart.

I don't remember how I came into possession of my battery-operated record player, but I carried it with me throughout my early teens. It was fun at first, but the fun abruptly ended once the batteries wore down. I'd be merrily playing "Thank The Lord For The Night Time" when suddenly Neil Diamond began singing really low and slowwww. I didn't have money to constantly purchase size D batteries and trust me, they weren't alkaline. My dad picked up a so-called battery charger somewhere, which barely masked the problem. Seems those Evereadys were just as tired as The Beatles.

Still, in 1967, pop music retained a glint of joy. I continued to be a mostly singles buyer. The Turtles recorded on the White Whale label, whose '45 color was oddly blue, not white. Neil Diamond was on Bang, with its yellow label with a revolver atop shooting out the word "Bang". The Monkees' Colgems singles sported a prosaic red and white design. The Grass Roots' Dunhill singles were elegantly black. (I wonder what possessors of mp3's stare at while their song is playing.) 

I had my favorites, like this one. I don't think The Turtles were ever taken seriously by the music biz people, but the execs sure liked the money that rolled in:

Lulu had one hit song, but it did land her a part in a movie, so she had a year. This really is beautiful:

I'm not sure what the deal was with Alex Chilton. Granted, he was only sixteen, but he acted like a reluctant fifth grader whose mom pushed him out on the stage. Nevertheless, this was one of my special songs from 1967:


This is the only song I ever liked by Herman's Hermits. Because they were a goofy band that essentially did novelty songs. I can't even stand to listen to Peter Noone on Sirius XM, because he's still trying to sound like he's sixteen, when in actuality he's pushing a hundred and five. However, this is a classy song:


This song is perfect for a twelve-year-old. It has that great poppy vibe, and (shucks) this performance doesn't feature Graham Nash, who went on to record some of the most boring songs in musical history about puppies and aprons and tidying up the house with his new, hipper, band, CSN or CSNY (whatever). 


The Grass Roots were the first rock concert I ever attended. Of course, I was so high up in the bleachers that I could have just as well been at home peering through binoculars. Much like The Turtles, The Grass Roots got no love. I don't understand that, because they had a lengthy string of hits. (And yes, even though this video is fuzzy, I can pick out Creed from The Office.):


By 1967 I'd mostly relinquished my obsession with The Monkees. They'd been my lifeline when my family moved to a new town and I suddenly had zero friends. I wrote about it somewhere ~ oh, here

I guess life had become a little bit better in some ways, and a hell of a lot worse in others. I never owned this '45, but my big brother did. As was my wont, I snuck into his room to play his records whenever he was away. I didn't know until recently that Carole King wrote this song. It's probably my favorite Monkees recording:

Thus ended my pop music phase. For a long while.

Next ~ immersing myself in country.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Peter Tork


Dear Mickey, Davy, Peter, and Mike:

Hi! How are you? I'm in study hall right now. It's really boring. I don't really have any homework to do. I'm supposed to be working on math problems, but they don't make any sense. Math is stupid. 

My school is really old. I think it was built when the first settlers came to Mandan. It's kind of dark. Every sound bounces off the walls. You should see this room. It's huge! A teacher I don't know is sitting at a desk on top of the stage. I think this must have been an auditorium in the olden days. Some boy just dropped his textbook and everybody jumped from the racket. 

I hate this school. Sometimes I have nightmares about its big wide staircase. Stupid boys like to make fun of shy girls and pull their hair or make mean comments when I'm just trying to go up to the second floor to my stupid earth science class.

How's Hollywood? I wanted to come out and visit your psychedelic pad, but if I miss school my mom will be mad. Maybe this summer. 

I really like your new song "I'm A Believer". Mickey, you really play groovy drums and I love your singing! Thank you for asking me to sing on your next record!

Davy, your tambourine playing is so cool. Peter, you are so funny! I laugh a lot at all the funny predicaments you get into. Mike, I really like your hat. I watch your show every Monday night.

If you get the time, could you come and visit me? I haven't actually met any friends yet. 

Well, the bell's gonna ring so I'd better finish this up. I just wanted to say hi.


I learned yesterday that Peter Tork passed away. Unless you were a twelve-year-old girl in 1967, Peter's passing probably doesn't mean a whole lot to you. Especially if you weren't a twelve-year-old girl who'd just moved from the only home she'd ever known to a new town, a new state; had a supremely dysfunctional home life and no friends. The Monkees were my 1967 lifeline.

I don't know why I glommed onto The Monkees, except that they were accessible ~ there they were on NBC television, reliably, every Monday night at seven p.m. We lived in a cramped apartment behind my mom and dad's newly purchased motel. I shared a cupboard-sized bedroom with my three and four-year-old siblings and aside from the spare minutes during which I could drop the stylus down on a 45-rpm record and spin Neil Diamond before my little brother and sister wandered home, my only refuge was the broiling console TV squatting in our living room. 

The Monkees were my lifeline. I did sit in a cavernous room with about a hundred other kids I didn't know, whiling away my time. And instead of completing my homework assignments, I wrote letters to each of The Monkees. I had different colored pens I used for each of the four band members ~ red, green, blue, and purple. Each of The Monkees received personalized letters that I never mailed. 

The me that exists today would say those letters were a means of working out my feelings. That sounds good. I did have a lot of emotions I was not allowed to express, because what did my problems matter, really, when Mom and Dad had so many issues to sort out ~ prime among them that they were both crazy?

I think my first cognizance of The Monkees was "Last Train To Clarksville", which was included on an LP that my big brother gave me as a birthday gift. 

As a marketing concept, it was prescient. Much like with the Beatles, I was primed for what was yet to come. I'd not even yet laid eyes on The Monkees, and already I was a fan.

The Monkees had superb songs. And here's a tip that you can only glean from a twelve-year-old girl: We didn't give a F if Mickey, Davy, Peter and Mike didn't play their own instruments on their records. How would we even have known that?? Music was magic that emanated from our transistor radios. Magic. If I'd learned that someone called The Wrecking Crew had cobbled these songs together, it would have made zero difference to me; and twelve-year-old me wouldn't have bought into it anyway. After all, I saw with my own eyes Mickey beating on the drums and Davy banging his tambourine. And Peter doing something on the piano and Mike Nesmith strumming a guitar and looking bored (Mike was, needless to say, my least favorite Monkee).

I don't think I was even cognizant that the group was pre-fab. Subliminally I knew the four of them didn't actually share an abandoned flophouse. But before their TV show had debuted, they were just another pop group on the radio like The Beau Brummels or The Buckinghams, only more exciting. 

The Monkees came along at about the same time my family was making the move to our new life. The reality of my new existence did not match my initial euphoria. I was too shy to even know how to begin to make new friends, and frankly, I needed to scope these strangers out first to know if I even wanted to be friends with them. When you go to the same school from kindergarten through sixth grade, you don't worry about making friends. Your friends are always just there. Friendship doesn't require any thought or effort. Kids don't react well to a new shy person. They just avoid you ~ you're weird; there's something wrong with you. Maybe you are developmentally disabled.

So, I sat in study hall from 11:00 to noon and wrote letters to The Monkees in my spiral-bound notebook...with different colored pens.

The Monkees TV show only lasted two seasons. By the end of its run I'd found a best friend and the group's significance to me had faded. Mickey, Davy, Peter and Mike had filled my friendship void, though, when I desperately needed someone.

To celebrate Peter's life, here are some of my favorite Monkee songs:

My personal favorite (thanks, Carole King):

Like most memories, I guess you had to be there. "Being there", though, wasn't too much fun. The Monkees, however, made it at least endurable.

Thanks, Peter, for being my pen pal. Say hi to Davy for me.


Friday, October 5, 2018

About Winning And Accusations

I remember when, in sixth grade, my teacher would hold spelldowns. Spelldowns probably don't exist anymore, because, well, hurt feelings. To the uninitiated, the class would be divided into teams and each team would line up along opposite walls. The teacher would present a word to spell and the first person in line would be required to spell it. If that person F'd up, they would have to take their seat and the lead person from the other team would be given the opportunity to spell the word correctly. This exercise would go on until only one person from each team remained.

To be honest, we were indifferent to it all. It was only the fear of failure and derision that kept us in the game. And, for some of us, pride. I was a good speller; thus, I generally won the spelldowns. I was a mid-year enrollee in the school and knew no one, so spelling became my only pitiful claim to fame. When Mrs. Haas announced upon my turn, "Czechoslovakia", I knew I had the game won. I even remembered to say, "Capital C".

Then, when I'd finished, Mrs. Haas said, "incorrect". My face burned hot. I hesitated before taking my seat. I knew I'd spelled it right. Should I protest? Of course I didn't. I was eleven. But (clearly) I never forgot it.

Being accused of misspelling a word doesn't compare to being charged with sexual assault, but there is an innate human reaction to having one's integrity impugned. After all, what do we possess if not our honor? If Mrs. Haas suddenly materialized before me today, the first thing I would demand would be a tape recording of my so-called "misspelling". Barring that, it's simply hearsay. Or perhaps Mrs. Haas had a mental breakdown and confused Czechoslovakia with Yugoslavia.

Therefore, I feel (warily) good about today. It's not so much about winning as it is about unjust accusations and vindication.

Right is right. That may seem quaint in today's cosmos, but if your corpuscles fizz when you are unjustly accused, you'll get it.

In the winter of 1966, my only true friends were The Monkees. (Just thought I would end this on an "up" note):

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Delight Of A Fluffy Pop Song

Pure pop music is as old as music itself. When I was a kid, what I called rock music wasn't truly rock. It was pop. But I didn't know better. KRAD was our local station and it called itself "rock 'n roll", even though it played everything -- everything -- from Dean Martin to Bobbie Gentry to the Beach Boys to Roger Miller, to every possible incarnation in between. If I heard a song by a new group like the Supremes, I thought, hmm, that's different. I inherently knew that someone like Roy Orbison was rock (at least some of his songs), but I wasn't quite sure why. My brother bought me an album by the Yardbirds and I hated it. That was rock. I considered the Beatles, who magically appeared on the earth in 1964 to be a rock group, but in actuality and hindsight, they really were pop; just a bit more amped-up pop. Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, who were a tiny bit before my time, were more rock than the Beatles.

Pop isn't easy to define, but like obscenity (I guess), you know it when you hear it. A pure pop song should be bouncy. A repeating refrain is a plus. Even if the lyrics are sad, the music should be uplifting. Often it means nothing (which is how I generally prefer my songs, to be frank). Most lyrics that try to be deep are instead insipid. "Deep" songwriters miss the joy of music. I like my music fun; not studious, and especially not angry.

The first pop song I fell in love with, when I was eight years old, was "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore. I was in fact obsessed with it. I used to stand atop our picnic table in the backyard and frug and sing this song a cappella.

By the time I reached the mature age of ten, I liked this:

Time moved on (okay, by one year) and by then music had changed. Now it was visual as well as aural.  Granted, the guys were cute, but leave it to Neil Diamond to write an almost perfect pop song:

It was hard to find a good pop song in the seventies. It was hard to find anything good in the seventies. The seventies was a dreary decade. But every era has at least one thing to offer, and as for pop music, the nineteen seventies offered ABBA.

Conversely, the nineteen eighties were rife with pop. I could get into a whole sociological explanation of why people felt better in the eighties and more open to happiness, but it's really quite evident.

This song is glorious in its pop-ness.  

It's almost as if Lesley Gore had been reincarnated, but more blissful.

Sheena wasn't the only one.

Come on, admit it. You liked this song. You really, really boogied on down to this song. Rick Astley was an eighties god:

If you want to just feel good (and who doesn't?), peruse the nineteen eighties pop catalog. I could include another twenty tracks here, but I won't. Springsteen might bemoan how awful President Reagan was; yet he still recorded "Glory Days", so there you go. Sometimes as hard as one tries to be miserable, circumstances budge their way in.

Even as I began listening to country music again in the nineties, I was drawn (albeit reluctantly) to poppish confections. Hate it if you want, but just try not to dance to it:

I submit that pop music is the salve of mankind. 

It's time someone gave pop music its due.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hey Hey ~ I Guess This Is Goodbye

We're long past the time, thankfully, when people critics looked down on the Monkees as a silly pre-fab pop group.

When the news broke on Wednesday that Davy Jones had died, everybody I know, including my husband, felt sad, and wistful.

Someone at work told me.  Her mom had texted her the news, because her mom knew what a crush my co-worker had had on Davy when she was a child.  And everybody I talked to said the same thing!  "I was going to marry him!"

I, for one, was not going to marry Davy Jones.  I was going to marry Micky Dolenz.

But all the girls had "their Monkee".  I'm sure some girls were even going to marry Peter, or Mike.

Once I'd heard, of course, I immediately went online, even though it wasn't my lunch break, and that's actually frowned upon, but I'm sure exceptions can be made in the event of world-shattering news.

What intrigued, and gratified me, was that the comments on the stories I read about Davy were 100% positive.  You know how you always get the trolls, who feel all important by posting some nasty, misspelled comment?  I didn't find any trolls.  I checked a few different sites, and no trolls.

People, even the no-life losers, could find nothing but love to express for Davy, and for the Monkees.

Why is that?

You know, a few famous people have died recently (more than a few, sadly).  And when you read the story comments, there's always a bunch of hate-filled remarks, right there, alongside the glowing.

But none about Davy.

People of a certain generation, who are wont to comment, because their hearts are broken, hold the Monkees close to their hearts, and there is good reason for that.

Remember the most awkward, embarrassing time of your life.  How old were you?  Twelve or thirteen?

I was actually eleven when the show debuted in 1966.  Here's my story:

We moved to a new town, a new state, when I was eleven years old.  It was in the middle of my sixth-grade year.  The middle of the school year!  As if it wasn't bad enough that we had to move, and I had to leave all my friends behind, and I had to maneuver through the halls of a completely unfamiliar environment, I had to show up in the middle of the year!  And make that torturous walk into a strange classroom, and the teacher made me stand there, right upfront, like a complete freak, while she introduced me to a group of strangers.  And they all just sat there and stared at me.  All I wanted to do was go home, albeit a home that was also unfamiliar, but at least my family was there, so there was someone who knew me.

I dreaded, dreaded recess.  My MO was to go out onto the playground, and find a nice, safe corner to stand in, for the eight hours fifteen minutes that recess lasted, until, mercifully, the bell rang, and I could go back inside.

Most of the kids just kindly ignored me.  One or two brave ones would approach me and try to make conversation.  Ever notice who those kids are, the ones who do that?  They're usually the ones who are considered the "outcasts".  How cruel.  Pre-teens and teenagers mock people like that; mercilessly taunt them; when these are actually the good people; the ones who don't mind showing a bit of kindness to the new geek.

In the days before there was such a thing as "middle school", the school that I moved to was somewhat unique, I guess.  The elementary and junior high school were both housed in one big building.  So, as I moved from the sixth grade, and my one home-base classroom, I stayed in the same place for seventh grade; I just had to move around a lot between classes, and try to get to my next period before the bell rang.

So, as a new seventh-grader, I got my schedule (and a locker!), and I had the usual stuff:  English, Life Science, Math, Phy Ed (another excruciating experience), Reading (Was there actually a class called, "reading"?  I think so.)  And another "class" on my schedule was Study Hall.  How can that be a class?  There's nobody teaching it.

I think Study Hall (for me) was right after lunch.  There was this cavernous room; I think maybe in the 1920's, it was a lecture hall for college agricultural college students, or something.  Bear in mind, this building had been around since approximately the time that the town was founded.

So, this "room", if you can even call it a room; more like an alien planet, held hundreds of desks.  And there was a platform way at the front; a raised platform, with a desk, for the Study Hall "teacher" to sit at.  If I'd had binoculars, I could have possibly almost seen him or her.  And the platform itself, and the steps leading up to it, were built from sleek marble.  Now that I think about it, it was just weird; a weird other-worldly experience.

And I don't know how school is now; I'm guessing there's a lot more homework, but back then, we really didn't need study hall.  It was just a filler.  A schedule filler.

The boys would throw spitballs at each other (the teacher couldn't see them, obviously, unless she had binoculars).

Nobody around me, that I could tell, was actually doing any actual schoolwork

I had a notebook, and I had four pens:  a blue one, a red one, a green one, and a black one.  And I would take my notebook and write letters to each of the Monkees; Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mike; each letter in a different colored ink.

I would write letters to them as if we were friends.  As if we were just shooting the breeze.

This is how I spent my time in study hall.  Every day.  Five days a week.  Because I had no friends.  So, the Monkees were my friends.

So, what does the passing of Davy Jones mean to me?

Davy was one of the few (four) friends I had when I was twelve and thirteen.

Because everybody else was a stranger. No, I wasn't a total loser.  I met the best friend I ever had in my life in the sixth grade, although we hadn't yet become best friends at that point.  I was still feeling pretty much alone, in a new town, a new school, a new swarm of faces.

I needed the familiar, and Davy, Micky, Peter, and Mike were familiar.  And they liked me, and didn't judge me.

So, hats off to you, Davy.  Thanks for being my friend.  Even though you didn't even know it.