Why The Monkees Are Still Cool

When I was young, I had acquired my sister’s hand-me-down record collection, and a few of the albums by The Monkees were in this collection. Albeit damaged by various things between her carelessness (leaving the records out of their jackets, leaving them near the radiator, etc) and putting them in the vulnerable situation of leaving them where the toddler can get at them and scribble crayon all over the labels (oh wait, that probably would have been me, so, I was also to blame there; I also stupidly destroyed my mom’s 78 of Morris Stoloff playing “Moonglow/Theme From Picnic”, but that’s another story for another time), the records still played and sounded quite intriguing to me, the older but still impressionable music aficionado.

Despite my parents’ persistent arguments that The Monkees were fake and their constant reminders of the now-ridiculous belief that Michael Nesmith was the only one that played an instrument on the recordings, I really didn’t care. These rants pretty much went in one ear and out the other and I’m glad they did. I really enjoyed even the least favorite stuff they ever “did”, but when I heard the Headquarters, Pisces, Aquarius and The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees albums, I was in love with these records, and I was in love with the enigma that was The Monkees, and wondered for years how an accused-fake-pop band could make (or at least be involved with, somehow) such incredibly eclectic music. I am pretty certain that Mike Nesmith was my first real discovery of “cowboy psychedelia” (Sorry, Lee Hazlewood), and that even the music intended for the more commercial side had some sensational elements–How do you not love the drowning-reverb ending of “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, or the futuristic Moog synthesizer on “Daily Nightly” (Especially when that particular instrument had never even appeared on a pop recording before)?

Daily Nightly

I felt like I was an army of one with Monkees music until I saw that Rhino Records began reissuing the albums in various forms over the years. Then there was the 1986 20th-Anniversary blitz with the first reunion tour and the re-screening of the TV series on MTV. Okay, it wasn’t just me, and I wasn’t insane. There were many that still had the memories of their Monkees fandom that weren’t ever letting it go.

The Monkees have had such a variety of reunions over the years that I was convinced they never really broke up, they just took a 16-year sabbatical and
came back more of a band than they ever were. Even all of those non-Mike reunions seemed to be great shows with fine selections of material even for the die-hard fans to enjoy. But obviously with the tragic loss of Davy Jones this past February 29th, some probably believed that there wouldn’t be a way for the reunions to continue, but it turns out they were wrong, as a 12-date tour with the surviving Monkees including Nesmith (which, by the way, would be his first live appearances as a Monkee on the East Coast since 1969) was announced on August 7th (The tour itself is scheduled to run between November 8th in Escondido, CA and December 2 in New York, NY).

Fingers-crossed this goes well and there won’t be another situation where Nesmith has to leave the tour like he did when they had their only complete reunion in the UK in 1997. Even so, the shows promise to be an exciting evening for fans of the group and particularly fans of the lauded Headquarters and Pisces albums as they are planning to do sets of selections from these albums with just the 3 Monkees-only, playing during the concerts as well as performing with a select group of players for the remainder of the concert evenings.

But even if you’ve never seen them live (I never have, but would love to), those records obviously had appeal from the get-go, and I suppose that all of the bands/recording artists that were inspired by them (Tom Petty, R.E.M., U2, Nirvana, etc; okay, I guess I finally nailed my case about why they are cool) probably had the same feelings I did and maybe once didn’t want to share that info with the rest of civilization.

The Monkees’ historic reunion w/Michael Nesmith @ The Greek, CA in 1986

The Monkees (Official website)


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