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The Monkees – An Appreciation (Sort of)

March 25, 2012

Davey Jones’s death a month ago got me thinking about a strange phenomenon in music in which something decidedly “uncool” in its day is resurrected to the status of legend only a decade or so later.  Some of it, of course, is related to musical snobbery, of which I recently read an interesting post on the blog site Every Record Tells A Story.

When I went to see The Monkees play at Wembley in (eek) 1967, I was barely a teenager, but a lot of my slightly older schoolmates — those who had already discovered Hendrix, Dylan etc — ragged me mercilessly about being a teeny-bopper. This was probably the worst insult you could get at the time in my circle and it was enough to make me quietly drop the news that I had been there.

It would be wonderful if I could tell you and them that I was ahead of the curve and recognised quality pop-rock when I heard it. Unfortunately, I heard nothing at the concert. Screaming girls (mainly) drowned out almost ever note. Even the opening act — the lovely Lulu, on whom I had a massive crush — was swamped by the cacophony of Monkee-mania.

Now, of course, some of The Monkees’ hits such as Daydream Believer, Last Train To Clarkesville and I’m A Believer are thoroughly retro-cool and seen for what they really were — great songs.

The main thing is that The Monkees were put together by the industry as a callous exploitation of The Beatles. But for all their being pre-packaged , for  the most part the members of The Monkees were proper musicians. You only have to listen to Mickey Dolenz belt out this bluesy version of I’m A Believer on a recent Jools Holland show to see how good they were. Worth noting, too, that Peter Tork has made a very successful career as a music producer while Mike Nesmith  wrote the Americana classic “Different Drum” (Linda Ronstadt was a later crush) and has an established film production career that includes the cult film Repo Man and winning the first Grammy for Video of the Year

In other words, talent will out.

Which brings us to the question about today’s crop of pre-packaged boy and girl bands and the seemingly endless stream of singers misleadingly listed as “contemporary R&B” but who are really just “pop”. Somewhere in that Cowellesque mass of commercial  mediocrity will be a singer or band that is actually better and more creative than those of us who dismiss them now believe. I can’t see it. But then that is the point.

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From → Music

One Comment
  1. It’s cool that you saw the Monkees….now.
    Thanks for reading my nonsense and taking it for a walk…I’m flattered!

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