Just how popular were “The Monkees”?
Let me put it this way. Peter Tork’s little brother went to my high school. In Regina, Saskatchewan. In 1966.
When school let out, there were always a couple of carloads of girls from other high schools waiting to catch sight of him.
Not catch sight of Peter Tork, who lived in LA and more or less played Bass guitar for the original boy band. But to glimpse his little brother, who was 14, kinda nerdy and still went by the family moniker of Thorkelson.
I think dad was a math prof at the University and they’d just happened to move into town the same Summer “The Monkees” went Supernova.
Lil Bro pretty much kept to himself to the point the school paper took him to task for saying his previous high school in LA had been “more fun”.
The printed admonition urged him to take part in more school activities like sock hops and basketball games – which of course would have benefitted the Student Council by attracting those carloads of girls to pay their way in to such dances and games.
I was personally conflicted by “The Monkees”. On one hand their music was pure bubblegum. On the other, their TV show was by far the freshest and most anarchist creation on the tube.
Part sitcom, part musical, part weekly recreation of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”, it constantly pushed the envelope of television creativity at the time.
Episodes introduced songs that would top the next week’s hit parade. Some featured wall to wall music beginning to end. The final episode of season one was a behind the scenes documentary of one of the band’s first concerts in Phoenix, Arizona.
So while my musical affiliations lay with The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, I had to acknowledge there was something special going on with that half hour faux band TV show.
The conflict was even deeper because at 15 or 16, I was a dead ringer for Davy Jones. (And Bobby Sherman too, but that’s another story).
Pretty soon I was cutting my hair to be more like his and buying the same shirts. I mean, let’s face it, with the distaff half of my high school addicted to “Tiger Beat”, resembling Davy offered certain –- uh –- advantages.
How popular were “The Monkees”?
Did you know Jimi Hendrix opened for them on their first concert tour? That songs scrawled set-side to be shot before the crew went into overtime topped the Billboard charts for not weeks, but months!?!
Do they leave a lasting musical legacy?
I don’t know. But I think we can end the debate about how Justin Beiber came up with his original haircut –- not to mention most of his dance moves.
When it comes right down to it, what appeals to teenage girls isn’t much different from one era to another, is it?
Davy Jones died today and though he and his band haven’t been in my thoughts for years, a lot of memories came flooding back.
Standing in line at the 25th Avenue Dairy Queen as “Last Train To Clarksville” debuted on my transistor radio.
Laughing my ass off at one of those Benny Hill inspired chase scenes set to “Pleasant Valley Sunday”.
Listening to “Daydream Believer” in the backseat of a parked ‘63 Dodge and thinking, “Y’know, these guys aren’t so bad.”
Mostly his passing made me realize that Life is really, really fucking short. Time passes quicker than you ever thought possible.
So make a point of making the most of every single day. Because it all too soon moves on. And us with it.