Sunday, August 25, 2013

Confession: I was a Monkees fan before the Monkees were cool.

Warning: I'm dating myself in this post.

I went to see the Monkees in concert this summer.  For me, it was an exercise in nostalgia.  See, I had not yet turned nine when "The Monkees" first debuted on NBC-TV in September 1966.  Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were actors hired to play a rock group trying to make it big but never quite succeeding -- on the show, at least.  In real life, of course, they were the new hotness, with a hit TV show on Monday nights and record albums that included songs written by the likes of Neil Diamond and Carole King.

But at first, the producers wouldn't let them play their own instruments -- even though Mike and Peter had both been professional musicians pre-Monkees.  By the time they were ready to produce their third album, "Headquarters," however, they won the battle to write their own material, play their own instruments, and generally take control of their own musical destiny.

But by then, the rock establishment had dismissed the Monkees as hacks. They were dubbed "the Prefab Four" because the TV show was developed specifically to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles and their first two movies.

So you have to understand that for a long time during my formative years, the Monkees simply were not cool.  Being a Monkees fan in the late '60s and early '70s -- particularly after the show went off the air in '68 and the group mostly fell apart -- was akin to being a fan of 'N Sync or One Direction today. It was considered to be a teenybopper thing, something you'd grow out of. So eventually I got rid of their albums -- even my mono copy of "Headquarters," the first record album I ever bought -- and consigned my appreciation for their work to my childish taste back then.

The guys in DC (stolen from monkeesconcerts.com)
Fast-forward to the spring of this year, when I happened to see that the Monkees (sans Davy, sadly) would be in town for a concert in July.  I figured, what the heck. I'm over 50 now, which allows me to be eccentric, instead of just weird; I'm allowed to revel in my second childhood, if I like.  I downloaded the LiveNation app so I could buy a ticket before they went on sale to the general public.  And then I forgot about it until about a week before the show.

I expected the Warner Theatre to be packed with gray-haired ladies, and there were many in the audience. But I was surprised to see a bunch of younger people in the crowd, too.  I'd forgotten about the show's MTV run, you see.  And then I mentioned in passing in a Facebook group or two that I'd seen the Monkees in concert, and I was surprised again, because the reaction I got was...respect. Turns out that their music has stood the test of time -- and not just the Carole King and Neil Diamond tunes, but the ones the guys wrote themselves, too.

Weeks after the concert, inexplicably, I got an earworm of the chorus of "The Door into Summer", so I looked up the lyrics online. Turns out the Monkees were doing protest songs! Look at the first verse:
With his fool's gold stacked up all around him
From a killing in the market on the war
The children left King Midas there, as they found him
In his counting house where nothing counts but more
If that's not about Vietnam (not to mention every US war since), I don't know what is. Take that, 'N Sync. Let's see how relevant you guys are in 45 years.

Here's the whole song live, in Long Beach, CA.  See if you think it's stood the test of time.


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I almost forgot: the flash fiction page is up at lynnecantwell.com. And the first Land, Sea, Sky short story will be out at Amazon on Wednesday. Keep an eye peeled on Facebook and Twitter for the link.

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