Monday, June 20, 2011

Rant #529: Hey, Hey, They Will Always Be The Monkees






My family and I took a step back in time when we saw the Monkees perform at Westbury this past Friday, June 17, and it was surely a wonderful nostalgic ride back to the 1960s.

Let's face it. The Beatles can never get back together, so for most of us, this is the next best thing.

But for me, the Monkees were it, are it, and continue to be it.

I loved the Beatles. Right after seeing them on "The Ed Sullivan Show" back in February 1964, I, like everyone else watching that show, fell in love with them.

And I continue to love the Beatles.

But, the Monkees were created for ME.

In 1966, when their show went on the air a few weeks after "Last Train to Clarksville" debuted, I knew that this was MY rock band. Being nine years old at the time, the show was created for my generation.

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones were the next best thing to the Beatles. Their songs, like the Beatles' music, was airy and catchy, and perfect for pop Top 40 radio.

They had lots of hits, had four No. 1 LPs, and faded off the face of the earth as quickly as they came.

But unlike other successful acts of the time, they still had that wonderful TV show.

Showing it to numerous generations of kids, each generation has basically adopted the band, to a certain extent. And if your kids know Lady Gaga, I will bet you that they know "I'm a Believer" too. (The show currently runs on the weekends on Antenna TV, and it is out on DVD.)

Peter, Micky and Davy were in fine form on Friday night. They've sung these songs their whole lives, but on this tour, they seem to be reinvigorated. Perhaps they know that this might be it for them as an actual touring act, as they are getting a bit long in the tooth.

But you wouldn't know it during this performance. These guys were bouncing around like musicians a third of their age, and they seemed to be having lots of fun doing it.

They did about 40 songs in slightly more than two hours. Our show did not have an intermission, so they did it straight through.

Augmented by videos overhead of the show, commercials that they had done, and photo pastiches that evoked the 1960s and 1970s, the exuberantly did everything from "Clarksville" to "That Was Then, This Is Now," their MTV-inspired hit from 1986.

They have a terrific backing band, but the boys do play their own instruments, and they each played several instruments. And yes, Micky did play drums, which I was happy to see. He usually plays guitar on tour, but he did play drums, and played them well.

Davy is a little heavier, but he is really the consummate entertainer. He brings a British music hall mentality to the proceedings, and it carries over well, And when you see him as a sort of whirling dervish when he does the "Head" film's "Daddy's Song," you really can't believe that this guy is probably getting Social Security.

Micky is in fine voice, and is quite a fine musician. I have met him, and interviewed him, and he is about the nicest person you'd ever want to meet. He is firmly grounded, and that probably helps.

Peter, who overcame a rare form of throat and tongue cancer, was a revelation. The guy plays about six or seven instruments during the show, and even though his speech is a little impaired, his singing voice is probably the best that it has ever been. He looks a little weather beaten, but this guy is going to be 70 in February of next year--it is hard to believe.

We were in the fifth row from the stage, and had great views of everything. The sold out house was really into the show, and they were singing along during much of the show. And the audience--I saw little kids who also were singing along, I saw lots of teenagers, I saw people my age, and I saw people my parents' age.

The three Monkees--and no Mike Nesmith, as he has once again decided not to tour with the others--were terrific, and the show itself, in different forms, has been getting terrific reviews both Stateside and in Europe.

If the Monkees come to your area, go seem them. You will not be disappointed.

They are an absolutely unique act, probably the most popular act after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones from that era (yes, I know about acts like the Who, but they really became big in America late in the 1960s--in 1966, they were still a curiosity here). And their members are all still on this planet. The only other band from the era that I think can boast about that is the Hollies.

The Monkees will forever be from 1966, those four cute guys who actually were quite talented, way beyond the "boy band" monicker they have been given by today's ignorant media. They were, actually, our Beatles, whether anyone (including the Monkees themselves) wanted to acknowledge it or not, and the advances in music that surrounded their creation set the groundwork for the future of rock and roll.

Whether they will ever be acknowledged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is anyone's guess, but I have to tell you, they are in my personal Hall of Fame.

Thanks Micky, Peter, and Davy (and Michael too). You guys are really something special.

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