Wednesday, February 17, 2016

More of the Monkees

More of the Monkees was the first album I ever bought.

The album was recorded in 1966 and released in January 1967, so we’re coming up on its fiftieth anniversary. I was eight or nine years old when I bought it. There’s no telling how many weeks I saved my allowance and refrained from buying baseball cards so I could purchase the record. I don’t know why I didn’t buy their first album. My guess is that I started saving for it and, by the time I had enough coins, the second one had been released, so I bought it instead.

I wanted it because I was a fan of The Monkees television show. I knew nothing of the show’s fascinating backstory. I didn’t know the Monkees were a “made for television” band. (I wasn’t always so gullible. I had a strong suspicion that neither The Archies, The Banana Splits, nor Lance Link’s Evolution Revolution were real bands.) I didn’t know that the boys did almost no playing on either of their first two albums. Most of that was done by studio musicians, including members of the now legendary Wrecking Crew. The members of the Monkees did sing the songs.

I didn’t know that, at the time of its release, the Monkees hated just about everything about More of the Monkees. I didn’t know they were on tour and had no idea their second album was coming out until it did. I didn’t know that Michael Nesmith thought it was “probably the worst album in the history of the world,” as he later said. I didn’t know the album cover photo was taken from shots done for ads for a J.C. Penney Monkees collection. I didn’t know there was a J.C. Penney Monkees collection. If I had, I’d have been asking for some of those tight britches and high-collared shirts for Christmas. I didn’t know the band, led by Nesmith, was entering into a fight for creative control of their music—a fight they would win.

I played that record so much I’m surprised I didn’t wear the grooves out.

More of the Monkees introduced me to some great songs and songwriters. Neil Diamond wrote “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” and the now classic “I’m a Believer.” Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart penned “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and “She.” Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer Sager wrote “When Loves Come Knockin’ (At Your Door),” and Gerry Coffin and Carole King penned the gorgeous “Sometime in the Morning.” I had never heard of any of those composers before I read the album’s liner notes. Mike Nesmith, of whom I had heard (because he was a Monkee), wrote “Mary, Mary” and co-wrote “The Kind of Girl I Could Love.”

My Good Wife and I have never seen the Monkees in concert. (A friend of mine saw them in Jacksonville in 1967 with Jimi Hendrix as the opening act. Can you imagine what all those teenyboppers must have thought of him?) We have, though seen both Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz individually. We’ve also seen a couple of those composers who went on to do all right as performers as well as songwriters: Neil Diamond and Carole King.

We’re about to get even more of the Monkees. The television show debuted in 1966, so Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork are going on tour to mark the fiftieth anniversary. The band is also releasing a new album. Who’d have thought we’d still be talking about and listening to the Monkees in 2016? I’m sure they didn’t.

The Mike who was in the Monkees said More of the Monkees was “probably the worst album in the history of the world.”

This Mike, who still has his copy, says it’s one of his favorite albums.

After all, it was my introduction to rock and roll and to some of its most brightly shining lights.

How can I be anything but grateful?

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