Thinking about The Monkees. I’m a fan. I’ve been a fan for nearly 25 years. I make no apologies for it. Part of it is their status as a portal in time for me, both now — and back in the day, when they opened a door to another era I wasn’t really aware of. Sure, The Beatles existed in the ’60s, but they occupied a rarified position all their own in the cultural/musical mosaiac. The Monkees represented a more common and direct link to the ’60s — the ’60s that my parents and older cousins lived in. A time when “long-haired” hippy folk came into the mainstream consciousness — the same way the beatniks signified the ’50s for a certain American generation. The Monkees were funny. Their music was interesting…professional…yet optimally naive.
Now, Peter Tork is battling cancer (my best wishes and prayers go out to him) and Micky Dolenz has been in the news lately — though I’d dare to say he probably wishes it wasn’t for this reason. Or maybe he doesn’t care — I can’t say.
Anyway, I wanted to compile a list to confirm the reason why The Monkees were so great and how their influence extends to this day.
1. They pioneered country rock — before The Byrds, Burrito Bros. and The Eagles.
2. They pioneered noise rock (and country rock all in the same song — check out “Listen to the Band” from 33 1/3 REVOLUTIONS PER MONKEE )
3. They introduced Frank Zappa and Tim Buckley (singing “Song to the Siren” no less) to mainsteam American TV audiences.
4. They helped launch the career of Jack Nicholson.
5. They indirectly and directly birthed the creation of MTV in the early ’80s.
6. Their success financed the counter-cultural hits EASY RIDER and FIVE EASY PIECES.
7. They are responsible for a handful of perennial Golden Oldie hits including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer”.
8. Their albums HEADQUARTERS (1967) and PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN & JONES (1967) are among the best albums of the ’60s — period.
9. The advertising for their only feature film, 1968’s HEAD, was probably the first example of a “viral campaign” in history (and derided for 30 years until the advent of the Internet).
10. Neil Young played guitar on at least two post-NBC songs.
11. Monkees’ choreographer Toni Basil is cemented in one-hit wonder fame for 1981’s “Hey Mickey”.
12. HEAD (1968) was artistically superior to The Beatles’ MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (1967).