Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hey Hey The Monkees and the Unbearable Lightness of Being

“The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.” – Mickey Dolenz

Mike Nesmith. Mickey Dolenz. Davy Jones. Peter Tork. 

The Monkees took a lot of heat.

Just crazy kids
The hippies’ blissed-out quest for authenticity was itself muddled with conflicting definitions of ‘authenticity’. The Monkees bugged them because the group was assembled by TV producers, not tie-dyed, flower-slinging record producers or concert/nightclub promoters or other really authentic types. 

(Elvis was promoted by a former carnival barker and the Beatles achieved planetary grooviness through the tireless dedication of a troubled furniturestore salesman. But man, keep it on the low).

They were entertainers, not rock guys. They mostly  sang songs written by professional songwriters, not by singer-songwriters (Which makes James Taylor a lot more authentic than Frank Sinatra). But other musicians didn’t seem to mind. Ask Stephen Stills, Peter Tork’s buddy. Or ask Jimi Hendrix, Mickey Dolenz’ pal. Go ahead. Ask.

The 1960s had a tough time dealing with big bad commercialism. The Establishment was commercial. Those who worked the land or sold sea-shell trinkets were uncommercial. The intent was well intended though the logic was weak.

They called them ‘The Pre-Fab Four’. Their music was ‘bubblegum’. They were an insubstantial
The Monkees find a litterbox
vapor given form by klieg lights and back-lot set designers. Ah, the unbearable lightness of being.

So now, 50 years later, with the hippies long buried under Altamont Speedway, the Monkees continue to sing unauthentic music for monopoly money to phony people who deliver insincere applause and fake smiles. Crazy world, eh?

What? No concert t-shirts? Sell outs!
The charm of entertainment is that it is as unauthentic and manipulative as the Beatles’ matching Pierre Cardin suits. But don’t be too harsh on the hippies. They sometimes died in taking action against what they saw to be corrupt and toxic. We don’t do that much anymore. There’s no money in it. Gotta stay authentic baby.