Rock music and TV: Strange bedfellows

For decades, and still true today in some ways, rock music and television have had what Keith Richards describes as “a very weird, unnatural marriage.”

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The Beatles’ debut on “Ed Sullivan”

From its inception, rock and roll was rebellious, brazen and controversial.  Television, on the other hand, was mostly bland, familiar and non-threatening.  They had very little in common.

Just as Hollywood and the movie industry ignored, mocked and dismissed rock and roll for many years, television also showed it little respect, at least at first.  Almost everyone in positions of power in TV — the network executives, the program producers and writers, the censors in the “Standards and Practices” department, the established stars and show hosts — all showed a very obvious disdain for rock and roll throughout the ’50s and much of the ’60s.  With only a few exceptions, it would take TV well into the ’70s before they recognized the growing appeal and marketability of rock, and even longer to acknowledge its artistic merits.

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Clark interviews Brian and Carl Wilson and Mike Love

If anyone deserves credit for being a pioneer in bringing rock and roll to the small screen, it would have to be the late Dick Clark, “America’s Oldest Teenager” and host of the hugely popular, long-running American Bandstand.”   Its roots were in Philadelphia, where a radio DJ named Bob Horn played records while local teens danced on camera, interspersed with

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Jim Morrison and Dick Clark size each other up

short music films.  In 1956, Clark took over as host and, later, as producer and owner of the franchise.  It became nationally syndicated with a TV audience of more than 20 million, airing live on weekday afternoons, with teen dancers rating the records, and recording artists lip-synching to the recorded versions of their hits. “American Bandstand” moved operations to LA in 1964, where six shows were pre-taped every six weeks and broadcast in most markets on Saturdays, in color beginning in 1967.   The show evolved as tastes changed, from pioneer rockers (Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley) to California rock (The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean), from hard rock (The Doors) to soul (Stevie Wonder), disco (Gloria Gaynor) to hip-hop (Run-DMC).  Against all odds, on a fleeting medium like television, it lasted for 35 years, its final show airing in 1987.

The legendary Ed Sullivan, that curmudgeonly but savvy impresario who ruled Sunday nights for 23 years (1948-1971) with The Ed Sullivan Show,” gets a nod for bringing

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Elvis’s 1st appearance on “Ed Sullivan”

high-profile rock singers to mainstream audiences before anyone else, beginning with Elvis Presley in 1956.  Granted, he was rather patronizing, and insisted on limiting footage of “Elvis the Pelvis” to above-the-waist shots only.  But in the segregated late 1950s, he also was bold enough to defy the status quo by showcasing both known and unknown black artists like Bo Diddley, Jackie Wilson and Fats Domino.

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Sullivan welcomes The Supremes

Over the years, the list of rock groups who appeared on Sullivan’s show was fairly broad, from Buddy Holly to The Doors, from The Beach Boys to Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, from The Bee Gees to Ike and Tina Turner, from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Janis Joplin.  All these acts performed live, Unknown-454with no lip-sync’ing, as was customary ON TV at that time.

And, of course, Sullivan is best known for being almost exclusively responsible for introducing America to The Beatles by featuring them on his show on three successive shows in February 1964, thereby opening the floodgates known as “The British Invasion” of English rock artists and forever changing the face of popular music and pop culture.

By the mid-’60s, pop/rock started showing up on a number of other traditional variety programs.  Musical variety platforms like ABC’s Hollywood Palace (1964-1970) gave airtime to some of the tamer bands like The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, The Lovin’ Unknown-456Spoonful and the top Motown acts (Supremes, Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder).  Even so, The Rolling Stones’ American TV debut  in June 1964 came on “Hollywood Palace” (as did the debut of The Jackson 5 in October 1969).

Conservative entertainers like Red Skelton and Dean Martin didn’t like rock music, but saw the wisdom in “giving the kids what they want” and

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The Kinks on “Red Skelton”

reluctantly included a few of the more “vanilla” acts on their eponymous variety shows on CBS — The Dave Clark Five, Jan and Dean, Johnny Rivers, Manfred Mann, Dionne Warwick.  The hosts, in their introductions of some bands, couldn’t resist making condescending remarks about their long hair and amplified sounds:  The Kinks, The Stones, The Animals (1965); The Four Seasons, The Fifth Dimension (1967);  Iron Butterfly and Three Dog Night (1968-1969).

41942308_10156780401513023_4827213245481746432_nFor a year or two, the prime-time TV lineup included shows for the teen market exclusively devoted to pop/rock artists.  ABC’s Shindig (1964-1966) and NBC’s Hullabaloo (1965-1966) managed to bring more than 150 different artists to TV audiences:  Sam Cooke, The Who, Sonny & Cher, The Righteous Brothers, James Brown, The Yardbirds.  “Hullabaloo” used safe guest hosts like Petula Clark, Paul Anka and Sammy Davis Jr. to make the program more palatable to parents who sometimes watched with their teenagers. “Shindig” featured dancers called The Shin-Diggers (including notables like Unknown-457Teri Garr) and a house band called The ShinDogs, comprised of future-star session musicians who were members of the “Wrecking Crew” — Glen Campbell, Billy Preston, Larry Knechtel and Leon Russell.  “Shindig” taped some episodes from London, with Beatles manager Brian Epstein as the emcee.  Neither show lasted long; “Hullabaloo” gave up its Monday night time slot in 1966 to a rock and roll comedy, fashioned after The Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night,” about a madcap pop group called The Monkees.

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“Upbeat” host Don Webster with Monkees Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz

And there were other locally based rock/pop programs that eventually were syndicated.  Where the Action Is,” another Dick Clark production filmed on the beaches of Southern California, enjoyed a brief arc of popularity in afternoon TV, with Paul Revere and the Raiders as the house band.  The syndicated showUpbeat,” born as “The Big Five” on WEWS in Cleveland, lasted seven years (1964-1971).  At first it focused on regional talent like The James Gang, Mitch Ryder, The O’Jays and The Raspberries, but eventually featured some of the biggest names in counterculture rock — The Jefferson Airplane,

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Otis Redding on “Upbeat”

Steppenwolf, Love, Pink Floyd, even Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.  The show also had the dubious distinction of airing Otis Redding’s final performance in December 1967 before he died in a plane crash the next day.

British TV had its own unique relationship with rock music.  “Top of the Pops was a mainstay on the BBC from 1964 until 2006, an amazing 42-year run unmatched in

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Bowie on “Top of the Pops”

television history.  Each show offered performances by bands with that week’s top charting singles, concluding with the week’s #1 single.  Famously, the debut show included both the Beatles and the Stones.  The Old Grey Whistle Test,” which ran on BBC2 from 1971 to 1988prided itself on avoiding chart-topping artists in favor of edgier, lesser known bands — Bob Marley and the Wailers, The New York Dolls, Judas Priest, Meat Loaf, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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Tommy Smothers helps The Who destroy their instruments

By 1968, as revolution filled the air around the world and down the street, two TV shows attracted attention with hosts clearly sympathetic to the rock music world:  The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Late Night With Dick Cavett.”  CBS didn’t like Tommy Smothers or his leftist politics and soon cancelled the show (“CBS smothers Brothers,” read the headline), but ABC

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Jimi Hendrix chats with Dick Cavett

gave Cavett a lot of leeway as he tried to compete with Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.”  Carson, Merv Griffin and other talk shows very rarely booked rock groups at that time, but Cavett not only gave rock bands a place on TV to perform but also a forum to sit and chat about edgy topics like politics and drug use.  Artists like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, David Bowie, George Harrison and Paul Simon all sat for articulate, meaningful interviews in addition to their musical performances.

When the Seventies arrived, so did several rock and soul music showcases that lasted for a decade or more, and they offered an important difference:  Lip sync’ing was abolished in favor of live performances.  Rock audiences had complained about the antiseptic nature of rock music on Sixties TV, where it was obvious the bands’ electric guitars

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Denny Dias and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan on “Midnight Special”

weren’t even plugged in and the vocalists weren’t singing into the microphones.

Three late night programs gave a much-needed shot of credibility to television’s treatment of rock music.  In Concert (1972-1975), The Midnight Special (1972-1981) and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert (1973-1981) all aired in late-night weekend time slots, hosted by personalities that knew about and appreciated rock music.  These shows featured many excellent performances by major rock and pop artists such as Genesis, Steely Dan, Blondie, Elton John, Rod Stewart, The Doobie Brothers, Aerosmith, Kiss, The Cars, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac and Peter Frampton.

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The Stylistics on “Soul Train”

And then there was Soul Train,” the syndicated ratings behemoth that focused on soul and rhythm-and-blues while dabbling in funk, disco, jazz, gospel and hip-hop as well. Born in Chicago in 1970, it found immediate success there and the first few syndicated markets it tried (Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia) and then relocated its operations to LA in 1972, with nationwide syndication that lasted until 2006.  The show, dubbed “the hippest trip in America,” was a highly influential sounding board for many dozens of urban artists, from The Stylistics to Bill Withers, from Barry White to The Ohio Players, from Gloria Gaynor to The Commodores.  The Philly instrumental band MFSB, with The Three Degrees on vocals, had a huge #1 hit in 1974 with the “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which served as the theme song for “Soul Train” for three years.

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Devo on “SNL”

The debut of “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 brought more edgy, under-the-radar acts to network TV, including such mavericks as Randy Newman, Gil Scott-Heron, Leon Redbone, Frank Zappa, Dr. John, The Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Devo and The Grateful Dead.  Another inroad came with live sports coverage, including “Monday Night Football,” where ever-younger producers started using brief snippets of rock songs when they took breaks for commercials.

The paradigm really shifted dramatically in the early 1980s as cable television spread from the rural valleys to the suburbs to the nation’s largest cities, challenging broadcast TV norms.   A cornucopia of “Narrowcast” channels offered entire networks devoted to cooking, or Congress, or fishing, or Christianity…or rock music.

Unknown-472Music TeleVision, soon known far and wide as MTV, rocked everyone’s boat, rewriting the rules and pumping new life into everything from filmmaking and choreography to fashion and hair styling.  Oh, and incidentally, music.  Rock music fans suddenly had their own channel, a place they could go 24 hours a day to listen to — and watch — rock bands playing rock music.

When MTV went on the air in August 1981 with the symbolic song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles, there weren’t many music videos out there, so the ones that

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Peter Gabriel’s award-winning “Sledgehammer” video

existed — a strange brew of Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, Men at Work, REO Speedwagon, Andrew Gold, Devo — were aired ad nauseum.  But it didn’t take long for artists and record companies to grasp the new dynamic, and within months, most major pop single releases were accompanied by down-and-dirty music videos of the band performing its hit in various locations.  Within a year or two, the budgets exploded and the videos involved serious directors (David Fincher, among others), outrageous concepts and huge casts of dancers and extras.

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Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video

Michael Jackson’s iconic 13-minute video for “Thriller” brought MTV’s largest audience ever.  Keith Richards amended his earlier assessment:  “Since the beginning of time, rock and roll and TV have never really hit it off.  But suddenly it’s like they’ve gotten married and can’t leave each other alone.”

 

Interestingly, by 1992, MTV chose to phase out music videos in exchange for more profitable, non-music programming, alienating their music-loving viewers.  “They don’t play music videos anymore,” whined rocker Sammy Hagar.  “How dare they still call themselves MTV!” Cynics said the acronym now stood for Money TeleVision, and they had a point.

These days, rock music has infiltrated TV in multiple ways.  Rock songs play almost continually in the background of drama shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”; rock bands appear regularly on every talk show from Jimmy Fallon to Jimmy Kimmel; rock anthems by The Who are used as theme music for the “CSI” franchise; even most commercials use rock tunes to sell their products.

In recent years, the business models of both television and pop/rock music have been battered and shattered to such a degree that it almost makes this essay seem quaint.  But it’s fascinating to note that TV and rock music, once like oil and water, are now pretty much inseparable.

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Did your living room have one of these in the ’60s?

 

We’re the young generation, and we’ve got something to say

I was only 11, so I didn’t really understand what was happening.  I was pretty much a pawn in the show business game of foisting a product upon an unsuspecting public.

It was September 1966, and overnight, I became a huge fan of a prefabricated rock band called The Monkees.

“They’re going to be bigger than The Beatles!” I told my skeptical parents.  “They even have their own weekly TV show!”

This was just what the show’s producers were counting on — gullible American teens and pre-teens buying into the sanitized Hollywood vision of what a rock band should look p01bqr6vlike and sound like:  Four zany young guys with dreams of making it big, making their way through one silly weekly adventure after the next, always finding a way to work in at least one “performance” of one of their songs that were being heard concurrently on Top 40 radio.

And it worked.  For a while.

The half-hour NBC-TV show “The Monkees” was an instant hit in the ratings and, at the Emmy Awards nine months later, scored an upset by winning Outstanding Comedy Series, triumphing over shows with far better credentials like “Bewitched,” “Get Smart,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”

On the Billboard Pop charts, the first songs and albums released by The Monkees all The_Monkees_single_02_I'm_a_Believerwent to #1 and stayed there for many weeks on end.  “I’m a Believer” was the #1 song in the nation for nearly three months.  Here’s a fact that still astonishes me today:  Year-end sales figures for 1967 show that more units of Monkees records were sold than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined!

But there was a fly in the ointment that soon derailed this runaway success.  When the public learned that the band members weren’t really playing the instruments on the records they were hearing or on the TV performances they were seeing, there was a backlash from which they never fully recovered.  Critics pounced, calling The Monkees “The Pre-Fab Four,” a derisive take on The Beatles’ “Fab Four” nickname.  The TV show lasted only one more season through continually sagging ratings, and was cancelled in the summer of 1968.

There were six commercially huge hit singles between September 1966 and March 1968 that cemented The Monkees’ name in pop music history.  “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer” and “Valleri” all reached at least #3, with four of them topping the charts.  They’re so ingrained in my head that I could sing you every word of these songs right now, today.  But then the bottom fell out, with each successive single faring worse through 1968 and 1969, and by 1970, the jig was up.

In retrospect, the case can be made that the four individuals who comprised the band — Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork — were just as much pawns in the show business game as anybody.  They were hired not as musicians but as comic actors playing the roles of musicians in a TV sitcom.

themonkees1960Producer Bob Rafelson had come up with the concept of a TV show about a rock and roll group as early as 1960, but it wasn’t until The Beatles’ spectacular arrival and, more specifically, the success of their film “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 that Rafelson got the green light from Screen Gems, the TV arm of Columbia Pictures, to develop his idea.  At first he thought of using an existing pop band to star in the program, but after being turned down by The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Dave Clark Five, he decided to manufacture his own group.

Rafelson concluded that Jones, whose Broadway acting pedigree had already won him a contract with Screen Gems and Columbia as an actor/singer, would be an ideal choice for this project, bringing a charming Brit-pop sensibility.  The rest of the group would be found through auditions, just as was done with any other TV show at the time.

This was the ad copy that ran in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter:  “Madness!  Auditions.  Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.  Running parts for four insane boys age 17-21.”

Many rock music fans may not be aware that among the hundreds of hungry young musician/actor wanna-bes who showed up for the cattle-call audition was a young

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Stills (left) soon after declining a Monkees audition in 1966

singer-songwriter named Stephen Stills.  “I went in there to sell my songs.  I told them, ‘I have all these songs.’  They said, ‘Oh, that part of it has already been taken care of.’  I said, ‘What, you’ve got some Tin Pan Alley people writing your songs?’  And they said ‘Yeah.’  I said, ‘Well, I don’t want the job, but I know a guy you might like.’  I was already writing songs and looking to form a band.  I had zero interest in being a damn fake Beatle on television.”

But Stills’ guitarist friend Peter Tork was interested, and he ended up winning one of the three remaining parts, along with Dolenz, a former child actor who had starred in the inconsequential 1950s sitcom “The Circus Boy.”  Rounding out the quartet was Nesmith, a competent songwriter/guitarist with a droll sense of humor and a keen business sense inherited from his mother, a secretary who had invented “Liquid Paper” correction fluid and built it into a multi-million-dollar company.

The foursome did what was asked of them, learning their lines and playing their parts on the show, but when they showed up at the recording studio, Nesmith and Tork were chagrined to learn their musical skills would not be needed.  Dolenz and Jones were 51YH7+LFxFLtapped to dub lead vocal parts onto the finished tracks.  The show’s musical supervisor was the notorious Don Kirshner, who had selected Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart from his stable of Brill Building pop songwriters to write, record and produce most of the songs for the group’s first album, “The Monkees,” which was essentially intended as a companion soundtrack to the TV show’s first season.

The first sign of trouble, as far as Nesmith was concerned, was when that debut LP appeared.  “The first album showed up and I looked at it with horror, because it made us appear as if we were a bonafide rock ‘n’ roll band.  There was no credit given for the other musicians who actually played on the tracks.  I went completely ballistic, and said, ‘What are you people thinking?’  And the powers that be said, ‘Well, you know, it’s the fantasy.’  I said, ‘It’s not the fantasy.  You’ve crossed the line here.  You are now duping the public.  They know when they look at the television series that we’re not a rock ‘n’ roll band; it’s a show about a rock ‘n’ roll band.  Nobody for a minute believes that we are somehow this accomplished rock ‘n’ roll band that got their own television show.  You putting the record out like this is just beyond the pale.'”

Kirshner, irritated at Nesmith’s objections, plowed ahead, assembling a dozen more  tracks recorded in the same manner and releasing them a mere three months later as the second LP “More of The Monkees.”  Despite the fact that the album was a big commercial hit, Nesmith and the other Monkees had reached their breaking point about what they 02-more-of-the-monkeesfelt was nothing short of fraud.  Kirshner was ousted and The Monkees won creative control of all recordings from then on.

On those initial two dozen recordings, the musical parts were handled largely by the seasoned pros who made up what was known in some circles as The Wrecking Crew.  Some names you might recognize:  guitarists Glen Campbell, James Burton and Louie Shelton; pianist Larry Knechtel (who later joined the soft-rock band Bread); drummer Hal Blaine; bassist Carol Kaye; percussionist Jim Gordon.  Also contributing were Carole King, who wrote “Sometime in the Morning” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and added piano and backing vocals, and Neil Diamond, who wrote “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and added guitar.

It’s kind of unfair that The Monkees were singled out for not playing much on their own records.  Truth be told, this wasn’t all that different from what occurred with other hip groups of the period.  On several of the big hits released by The Beach Boys (“I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations”) and The Byrds (“Mr. Tambourine Man”), the drums, bass, guitar and keyboard parts were played by Wrecking Crew session guys because the record label executives didn’t yet have confidence in the band members’ musical abilities.

Glenn Baker, author of “Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees,” put his finger on the real problem that tarnished The Monkees’ image, even to this day:  “The rise of the ‘Pre-fab Four’ coincided with rock’s desperate desire to cloak itself with the trappings of respectability and credibility.  Session players were being heavily employed by many acts of the time, but what could not be ignored, as rock disdained its pubescent past, was a group of middle-aged Hollywood businessmen had actually assembled their concept of a profitable rock group and foisted it upon the world.  What mattered was that the Monkees had success handed to them on a silver plate.  Indeed, it was not so much righteous indignation but thinly disguised jealousy which motivated the scornful dismissal of what 1714899-davy-jones-the-monkees-on-set-617-409-1must, in retrospect, be seen as an entertaining, imaginative and highly memorable exercise in pop culture.”

From my point of view as a teen in 1966-67, The Monkees were definitely entertaining.  My friends and I held instruments and pretended to be Monkees in school skits, aping their movements and lip-synching their lyrics.  The TV show offered half-hour escapes of mindless fun each Monday evening.  Most of the controversy surrounding their legitimacy was, frankly, just not important to me at the time.

The hard-fought freedom The Monkees won to control their recorded output was complicated by the fact that they didn’t share a common vision regarding the band’s musical direction.  Nesmith favored leaning toward country rock and country blues.  Jones fancied the more showy Broadway-type music, while Tork and Dolenz enjoyed dabbling in psychedelia and other more avant-garde genres.  Still, they understood the 03-headquartersneed to maintain some continuity to what their young fan base expected, which was straightforward pop with accessible hooks.

Their 1967 singles “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer” are still enormously popular today, but their third and fourth LPs, “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.,” exemplified the group’s inner 04-pisces-aquarius-capricorn-and-jones-ltdturmoil and rudderless direction (although both nevertheless reached #1 on the album charts).  By the time of the fifth LP, “The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees,” the TV show had been cancelled, and the experimental film and soundtrack they released in November 1968, “Head,” proved disastrous commercially.  Tork left the band, and efforts to continue as a threesome failed.  The end had come.

It’s interesting to note that both The Monkees’ music and TV show are now regarded with more respect than at their time of release.  If you analyze some of the TV episodes, you’ll find, amidst the silliness, some groundbreaking creativity.  During an era of formulaic domestic sitcoms and corny comedies, it was a stylistically ambitious show, with a distinctive visual style and tempo, an absurdist sense of humor and almost radical story structure.  It utilized quick edits strung together with interview segments and even occasional documentary footage.

When Nesmith asked John Lennon in 1967 what he thought of The Monkees, he said, only partly in jest, “I think you’re the greatest comic talent since The Marx Brothers.  I’ve

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Winning the Outstanding Comedy Emmy in 1967

never missed one of your programs.”

It rarely gets the credit for it, but The Monkees’ show was one of the essential pioneers of the music video format, and Nesmith himself later dreamed up and pitched the prototype for what became MTV, the game-changing phenomenon of music delivery in the 1980s.

Writing in 2012 at the time of Jones’ death, columnist James Poniewozik said, “Even if the show never meant to be more than harmless entertainment and a hit-single generator, we shouldn’t sell it short.  It was far better TV than it had to be.  In fact, ‘The Monkees’ was the opening salvo in a revolution that brought on the New Hollywood cinema, an influence rarely acknowledged but no less impactful.  As a pop culture phenomenon, The Monkees paved the way for just about every boy band that followed in their wake, from New Kids on the Block to ‘N Sync to the Jonas Brothers, while Davy set the stage for future teen idols David Cassidy and Justin Bieber.  You would be hard pressed to find a successful artist who didn’t take a page from The Monkees’ playbook, even generations later.”

In 2009, Jones said, “We touched a lot of musicians, you know.  I can’t tell you the amount of people that have come up and said, ‘I wouldn’t have been a musician if it hadn’t been for the Monkees.’ It baffles me even now.  I met a guy from Guns N’ Roses who was just so complimentary of our work.”

Numerous Monkees revival tours have been met with huge, adoring crowds, mostly aging Sixties kids looking for nostalgic memories.  When MTV re-aired the TV show in the late ’80s, a new generation of fans hopped on The Monkees’ train.  New albums in 1987 (“Pool It!”) and again in 1996 (“Justus”) weren’t commercial or critical successes, but they served their purpose of keeping The Monkees name before the public.  Tours image_update_10317dd6223b6aa7_1343571076_9j-4aaqskusually featured only three of the four principals (either Nesmith or Tork holding out), but that didn’t seem to matter to those who bought tickets to see them.

Many middle-aged women wept in 2012 when their teen idol Davy Jones died of a heart attack at age 66.  Social media activity was substantial and brought about increased sales of Monkees material.  Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith collaborated once more on the praised 2016 album “Good Times!” which features several tracks I find worthy of your attention (“You Bring the Summer, “Me & Magdelena”), and even an unearthed track from 1967 (“Love to Love”) on Unknown-35which Jones sang lead vocals.

Just last week, Peter Tork died of cancer at age 77, which will most likely spell the end of Monkees performances…but you never know.  If the twosome of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey can keep The Who alive in 2019, what’s stopping Nesmith and Dolenz from doing the same thing with The Monkees?

I’m envisioning an upcoming promotional poster:  “Hey Hey, we’re still The Monkees, damnit!”

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I’ve compiled a playlist on Spotify that collects the essential Monkees hits and many additional album tracks I’ve always enjoyed.  I hope you like “A Barrelful of Monkees”!