Saturday, March 3, 2012

Listen to the band

I always knew The Monkees.

The furthest reaches of my memory already included them, as if I was born humming "Last Train to Clarksville." Blame daily UHF channel reruns; blame Boyce & Hart. At school, we used to run around pretending to be The Monkees* and at home I would play The Monkees Greatest Hits as often as possible.

As I got older, liking The Monkees became increasingly less cool: they were fakes** who paled in comparison to The Beatles and never produced anything as musically substantial as, say, Pink Floyd's The Wall or The Who's Quadrophenia. Never mind that they did actually have musical talent. Never mind that everyone pales in comparison to The Beatles, including the individual members of that group post-breakup. Yeah, they don't have a Wall on their discography, but two out of three ain't bad and their greatest hits collection on iTunes -- The Best of The Monkees -- is remarkably deep.

It's likelier that history isn't as kind to The Monkees as it could be because their music was, for the most part, fun. Not soul searing (Dylan, King, Springsteen), not gut wrenching (Tommy, "Sunday Bloody Sunday") not ear-popping (Black Sabbath, AC/DC). Fun. And "fun" often has an expiration date in the shelf life of the, ahem, discriminating music lover.

But I'm OK with fun; I think there's room for it in everyone's life. As a result, I've always had room for The Monkees in select playlists.

So it was with great dismay that I learned of singer Davy Jones' death from a heart attack. From what I've heard, he'd been living a pretty clean life and had recently received a clean bill of health. Sometimes, though, you just can't do enough. 

Vocally, The Monkees belonged to Mickey Dolenz, but "Daydream Believer" is just perfectly delivered by Jones. He also does terrific work on "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)." And you never saw Marcia Brady swoon for Dolenz so that evens the gentlemen out a bit.

Make yourself some time today to pick up a song or two from iTunes or Amazon and give a listen. It's okay. You'll sacrifice neither your "hard rock god" status nor your indie cred. Sometimes, it's okay for music to simply be fun.

* I remember one friend becoming upset because he had to play the guy who always wore the hat. I explained that, no, he was playing Peter Tork, I was the guy with the hat, Michael Nesmith. This reassured him immensely.

** Pre-Internet, sometimes you just had to take other kids' words for it, especially if they were older. And the shot against The Monkees from the local teenage boy Greek chorus was always that they couldn't actually perform any instruments and were hardcore imposters. Not true.