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"That's not even Mike Nesmiths real hat."
September 6, 2013 3:50 PM   Subscribe

In honor of The Monkees recently concluded pseudo-victory-lap-quasi-memorial-for-the-late-David Jones North American tour, the first of which to have Michael Nesmith anywhere near it in over 20 years; here is the last time the famously reluctant Monkee had anything to do with the rest of the boys, 1997's ABC television special Hey Hey It's The Monkees.

Typically content to sit on his liquid paper legacy money, Nesmith has had the luxury of being able to resist the lure of money tours and other event performances. Refusing to take part (aside from a single performance) in the 80's era resurgence/reunion of The Monkees heralded by of the unexpected popularity of Monkees repeats airing on MTV. Nesmith eventually agreed to an album and tour in 1996 under one condition: the record and tour could only consist of the four core members. No studio musicians, no backup live instrumentation. The aptly titled result, JustUs, was mildly recieved and the group went back into hibernation. But not before producing Hey Hey It's The Monkees for ABC's legendary TGIF Friday night comedy lineup.

The special has something of a brilliant central conceit. The Monkees is a television series. The Monkess never stopped being a telvision series. You may have stopped paying attention, but the story of four girl crazy young men living in a beach house and trying to make it in the music business never stopped. Billed as the seven hundred and somethingth episode of The Monkees, the special has the same self referential and non-linear style as the original series. Except now, they are significantly older and spend most of their time avoiding retread plot devices and calls to adventure while still living in the same beach house and apparently writing very little new music.
posted by mediocre (57 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh lord, I remember this. I remember Mike's teeth.

Also, I must gloat that my very first concert was the Monkees circa 1985. Opening act: Weird Al Yankovic.
posted by HeroZero at 4:03 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why I had no idea. 1997 was the one year I was too cool for the Monkees. Fortunately I got better.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 4:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny.

If I had seen this at the time it aired, my reaction surely would have been "Man, the Monkees got old!"

But seeing it now, sixteen years later, my only reaction is "Man, I can't believe they look so young!"
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:16 PM on September 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Sit on the liquid paper fortune and produce some great movies!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:16 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel bad for people who can't get over their predilection toward distaste for the Monkees. I've had so much fun learning to love this band.
posted by blue t-shirt at 4:19 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Typically content to sit on his liquid paper legacy money"

I know him irl, and that's a shitty way to put it. He's written songs, produced movies, produced a TV show (which won a Grammy), wrote a novel or two, has been a trustee of AFI, and ran his family foundation

He wrote that ABC special.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:19 PM on September 6, 2013 [35 favorites]


I'm pretty sure no offense was intended. We all think Nesmith rocks. Well, I do anyway, I really can't speak for mediocre, but it was probably just his way to get an interesting fact into the FPP in a way that satisfies the formulas and equations of engaging English writing.
posted by JHarris at 4:26 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nesmith's an awesome guy. Odd, but awesome. I can understand why he felt ambivalent about the Monkees. On the one hand, he was clearly proud of a lot of what he did with the band. On the other hand, the band gets written off as a joke and a nostalgia act, and if you don't HAVE to do the county fair circuit, why would you?

The Monkees in general are spectacularly underrated. Hey, when your fans include the Beatles and the Sex Pistols, you must be doing something right!

I remember thinking this special was pretty self-indulgent but interesting. I think there's a speech in there about how all the TV shows we watched are still going strong in the TV world, the Munsters are still living in their haunted house and so on. That's kind of beautiful.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


I feel badly because the Monkees just. don't. work. for me. I know their talent and self-awareness transcends their prefab origins, and some of the comedy bits on the show crack me up when I see them on YouTube, and they were buddies with Nilsson...but I put on one of their albums and my brain just switches off. Their songs got pretty overplayed on the oldies station here, and I might have just been oversaturated from listening to WODS on the schoolbus every day for a while. One of their problems is that a few of their songs got constant airplay, and they had some good deep cuts that deserved to be hits. :sigh: So it goes.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:38 PM on September 6, 2013


Oh... fine!


Metafilter: That's not even Mike Nesmith's real hat.
posted by Naberius at 4:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched a few minutes at random, starting with the bit where Nesmith is provoking the laugh track with deliberately unfunny things and immediately realized that he had to have been one of the writers. Per IMDB he is in fact the sole credited writer. So now I'm really going to enjoy this. Nesmith is a hero of mine and I'm amazed I missed this. I just assumed any late-90s Monkees property wouldn't have anything to do with him and paid no attention.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:45 PM on September 6, 2013


Aww, sorry you don't dig the Monkees, pxe2000. They are so good, though. This song is probably my fave.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bonus: Nesmith and Zappa. I don't think you get more cred than that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:52 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel badly

TMI
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


It was something of a revelation when I realized that my favorite Monkees song was by the guy who produced Repo Man.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Personal favorite.
posted by mykescipark at 5:15 PM on September 6, 2013




mann/weil
posted by blue t-shirt at 5:25 PM on September 6, 2013


Mike didn't write this, but I think his voice was perfect for singing it, especially at the end. Lovely.

I've never seen this 1997 special, as this was the year I didn't really watch any TV, so I had no idea it existed. If it's even got a hint of Elephant Parts (here's one here), I'll be satisfied. I wish he'd done the '86 tour. I saw The Monkees at the Wisconsin State Fair that year and it was awesome.
posted by droplet at 5:29 PM on September 6, 2013


And the vocals on this one. Well. ::fans self, bites lip::
posted by droplet at 5:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


ha ha i beat you
posted by blue t-shirt at 5:42 PM on September 6, 2013


The Monkees are another* one of those bands whose bright pop candy exterior conceals a cream filling of darkness and despair. I've always liked that about their songs. It's almost like they were daring people to actually pay attention to the lyrics.

*The Polyphonic Spree is like this, too.
posted by hippybear at 5:46 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember one summer (1970?) this song by Mike Nesmith was constantly playing on the radio.
posted by AnnElk at 5:46 PM on September 6, 2013


Sit on the liquid paper fortune and produce some great movies!

And help create country rock!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:57 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mike was so underrated in the Monkees. He wrote some of their best songs.

My favorite Monkees song changes from time to time but I've been really into this since they played it during a meth cooking scene in Breaking Bad.

I've also been jamming out to this a lot recently, even though I hated it when I was a big Monkees fan as a kid.

And finally, this is one of my all-time favorite Mike Nesmith-written Monkees songs that no one knows about.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:57 PM on September 6, 2013


I grew up arguing with my mom if Davy or Peter was cuter...in a fun argument way. I loved loved loved the Monkeys, and I still dig their music. I totally flipped when watching Breaking Bad used their song, I really hope it made the guys happy. I never thought they were 'less' than the Beatles, they were OUR (America) band, and really more approachable. Mike is awesome, how many of us know a "Mike" that doesn't go to class reunions, doesn't do social media, doesn't text...any yet is super happy. I love Mike! But, Peter IS the cutest! :) Love you, Mom
posted by msleann at 6:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I must gloat that my very first concert was the Monkees circa 1985. Opening act: Weird Al Yankovic

I'm pretty sure that was 1987, I saw that tour too (at Six Flags Great Adventure in NJ). The previous year I saw them play, possibly at the Rockland County Fair, with Gary Puckett & the Union Gap and Herman's Hermits opening.

The Monkees arrived during my prime MTV watching years (1983 - about 1988ish), and I was totally hooked. I always liked Mike because he was more serious and a bit intellectual, but yeah, Peter was definitely the cutest!

I'm pleased that Goin' Down is getting attention from being featured on Breaking Bad, because that song is awesome.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:44 PM on September 6, 2013


If you like Nesmith on Facebook, his wall posts are like the worst, most self-important, most humorless treacle that ever popped out of a freshman philosophy student's mouth.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:49 PM on September 6, 2013


Refusing to take part (aside from a single performance) in the 80's era resurgence/reunion of The Monkees heralded by of the unexpected popularity of Monkees repeats airing on MTV.

FWIW, Mike Nesmith pretty much invented MTV.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:59 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I must gloat that my very first concert was the Monkees circa 1985. Opening act: Weird Al Yankovic.

The 1996 tour was my first concert. I distinctly remember Mike Nesmith's absence being explained on stage as him being off in Hollywood working on their next movie, which was presumably the 1997 television special.

I forget who the opening act was. Definitely not Weird Al though.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:29 PM on September 6, 2013


This one always cracked me up.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:40 PM on September 6, 2013


pxe2000: Have you seen Head? For me it was the missing puzzle piece that let me understand/appreciate the Monkees as a whole. If you've seen Head and are meh on them, you probably just don't like them. which is cool. they're weird, and not always in a good way.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:41 PM on September 6, 2013


I can confirm that Weird Al did indeed open for the Monkees one year because I saw them at the state fair. I think it was 1987 but can't be sure. I think it was their "Pool It" tour.

If you like Nesmith on Facebook, his wall posts are like the worst, most self-important, most humorless treacle that ever popped out of a freshman philosophy student's mouth.

I hate to say it, but this is kind of true. His tribute to Davy was beautiful. But I stopped following him because I didn't want his posts to affect my good opinion of him.

And all of you are maybe a little crazy because Micky was obviously the cutest.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I...have not seen Head.

And I'm probably going to get some good-natured ribbing for this, but if I never, ever hear their big! radio! hits!, I'll be okay. I just reacquainted myself with their version of "Cuddly Toy", which sounds so pretty until you listen to the lyrics. Brrr.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:50 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, stuff like this is why I could never bring myself to harsh on the Monkees.

The other reason why I was lukewarm to annoyed with them as a kid was the TV show -- no, wait, hold on. I always got frustrated that the two less conventionally handsome guys got less screen time than Micky and Davy, who WHEN I WAS A KID I always saw as being less talented and coasting on their looks. As an adult I came to appreciate their work, and I came to some of the Monkees' material through the Nilsson kick I went on as a teen. Hearing about Micky Dolenz's and Davy Jones's collaborations with Harry made me respect them and see their talent a bit more, and you can't write off someone who's worked with Zappa, Nilsson, and Tim Buckley.

I'm going to listen to some of your YT links when my internet is less janky and see what I can see. Maybe it will work this time.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


More on Nesmith and MTV from IMDB:
Nesmith then invented and sold the concept 24 hour music television to Time Warner. He produced a proof of concept called "Pop Clips" which Time-Warner aired on the Nickelodeon channel as a test. It was an instant success. From there was developed the MTV network. He also branched into TV and film production, with such works as Elephant Parts (1981), Timerider (1983), Repo Man (1984),
posted by eye of newt at 8:06 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Watching "Head" for the first time, and only previously having seen wacky MTV reruns of the Monkees... well, it opened doors for me in my understanding of entertainment.

Also, I learned that nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor.

I look forward to watching this.
posted by not_on_display at 8:27 PM on September 6, 2013


My mom took me to see the Monkees (with Weird Al opening) when I was in first grade. I bought tickets for me, my mom, and my daughter to see the Monkees last summer, but the show got cancelled. My crafty daughter used her sadness over that to get me to buy her tickets to Big Time Rush, which was appropriate, since they are also a manufactured for tv band. (By the time the BTR show came around, she was over them, and we didn't go.) But in July, I got to take my girl to see the Monkees, less Davy Jones but with Mike Nesmith, in Boston. It was amazing. No, it was. My two mid-thirties friends and I were in absolute awe that we got to see Nez perform, and my girl was happily singing along to Randy Scouse Git, knowing that she was the third generation in our family to do so. Last year, my mom, my daughter and I did the Monkees walk in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the way to Disney World and damn if that wasn't the highlight of our road trip.

Also, Head makes perfect sense if you're under the influence of hallucinogens, not that I would know from experience or anything...
posted by Ruki at 8:29 PM on September 6, 2013


I watched the shit out of my Elephant Parts betamax cassette. My favourite bit was him introducing the concept / going off on a rave about the gasoline crisis. Neighbourhood Nuclear Superiority was good too. Name that drug!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:31 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Head on Metafilter: previously, previouslier
posted by hippybear at 8:35 PM on September 6, 2013


HeroZero: Also, I must gloat that my very first concert was the Monkees circa 1985. Opening act: Weird Al Yankovic.

In an interesting parallel, my mother-in-law's very first concert was also the Monkees. Except, this was circa 1967 and the opening act: The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
posted by dr_dank at 8:54 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a reprint t-shirt from that tour. It's one of my most often commented-upon shirts when I wear it. I usually respond to the comment by mentioning that Hendrix opened for them for a few dates on that tour. Minds get blown!
posted by hippybear at 9:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you like Nesmith on Facebook, his wall posts are like the worst, most self-important, most humorless treacle that ever popped out of a freshman philosophy student's mouth.

What I saw of it reads like typical jokey/new age-y Nesmith-ism. The part that shocked me was how different he looks without facial hair. I mean, he looks like a bank president now!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mike was my absolute favorite growing up. I saw them twice - once in '86 and in '89. I went with my best friend who was a Micky fan, and while it was cool and awesome and amazing, it was never perfect, because Mike wasn't there. It was depressing to see him cut out of photos (or in some cases, completely airbrushed out).

Then we all grew up. There were more tours that Mike didn't do; there were other concerts for me to attend. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd never see him perform.

Then, I got sixth-row seats to the Mike/Micky/Peter concert in Buffalo.

Do you know what it's like to have a 25 year old dream finally, finally fulfilled? A dream you'd forgotten you'd wanted so badly but as soon as you realize it's going to happen, you remember and everything comes flooding back to you?

I spent the first four or five songs nearly hyperventilating, tears streaming down my face, eyes locked on him, saying "ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod", probably to the annoyance and/or amusement of the people sitting next to me.

Hearing him perform my favorite song - it just made me so, so, so happy.

(and that's my Mike Nesmith story.)
posted by Lucinda at 10:35 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mickey Nolenz gets endless credit for being the voice of Arthur in the first season of The Tick.
posted by JHarris at 11:15 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Er, Dolenz.
posted by JHarris at 11:16 PM on September 6, 2013


Here's one of my faves. I also love how Davy looks just so damn happy to be singing the song and shaking his maracas, like he'll pee his pants, and Peter's whacking the hell out of his guitar. Near the end, Mike shoots them a look and rolls his eyes...
posted by Paris Elk at 11:17 PM on September 6, 2013


Do you know what it's like to have a 25 year old dream finally, finally fulfilled? A dream you'd forgotten you'd wanted so badly but as soon as you realize it's going to happen, you remember and everything comes flooding back to you?

I spent the first four or five songs nearly hyperventilating, tears streaming down my face, eyes locked on him, saying "ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod", probably to the annoyance and/or amusement of the people sitting next to me.


I had exactly that experience happen when I finally saw Philip Glass' Einstein On The Beach last summer. Entirely different kind of live music performance experience, exactly the same reaction -- hyperventilating, tears... I wasn't saying anything however. I was too shocked to be present for a performance of the opera.
posted by hippybear at 11:30 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt that way when I finally saw Dr. John live a year or two ago and he played "I Walk on Gilded Splinters." It's from an album I have been listening to for almost 30 years, and played constantly both in New Orleans (which inspired it) and Hollywood (where it was recorded). It's just such a pleasurable shock to hear the song that has meant so much for so long, performed live by the person who created it.

I never saw the Monkees live, but always was a fan (and think Rhino was right to include them on their garage rock compilations.) I think hearing "She" or "Another Pleasant Valley Sunday" or "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" or any of their snarling songs, or any song from the Head soundtrack, would have just been too much for me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:16 AM on September 7, 2013


I encourage all Monkees fans to investigate the solo recordings of Mike Nesmith. Some of them are quite good.
posted by freakazoid at 5:24 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Save the Texas Prairie Chicken!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:24 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


After being a Monkees fan since the late 70s, it was my distinct pleasure to see them last November at the Chicago Theatre. Wow. Two hours long, about 30 songs. It took my breath away to finally see those guys in person. What a rush! This incarnation does A LOT of Nesmith songs. Of course, this was at the expense of David tunes, and I think I'm ok with that.
posted by frodisaur at 1:02 PM on September 7, 2013


I've been listening to the YT links posted here, and I have two thoughts:

1. Their deep tracks are way better than the three or four songs on the local oldies' station's playlist. More melancholy and complex, but also playing to their strengths.
2. This will come across as heresy, but: I really don't like Davy's voice. It just doesn't work for me the way the others' do...particularly Nez. He's clearly having a lot of fun up there, so good on him.

In any event, I just put Pisces, Capricorn (etc) on hold through the library. Maybe their stuff will take for me this time. They've at least made it out of my "begrudging respect" category and are squarely in the "respect" place, so there's that.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:47 PM on September 7, 2013


the band gets written off as a joke

As do most artists/groups that were manufactured by corporations to milk the teenybopper market. And, in 99% of cases, deservedly so. (Fabian and Frankie Avalon being some of the earliest examples.) Right along with white acts (and labels) that capitalized on R&B singles.

The Monkees put out some damn fine music. Likely to be more appreciated these days, now that the airwaves are full of bubblegum again.
posted by Twang at 8:11 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


In grade school, if you were a girl, it was important to pick your favorite [blank]. Your favorite Beatle. Your favorite Monkee. Your favorite Osmond. Even (I lived in a racist town so this made no sense) your favorite Jackson. I now think it was training for being a cheerleader in high school and marrying the quarterback and living happily ever after, because that was what was supposed to happen in our town. I have to report that I didn't marry the quarterback, and it's probably because I chose John, not Paul. And after reading this, I am very satisfied in my choice of Mike.
posted by acrasis at 9:16 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Atom Eyes
>my only reaction is "Man, I can't believe they look so young!"

For me, half the fun is tracking the state of Micky Dolenz' hair. I actually get nostalgic for when he was rocking the inappropriate old-man ponytail. Now he's never seen without a jaunty fedora, because that way we won't suspect he's bald.
posted by mgrichmond at 10:48 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Monkees are another* one of those bands whose bright pop candy exterior conceals a cream filling of darkness and despair. I've always liked that about their songs. It's almost like they were daring people to actually pay attention to the lyrics.

*The Polyphonic Spree is like this, too.



That's basically Steely Dan's raison d'etre...
posted by stenseng at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2013


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