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I would hate to die on Leap Day

[ 109 ] February 29, 2012 |

Needless to say the creation of the Monkees — a completely artificial pop music group invented for the purposes of television, in the crassest possible attempt to cash in on Beatlemania — represented everything that was and is wrong with whatever the American version of Tin Pan Alley is called (Edit: oddly enough it’s called Tin Pan Alley Based on my knowledge of Kinks and Who records I assumed the original was in London).

But, much like the Hollywood Studio system, if enough talented people end up being involved in the creation of something, it’s almost impossible to avoid producing something worthwhile, despite everyone’s best efforts.

Comments (109)

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  1. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    The Monkees’ film, Head, is a mess, but a really brilliant one that grew out of their own discomfort with being the Pre-Fab Four.

    RIP Davy Jones

  2. proverbialleadballoon says:

    dude, the monkees television show was excellent; campy and dadaist-lite. and funny as shit, funnier now as an adult that can get all the jokes than as a kid who only got the silly humor. they recorded enough good music to put out a solid top-to-bottom greatest hits album. last train to clarksville, stepping stone, daydream believer, i’m a believer, the monkees theme song — they put out more enduring music than most ‘real’ bands. yes, they were a made up band created in a crass attempt to cash in on the beatles, but what they made was really excellent stuff.

  3. c u n d gulag says:

    RIP Davey.

    I do have to admit though, that The Monkees were my gateway band to harder R&R.

    From the Monkees, it wasn’t too big a leap for me go to Jimi Hendrix, MC5, and The Who.

    Then, I found myself main-lining The Ramones and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, drinking The Sex Pistols, and chasing that with The Jam and Nina Hagen.

    Luckily, the music in the 80′s became less pure because it was cut with some nasty shit, so it was easy to quit that whole scene.

    And to think, it all started with “Take the Last Train to Clarksville…”

    • proverbialleadballoon says:

      damn straight, gulag. i never thought of it in that way, but the monkees being on syndication when i was a kid was my musical gateway drug, too.

    • "Fair and Balanced" Dave says:

      Interestingly enough, Jimi Hendrix was the opening act for the Monkees on his first US tour–which must have been quite a shock to all the pre-teen girls in the audience (not to mention their parents).

      Details

      Though Hendrix wasn’t a big hit with the Monkee fans, the “Pre-Fab Four” themselves were big fans (reportedly Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz were the driving forces behind the inviting Hendrix to join the tour).

      • c u n d gulag says:

        Yeah, I’d heard that Hendrix was the opening act. That must have been quite the shocker for the kiddies…

        I had a similar experience.

        I went to see Blue Oyster Cult in 1975, I think it was, in Poughkeepsie, and they had The Ramones as their opening act.

        I didn’t know wtf that sh*t was they were playing, but I knew I loved it right away.

      • BobS says:

        One of my best friends is a huge Hendrix fan who is still a little irked that his wife- who isn’t- saw the great man before him when he opened for The Monkees.

      • DrDick says:

        First time I saw BB King (1970), he was on the bill with Sugarloaf. Let’s just say that their fans did not know quite what to make of him and my friends and I almost committed grievous bodily harm on a few in the row behind us.

  4. Njorl says:

    “…whatever the American version of Tin Pan Alley is called.”

    It’s called Tin Pan Alley.

  5. Erik Loomis says:

    I think it’d be worse to be born on Leap Day. Which probably explains what was wrong with Dinah Shore. Freak. Jimmy Dorsey and William Wellmann too.

  6. Richard says:

    Tin Pan Alley was American (a street in NYC) so the American version of Tin Pan Alley is Tin Pan Alley. But that aside, I agree. Considerable creative talent was involved in the show and the music and a handful of great records were created as well as a thoroughly enjoyable television show.

  7. efgoldman says:

    I liked Last Train to Clarksville better, for no particular reason.

  8. A lot of bands from that era were “manufactured”. The only member of the Byrds to play on “Mr. Tambourine Man” was Roger McGuin, lots of Motown acts had help, the Wrecking Crew in LA played on just about anything that came out on Capitol, and quite a few other labels. Only the Monkees really took the heat for being pre-fab, but yeah, when you look at that catalog I think most people wwould concede that they produced a solid body of work. It’s pop music, after all. The extent to which Boomers expect their ephemera to have lasting significance is a function of our generational self-absorption, not an aesthetic criteria or a measure of value. So long, Davy.

    • sparks says:

      Pretty much any label that had a stable of artists back then used studio musicians for some or all of the backing. The self-contained band was more a novelty until the late ’60s. The canard about “soulless” studio musicians dies hard.

    • actor212 says:

      It was pop music in an era when you had groups like the 1910 Fruit Gum Company, The Archies, and The Banana Splits.

      I’d cut the Monkees bookoo slack here

      • steelpenny says:

        If I remember, the Monkees came to an end in part because they refused to record Sugar and were replaced by the Archies, an even more fabricated, cartoon band.

        • Richard says:

          Not true. Jeff Barry, the co-writer of Sugar, Sugar, has denied that the Monkees were ever offered the song. After they fired their producer/manager/puppet master, Don Kirshner, they stopped having hits, then the show was cancelled because of poor ratings and Tork and then Nesmith quit the band. The Archies, which existed only as a cartoon, never replaced the Monkees.

    • yoyo says:

      Funny side note, Rodney Bingenheimer was Davey Jones double/stand in for the tv show.

      RIP, Davey

    • McKingford says:

      Yes, in fact even the Beatles, who famously replaced Pete Best on drums with Ringo just prior to their breakout, still used a studio drummer on their first hit, Love Me Do.

    • Lee says:

      Lots of bands and musicians are still “manufactured” today. Many pop stars and bands are fabricated to a certain extent rather than grown organically. In East Asia, manufactured musicians still dominate the pop music scene.

      The demand that artists and musicians write their own material and be organic rather than fabricated is very recent and really only applies to rock music. In most other popular music genres, the audience could care less about these things.

  9. Western Dave says:

    RIP Davy Jones. He had a Tony award nomination and was under contract to Screen Gems and had put out a record pre-Monkees. Tork was a multi-instrumentalist who had been cutting his teeth in the Village. He ended up in the Monkees because of his friendship with John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Nesmith was under contract as a songwriter in LA, writing, among other things, “Different Drum” made famous by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Ponys. Dolenz was the least accomplished of the bunch, having played guitar in bar bands. One of the reasons why the Monkees got a bad rap as musicians was that everybody was playing the wrong instruments. Dolenz was lead singer but was assigned drums and Davy Jones taught him how to play them. Tork was primarily keyboardist (Jones would take over bass duties when Tork played banjo or keyboards and he took over drumming when Dolenz stepped out to sing). Nesmith should have been on bass, Jones on drums, Dolenz playing some guitar and singing, and Tork on guitar (and other instruments).

  10. Aaron Baker says:

    Enjoyed the show as a kid–and yes some of the songs are quite good.

    Death blows, no matter what day of the month.

  11. Aaron Baker says:

    The Tin Pann Alley Wikipedia entry should now get this revision: “Believed by Professor Paul Campos to be a street in London.”

  12. actor212 says:

    Based on my knowledge of Kinks and Who records I assumed the original was in London

    *GASP*

    Tears are shed from millions of dead piano bangers and hoofers…

  13. Aaron Baker says:

    Crap, it was “Pan” I misspelled. Why did I get out of bed and come to work today?

    • Njorl says:

      But you didn’t. This is all a bad dream. Well, not that bad. But in about one second you’ll realize you’re dreaming and all the words you’re reading will SAjfl lf;oga rao lkmflkl awn n wifff aaeraw’pijoge erial/wl rewa ar lekwj wfa;on gre eroni

  14. actor212 says:

    Wait. Davy’s dead?

    Really?

    Wow. He was the young cute one.

    And don’t knock the Monkees too badly, Paul. They could at least play a little and had a self-effacing quality that few made-for-the-public groups have.

    • Paul Campos says:

      Sheesh, I thought the whole point of my post was that they were actually pretty good despite everything . . .

      • proverbialleadballoon says:

        it’s the way that you worded it, especially the order in which you put your argument. i read it the same way too, and only saw what your point actually was the second time around after the edit. your whole post hinges on one word, the ‘but’ at the beginning of the second paragraph.

        and it’s easy to miss, especially when by the time the reader gets there, he is kinda pissed that you’re slagging the monkees. so that one word gets elided over.

        skipping that one word turns your post that seemingly is slagging the monkees, _but_… into a post that’s straight slagging the monkees.

  15. ralphdibny says:

    The first headline to make a “locker” pun is really gonna piss me off.

    RIP Davy.

  16. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    If it weren’t for Davy Jones, David Bowie wouldn’t be “David Bowie.”

  17. Jim Lynch says:

    The Beatles understood the Monkees. Indeed, the Fabs publicly (and very generously) applauded their efforts.

    The Monkees drummer understood too, acknowledging that musically the Beatles were NASA compared to the Monkees version of a rock ‘n roll version of TV’s Star Trek.

  18. Cheap Jim says:

    The name “Tin Pan Alley” of course comes from the many French piano players employed in music publishers office in the 19th century, and their hunger for day-old bread rolls (they weren’t paid well). Local bakers would send boys out under the windows where the piano players worked, and they would toss down pennies and ask “toss up a little bread!,” or “Ti pain, allez!”.

    Well, I may be mistaken.

  19. Glenn says:

    All this love for Davy here, and yet poor Whitney… :-)

  20. McKingford says:

    Well, my first concert was the Monkees 1986 reunion tour…I now officially feel old.

    RIP

  21. Anderson says:

    I would be interested in an explanation of how and why the Sex Pistols were any more authentic than the Monkees.

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      Good point.

    • It depends on who you talk to, them or their manager. But they wrote their own songs and played their own instruments. Cook and Jones were playing together before McLaren. Rotten looked the way he did before the band started, and they all appear to have been authentic troublemakers without the services of the imaginative hype-machine that accompanied them.

      • firefall says:

        and, barring the troublemaker bit, the same can be said for the Monkees

        • Not really. Nesmith got a writing or co-writing credit on four songs on the first two albums and for the most part the Monkees only sang and didn’t play.

          • Western Dave says:

            Yes but the Monkees did play live, and played their instruments well (despite the fact that they mostly weren’t on their first instruments) whereas it’s hard to call what the Sex Pistols were doing playing, if hitting the right notes at the right time matters. Now, to the Sex Pistols it probably didn’t, but to the Monkees music it did. Dolenz learned drums on the fly from Jones, for cryin’ out loud. And turned into a respectable drummer. And nobody every doubted Tork’s or Nesmith’s musicianship. Whatever they were supposed to be, they became something else.

            • Hmm, I don’t know that apart from Tork any of the Monkees could be considered respectable players. Certainly nobody trusted them enough to let them play on their first two records. Obviously they got better (I like them).

              Musicianship wasn’t the point with the Pistols of course, so it’s a little odd to worry about the comparison, but Sid was really the only one lagging; they were good enough before Sid to inspire some of the greatest bands England ever produced. Also they covered “Stepping Stone” and gave it the raw hate that the song needed.

            • . says:

              “sub mission” with the earlier bass was their cleanest hit.
              “did you no wrong” was probably their best. had that 50s fake slobbo style (like mick taylor and keith richard).
              check the tubes for vinyl…

  22. virag says:

    davy jones is gone, but richard hammond is still around, so he’s still on for the jones part in the biopic.

  23. . says:

    not my era, but, Valleri was about their best (the verse mercifully short, like an exhale) I could look it up, but I suspect guitar was played by studio musicians. The sound had some of the ‘feel’ of “Little Girl” by Syndicate of Sound (had to look that one up)

    stepping stone was OK. pistols covered it.

    I also heard a mostly vocal, a “round”. I think it was supposed to be the monkees version of “number 9″ (beatles)?

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