Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We’re Too Busy Singin’ to Put Anybody Down Part I

Allow me a moment to backtrack a bit and return to the month of May, 2012, a month during which I was working on and/or supporting several of our Gadsden Reads programs for Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  One of the programs scheduled for our series was on the music of the Vietnam Era, presented by friend/conductor of the Etowah Youth Orchestra/musician in local band Leftover Ego, Mike Gagliardo.  After I listened to Mike’s engaging presentation, I got in my car and headed back to the library, all the while listening to a compilation CD of The Monkees’ greatest hits.  I had obtained the disc a couple of weeks before to honor the recently-late Monkee Davy Jones, who had died back in February, and I had been listening to CD almost nonstop since it had arrived in the mail.  As I drove along, a realization crept over me, the realization that The Monkees as a band had been created during the Vietnam War, and consisted of four draft-age young men.

The Monkees were sort of America’s late 60s answer to The Beatles.  They literally existed as a commercial venture for a TV show.  They were a band whose members were initially not allowed to play the instruments that they pretended to play on screen; they were only allowed to act and sing songs that were written for them.  But they were musicians, all of them, accomplished musicians, and they wanted to play the music they were pretending to play.  So, they eventually fought for the right to write, play and supervisetheir own music, all with the studio producers’ backing.  And they would eventually tour with much success.

My sister and I were HUGE Monkees fans during the mid-1970s, which was after the show had already been cancelled (it ran from 1966-1968), but while it was still in rerun mode.  Mom allowed a thirty-minute episode of The Monkees, along with a Little Debbie Snack Cake and a glass of milk, to be part of our after-school treat.   Many an afternoon, Vicki and I would carefully pick our way past usually-good-natured-but-potentially-volatile-bus-ruffian Jeff Partee, shove ourselves through the sea of knees blocking the isle, and rush off of the school bus almost before it came to a full halt.  With ponchos flying and book bags spilling along the driveway, we’d dash into the house and plant ourselves in front of the TV, which mom already had turned to the proper channel so that we could catch the opening strains of the theme song, “Here we come, walking down the street.  We get funniest looks from everyone we meet…HEY, HEY, WE’RE THE MONKEES!  PEOPLE SAY WE MONKEE AROUND!  WE’RE TOO BUSY SINGIN’ TO PUT ANYBODY DOWN…”

In 1985, I visited London on a school trip.  I brought back with me a souvenir that I still cherish to this day (with its’ seven pounds, ninety-nine Virgin Records price tag still affixed to the front):  a prized double album of The Monkees Greatest Hits…vinyl.  Vinyl, I say!  Both records were on heavy rotation in my bedroom for months after I returned to the States, which only acted as a primer for the following year, 1986, when MTV began airing a marathon of back-to-back episodes of The Monkees old show in a series entitled Pleasant Valley Sunday.  Vicki and I once again found ourselves glued to the TV, and The Monkees found themselves caught up in a second wave of Monkeemania.  Yes, Mike’s knit cap, Davy’s British accent, Micky’s one-man-circus antics, and Peter’s sweet-but-stupid act were still appealing…


lauri said...

Hey, hey. I am singing with you.

La Petit Rouge said...

Just too catchy, right?