Sunday, February 25, 2007
It is a travesty that the Monkees are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the bravest and most important bands of the sixties that went from manufactured glory to near avant-garde brilliance in the space of just a couple of years. Live they would become a powerful, and at times savage, unit and from the beginning they crafted many of the most perfect songs of the sixties. Songs that would affect generations and influence country rock, punk, pop and alternative music.
While it is hard to call anything other than the magical Daydream Believer/Goin Down the Monkees best single, their most overlooked remains the startling Michael Nesmith composition Listen To The Band. Hitting a dismal 63 on 1969's pop charts, it would mark The Monkees last stab at greatness and the band would splinter apart soon after.
Anyone questioning the genius of Michael Nesmith should sit down and listen to any studio or live rendition of Listen To The Band. An anthemic, experimental ode fuelled by a powerful horn section and one of the most infectious choruses of the sixties. Nesmith's plea to just listen to the band followed by the resolution to 'make it alone' sums up not only the strange and undervalued odyssey of The Monkees but also of the sixties themselves. Recorded the same year as the Manson murders the song would give call to the splintering of an entire generation. The 'togetherness' of the sixties would turn into the more introspective and isolated seventies. Listen To The Band is a lament as well as a celebration to the decade that was being left behind, as well as a look forward to the next one just around the corner.
The double A sided single also featured the undervalued Nichols/Williams track Someday Man, a sly answer to The Beatles Nowhere Man. Someday Man would chart even worse than Listen To The Band but remains a perfect little pop song with a great Davy Jones vocal track.
Many people will always consider The Monkees a joke, these are typically the same people who ignore the fact that everyone from The Mamas and Papas to The Beatles at times used studio musicians on their sessions. For the more adventurous The Monkees remain one of the true treasures that came out of the sixties, four very talented young men who refused to rest on the image that had been created for them.
I saw Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones several years back in Louisville and it was a powerful show, at a zoo no less, with the medley of Porpoise Song and Listen To The Band proving the most explosive moment.
Fans of the band will know of what I speak but for those who have always treated The Monkees with disdain, for gods sake, listen to this band.