I have to admit I came to this quite late (as in, not in the 60s), and primarily under the influence of two friends in particular- as vastly different as they may be.

One of them remembers watching Monkees reruns in the 70s as a young child, and then again in the 80s on MuchMusic.  As a mere infant, she learned the lyrics to every song off the four albums she inherited from her aunt, the way some children today learn the songs of the Wiggles (or whoever else may be top of the toddler pops at the mo’).  She wanted to marry Mike and have Davy, Micky and Peter be her older brothers.  Much older- in that they were more or less contemporaries of her parents.

I have to admit that when I watch those old episodes (both seasons conveniently available on DVD) it is impossible not to imagine that they have been frozen in time as those four young musicians trying so incredibly hard to make it in the business as they lived in their beach ‘pad’ and ran into weekly difficulties with international royalty, criminals and spies.  And monsters.  And even the Devil, once.

For all their detractors- and there were many- there was an innocence and ‘niceness’ to the whole Monkees thing that the cynical music press made much of yet which ignored the fact that these four guys made some pretty awesome music together.  And they were funny and remain endlessly endearing.

The only real pain they caused their fans came with the untimely death of Davy Jones a little over a year ago- and that was hardly something for which they can be blamed.

In a poignant twist, that very sad leap year day back in February 2012 started something pretty wonderful.  The Monkees toured again.  First together, then Michael on his own and now, this summer, together again.

This turn of events has demonstrated their talent and longevity- both individually and collectively- and has started people talking about them again.  In an interview with Rolling Stone, Papa Nez talks about all the rumours and stories and myths about them not playing their own instruments in his singular style.

The second source of influence that brought them all into my permanent awareness was an older friend (older as in the time I’ve known him and in chronological years) who discovered Michael Nesmith and then the Monkees way back in the 60s when they first popped onto the pop cultural radar.

This friend can, and does, wax very poetic about his long-term admiration for Michael Nesmith, and we have had years of conversations about all that he has contributed to culture- popular and otherwise- over the past 50+ years.

In addition to the music- his solo stuff, the First National Band, the songs he wrote for other artists and etc.- Nez is responsible for the invention of MTV (when it actually played actual music), the producer of such cult classic films as Repo Man, the author of novels, an early interworld innovator and overall supporter of art and artists.

The Gihon Foundation- established by his mother, Bette Nesmith Graham, the inventor of Liquid Paper- was formed to provide private philanthropic support of the performing arts.  As President and Trustee of the Foundation, Michael gathered intellectuals from a diversity of fields to identify and address the important issues of the day.

His first novel, The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora- which I came across quite by accident in a bookstore shortly after it was released in 1998- confused me more than a little the first time I read it.

When I reread it, for the first time, I realized that Nez was playing with the mythology of the American Southwest in a very all-encompassing way.  There is magic, music and myth all rolled up in a seemingly autobiographical love story that takes us across worlds and realities.

Each subsequent reading brings to light more and more of its sense of wonder and lyric adventure as it plays with mythological concepts and characters.  Neftoon, and his second novel The American Gene (which is available as an online download from his website http://www.videoranch.com) demonstrate the extent of his prowess as an artistic innovator.

Now in his 70s, Michael has just finished a solo tour and is preparing to head out again with Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz this summer (I’m very much hoping that they come up our way- something I’d so like to see).  He contributes wonderful occasional blog posts on his Facebook page- keeping those of us who love him up to date on his domestic and musical doings and apprising us of how things are going with his dog, Dale.

The world could use more creators like Michael Nesmith- an artist who recognizes the real value of art, music and story and who is willing to push the envelope and create new forms and formats to allow for the expression of human creativity in all its manifestations.

It’s almost Friday.  It’s been a rough week and I’m looking forward to the weekend.  What better way to set it all up than with four of my favourite guys singing a little ditty (in mixed meter, partially- 5/4 time), written by one of my real heroes, while settling in to read (yet again) a mythic tale of captivating voices and how they can lead us into journeys of self-discovery?

Thanks Papa Nez.

22 comments on “Woolhat

  1. Grumble Girl says:

    I love that song so hard… I love them all. I, too, watched the show during the wee hours of the morning in the 70’s and I was ALL OVER THEM for the second rehashing on Much Music during the 80’s. Love. BIG LOVE.

    Taking a trip down Nostalgia Road does so much for self-discovery… no matter how old you get, I should think. Lovely post!!

  2. colemining says:

    They are all so… good… for lack of a better term. Michael has done so much for the arts and popular culture- all without fanfare or self-aggrandizing. SO many lessons can be learned from the man. Class all the way. What better way to interject a little wonder in a day than 2 minutes spent with the Monkees?

    Thanks for reading!

  3. […] the iPod was tapped into the fact that I had just been thinking about story and song, and Papa Nez, because the first song to come up was a country/southern-rock […]

  4. […] for a while.  Michael Nesmith (my favourite Monkee, media mentor and mastermind), as mentioned here, pioneered the format in the US in the late 70s, and bands like the Boomtown Rats had been making […]

  5. Very nice. I love how you say that the only thing the guys ever did to hurt fans was in the passing of Davy. I’m actually going to be able to see Nez on this upcoming solo tour. He’s actually coming to my city, which is nice. I’ve been traveling around to see these guys since 2011. This is my first solo concert of his, and I can’t wait!

    • colemining says:

      My friend actually made that comment about Davy- the day he died. True indeed. I am SO very jealous. Micky was close by this summer (was out of town at the time, of course), but we have yet to have Nez come north. I get a little silly with the hero worship when it comes to Nez. Appreciate all of them, but Papa Nez speaks to me in a very big way. He’s actually doing meet-and-greets before the shows on this solo tour. Would so love to have even a brief chat with him. Have a blast at the show!

      • I was lucky to be able to meet him previously. He is very kind and attentive. You would love it. I’m not going to do the meet and greet this time though. Since there is a limited number, I would rather let someone who hasn’t met him get a crack at it. No sense in being greedy with the Nez love! Micky will always be the one who makes my heart pump a little faster, but I have a special place for Nez. His persona resonates with me.

      • colemining says:

        How lovely you are to let others have an opportunity to bask in the Nez. Micky is a wonder, in his own particular way, but I could listen to Nez speak for days.
        Feeling the Monkee love!

  6. […] friend of mine  (who was talking about Davy Jones’ death.  You can find the original quote here), Jim did nothing to make his fans sad.  Ever.  Except die suddenly and rather inexplicably.  […]

  7. […] song exemplifies so much of what the season means to me.  Pared down- just those familiar Monkee voices in wonderful harmonies, candlelight and quiet.  It’s comforting in a way I […]

  8. LindaGHill says:

    Wow! I never knew all that about Mike Nesmith. I wanted to marry Davey Jones when I was about 7 years old. I remember getting up at 5am to watch the Monkees… not quite in the 60’s maybe, but very very close.

    • colemining says:

      Michael Nesmith is an extremely underrated innovator- and songwriter, for that matter. His CV is really beyond impressive- and, from all accounts, he remains a pretty grounded guy. The Monkees DVD set remains one of my favourite ways to beat the blues when they creep up. I have so many episodes memorized… it’s a little scary. Still can’t believe Davy is gone. Hope that one day I’ll get to see the remaining three perform together.
      Thanks for perusing my ‘back catalogue’, Linda!

      • LindaGHill says:

        I actually saw Mickey Dolenz live once – he appeared at a car show at Maple Leaf Gardens back in the 80’s. It was just to sign autographs, but it was pretty neat to see him in person.
        I’m seriously impressed by what Mike has done. Thanks for bringing his accomplishments to light. 🙂

      • colemining says:

        I always considered Micky ‘the goofy one’- but when I listen to him these days I really appreciate what a strong vocalist he is. I think the bunch of them are finally getting the positive attention they deserve- after decades of misinformation and jealous dissing. If you’re looking for an interesting read I do recommend Mike’s first novel- it has really grown on me with each subsequent reading.

      • LindaGHill says:

        I’ll check it out, thanks for the recommendation. It really is too bad Davy’s not with us anymore. A complete reunion would have been awesome indeed. If you hear that they’re coming to town, please let me know! I’ve seen Queen sans Freddy (AC Centre, March 2006), so surely I could handle the Monkees without Davy.

      • colemining says:

        I will certainly let you know should such a wondrous happening come to pass. Apparently they did a lovely job remembering Davy on the last two short tours they did. Since they all took the lead vocal reins at different times, they have plenty of material that remains true and authentic as recorded/performed back in the day.
        I’m not sure I could manage Queen sans Freddie. I DEF couldn’t handle INXS sans Michael Hutchence. Although I get that they remain the talented musicians they have always been, both those bands had such incredibly charismatic leaders that I can’t envision seeing them without them up there on the stage. Although I have seen the boys from Queen perform (on tv) for charity events- and they still have their chops.

      • LindaGHill says:

        Paul Rodgers was no Freddie, but he did pretty well. I cried real tears, however, when they began Bo Rap and, showed a video on the big screen of Freddie performing. Speaking of amazing performers with spectacular credentials, Dr. Brian May is right up there.
        Michael Hutchence was another one, for sure. So much wonderful talent lost.
        And hey, if they play here I’ll let you know as well. We have some pretty amazing bands play here in Belleville – I actually heard Boston, live, while sitting drinking wine in my back yard. We do an outdoor festival every year here.

      • colemining says:

        Indeed. There are few performers that can match Brian.
        I am fortunate in that I saw INXS a few times over the years- including at Massey Hall the week that Kick was released- THAT was an amazing show. Although I appreciate that the rest of the band has every right to continue performing the songs they created, I just can’t wrap my brain around hearing those songs being sung by anyone other than Michael.
        I’m always up for a road trip! Some great bands do certainly head to the outskirts from time to time. Keep me posted!

  9. Great song. I still remember eagerly unwrapping a Monkey’s album at Christmas…that and the first Michael Jackson album. Was music more innocent back then? I think so, and I think it made for a lovely childhood soundtrack.

    • colemining says:

      The Monkees were certainly a large part of my childhood soundtrack- and the innocence and ‘goodness’ (for lack of a better word) remain sustaining and inspirational to me. Especially right now. Thanks for reading.

  10. […] (While they were, certainly, ‘manufactured’, they were/are hardly talentless. Read this if you want some more of that particular […]

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