Sally and I got engaged in May, 1979, shortly after I graduated from college. During that summer and fall, until our marriage in December, I was living at home and working as a roofer in Glencoe. Sally lived at Moody, working and attending classes. She would often come out on weekends to visit. My folks were traveling a lot and often not home.
In order to keep up appearances, I’d leave home around 11:00 p.m. on weekend evenings and drive to Schaumburg to spend the night at the home of my college roommate, Larry Wightman. Sal would stay at my house, alone.
I’d get to Larry’s a little before midnight and, with his two brothers, we’d watch TV until 2:00 a.m. or so. It was always The Monkees and Sha Na Na. I remember laughing hilariously at both shows and thinking they were cool and clever.
Thirty years later, I began ordering the DVDs of The Monkees TV show from Netflix. It soon became evident that you can’t go home again. I quickly decided that the shows were harmless and occasionally amusing but mostly just silly. An episode here and there was OK. A string of more than two or three would leave me bored and restless. I decided to watch every episode, but to space them out. It took about four years, but I’ve finally watched them all.
I could tell that even the Monkees themselves were totally bored with it by the second season. Mike Nesmith, in particular, took a few episodes off entirely. Toward the end, they added interviews with other musicians, but this did nothing to improve the show.
I also watched Head, the movie they made in apparent imitation of the Beatles. You can read my review here.
The final DVD from the TV show included 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, a 1969 TV musical special. Guest stars included Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. It makes fun of the hold rock musicians have on the public and features one song in which the Monkees sing in white Gorilla costumes and another in which Davy Jones dances with Little Red Riding Hood. And those were the parts that made the most sense. The final number, “Listen to the Band” ends with five minutes of noise and psychedelic patterns that were so bad I felt insulted.
I watched a documentary on the band some years ago which explains some of this. The four guys quickly got tired of the routine of the TV show, especially after their music became popular. They demanded more creative control. Unfortunately, when they got it, they didn’t know what to do with it. Or maybe they just weren’t that talented. In Head and 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, they no longer attempted to appeal to their audience but just did whatever they felt like. Nobody was interested, and the band broke up. When it finally got back together for reunion tours, it was to play the music that gained them popularity to begin with.
I still like their music.
As an aside, I have a friend (although I haven’t seen him in a long time) named Dick Eastman, who co-wrote, with Bobby Hart, the song “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere,” which the band played on one of the reunion tours and on one of their albums.