Monday, March 19, 2012

the monkees as a gateway band

One of the more interesting articles that I saw in the wake of Davy Jones' death was by David Hinckley, a writer for the Daily News. Hinckley argued that one of the Monkees' important roles in pop music was as an entry point for young people:
But Jones and the Monkees were more important on a different level. As quintessential teen idols, they were the main entry point into popular music for millions of teenagers
Joke, if you will, that this is like calling marijuana the gateway drug to heroin. But it’s the way music works.
Just as we go from lullabies to Barney to the Wiggles to “Sesame Street,” at some point almost all of us find pop music, the pop music of the moment, the pop music that will become our own.
We don’t start with Kanye West or Taylor Swift. We start with something that’s catchy, simple and friendly while it embeds the hook that starts the ride.
For millions of listeners, the teen idol is the first point where the music feels like the listener’s own.
You can read the whole thing here.

Interesting thesis. For me it's true in many ways. Certainly the Monkees were my first entry into pop music, although it'snot as if I transitioned to them from some other, more-juvenile, interest. Like many others, I got interested in them through their TV show. I used to keep a portable tape recorder next to the set so I could record the musical sequences. Then I'd walk around the neighborhood holding that recorder, playing these bad quality recordings. I specifically remember having "Sometime in the Morning" and "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)." And my sister and I bickered over whether "Monkeemania" or "Partridgemania" made more sense as a phrase,or sounded better.

Gnerally, though, I didn't get into other, more-adult, groups directly through the Monkees. But So when, on shabbatons with other teens during my early high school years, there was a group singing Rolling Stones, or Bob Dylan or Simon & Garfunkel (while one or two played guitar), I was there enjoying it. I remember declaring myself a fan of "sixties music." And I'm sure that part of what was going on was that my brain had started preparing the wiring for this (in part) because of the time I had spent time listening to The Monkees.

There was, however, one group that I got into in a big way as a direct result of the Monkees influence on me. That group was...The Monkees. Now, here I am drawing a distinction between the early bubble gum Monkees of the TV screen, and the later Monkees. In actuality, there were arguably several phases in which the group (or nongroup, as the case may be) had an identity different than it was in the other phases. I won't go into the detail now. But I am thinking of songs such as "Oklahoma Backroom Dancer," "Never Tell a Woman Yes" and "Circle Sky." While I certainly enjoy the early hits that had the major airplay and dominate the compilation albums, in some ways these later songs were much more interesting.

Here to illustrate is the video of "Circle Sky" from the Monkees' movie, Head. I'll note that this liver versio used in the movie was vastly superior to the studio version put in the soundtrack album.

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