My opinion differed from theirs.
The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees
The 1970s represented a lost decade for fans of The Monkees. And really, we should expand that period to more than a mere ten years: from the point that The Monkees TV series was canceled in 1968 until at least the early-to-mid '80s, at the flashpoint of resurgent Monkeemania, sponsored by MTV. But during that in-between period? The Monkees were personae non gratae in pop culture. You weren't supposed to like them. Unclean! Unhip. Move along. Yeah, the '70s were just a freakin' wasteland for Monkees fans.
Understand: there was literally no Monkees product available at record stores. Zip. Nada. Um...zilch. Bell Records' perfunctory 1972 best-of set Re-Focus occupied vinylmonger racks briefly if at all, and its reissue on Arista Records (under the new title The Monkees' Greatest Hits) wasn't released until 1976. In the mid '60s, the popularity of The Monkees had briefly rivaled that of The Beatles; less than ten years later, it was if Monkeemania never happened, at least as far as retail was concerned.
By, I think, 1975 or '76 (when I was 15 to 16 years old), some years after reruns of The Monkees had disappeared from the TV networks' Saturday morning/early afternoon programming, I started to occasionally catch the show on weekday afternoons. WNEW in New York City was carrying the reruns, and we sometimes received that signal via cable in the Syracuse suburbs. Sometimes we didn't receive it; I guess reruns of The Monkees weren't part of whatever licensing agreement allowed the cable outfit in North Syracuse to transmit WNEW's offerings. Most afternoons, when it was time for The Monkees on WNEW in New York, our signal in North Syracuse would unceremoniously switch to on-screen bulletins and PSAs. Often, I would be teased with the opening moments of a Monkees episode--a fleeting glimpse of a starry-eyed Davy Jones, a wool-hatted Michael Nesmith, a friendly Peter Tork, and/or a manic Micky Dolenz--before the image would shift abruptly to text listings of job openings and upcoming community events.
But every once in a while, someone musta been asleep at the console, and a complete episode of The Monkees made its way into my living room. As weeks passed into months, eventually The Monkees became part of our daily scheduled cablecast, even in the suburbs of Syracuse. Perhaps, like The Beatles before them, The Monkees had finally passed the audition.
At this point, my collection of Monkees records consisted of their first two LPs, The Monkees and More Of The Monkees, records my brother Art had left behind when he got married and moved out of the house. Watching the TV reruns, I became increasingly aware of the fact that there were a number of Monkees songs beyond those heard on my lonely pair of Monkees albums. And they were pretty good songs.
I had to have them.
The record stores were no help. The great Gerber Music had no Monkees albums for sale at its Penn Can Mall and Shoppingtown Mall locations, nor were there any to be found at Camelot Music, Record Theatre, or even Walt's Record Shop. I wasn't really aware of used record stores yet. My deliverance could only be sought via one method:
The flea market.
My first-ever visit to the weekly Sunday flea market at Syracuse's Regional Market was probably in 1975, maybe as early as '74, but...no, '75 sounds right. I was unfamiliar with the concept; I thought the name "flea market" was weird, but I quickly embraced this idea of finding and buying old stuff one couldn't get at retail outlets. I think my first flea market acquisition was an old '30s or '40s pulp magazine, Dime Detective, probably followed by some science-fiction paperbacks and a trade collection of two pulp novels starring The Shadow. I started picking up some records, too.
The precise chronology is blurred in memory, but some time within this '75-'76 timeline was when I bought my flea-market copies of two Monkees LPs I'd never seen before: Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
I felt as if I'd found the ark of the covenant.
Remember: I had absolutely no idea of how many albums The Monkees had released; there was no handy-dandy reference book to all things Monkee, at least not as far as I was aware. I knew The Monkees and More Of The Monkees; with this flea-market visit, I had magically doubled my Monkees library in one fell swoop. And I couldn't wait to get 'em to my little turntable at home.
As I examined the covers of these two LPs, the graphics struck me as both a part of a continuity with The Monkees I already knew--bright, happy, agreeably goofy, too busy singing to put anybody down--and as something...different. I dunno, more mature? More serious? By this time, I had heard the rumblings of how The Monkees were a make-believe band that didn't play, but the sleeves of these records seemed to imply otherwise, politely but firmly. Headquarters especially seemed to insist otherwise. Hmmm.
Although the release of Headquarters (1967) predated 1968's The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, I think I listened to the 1968 album first, perhaps drawn by the familiar songs "Daydream Believer" and "Valleri." The LP's opening track, a Davy-sung ballad called "Dream World," was less than thrilling to this young, nascent rock 'n' roller. I felt an immediate kinship with the second track, "Auntie's Municipal Court." For one thing, the song's title just screamed MONKEES! to me for reasons I can't quite articulate, evoking the fast-paced schtick of the TV show and calling to mind "Your Auntie Grizelda" on More Of The Monkees. The song itself didn't go with the title at all, but I loved its mix of Michael Nesmith's stream-of-woolhat words and music and Micky Dolenz's sublime vocals.
"We Were Made For Each Other," another Davy ballad, was but a speedbump on my path to Nesmith's "Tapioca Tundra," which I adored. I already knew the greatness of "Daydream Believer," but alas, I found Nesmith's side-closing "Writing Wrongs" too long and meandering. I doubt I would have admitted that at the time. Psychedelic...!
Side 2 opened with "I'll Be Back Up On My Feet," an absolute winner sung by Micky. The track's intro reminded me of a scene on the TV show, where songwriter Charlie Smalls (later to craft the music for The Wiz) gave Davy a lesson in soul. My copy of the LP skipped on this song, usually truncating the line "I won't disappear" to "I won't --pear." No refunds on flea market finds, prime mates. Neither "The Poster" nor "P.O. Box 9847" meant much to me on first listen. Nesmith's '20s pastiche "Magnolia Simms" had an intentional skip, and I generally preferred to just skip the entire track anyway. The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees closed with an effective one-two punch of "Valleri" and "Zor And Zam," the latter an anti-war tune that I embraced with the whole-hearted fervor only a sensitive teen like me could conjure so quickly. War is bad. But, in spite of some missteps, I thought The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was good. On to Headquarters!
Headquarters was The Monkees' bid for respectability in '67, their first opportunity to play as the musicians on the tracks that bore their name. I didn't recognize any of the songs by their titles, but was eager to investigate. "You Told Me," "I'll Spend My Life With You," and "Forget That Girl" combined for an easygoing, compelling introduction, leading into the silly (in a good way) short instrumental "Band 6." I should have known Nesmith's "You Just May Be The One" from TV, and that became one of my all-time favorites. The wistful "Shades Of Gray" felt deep to this teen, and it prompted me to wonder why I hadn't heard more lead vocals by Peter Tork. On the other hand, "I Can't Get Her Off My Mind" felt like a throwaway.
Side 2 continued the good times, commencing with a song I certainly knew, at least in part. An abbreviated version of "For Pete's Sake" had been used as the show's closing theme during its second season, and in the syndicated reruns of both seasons. In this generation/In this loving time/In this generation/We will make the world shine. I loved hearing the full version on my first spin of Headquarters, flowing seamlessly into "Mr. Webster," "Sunny Girlfriend," the quirky spoken rap "Zilch," the rockin' "No Time," and the hypnotic "Early Morning Blues And Greens." Finally, I did recognize the ranting "Randy Scouse Git" from my WNEW reruns, and with that I had completed my first spin of Headquarters.
Looking back, I'm tempted to refer to these first exposures to Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees as revelatory. And they were, even if I can't proclaim either as immediately life-changing in the moment. I liked them both, and I was delighted to have them, but I liked individual tracks more than I liked each album as a whole. That opinion would evolve over time, especially in regard to Headquarters.
But they were a revelation to me nonetheless. Previously, I had heard evidence of undiscovered, unknown Monkees songs in my cherished TV reruns; now, I had physical evidence that some of them existed in the marketplace, or at least had existed in the marketplace at one time. Maybe there was even more of The Monkees out there...somewhere. I was still trying to identify and locate at least four songs I loved from the TV show: something about a penny-whistle van, something about love only sleeping, something about a star collector, and some droning psychedelic thing where Micky sang of finding questions but no answers.
All four of those tracks--"The Door Into Summer," "Love Is Only Sleeping," "Star Collector," and "Daily Nightly"--would turn out to be on yet another Monkees LP I didn't know, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. In the spring of my senior year in '77, my friend Linda would introduce me to that album, plus the soundtrack to Head, and to The Monkees Present. And even that wasn't the end of the story. Revelations were awaiting me. Here they come, walking down the street.
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