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Good Times! The Porpoise Is (Still) Laughing

June 11, 2018

Granted, the period between the ages of five and seven weren’t my most informed years, but I certainly believed at the time that I was watching a TV show made for me and my fellow youngsters.  I mean, it was broadcast Saturday mornings right alongside the cartoons and sugary cereal commercials my best buddy Brian and I loved back in 1969-71.  The flow from The Monkees and their wacky shenanigans into the adventures of shipwrecked Jimmy on Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf’s island seemed a seamless transition.  Brian and I spent many hours together either on the floor in front of the big console TV at my house at the end of Greenfield Avenue or sprawled out on under-stuffed beanbags transfixed by a slightly smaller screen down the adjoining block at his.  Sure, there was music, and singing along to the theme song was always a blast, but it was the slapstick and constant jokes about Davy — ha ha, he’s short!! — that kept us coming back to The Monkees TV show.

By the time Davy appeared sans bandmates — and with nary a mention of The Monkees — on an episode of The Brady Bunch in December 1971 however, two months had passed since my family had moved permanently away from Brian and Greenfield Avenue.  I sensed there was something amiss with my favorite Saturday morning rock band after co-learning with Marsha Brady an important life-lesson about the negative consequences of fibbing to seek popularity, but with my new neighbor kids and schoolmates into the edgier TV adventures of The Jackson 5ive and The Mod Squad, I opted against sharing my uncool concerns about Davy and company with them.  This decision and other essential “new-kid” defense mechanisms soon paved a path for the latest and the cool to efficiently appropriate the mental space previously staked by “Greenfield” vestiges.  Thus, The Monkees faded surprisingly quickly from my memory, as did Brian, both put way with other childish things.

Roughly eight Monkee-free years later, the advent of paid employment, a driver’s license, and a hyperbolic taste for music contributed to reintroduce the zany Saturday morning heroes of my childhood to me.  Leveraging funds earned from my job as an usher at the Orpheum movie theater, I had nurtured a weekly habit of hitting up the Deseret Industries thrift store prior to extended Saturday work shifts to search through the new LP donations.  At 25 cents a record, I probably bought a couple hundred secondhand albums at the “DI” over my high school years.  During one of these visits, I discovered there in the racks a copy each of The Monkees and More of The Monkees, the Saturday-morning TV band’s first two albums.  Apparently a sucker for the nostalgic even then as a teen, I grabbed the platters, handed over my four bits to the cashier, stashed the bag behind the seat of my truck, and reported to work.  After some ticket-tearing and high-handed wielding of my flashlight in the theater aisles, I finally headed home to listen to my new acquisitions.

Of course, I knew the Monkees’ many pop hits well as they were ubiquitous on radio and canned in-store sound systems.  But in spinning those newly-acquired records, I realized just how truly good those songs were.  It didn’t (and doesn’t) matter who wrote them; the well-known tunes grooved and begged for singalongs – and the deeper tracks were just as good, and sometimes even better.  The varying voices and personalities, contrived or not, depending on which Monkee was singing added to the joy and encouraged letting sides play all the way through.  I could soon sing every lyric to every song across both LPs, and would often be heard crooning selections in the shower.  However, despite the return of my Monkees fandom, albeit this time as a listener vice a viewer, I failed to explore any further.  Save for hits from other albums played on the radio and elsewhere, I would go another quarter century satisfied with just my two-album fix.

By the mid-00s, void-filling behaviors — both related and unrelated to my fast-growing CD collection — had me compulsively reading magazines and online forums specialized in ferreting out the lesser-known gems (Colgems, anybody?) of the classic rock era.  Somewhere in the haze of digital torrent explorations, voracious skimming, unboxing Amazon packages, and hemorrhaging money, I became aware of later Monkees output in which Michael, Micky, Peter, and Davy had supposedly exercised greater creative control, played many of their own instruments, and expanded their previous bubblegum pop-focused output to include occasional forays into psychedelia, country rock and other “serious” genres.  The awareness exposed a hole, which, in turn, demanded immediate plugging.  Third and fourth Monkees albums Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd were soon added to my jewel-case holdings and earned regular spins, both proving just as catchy and joy-inducing as the earlier records.

Fast forward to 2018 and a compulsive double-check of the http://www.phoenixconcerts.net website that I use to identify the undeniably extravagant number of concerts I am compelled to attend of late — likely in an attempt to make up for perceived lost opportunities during my 20+ years abroad –  and my discovery that The Monkees were kicking off a North American tour right here in the Phoenix area.  It didn’t matter when I learned that the actual tour was billed “The Monkees Present: The Mike & Micky Show,” I still knew I needed to be there.  After all, Davy Jones had sadly passed away following a heart attack in 2012, and, while not seeking to diminish in any way Peter Tork’s contributions as the band’s most “proficient” musician, it was the singing on those early hits that had most deeply moved me, and Peter wasn’t a singer.

On June 1st at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, Arizona, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and their fantastic nine-piece band delighted a sold-out crowd of 1500 mainly 50-somethings and above, with me being one.  They joyously played the hits, as well as a selection of deep tracks, country-tinged Michael Nesmith solo songs, and even a pair of tunes from Good Times!, the Monkees’ generally positively-reviewed 2016 album.  Mike and especially Micky were in wonderful voice, with neither 70-something sounding especially worse for wear.  Whether due to nostalgia or by dint of abandoned prescriptions, I found myself watery-eyed and giddy repeatedly throughout the evening as glorious renditions of timeless gems were offered up again and again.  The 33-song setlist, including two encores, included personal favorites “You Just Might Be the One” and “The Porpoise Song (Theme from ‘Head’),” and even “Randy Scouse Git” with the full scat.  The audience singalong with Micky of “Daydream Believer,” originally sung by Davy, was another highlight.

 

 

In the week or so since the concert, I have purchased the Good Times! CD – it’ll probably grow on me – and grabbed a $4.99 “very good” condition used Headquarters LP from the stacks at my favorite local record store – a totally unnecessary purchase as I already have it on CD and seldom listen to vinyl.  While successfully fighting off the temptation to spend $200 on the full series Blu-ray collection of The Monkees TV show (plus the movie Head!), I also discovered much to my surprise that pre-pubescent me had not fallen for what I thought was a contemporary Saturday morning show made in 1969-71 expressly to entertain me and my childhood peers.  Instead, Brian and I had been won over by the syndicated reruns of a 1966-68 prime-time sit-com initially targeted at teens and young adults.  How could I not have realized that before?  I guess I had simply never done the math, never before focused on the now obvious disconnect between the early albums’ years of release and my memory timeline.  Oh well, this new knowledge does help dissipate my long-time confusion as to why The Monkees got the nod to take Jimi Hendrix out on the road to open a tour and H.R. Pufnstuf, who I now understand to have been non-contemporaneous, didn’t.

I unabashedly love The Monkees, and concerts, and unnecessary used LPs.  There is definitely something wonderful to be said for being too busy singing to put anybody down (especially when that anybody can include oneself).  Maybe it’s that realization that explains why the porpoise is laughing.  Goodbye Goodbye Goodbye

From → Music

8 Comments
  1. Super. Probably even super-dooper. While having no knowledge of this Puffenstuff character you refer to, many other things in this lovely reverie/live concert review ring true… The Monkees capacity for delivering shiny pop gems, the surprising number of ‘deeper cuts’, even the totally bonkers Head (that produced one of the great lost psychedelic songs – which I know you know because that is where you went for your sub-title).

    Perhaps if I’d been anywhere in the past twenty years I’d have sprung for a ticket to see Nesmith and Dolenz (the core, really) but I don’t seem to do concerts any more and will have to make do with relishing your enjoyment and misty-eyedness.

    • In no way, shape or form do I recommend HR Pufnstuf to you. It lasted one-season (69-70; plus years or reruns) and was a live action Saturday morning kid show. It’s a touchstone for American folk of “a certain age.” That said, between Freddy the talking flute and Mama Cass playing a witch and singing wonderfully in the 1970 film adaptation, the movie’s OST might just be the vexing hole in your collection that you just can’t seem to fill.

      Been listening to Monkees almost non-stop for some days now, and I’ve decided we’re both still understating their greatness!

      • Will try to resist the lure of the ost, I think, despite having a big soft spot for Cass Elliot.

        I only have Pisces et al, and the ‘Definitive’ comp (a generous 29 tracks). In tribute to the post, one or the other will get an airing real soon.

  2. balston@dc.rr.com permalink

    Thanks for sharing this…I knew about all of these people…unlike your Dad!!

  3. You bring back the memories! I remember the Monkees and HR Puffinstuff, watching my Saturday morning cartoons. The Monkees were better musicians than what they were given credit for.

  4. Awesome – 33 tracks? that’s Ramones-esque numbers.

    I loved the series when it was shown when I was about 9 or 10. My parents were always a bit sniffy about the Monkees credentials though but I liked ’em – Ha! Take that mum and dad!

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