Yes, I know it's been a very long time since I've been posting my celebrity tributes on a regular basis. I think the only two since Lord-knows-when were Steve Ditko in July, and Stan Lee in November. And believe me, there's a whole post in itself explaining why I haven't done many lately, but let's cut to the chase and just say it's a combination of available time and an urge not to "bury" my posts by blogging too often.
Enough of that.
I was kinda surprised to hear of Peter Tork's passing the other day. I was a fan of Mr. Tork and the other three of the Monkees, the so-called "pre-fab four" whose popularity rivaled that of the Beatles for a while. It could be arguably stated that by 1966, the Beatles' appeal was to those with slightly more sophisticated tastes, but that's a discussion for another time. And for someone else's blog, for that matter.
I'll make a simplistic statement here: Of the four Monkees, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith considered themselves to be actual musicians, while Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz seemed to think of themselves as primarily actors, at least at first. None of the four were allowed to contribute anything in the way of instruments on the Monkees' first two albums. But Tork, who was a versatile musician (to say the least), was surprised and resentful toward the attitude of the Powers-That-Be. From their third album on, the Monkees insisted on playing their own instruments.
A few years ago, when all four of the Monkees were still with us.
I only have two personal Monkees-related anecdotes to share here. (Three, if you count the fact that I saw the Monkees -- minus Mike Nesmith -- in concert during their mid-1980s Reunion Tour.)
1. Many years ago -- 1982 or 1983, if memory serves me correctly -- I was still actively appearing with local bands, or if not, looking for my next one. At that time, I was envisioning forming a band all my own, which would play primarily oldies rock'n'roll and blues. I even came up with a great name, a unique name, a name I liked so freakin' much that I didn't tell anybody what it was. I was saving it.
A few years after I'd come up with this incredible name, the Monkees performed on some TV show. Whichever program it was escapes me now. After the Monkees played, there was a brief interview segment where Peter said that his own band was the Monkees' opening act. The band's name? Shoe Suede Blues.
Need I even bother to state that The Shoe Suede Blues Band was the very name that I had come up with, quite a while earlier? I thought not. Damn! What were the odds?!?
2. Somewhere around twenty years ago, a bunch of people who lived in my apartment building were congregated on two back porches, commiserating and having a few beers. I mentioned (for some reason) that of all people, Jimi Hendrix had very briefly been the Monkees' opening act in 1967, before Hendrix had made a name for himself.
A guy named Don said "Hendrix! Hendrix was sixties!"
"Yeahhhh, and so were the Monkees," I said.
"The Monkees were in the seventies."
"Their TV show premiered in September of 1966," I stated.
Don continued to argue.
Well! Although the internet existed when this conversation took place, none of the people assembled that day had ready access to it. However, I had a Hendrix biography -- 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix by David Henderson -- somewhere in my apartment, plus the latest edition of a book with a slightly longer title, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle F. Marsh!
I ran -- okay, walked -- to my apartment and went to look for the two books. I couldn't find the Hendrix bio, but I found The Complete Directory in no time. I brought the volume onto the porch, and read the information aloud about when The Monkees premiered on NBC, which was on September 12, 1966.
Don's reply was "Oh, I don't care what it says in a book." Wow. Then how can anyone ever prove anything, I wondered, but I didn't pursue the matter any further. What would have been the point? When someone clings so firmly to their ignorance, who can dissuade them?
It kinda reminded me of the whole "Ms." incident that I talked about here.
Anyway, I've often heard Peter Tork's on-air persona described as the "funny" or "goofy" member of the cast of The Monkees, but that's like pointing at a photo of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx and naming any one of the three as the "funny" one. All of the Monkees (on the TV show, anyway) were goofy. It was a goofy show... as it was supposed to be.
A slightly more serious shot of Peter than what we usually saw during the Monkees' heyday.
Thanks for your time.