The Monkees (Hey! Hey!)
Life in Pleasant Valley….
I first realized that the Monkees had harbored pent up emotions when “I’m Not You’re Stepping Stone” first hit the airwaves in late 1966. The track was the “B” side of “I’m a Believer” a song composed by Jeff Barry. That song would be covered later in 1971 by Neil Diamond, who was also a Monkees contributor with “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” a hit in early 1967.
The flip side however was composed by the duo and composing team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart the composers of the Monkees’ first hit “Last Train To Clarksville”.
The frustration expressed in “Stepping Stone” was mild by comparison to what would follow, namely the scathing “Pleasant Valley Sunday” a number 3 song from the summer of 1967. This song had it all:
“The local rock group down the street
Is trying hard to learn their song
They serenade the weekend squire
Who just came out to mow his lawn
Another pleasant valley Sunday
Charcoal burning everywhere
Rows of houses that are all the same
And no one seems to care”
One can only imagine the struggle from within the soul of each of the members of America’s fabricated foursome…….
….was born in March of 1945 in the plush and exclusive Cedars of Lebanon (now Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), the “hospital of the stars” the son of two Hollywood Actors. Somehow surviving what must have been a dismal forecast for a bright future, Dolenz climbed from the dregs of society to land a roll in 1956 as “Micky Braddock” in the TV series “Circus Boy”.
…was born in Houston, Texas in December of 1942 Robert Michael Nesmith. Michael’s was a victim of a broken family, when divorce took it’s toll when he was four years old.
His mother Bette Nesmith Graham took a humbling position as a mere clerk where she learned touch typing, shorthand and all the tools of the trade. Oh, and on a side note Bette invented a way to cover up typos – a while fluid which would come to be known as “Liquid Paper”. Bette founded the “Liquid Paper Corporation” – built a little empire, and sold the endeavor for nearly fifty million dollars in 1979. (Her initial invention was called “Mistake Out”.
She passed away shortly after selling her business at the young age of 56. And son Michael inherited one half the estate….
….was born in Openshaw, Manchester, England in December of 1945 David Thomas Jones. His first appearance in the entertainment world was on British Television as a teenager.
He would next take a shot a becoming a race jockey – a short-lived career – and so returned to acting assuming the role of “Artful Dodger” in a British production of “Oliver!”.
At the age of 19 he embarked on a solo singing career and even managed a chart entry in June of 1965 with “What Are We Going to Do?” #93 Billboard – recording as “David Jones”.
Then it was on to the Big Time with those rascally and angry Monkees. Davy was probably most obviously angry with the release of “I Wanna Be Free” where he was the sole Monkee featured on the track which appeared on a 1967 Monkee long play and also on an extended play – but not as a single.
Jones passed away on February 29th, 2012 at the age of 66 from a heart attack suffered just after riding one of his thoroughbred horses on his estate in Florida.
….rounded out the temperamental Monkees – He was born in February of 1942 in Washington, D.C. Peter Halsten Thorkelson – son of Virginia Hope and Halsten John Thorkelson a university professor. Tork attended Carleton College in Minnesota before casting off the yolk of another Pleasant Valley Sunday migrating to the liberating Greenwich Village in New York. (His Grandmother was also a resident in The Village – and Peter would often stay with her. She would also serve as an administrator for his Fan Club admirers.
He met Stephen Stills while in the Village, and it was Stephen who, after being turned down in his own audition for “The Monkees” recommended Tork when asked by the program’s audition team.
(Other notables who auditioned for the role as a Monkee included Paul Williams, Colorado’s own Astronauts)
Tork was probably the most proficient musician of the four playing guitar, keyboards, banjo, harpsichord and bass.
In 1967 – the Monkees outsold both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles in vinyl sales but would not keep up with continued sales of those 1967 releases which for the Fab Four continue to this day.
Earlier Rejection of the Pleasant Valley Sunday Way…
Other artists who emerged from the comfort of the Los Angeles music scene to take a swipe at “The American Way” included Salvatore Bono and his teenage girlfriend Cherilyn Sarkisian (they met when she was 16 and he a frisky 27) – Sonny’s “Laugh at Me” was particularly heart-wrenching….
“So I don’t care
Then laugh at me
If that’s fair
I have to beg to be free
Then baby laugh at me
And I’ll cry for you
And I’ll pray for you
And I’ll do all the things
That the man up stairs says to do
I’ll do them for you
I’ll do them
I’ll do them all for you”
The group formerly known as “The Crossfires” – and Dunhill artists Mr. P.F. Sloan, and Barry McGuire. Godfather Bob Dylan’s earliest “protest” songs (“The Times They Are a Changing”, “It Ain’t Me Babe”, etc., etc failed to chart. We just weren’t ready…
The Beach Boys made up for that with their 1965 “Beach Boys’ Party!” LP which included Dylan’s “Changin'” and so technically – The Beach Boys were angry well ahead of the Monkees.
And So the Plaintiff Wails of a Frustrating Time…
Because her roses are in bloom
And Mr.Green, he’s so serene
He’s got a TV in every room
Another pleasant valley Sunday
Here in status symbol land
Mothers complain about how hard life is
And the kids just don’t understand
And make it hard for me to see
(Ah ah ah) ah thoughts all seem to stray to places far away
I need a change of scenery”
That about says it all…