Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rant #719: A Barrel Full of Monkees

Last night, after a long, hard day of work, my family and I did something a little bit different with our evening.

The fabled Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, Long Island--usually the bastion of art house films, and more snooty looks at entertainment and media--itself did something completely different last night.

They presented a rock legends tribute to Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter, better known collectively as The Monkees.

Bill Shelley of Shelley Archives has been collecting rock and roll video for years, and he has an extensive collection of everyone from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers to Steely Dan, just to name a few.

But last night, he presented a more than two-hour program/tribute to the Monkees, a natural for this sort of thing because of their very video nature.

Taking musical segments from their show, mixed in with the numerous TV commercials and guest appearances on other shows as well as segments from their film "Head" and their TV special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee," Shelley proved once and for all, and without a doubt, that the Monkees were a vital piece of the 1960s, and that their music--and to a certain degree, their hijinks while performing these songs--continue to be vital, and if nothing else, quite interesting.

Whether performing the seminal "I'm a Believer" or playing with Nerf Balls (they introduced this line of toys in 1969), the foursome had their hands on the pulse of what was hot in young America from the mid 1960s through the latter stages of the decade.

Some said they were born as a band with silver spoons in their mouths, but the fact of the matter is that given this task, they handled it not only admirably, but probably more successfully than could ever have been imagined.

With numerous hits and hit albums, and with a successful TV show to boot, their legacy lives on, in everything from current teen idols to music videos to the big, full-fledged tours that are the staple of the world of music today.

And they have never lost their popularity, only gained on it, and the recent death of Davy Jones has truly brought fans out of the woodwork. Their future as true pop stars has been solidified for another generation and probably for generations into the future.

The video tribute was pretty well done, and the packed audience clapped along after every segment was shown. Some of the video was not rare--how many times can you see their classic "Daydream Believer" segment (with Davy's introduction intact)? Some of what was shown was quite rare, such as the aforementioned Nerf toy commercial.

Most, if not all of the segments can be found on YouTube, but to see them on the big screen was a plus.

But whatever was being shown, the audience--a mix of baby boomers, older fans, and even some younger fans like my son--was into it from the get go, and never stopped.

There was a brief question and answer session afterward, and the whole evening went pretty quickly.

I wish Jann Wenner was there. As the unenlightened despot of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he has never had a fondness for the group, certainly one of the most beloved acts of 1960s rock and roll.

With Davy Jones' untimely passing, even his Rolling Stone mag opened its pages to the Monkees, giving a surprisingly large amount of coverage to his death and the overall Monkees phenomenon.

Perhaps time heals all wounds, whether real or imagined, and perhaps Wenner will allow the so-called Pre-Fab Four into the hallowed halls of the Hall of Fame next time nominations come around.

If he would have seen this video tribute, he would truly understand why, for years, fans have called for the HoF to include these four extremely talented performers into the HoF.

Forget about the silver spoon; these guys had talent, and the talent to carry the whole thing off.

Now, nearly 50 years after the fact, is the time for them to be welcomed in.

Sure, the Monkees aped the Beatles, but the video tribute demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that they belong in there, the sooner the better.

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