Blast from the Past

On November 17, Crow and I (and a number of our friends in various locations throughout the theater) saw The Monkees in concert at Lakewood Civic Auditorium. I must preface this entire entry by explaining that before U2, I was a huge fan of The Monkees. The show was in reruns when I was 12 and I was immediately drawn into the silly humor and, of course, the great music.

So I was obsessed with a band formed and over before I was born that was new when my parents were teens. People older than me love to point that out to me when I talk about my love of The Monkees. I’ve gained perspective in my U2 fandom because I’ve met many teenage U2 fans–kids who weren’t even alive when the band formed in 1976 (okay, technically I was 1 years old when U2 formed, but they were really big when when I was a teen and into my high school years when I really started to love them, so technically they are the music of my generation). U2 has been together over 30 years. The Monkees first reunion was at 20 years in 1986. There’s very little difference to me (except that The Monkees actually broke up for a period of time). I will also note that my love of The Monkees also led me to appreciate The Beatles and lots of bands from the 1960s.

I also met some of the most important people in my life because of our mutual love of The Monkees. First of all, I met my best friend Melissa in 6th grade when, during recess, I heard her talking about her love of The Monkees. We spent the rest of recess on the monkey bars (coincidence? I think not) talking about our love of the band. She was new to our school and we both had a lot of issues with bullies so our friendship gave us a united front as well as a social outlet.

I read a lot of teen magazines back then like Tiger Beat (I loved to post the pictures of stars, especially the members of The Monkees, on my walls). There was a section for pen pals and I responded to one of the girls looking for a pen pal who shared a mutual love of The Monkees. One pen pal led to another because they would pass around these little books into which you would write your name, address, and list your interests, decorate your page, and then mail it to another pen pal. If you found someone in this book who sounded interesting, you could write them directly. This lead to a huge obsession with pen palling. At one point, I had over 20 pen pals and I was getting mail every day! And, yes, I responded to each and every one of those letters on a regular basis.

Eventually, I had to pair down (the pen palling was taking over my life!). But there was one person with whom I’d always related, whose letters I looked forward to the most, and she and I remained pen pals throughout high school, college, and adulthood: Sarah. I picked Sarah’s name from one of those little books that got passed around because she had written she was 13 (my age at the time) and her favorite Beatle was John (her favorite Monkee was Peter and at the time I was a huge Davy fan, but I was willing to overlook that). Most of my pen pals were older than me so I was thrilled to find someone so close to my age. I think probably that’s why we’ve remained friends so long–we were going through the same phases of life at the same time for a very long period of time.

What start of a love of The Monkees (and other bands) turned into two very close friendships that I maintain today. Sarah and I have visited each other multiple times so we’ve been more than just pen pals (and we still actually write real letters, too!). She went through a divorce around the same time I lost my husband. We’ve shared our joys and sorrows and we’ve always been there for each other even across the distance. Because of the very unguarded nature of writing, I think Sarah probably knows more about me than anyone else I know. The sort of stuff I wrote to her was like what one would write in a diary…

The first concert I ever attended, at the age of 13, was The Monkees 1987 reunion tour with Melissa. Since then, we have seen The Monkees together a few other times, most notably our notorious trip to see them in Wilkes-Barre, PA (where we got helplessly lost for hours) in 1996. We saw Peter Tork with his band Shoe Suade Blues in both Cleveland and Columbus in 2001. We also saw Davy Jones at a county fair somewhere (I can’t remember where) around 1997-98. I shared some awesome musical moments with Melissa (and could have shared some more had I not had some life interruptions), none of which would have been possible because I was too timid back then to go to concerts alone.

So when you consider the deep friendships and the history I have with the band, you can imagine the type of emotion that I felt in seeing The Monkees one more time. Especially since Mike Nesmith — whom I’d never seen on a tour — was there. I thought I’d feel a big gaping hole where Davy should have been in the show, but they handled several memorial sequences with such care that I think I almost cried in a few spots.

It was such a good show! I got goosebumps just hearing those tunes again live. These were the songs of my youth and with each one carried a memory of a gawky teenage girl trying to find her place in the world and feeling like she already knew everything and had it planned out. I was thoroughly impressed that Micky’s voice sounds as crisp as ever and he continues to be the absolute showman. Mike sounded great and Peter was totally in his element as I remembered him from all the shows in which I’ve seen him perform.

My favorite moment of the show was when they played “Daily Nightly.” Mike and Micky had this little spiel about trying to get a Moog synthesizer for the song — which is apparently the keyboard and set of knobs and switch boxes featured in the video — and Micky exclaimed that he had to print out the words because they were crazy word scramble. Mike informed the audience that he couldn’t get a hold of a Moog, but that he would fill in all the funky noises vocally. For fans like me who know that song intimately, Mike’s noises, aptly placed, was absolutely hilarious. I captured some of the song on video.

They also played quite a few songs from the Head soundtrack which was a real treat. On the screen behind the stage, they played the part in the movie where Davy performs “Daddy’s Song” while the band followed along with an brassy version of the melody. I have to note here that that particular scene in the movie is why I have always had an obsession with men in white tuxes with tails and, admittedly, the reason I was inspired to request of my first husband to wear one for our wedding. Yes, I’m shameless! Davy Jones was one of my first crushes and I especially liked that scene. I guess I envisioned my future husband as someone as energetic with great dance moves or something. (I later developed an obsession for Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, so there must be a dancing theme in there.)

For the song “Randy Scouse Git,” Micky donned his old “rug” poncho and beat the hell out of the big drum just like the video from the TV show. I remember that me and Melissa really lusted after that poncho. And just about all the clothes from that video (Davy wore a shirt with a similarly loud pattern). Despite growing up in the 1980s, we thought the 1960s fashions were oh so cool.

It was really a great show. And sharing those moments with Crow was even better. We danced a little together in the isle in front of our seats (though not Davy Jones style). He really enjoyed himself as well though he only knew The Monkees through their show (and not as intimately as me). When we got home from the concert, we popped in some episodes from Season 2 (Crow bought me both seasons on DVD for my birthday) and I realized, with a chuckle, the reason Crow likes the show is because it has the same silly sense of humor as he does! It is like he wrote the script or something! So I guess in a way I have found my own Monkee to marry.

…Now, to get him in a white tux with tails, and work on that “Daddy’s Song” routine…