It goes without saying that I am one of those people that considers himself a Monkees fanatic. I have every album in various deluxe editions that have been released over the years. On lesser albums I’ve sifted through the filler to find the gems (there are not too many lesser albums though.) John Lennon may be one of my musical idols, but sometimes I just prefer to listen to The Monkees over The Beatles. Those late 60’s albums by the “Prefab Four” stand up to anything their peers were putting out at the time. Live, I’ve never seen all 4 at the same time. In 1997 I saw Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork in Valley Forge, PA for the Justus tour. In 2012 I saw Micky Dolenz solo at a small casino just weeks after Davy Jones passed away. And in 2013 I saw Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork in downtown Seattle. All shows were memorable and expertly performed – the band members have come a long way from their origins as a make-believe band put together for a television show. A few months ago it was announced that The Monkees would be releasing a new album for their 50th anniversary. I wondered – would this be like The Beach Boys album from a few years ago (I can’t remember anything from that one) or would it be something special? The fact that the project was being produced by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger gave me hope – I love Fountains of Wayne’s unique power pop perspective.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
Most people, when they think of the intersection of country and rock, think of Gram Parsons. I do too, but I also think of Michael Nesmith. Yes, the very same Michael Nesmith from The Monkees. The latter-day records from The Monkees featured a handful of original Nesmith tunes that hinted at country music; freed from the chains of The Monkees, Nesmith embraced cosmic country rock in a groundbreaking and brilliant way. Nesmith’s 3rd solo record, 1971’s Nevada Fighter, was one of his strongest offerings. Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun to Care) is arguably the strongest track on the record and happens to be my favorite solo offering from the erstwhile Monkee. Lyrically, the song concerns something that happens to just about everyone in life – not realizing what they have right in front of them. Musically, the song is breezy – a light country vibe with strong melodies. The song was originally demoed as a tune for The Monkees in 1968 – it is my belief that it would have been a late era hit for the band. It also might be the finest vocals recorded by Nesmith, conveying emotion with ease. The steel guitar from OJ “Red” Rhodes is simply exquisite. Oh, and the word propinquity? It means “the state of being close to someone or something; proximity”. It also doesn’t appear in the song at all. Oh, Michael. “Oh, it’s taken me a while / But I have finally found / what you are to me / And that’s what really counts / And what you are to me / Is something we can share”
Mention The Monkees to a group of people and watch the varied responses – it should be a sport unto itself. Even now – 47 years after the debut of The Monkees television show along with the start of a string of hits (top-selling act of 1967) – some of the reactions will be a scoff along with a dismissive “I guess somebody still likes them”. I discovered The Monkees during their mid 80’s revival, watching reruns of the television show on MTV. My Dad seemed to revel in the revival and could seemingly recite all the verses to the band’s bizarre (and funny) “Zilch” sketch / song. My name is Jason, and I LOVE The Monkees.