The Monkees: A Legacy Of Good Times!
The year 1966 marks a major milestone in popular music, as many of the world’s most commercially successful acts began to strive purposely for heightened sophistication and substance in their work, driven less by sales and more by artistry than perhaps ever before in the history of the industry.
More so than just about anybody else at the time, both The Beach Boys and The Beatles lead this charge, releasing Pet Sounds and Revolver respectively in the same year to such tremendous critical acclaim that its rarely been matched even 50 years after the fact. From the moment they were released, these two albums would serve as blueprints for countless bands to come.
These seminal records not only changed the face of music as we know it but also offered a path by which once pop musicians might be elevated to the status of serious and respected artists akin to Pablo Picasso and Sir Laurence Olivier.
In the very same year, The Monkees would release their self-titled debut by way of Colgems Records, a label established that very year by Columbia Pictures in coordination with RCA Records for the primary purpose of putting out Monkees records and other material associated with Columbia’s Screen Gems television devision. Even back in 1966, it was no secret that The Monkees were not a band in a conventional sense but instead, a sort of boy band assembled by a committee of entertainment executives for the initial purpose of a television show meant to emulate the feel of The Beatles’ wildly successful film, A Hard Day’s Night.
Advertisements were posted in the papers, large-scale auditions were held, early songs were penned by tired songwriters for hire and instruments were ultimately assigned based primarily on aesthetic and commercial appeal. At the end of it all, The Monkees were made up of Davy Jones (vocals), Micky Dolenz (drums), Peter Tork (bass, keyboard) and Michael Nesmith (guitar). Given the musical revolution spawned by bands like The Beach Boys and The Beatles amidst a generation increasingly keen on abandoning the religion of consumerism that proved dominant in the 1950s, it’s not hard to understand why critics, intellectuals and the decidedly hip thought very little of the made for television band.
But to deride The Monkees entirely would be to give them far too little credit. While they may not have started off as a proper band, or even as one capable of playing their own instruments, they deserve credit for rebelling against the powers that be, ultimately earning the rights to pen and record the great majority of their material, including the “[Theme From] The Monkees” and the number one hit “Last Train to Clarksville.”
What’s more, regardless of what The Monkees started out as, their catalog proves quite enviable and as rich as that of just about any truly great pop band of their time. Moreover, like The Beatles in the early years, they were a band beloved for their playful antics and were known to make people smile. Who could possible frown to “Daydream Believer“?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Monkees’ founding and although Davy Jones tragically passed away in 2012 at the age of 66, the band is celebrating their half-century legacy the way any great band ought to: with a brand new album coupled with a nationwide tour. Released on May 27, Good Times! marks the first Monkees release in a decade and proves to be one of their strongest albums to date, recalling everything, from the catchy pop sensibilities to the youthful playfulness, that made The Monkees great.
Produced by Adam Schlesinger of the Fountains of Wayne, Good Times! features songs written by some of the greatest songwriters alive today, including Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Andy Partridge of XTC, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Paul Weller of The Jam, The Style Council and of a distinct solo career. If anything, if The Monkees perhaps began their collective musical career on a low note, their latest album marks a gratifying high, one they ought to be entirely proud of and one well worth hearing. Here’s to a legacy of good times!
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