Saturday, February 10, 2018

Documentary Review: The Terry Kath Experience

The Terry Kath Experience
Directed by Michelle Kath Sinclair

When I mention the band Chicago, what do you think of? Syrupy love songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s and endless tours of the nostalgia circuit? That’s the recent and quasi-recent past, but that’s not the Chicago I remember.

The jazz-rock hippies of my childhood released double albums with songs in odd time signatures, with a prominent horn section and 12-minute songs based on classical music song cycles. And their original guitarist, Terry Kath, was deemed to be better than Jimi Hendrix by none other than….Jimi Hendrix. Unless you’re a musician or a longtime Chicago fan, you may not have heard of Terry Kath. He died in a freak accident in January 1978 when he was cleaning out one of his handguns.

The Terry Kath Experience, a documentary directed by Kath’s daughter, Michelle Kath Sinclair, retraces her Dad’s life via interviews with his friends, relatives, bandmates and fellow musicians. She was only two years old when he died and has little recollection of him. She produced the documentary through Kickstarter donations after traditional funding fell through due to the usual complaint - “limited appeal.”  

A daughter interviewing friends of the Dad she never knew gives the film an emotional appeal most other documentaries lack. (Of course, there are a few documentaries where an unrelated filmmaker interjects himself or herself into the subject’s life during the course of filming.) Even Peter Cetera showed up for this one. (He declined to be interviewed for the Netflix Chicago documentary.) There’s a clip of Kiefer Sutherland, Sinclair’s stepfather, at her wedding, recalling the day Kath died. 

There’s lots of archival footage - notes Kath was taking for his solo album, family photos and home movies, a concert filmed at Caribou Ranch and New Years Rockin’ Eve with the Beach Boys (both Dick Clark Productions).

In addition to her father’s bandmates in Chicago, Sinclair interviews all the usual suspects (Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, Mike Campbell, etc.) She also talks to a Chicago high school student who recreated Kath’s famous Fender Telecaster guitar after studying articles about the instrument in old guitar magazines. (Yes, there’s hope for the youth of today.)

Chicago at Caribou Ranch

The band’s first manager, James Guerico, bought Caribou Ranch, a recording studio/playground in Colorado for the band, and put them in Electra Glide in Blue, a movie he financed. But he also performed that obligatory rock manager move - cheating the band out of money. Like Cetera, he passed on the Chicago documentary, but grants Sinclair an interview

The documentary film crew pays a visit to the ranch on the day it’s slated for demolition. Camilla Kath recalls some of the memories in between the wood paneled walls. (The chivalrous way he wooed his second wife, Camellia, whom he married in 1974, is endearing.)

A short interview clip reveals Kath wasn’t a connoisseur of groupies like many ‘70s rockers. Unfortunately, Kath did enjoy cocaine, another ‘70s vice, a bit too much and that contributed to his early death.

The Chicago documentary Now More Than Ever (currently on Netflix) will fill you on the 40 years since Kath died. The Chicago documentary also covers much of the same material in The Terry Kath Experience in more detail and with more era-appropriate drug and Playboy Bunny references.

Terry's famous Fender Telecaster

Sax player Walter Parazaider recalls Jimi tell him one night at the Whisky “Your guitar player is better than me.” (Probably the inspiration for the title The Terry Kath Experience.) The band’s keyboardist, Robert Lamm, among others, have said that Kath’s singing voice was that of a white Ray Charles. Those comments may sound over-the-top if you aren’t familiar with early Chicago. “Wait - this guy played guitar better than Jimi Hendrix and he sang like a white Ray Charles?” Here’s some supporting evidence.

25 or Six to Four (OMG Did they ever play this song on the radio ALL THE TIME)

After not hearing the song for years, you really appreciate it in all its glory.
If you doubt the accuracy of the statements about Kath’s guitar playing, this solo may convince you otherwise. 

Make Me Smile 

Question 67 and 68

Cetera lip syncs to a recording in this clip. Check the comments section for Danny Seraphine’s memories of the filming and a great revelation from one viewer – “Whoa! Who’s that on guitar? I thought Chicago was weak-ass Dad music. That dude’s an animal.”

Little One (written for his daughter, it was the last song Kath ever sang with Chicago)

“Wishin’ You Were Here” (not to be confused with Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”), and “Color My World” were other omnipresent songs in the early to mid ‘70s. There was no relief from Chicago ballads when I was in high school. Some kid played the intro to “Color My World” on the piano in the gym every damn day at the same time. Even the teachers complained, “Learn another song!!”

Listen to any pre-1979 Chicago album, especially Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago II, for more Terry Kath-era Chicago.

Michelle Kath Sinclair at  her father's alma mater, Taft High School in Chicago 

Friday, November 10, 2017

10 of the Best Tom Petty Deep Cuts

I never cried when a celebrity died before. Usually, I’d be shocked for a few minutes or there’d be a delayed response where the grief would come days or weeks later. With someone I’m not that familiar with, it’s merely a comment like, “Well, there’s another one gone.”

But when I heard Tom Petty was in cardiac arrest, the tears flowed immediately.

There were tributes saying the same thing - losing him seemed so personal to so many, even people who weren’t big fans. He seemed like a regular guy; someone you could have a few beers with at the local bar. He wasn’t flashy, involved in scandals, headlines or publicity stunts; he made music. That’s what he did.

Despite his superstardom as an individual, Tom kept his original band intact through the years. Only one original member left for good after 20 years (drummer Stan Lynch, who was replaced by Steve Ferrone). Bass player Ron Blair left in 1981 (to open a surf shop!) only to return in 2002. (Blair replaced Howie Epstein after Howie O.D’ed.) 

Petty and guitar player Mike Campbell got along for over 40 years! Imagine that, a singer and guitar player working together that long without recurring fistfights.

I first discovered the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers by reading a truncated review of their first album in Hit Parader. I keyed on the word Heartbreakers in the review section, mistakenly thinking the review was about Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers.

“That’s not the Heartbreakers!” I exclaimed after looking at the band photo. The critic,who seemed to be from the New York punk crowd, insulted the band's looks. The review told me nothing about the band or its music, except that they were from Gainsville, FL.

 A few weeks later I heard “American Girl” and lesser-known cuts from the debut album,  probably on WXRT, a local free-form station that routinely played all kinds of new releases. I instantly fell in love with the sound.

Some of my fondest memories of Tom were formed before most people had ever heard of him. I keep going back to these two concerts – Winterland and Santa Monica, New Years Eve, 1978 and reliving the soundtrack to my junior and senior years of high school.

Compiling a top 10 list of Petty songs, underrated or otherwise, is an arduous task. I could have added 20 more, but I’m sticking with this list – and a few bonus tracks. 

10. American Dream Plan B– Hypnotic Eye

The last TPHB album, Hypnotic Eye, released in 2014, melded the straightforward garage rock of the first two albums with the wisdom of age. It covered a lot of ground subject-wise, from religion to the deflating American dream. The crunchy, badass “American Dream Plan B” may just be one of the fiercest songs Tom’s ever written, and the band just wails on this.

9. Something Good Coming - Mojo

Unless you’re a completist, you probably don’t know a lot about Petty’s post-2000 albums. With the advent of the new millennium, the music industry didn’t just change – it pretty much ceased to exist as we knew it. 2002’s The Last DJ indicted music industry for its greed and corruption. This was different than the legal wrangling that surrounded Hard Promises and DTT. No one else really cared about fixing the music business anymore. There wasn’t much of an industry left to preserve.

The blues rock of 2010’s Mojo doesn’t rehash old blues tunes, but proves that you can write brand-new blues with the spirit of the originals. Some are convincing as new songs and others are predominantly a showcase for the band without much of a framework. There’s plenty to groove to here, but my favorite is a slower song “Something Good Coming” with its message of hope.

8. The Damage You’ve Done – Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough

No one escaped the neon malaise of the late 1980s, not even Tom. Yes, the TP and the Heartbreakers toured with Dylan, but they still had time to record the underrated Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough. The songwriting and playing remained natural, there were no swirly synthesizer-heavy songs or any other missteps into trends (Tom would never fall for that), but this album still stalled at #20 on the Billboard 100.

Perhaps the only song from this album most people recognize, “You’re Jammin Me” wasn’t included on the first Greatest Hits package. The video for it is a primer in early computer graphics editing.

My favorite, though, is “The Damage You’ve Done”, a vitriolic sentiment set to a breathless rock beat. It was passed over as a secondary single in favor of “Runaway Trains”.  

Bonus: For some silly end of ‘80s video hijinx, check out this clip from the VHS compilation “A Bunch of Videos and Some Other Stuff”.  Hilarity ensues when clips of golf lessons by a Paraguayan golf pro pop up on the band’s video compilation. And Stan chops up the ‘ole drum machine .

7. Magnolia – You’re Gonna Get It

If you were a teenage girl in 1978, there was an unwritten rule that upon first seeing a band on their album cover, you had to choose the guy you thought was cute. To our young eyes, the Heartbreakers were all hot (or were we still using the term foxy back then?), but the songs kept us interested long after we moved on to new rock star crushes.

Magnolia concerns subject matter that would be addressed with more authority on Even the Losers, but this tale of unrequited love was still bittersweet in its own right. I wanted to include either this or Luna from the debut album on the Top 10. “Luna” was more poetic, (Black and yellow pools of light /Outside my window/ Luna come to me tonight/ I am a prisoner /Luna glide down from the moon),  but since “You’re Gonna Get It” was the first TPHB album I bought, I’ll go with Magnolia .

6. Fooled Again- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom gets all snarly with the vocals here. I love it as much now as I did when I was 17.

Even though we had yet to see the extent of his talent (and the Heartbreakers as a unit), there was still something there, an earthiness you didn’t see from other bands touted as new-wave or power-pop at that time.

I also believe this mini-concert was filmed is after bass player Ron Blair, swallowed a block of hash to avoid getting hauled in at customs. See the documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream for details.

5. Wooden Heart – Playback

With and without the Heartbreakers, Petty performed dozens of covers. Most of them were the usual suspects – “Mona”, “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, “Gloria”, “Psychotic Reaction” (with Stan on vocals), but Tom’s tender rendition of “Wooden Heart”, the Elvis hit from GI Blues, is my favorite.

Bonus cut – from the aforementioned Winterland 1978 concert – Clarence Carter’s “Makin’ Love (at The Dark End of the Street)” It totally floored me to see this skinny, white boy channel the blues with so much conviction.

4. Face in the Crowd –Full Moon Fever

One of his saddest songs, it has that twinge of longing for that something, which differs with every listen and to every listener. I vacillate between this and “Love is a Long Road” which is a rocker, but melancholy all he same.

When I first heard Full Moon Fever, I said to a friend, “Hey! Is Tom going through a bad divorce? Cause this album has a lot of depressing songs on it.” Well, actually, the divorce album was 1999’s Echo, which was more dirge-like.    

3. Honey Bee - Wildflowers

Raucous, bluesy hard rock blasts out on SNL with Dave Grohl as guest drummer. With all the ballads and wistful songs of the ‘90s, it was good to hear an all-out rocker again. Note the amused look at Mike’s face as Dave launches into his drum histrionics.

2. Nightwatchman –Hard Promises

A few nights before Tom died I was noodling around on YouTube trying to find different live versions of Nightwatchman, a funky reggae number from Hard Promises I hadn’t heard in 30 years. I was overjoyed to hear it again.

1. Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid) - Damn the Torpedoes

Tom had a great way of writing about women. His lyrics were about real women in everyday situations, and always seemed to be written with reverence for the female involved. There were no signs of classic rock cliches like the conniving whore or untouchable goddess.  

“With that little bit of mystery, she's a complex kid, 
And she's always been so hard to live without.
Yeah, she always likes to leave me, with a shadow of a doubt."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CD Review - Crowmatic by Steve Hooker

Steve Hooker
Pimphouse Records

This six-song CD from rockabilly/blues rock veteran Steve Hooker has all the earmarks of his time-tested sounds. The CD starts with the shouting you often hear on  preludes to '50s or early '60s songs, and then segues into blues rock stomper Don’t Look Behind You.

The rhythmic cadence of the instrumental Nine Yards brings back memories of old-school Chicago blues, and Keep On Keepin On is a Cajun-esque growler. Catch On is a hip-shakin’ rockabilly dance revival distilled in two minute and twelve seconds.

Any fan of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll or rockabilly will enjoy listening to this CD – or more likely, dancing to it.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Pass into the Wild Times, Loud Rock and Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen By Noel E. Monk with Joe Layden

Book Review: Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Pass into the Wild Times, Loud Rock and Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen
By Noel E. Monk with Joe Layden

Noel Monk managed Van Halen from 1978 until the band fired him in early 1985. With the 30 year non-disclosure agreement now lapsed, Monk tells his side of the story, but not without a tad of bitterness, in Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Passinto the Wild Times, Loud Rock and Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen.

Monk was Van Halen’s manager from 1979 til the band fired him in 1985. He’d managed the Sex Pistols ill-fated US tour in 1978 and stage managed at Woodstock, and seemed a natural to handle the next big thing.

Handling any rock band on the road is a chore, but Monk had his work cut out for him with VH. Monk had to assure Eddie a blow job couldn’t get a girl pregnant and reels in disbelief when he records the guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s Beat It –for free. 

Alex was a mean drunk. “Al pouring Schlitz Malt Liquor over himself and his drumkit…was the soberest part of the day for Alex”, Monk writes. And Dave’s ego and ADHD (buoyed on by cocaine) resulted in roadies having a straitjacket on hand, and not just as a joke.

Monk considers the band’s appearance at the US Festival in 1983 to be “one of my worst (days) as manager of Van Halen.” As anyone who was there can tell you (I was), apparently there was such a thing as Dave doing much coke, but the rest of the band took up the slack musically.

Runnin’ with the Devil reinforces the notion that musicians and entertainers aren’t necessarily exemplary human beings. Even before adding groupies and drugs to the mix, the guys come off as emotionally stunted. In Monk’s reminiscence, there are three bad guys here. Dave’s an egotistical blowhard, Eddie plays guitar and doesn’t know about much else, and Alex is a drunken bully.

In the early days, Dave wanted to marry a movie star, but Ed beat him to it. Valerie, like millions of other girls, had a crush on Eddie. Unlike those girls, though, she got to meet him backstage in her hometown and it was love at first sight. Valerie wasn’t much different than her TV alter-ego, Barbara Cooper, but she eventually fit right in with the entourage and the rest of the wives.

Valerie did coke because “Ed likes me thin”, but is confused about groupies. She wondered why the guys weren’t hornier after being away from their wives for so long.   

Monk instituted a payola scheme for the band’s least commercial album, Fair Warning. It was probably overkill – the album had two radio-friendly songs, Pretty Woman and Unchained. The band had almost achieved iconic status by 1981, so it was an unneeded boost . Around the same time, Dave’s alleged paternity suit insurance was widely touted in every publication from Time to Hit Parader. It was a PR stunt, unlike the exclusion of a certain candy backstage per their rider. The band actually had a good reason to exclude brown M & Ms  from the catering table, as Monk reveals.

Some of the behind the scenes anecdotes really knock the sex and drugs glamour out of the band’s image. What should have been a triumphant bus ride to Paris after the last DLR-era show ended up being depressing and icky. The band comes off particularly pathetic in Monk’s description of the meeting where the band fired him

Eddie, Alex and Dave cut Michael Anthony cut Michael Anthony, the band’s only “nice guy” out of his share of the band’s royalties from the album 1984 on, and made him a salaried player. Even after this, they still resorted to junior high bullying tactics on the road like they resented his mere existence.

Was the acrimony toward Michael Anthony solely because of money, or was there some other reason?

Some critics would question why Anthony would accept the demotion and stay in the band. (Shades of Rick Wright and Pink Floyd?) Although what was Anthony supposed to do? Quit the band and release a solo album that went nowhere and fade into obscurity, or stay with one of the biggest American rock bands ever as a salaried player?

Being a hardcore fan, I’m going to nitpick one detail. Monk says the band rarely played Happy Trails during their concerts, but I saw them do it at least twice, maybe three times.

Van Halen fans should read Runnin’ With the Devil after Greg Renoff’s Van Halen Rising and before Sammy and Dave’s books.  VH Rising has lots of info you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a well-researched look at the band’s origins, (Dave was a rich kid; Eddie and Alex were from the wrong side of the tracks.) And Runnin’ With the Devil’s backstage shenanigans probably won’t shock you if you know anything about the band, but the degree of acrimony between bandmates near the end of the first VH era may leave you flummoxed.   

Monday, August 07, 2017

Book Review: A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man by Pete Way (With Paul Rees)

Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider once referred to Pete Way as a "rock 'n' roll version of Dudley Moore's 'Arthur'.”  The reference to Dudley Moore’s perpetually soused but lovable millionaire character in the 1981 movie is certainly understandable.  Way, UFO's former bassist, certainly imbibed more than his share of alcohol back in the day, and he's a personable and easy-going guy, but.. rich? - well, maybe - til he spent all the money on drugs.

Way’s autobiography A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man, co-written with Paul Rees, certainly has all the alcohol, drugs and sex you’d expect from a rock star bio, but without the artifice or self-importance. It has dissenting opinions from cohorts including Michael Schenker, Joe Elliot, Ross Halfin, Geddy Lee and Way’s brother, Neill.

Unlike many English rockers born in the middle of the 20th Century, Way actually had a fairly pleasant childhood. He did well on his exams, but once the late‘60s rolled around, drugs, were everywhere. (He first used heroin at 13, a few years before getting into music.)

Pete met Phil Mogg at 16, and they started the band that eventually became the blues-based version of UFO. Once guitarist Michael Schenker joined, the band developed a harder rock sound and broke into the American market.

Way had a manic onstage persona during his UFO heyday, and would zip back and forth with his bass like a true showman. It’s no surprise that he influenced Nikki Sixx and Ironmaiden’s Steve Harris.

A Fast Ride Out of Here is sprinkled with anecdotes about life on the road. Tales of hot and cold running drugs, alcohol, groupies and in-fighting (mainly guitarist vs. singer) abound.

 Of the girls that pursued the band, he writes, “The girls got what they wanted , too….they reasoned that the best way to know someone famous was to be involved with a guy in a band.”

Another anecdote from the UFO days - Pete appeared on the rock ‘n’ roll edition of the TV game show “Hollywood Squares” in 1979 with Todd Rundgren, Chaka Khan and other music stars of the time. He was billed as “Mr. UFO.”

Schenker bailed after the breakthrough Strangers in the Night live album was released. Eventually, Way left to start a new band, Fastway, but never played in the band due to contractual obligations with Chrysalis.

Way formed another band, Waysted, in 1983. Ex-UFO bandmates Paul Chapman and Paul Raymond made brief appearances with the band, and Way worked with Schenker on a few projects in the '00s. Like a codependent couple, Way reunited with singer Phil Mogg in UFO many times (and as Mogg/Way in the late ‘90s). The last split, in 2007, appears to be permanent.

Pete traveled with Ozzy when Waysted toured with him, and joined him in search of “waffle dust”, among other adventures. That’s just one sample of the hilarity that ensued on that tour. Way was also a friend of Bon Scott, and hung out with him a just a little over a week before he died.

Joe Elliot’s dry comments counter a few of Pete’s claims, in a friendly way. Photographer Ross Halfin calls UFO “the great lost British rock band” and Michael Schenker comments on his on-again, off again musical partnerships with Way.  

Way’s substance abuse also contributed to problems in his personal life. Two wives died of drug overdoses, and he was estranged from his daughters, Charlotte and Zowie, for years. The chapter about his time in Columbus, Ohio, with his fourth wife JoAnna is more surreal tragedy than rock excess. It proves, once again, that truth is stranger than fiction.

At 66, Way has beat heroin, prostate cancer and a heart attack. He’s been working on a solo album, "Walking on the Edge", with producer Mike Clink, between health crises.   

A Fast Ride Out of Here will have you laughing one minute, and shaking your head in disbelief the next. Way comes off as such an endearing character, you’ll genuinely like the guy, regardless of his foibles. Funny, heartbreaking and honest, any fan of classic rock or metal will enjoy this book. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Looking Back and Living in the Now: Good Times and 50 Years of the Monkees

I found a copy of Spy magazine from the mid-1990s when I cleared out some storage boxes the other day. Spy was a nothing’s sacred snarkfest for hip cognoscenti of the time. I don’t know why I kept this particular issue – probably some tenuous connection with someone who worked there, or who was related to somewhere who worked there.  I flipped through it, chuckling at some of the irreverent skewering of public figures and fads. That is, until I got to a page containing a calendar of “The Worst Events in History.” The calendar included events like the Hindenberg explosion, the Titanic, and "on December 30th, Davy Jones was born in Manchester, England".  

I tossed the magazine. (Yes, I know. It's all a hoot til they make fun of someone you like.)

 Davy Jones was to snarky music people of the ‘60s –‘00s what Justin Beiber is to today’s snarky crowd. A convenient teenie-bopper idol and scapegoat for all that was (perceived to be) uncool, Davy and the rest of the Monkees were relegated to the remnants table of musical history for a long time after the TV show ended.   

They were “the pre-fab Four, they don’t play their instruments, they don’t have any talent, blah-blah”. Reality proves the nay-sayers wrong on all counts. Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith had solo recording contracts before they were Monkees. Micky Dolenz played in a band and recorded a few singles, and Peter Tork was a folk singer in Greenwich Village. Of course, other musicians (Frank Zappa, Jerry Garcia, etc.) defended them. They hung out with the Beatles. Tork introduced Buffalo Springfield at Monterey Pop and dated Janis Joplin.

Oh, and let’s not forget “Headquarters” the Monkees’ third album. Fed up with not being allowed to contribute more than a few self-penned songs or play their instruments on their first two studio albums, they rebelled. In a defining moment that would do a punk rocker proud, Mike Nesmith punched a plasterboard wall in a Beverly Hills Hotel room during a meeting with musical director Don Kirshner. He told Donnie (allegedly) “That coulda been your face, motherfucker.”

Kirshner went on to the Archies, and Headquarters went on to top the Billboard charts upon its release in May 1967 – until the Beatles Sergeant Pepper usurped it the following week. 

Still, some people persisted in trashing them.  And this continued throughout the 1970s, where any mention of the Monkees as an entity was greeted with a snicker, except by loyalists and young kids who watched Saturday morning reruns of the show.

This changed after the 1986 reunion. And even the reunion was short-lived in the mainstream. By the end of the 1980s, interest had waned for all but the loyal fans. Micky, Davy and Peter continued to tour as the Monkees for the next few decades. Mike joined them to record the Justus album (and tape a TV special) in 1996,  but both projects failed to capture the public's interest.  

P.S.- I still think “Regional Girl” would been a hit in ’96 if the Monkees had used a cloaked advertising campaign ala the Alarm  and used a young band in the video.

Fast forward to 2016. The Monkees and Rhino release the album Good Times. Produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, with new songs written by Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge,  Ben Gibbard  and Noel Gallagher/Paul Weller. All cool young –ok-middle aged guys - with a bunch of indie cred. Micky sings with his old Hollywood Vampire buddy Harry Nilsson, through the miracle of digital technology on the title track.  There’s a reworked versions of Davy singing “Love to Love”,  Peter singing “Little Girl”, a song he originally wrote for Davy, and  the album-closing “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time),” based on one of Micky’s stock interview responses.

Ben Gibbard joins Micky to sing Me & Magdelena in Seattle

The release of Good Times coaxed out older Monkees fans who had remained undercover for years. It debuted at #14 upon its release in May the band’s highest charting album since 1968, and was #1 on Billboard’s vinyl release chart.

Legions of fans have now joined social media regulars to post about their love for the Monkees. The fandom-oriented site Tumblr is full of teens and twentysomethings who like the Monkees.  The Tumblr fandom was at its peak for a year or two after Davy died, and leveled out to a calmer pace for this year’s 50th anniversary. Now, Facebook and Pinterest host the brunt of Monkees’ photos and discussions.

To accompany the album and Monkees renaissance, a slew of books about the band have been released in the past few years The most recent, The Monkees, Head and the ‘60s by Peter Mills, examines the movie that closed out the bands’ first era and all the events of the 1960s that influenced its making and the TV series.

A Little Bit Me,A Little Bit You: the Monkees from a Fan's Perspective by Fred Velez is a memoir by a lifelong fan of the group.Interview with the author here. 

Why The Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television and American Pop Culture by Roseanne Welch gives an academic look at the TV show and the Monkees phenomenon.

Monkee Magic: a Book about a TV Show about a Band by Melanie Mitchell is a fun look into the specifics of each episode, with no wardrobe choice or co-star left unexamined.

Michael Nesmith’s Last Show as a Monkee – September 16, 2016, L.A.'s Pantages Theater

A few weeks before the Monkees, I mean Twokees, show at L.A.’s Pantages Theater, the band announced it would be Micheal Nesmith’s last live performance as a Monkee. Tickets for the show, which were already scare, disappeared.

I attended the show, and it was truly sold out. I spied not one empty seat. People flew in from England, Japan, New York and all points in the U.S., and the crowd was in a boisterous mood.   

Micky, Mike and Peter took the stage and, after a preparatory huddle, the band blasted into” Last Train to Clarksville”. There weren’t any obvious references made about the show being Mike’s last.

Despite their ages (Peter’s 74), you get the feeling they’ll keep going, together or separately, til they’re 100, or maybe 105 in Micky’s case. (He just keeps going and going like the Energizer Bunny.) It’s hard to believe any concert by any boomer artist is actually the last one. How many last tours have we seen from the Who, Kiss and Black Sabbath? With 20 years of farewell concerts under our belts, how can we believe anyone’s proclamation that this will be the last concert? It’s not over until someone’s dead and buried, and even then, their holograms make an appearance. 

Clips from the episodes played on the screen in the background; it was hard not to take your eyes off the stage for a sec and look. (I saw Peter sneak a peek a few times.)  

It was a flawless, fast-paced show from Micky, Mike, Peter and their backing band. Coco Dolenz (Micky’s sister) & Circe Link were sublime on backing vocals. Mike’s son Christian Nesmith on guitar, drummer Rich Dart, bassist John Billings , keyboardist Dave Alexander and lead guitarist Wayne Avers provided a rich and textured, but totally rock sound to the festivities. This wasn’t a “Vegas backing band” type experience.

Highlights - A softer, reworked version of Sometime in the Morning leading into Mike and Micky’s voices blending perfectly on the haunting Me and Magdalena.

Micky, Mike and Peter and the crowd at the Pantages singing the chorus to Daydream Believer as the Rainbow Room video of the song - with a recording of Davy singing - played.

Mike singing a heartfelt version of Tapioca Tundra and talking about what inspired the song (the band’s first live show in Hawaii).

The energetic versions of "Listen to the Band", "Circle Sky", "Mary, Mary" and "Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" verged on hard rock. The back-up band really cooked on these songs, and the guys belted out the vocals with gusto. How is it that the guys are in their early 70s and their voices are stronger than ever - even Peter!

In the lyric booklet for Good Times, Gibbard wrote “I spent countless hours in front of the TV in the ‘80s, watching Monkees reruns and wishing I could climb through the screen and be with them.” There’s not much difference between what a young, non-musician girl in the ‘60s or a young, musically inclined guy in the ‘80s felt when watching the show or listening to the music. When I was a kid watching the original broadcasts in the 1960s,  I hated it when the show ended. I wanted to go live with the band and share their adventures with all week.

The Monkees deserve to be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. While the value of the hall itself is debatable, we all know they should be enshrined with their peers. Maybe their trajectory was different, but they left an indelible imprint on pop culture, more so than many bands that were real from the start.

The guys have forged a musical and emotional connection with countless fans through the past 50 years. The bond is pretty intense and rivaled only by the affection and reverence felt by Beatles fans.

It looks like the Monkees got the last laugh on those snarky journalists and know-it-alls.