Monday, December 16, 2019

CD Review - Cosmic Partners: The McCabe Tapes - Michael Nesmith with Red Rhodes

Cosmic Partners: The McCabe Tapes captures Michael Nesmith at the height of his powers as a country rock pioneer. In the early 1970s, Nez released classic LPs, including Nevada Fighter, Loose Salute, Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash, and Magnetic South. A few songs from those albums are featured on this CD, a Nesmith/Red Rhodes show recorded at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on August 18, 1973.

Several other concerts have been released as live albums, including shows by Mike Bloomfield, Townes Van Zant and Henry Rollins. McCabe’s is still going strong today.  

This CD features a show as it was recorded, directly from the soundboard. The show was transferred from analogue tapes and cleaned up for McCabe Tapes. The sound is clear and crisp the instruments have retained their vibrancy from almost 47 years ago.

The show opens with “Tomorrow and Me”, a dirge to broken love. Rhodes’ pedal steel cushions the despair of Nesmith’s bittersweet lyrics with blips of vibrancy.  

                                                                    Red Rhodes

The band then picks up the groove with “Grand Ennui”, followed by “Some of Shelly’s Blues”. Nez introduces “…..Blues” by saying it’s been covered by “374” people. (And that was in 1973. You could imagine what the number is now.)

The band consists of Colin Cameron on bass, Danny Lane on drums, Red Rhodes on pedal steel guitar. Nez provides vocals, acoustic guitar and between song stage banter.. 

The banter includes Nez’s story about the Monkees’ infamous Cincinnati incident. (The band evaded their security and took an elevator to the ground floor, where they were chased by fans.)  Nez gives some topical banter about Alice Cooper and glam rock, which was popular at the time of the McCabe’s show.

Rhodes takes the spotlight mid-show, showcasing his pedal steel mastery on three instrumentals - the Ernset Tubb favorite, “Rose City Chimes”,  the lush “Poinciana” (from Rhodes’ solo album Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band) and “Crippled Lion”.   

Nez lends some yodeling to the lovely, old-school country song “One Rose” and ends the set with his biggest solo song “JoAnne” (wait for that high note) and “Silver Moon.”   

There’s only one problem with Cosmic Partners – the set goes by too fast.

The CD package includes liner notes by Christian Nesmith (who co-produced the CD ), Circe Link, and original producer Ed Heffelinger, along with Joe Alterio’s essay on Red Rhodes. There’s a note from Nez, too, about his musical collaborations with Rhodes, and how the steel pedal guitar player “made the instrument sail, and take off on its own.”  

A poster of the gatefold sleeve for Not Your Standard Ranch Stash, with topless sirens in a swimming pool/makeshift lake, is also included. 

Cosmic Partners is also available as an 180g vinyl picture disc. This CD is another Monkees-related release from 7A Records out of the UK.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the Joy of Watching and Rewatching a Movie You Love

By now, most people who want to see Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood have made a trip to the theater, some of them several times.

The film’s 2 hours and 41 minutes long, and every plot point and scene has been analyzed and discussed online for the last month No one’s going to spend so much time nitpicking over a boring movie. Even people who didn’t like the movie (except for the ending) will still talk about it.

The film is intensely personal to some, a unique film for movie nerds to ponder, or a nostalgic trip for others. OUATIH is a favorite of QT fans (at least the ones who don’t expect non-stop violence) and people in their 50s and 60s were alive in 1969,  younger folks interested in 20th Century pop culture, or anyone interested in the Manson family. 

 I’ve read about people seeing the movie at a theater eight times, though two or three seems to be the most prevalent number of return viewings. (I've seen it twice; going for #3 at the New Beverly later this month.)

Regular movie goers who just choose a random name from movie listings for their weekend entertainment will not like this film. Most people see movies as escapist entertainment; they don’t care about plot or acting or historical accuracy. They want constant action, sex, or gore, two hours of bish-bam-boom before going back to the job and family.  

Alternative History

The second time I saw the movie, the audience was too quiet  - not a gasp or “Oh, my God”, during the ending. No laughter. I didn’t see anyone rush out or give the finger to the screen, either.

I was worried about screaming or making noise during the ending the first time I saw it. Maybe I should bring a piece of gauze with me and bite down on it near the end, I thought

I wasn’t alone. Most people at the sold-out screening I attended gasped, laughed and clapped during the end scene. Those last 20 minutes have even made their way onto YouTube two months before the DVD release. Several other scenes that appear to have been filmed right off theater screens are on YouTube as well.

The best five seconds of the film for just about everyone, including the impatient and undiagnosed ADD crowd, occurred when Rick walked out with the flamethrower. The element of surprise left the audience laughing and gasping.

 Here’s a round-up of audience reactions.  

There’s a lot to see in second and third viewings.  Los Angeles in 1969- what’s not to love? The music, the TV shows, the commercials, billboards, and marquees. Even minor details that would go unnoticed by most moviegoers were authentic to the era. One newsstand contained copies of magazines from 1969 (or thereabouts). The newsstand, much less the magazines, would go unnoticed by all but the most eagle-eyed viewer.

This is a hangout movie, a bromance, that girls can love. (You should have heard the women next to us hoot their approval when Brad Pitt took his shirt off.)

The Cliff-Rick bromance is all good. It doesn’t have any cliché arguments, fights over girls, etc., common as plot twists in lesser films. It’s nice to have real human characters to root for, instead of the half-human, half-infallible superheros.

Oh, No! Not Another Western!

I almost forgot how prevalent TV Westerns were even in the late 1960s. Bonanza, the Wild, Wild West, Gunsmoke, the Big Valley and Lancer (yes, it was a real show) shared the TV Guide schedule with Laugh-In and the Smothers Brothers.  

“Oh, no,” I remember thinking before seeing the movie “How am I going to get through the Western scenes? It’s going to be excruciating. I’ll have to go out for popcorn.” Leo’s performance drew you in, and there was "Don't cry in front of the Mexicans" for comic relief.

The first two hours flew by, Westerns and all, and before you knew it, Tex, Sadie and Katie showed up – only to be quickly dispatched by our heroes.  

Driving Music 

Anyone who has who has lived in California can identify with the driving scenes. Everything was easier back  in '69, even driving on L.A. freeways. There was no road rage, texting, drive-bys, or distracted driving. You could drive with the windows down, the radio blaring, and the wind blowing through your hair.

I don’t think people have done that with abandon since the early ‘90s. Yeah, you can ride in your air-conditioned Porsche listing to the shoegaze station on Sirius, but it’s not the same.

There are snippets of several lesser-known pop songs in the movie. “Summertime” by Billy Stewart, “12:30 (Young Girls are Coming to the Canyon”) by the Mamas and Papas, “Baby It’s You” by Smith, even a snippet of Robert Goulet singing MacArthur Park on a TV. And plenty of Paul Revere and the Raiders.(Terry Melcher and Mark Lindsay lived at 10050  Cielo Drive before Sharon and Roman moved in.)

The film creates an atmosphere, a time and a place that you can soak in and lose yourself in. I wouldn’t say there’s no plot - it's just a plot that simmers along on low heat.

It’s fun to catch glimpses of old-timey TV shows like Mannix and The FBI. Notice Paul Revere and the Raiders were on the TV at Spahn Ranch when Cliff walks in to see George.   

And feet!! How many pairs of many bare, dirty female feet do we need to see? I haven’t done a count yet - maybe once it comes out on DVD. Sharon takes her go-go boots off – to put her feet on the back of the seat in front of her, Pussycat puts her bare feet on Cliff's dashboard, etc. Now, lots of hippie girls were barefoot in LA in the late 60s, so we’ll let Quentin slide this time.

And of course, there’s the quotable dialogue -

“I’m the devil, and I’m doing the devil’s work.”

“No, it was dumber than that.”

“And you, you were on a horsie”

“Are you real?”
“Real as a donut, motherfucker.”

“Is everything all right?”
“Well, the hippies sure aren’t.”

And it's never revealed if Cliff  killed his wife on purpose. His wife (played by Rebecca Gayheart) seems like a garden variety nagging wife in her five seconds onscreen.  Perhaps the subplot was inspired by  DJ Humble Harv (of radio station KHJ) who shot his nagging wife dead in 1971.
(Humble Harv appears on the soundtrack introducing songs and reading commercials.)

You want a happy ending for all the good people and you get it here. The comic book violence of the last 20 minutes is even more satisfying if you’re familiar with the Tate-LaBianca murders. It’s cathartic to watch Sadie get burnt to a crisp. The head-banging times 12, is cringe-inducing, no matter how many times you watch it.  

Right after all that violence, we see Rick's dream come true (he gets to hanging out at Roman and Sharon's house), and sweet, pregnant Sharon greets him. And now everyone gets all misty-eyed after cheering during 10 minutes of hardcore gore.

Now leaving the theater feeling happy isn’t usually the sign of a great film. Art films are supposed to leave you dazed and pondering. Blockbusters and superhero movies leave viewers feeling like they just got off an intense, 120 mile per hour roller coaster ride –and they forget about it by the next day.      
But giddy and excited to the point where you say “I have to see that again,” the moment you walk out of the theater?. That doesn’t happen too often, at least not to me.

It’s not so much that you rewatch the movie for thrills – it’s to find tidbits you missed out the first time. There’s the sound of the canned dog food plopping into the bowl is familiar to anyone raised on supermarket food in the late 20th Century. (It took a second viewing to notice the rat and raccoon flavors.) The marquee on of the Van Nuys Drive-In (Lady in Cement starring Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch), the quick shots of Rick involved in a DUI on Hollywood Boulevard, or taking a  swig from a blender full of margarita while telling off the dirty hippies.

Margot Robbie gives us a chance to see Sharon Tate as a real person. Too many people know her only as a murder victim. This film humanizes her. She doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, but her luminous presence is the heartbeat of the film.

The other non-Manson Family female characters are tougher.  Julia Butters’ Trudi character gives us a glimpse we get of the new, liberated woman – or girl. She prefers to be called an actor instead of an actress and corrects Rick’s pronunciation of a character’s name. Zoe Bell (as a stuntwoman) gives Cliff a verbal beatdown, truncating his best two out of three with Bruce Lee.    

Cliff’s visit to Spahn Ranch  turns tense the moment Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) gets out of the car. The long shot of Cliff walking away as the girls boo him made you think something horrible would happen.

Cliff beating up Clem was especially satisfying to those of us who lived through the summer of '69, and it’s a precursor to the tables-turned ending.

People can be emotionally invested in TV series characters; we see them for years, week after week. It’s harder to get attached to a movie’s characters, unless they’re superhero or franchise characters.

Many people on YouTube and elsewhere wonder about what would happen to the characters after this movie ends. Would the police go to the ranch and arrest Charlie and the Manson girls before they could commit more mayhem? Would Rick work on a film with Polanski?

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will probably be the Tarantino film I watch and enjoy the most over time. However, I don’t think it’s his best film. I’d have to go with Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Inglorious Bastards as the Top 3, with the True Romance screenplay getting an honorable mention.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is fun – the music, the cars, the clothes, and the alternative ending where everyone lives happily ever after, except the murderous hippies. Given the state of the world now, we need some alternative history before going back into an ever-worsening reality.

Monday, July 22, 2019

CD Review: The Old Testament of Love by Steve Hooker

Prolific rockabilly musician Steve Hooker is back with another CD, The Old Testament of Love on Pimphouse Records. The seven-track CD  begins with the country-western-flavored instrumental “Necktie Party”. “The First Ones Always Free” is seven minute of  made-to-order lowdown blues, with  guttural vocals from Hooker. The title track is lighter and poppier; it’s a dance track for the club floor, while “Don’t Let the Deal Go Down” is 50s/early ‘60s raunch ‘n’ roll. The crunchy instrumental “Tighten It” has a hard rock edge, while “Crows Legs” has a steady, mid-tempo groove. “Mister Mojo Man” closes the album with some dirty, old-school blues rock. 

The players are Steve Hooker on guitar and vocals, Vic on bass, Dave on piano, Brian on drums and background vocals, and Dee on background vocals. The CD is available from Raucous Records.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Dirt and the Resurgence of Mötley Crüe

It’s 2019, and lots of people are talking about Mötley Crüe. Who could have guessed an ‘80s heavy metal band that retired in 2015 would set the internet ablaze in 2019? It’s been a month since The Dirt premiered on Netflix and I’m still seeing posts from people who are watching for the second or third or fourth time. (The Crüe's resurgence is no fluke. The band was featured in a 2014 Fast Company article 5 Brilliant Business Lessons from Mötley Crüe- Seriously.)  

All kinds of people, not just Crueheads or heavy metal fans, like this film. The reviews usually read something like “Yeah, there were timeline problems and it was cheesy, but it was entertaining and I watched till the end.”

The raves, unsurprisingly, come mostly from long-time fans.

All types of people liked the movie, even folks you think would have no interest in even watching it.

People in industrial bands, intellectuals, people who lived in L.A. in the early ‘80s but didn’t like the metal scene, and many under 30s with a cursory knowledge of the band, liked the film. Most people took the Netflix movie at face value. This is a biopic about Mötley Crüe, based on the 2001 best-selling book “The Dirt”, not a somber candidate for the Criterion Collection.       

Snobs who believe that only certain types of music and entertainment are valid, or that anything from the past that wasn't politically correct should not be remembered or chronicled, hated the movie.

The Timeline, Actors, Fact-checking, etc.

A little fact-checking with the book version of “The Dirt” shows that the movie’s a bit more authentic than apparent at first sight. The fight during the band’s first show at the Starwood happened pretty much as portrayed in the film. Vince Neil did bang Tom Zutat’s girlfriend, but it was in a trailer at the US Festival, not in a dressing room at the Forum. 

McGhee never brought Nikki’s Mom into the picture. The band fired him after the Moscow Peace Festival in 1989, when Bon Jovi, another band McGhee managed, played a full set with pyro, while the Crue play a truncated opening set.

The fourth wall narration in the film explained that the Crue actually had two co-managers, that McGee didn’t really meet the band at their shitty apartment, and allowed the celluloid “grouchy” Mick to provide some counterpoint to the rock ‘n’ roll excess.

And it was Thaler, not McGhee, who got the ill-fated Entertainment or Death tattoo.

Tommy, as played by Machine Gun Kelly, is a likeable, hyperactive kid in the movie. In the book, Tommy comes off much cruder, unless he’s in love - then he becomes a total teddy bear.

Nikki, as played by Douglas Booth, was pretty spot-on most of the time. He even nailed Nikki’s distinctive speaking voice, although it did waver from the original here and there.  

Vince (Daniel Webber), had the swagger of the pre-fame Vince down, and handled the tragic scenes well, especially the emotional scenes with Skylar. The young actress who played Skylar was so heartbreaking in those scenes. “Daddy, don’t let them cut me again.”

Mick (Iwan Rheon) stole the film with his snarky, fourth wall comments. Mick Mars as Motley Crue’s voice of reason. Well, it’s a thankless job, but somebody had to do it.

The Dirt clocked in at an hour and forty eight minutes. You didn’t have to see the movie  to know it would be a quick cut, “best of” – all the  major scenes from the book, punctuated by the band’s music, with everything tied up in a neat package at the end.

Sure, the band’s history could have worked as a series, including more in-depth scenes from the Japanese train fiasco, Vince’s trial, Tommy and Pamela,etc., but then the trolls would complain it was too long and boring! A series would have given the filmmakers more room to humanize the characters and show them as “grown-ups”.

The Groupies

The women who gave bands blow jobs under the tables at the Rainbow accounted for a small percentage of the young women in 1980s Los Angeles. They were mostly upper middle class girls from the Valley or Orange County trying to outslut each other to see who could do the most guys in bands. These young women wanted to be there. They weren't victims. 

The movie version of The Dirt opens with a raucous party at the band’s Hollywood apartment in the early ‘80s. Vince is banging some guy’s girlfriend in the bathroom (an event which occurs with alarming frequency, as we find out later).

However, the main event takes place in the living room, where Tommy pleasures a girl as a crowd parties around them. Then the money shot occurs as the girl squirts across the room.  The woman, known as Bullwinkle, opened the book, too. When you begin a movie with female ejaculation, where do you go from there? Hold my beer (or heroin or coke spoon), the Dirt replies.

There’s enough sex, drugs, and tragedy in this hour and 48 minute film to fit in a series

Nikki’s on H (with lots of close-ups of needles entering veins)
Nikki’s temporary death and revival with two adrenaline shots to the heart 
Everyone’s banging everyone else’s girlfriend
The obligatory hotel-bashing
Young Nikki slices his arm open and blames it on his Mom
Vince kills his friend Razzle in a drunk driving accident
Vince’s young daughter dies of cancer
Mick’s Ankylosing Spondylitis (arthritis of the spine) gets worse; he has hip replacement surgery
Heather kicks Tommy out because of his dalliance with a porn star

 And, of course, who could miss the Pearl Jam Ten album cover on the side of the rehearsal studio on a rainy day? That was a harbinger of doom for all ‘80s metal bands, not just Mötley Crüe.

Guest Appearances
Ozzy (Tony Cavalero) snorting ants had to be included in a film at some point. Even though you know what’s going to happen, the “ugh” factor is strong when viewing the reenactment. (The peeing part probably didn't happen, however.)

David Lee Roth (Christian Gehring) makes a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. Yes, DLR would be so out of it in the early ‘80s – a mirror would crack over his head without him noticing it.

Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf) only makes a few appearances, and it’s uncanny how much Graf resembles '80s Heather. Tommy did mistake her for Heather Thomas, but they met at  an REO Speedwagon concert, not Vince’s party.

Tom Zutat (Pete Davidson),  the A & R rep who signed Mötley Crüe to Electra, is portrayed as somewhat of an earnest klutz. I’m not sure if that jives with his real-life persona. 

 Also, the biker chick who asks Mick if he’s in the band during the opening party sequence is played by Brittany Furlan, Tommy Lee’s new wife. (They got married on Valentine’s Day 2019.)  

Nostalgia and a Personal Take

When I first moved to L.A. in 1983, I didn’t know anyone. I hung out at the Troubadour – until I discovered the local punk rock scene and my whole life changed. Of course, I’m not sure that would have happened if Vince Neil hadn’t guest-starred with Top Jimmy at the Cathay de Grande one night.

I remember the accident that killed Razzle. I was living in L.A, at the time, looking forward to seeing Hanoi Rocks in L.A. at the Palace – or was it the Whisky? I had a copy of “One Step from the Move” displayed by my stereo. The onscreen Vince’s dialogue about “it could have been any one of them” driving drunk and killing Razzle rang true. L.A. rocker dudes in the ’80s were rarely sober. Any combination of hard rock/metal dude passenger/driver could be deadly at any given moment.

I was back home in Chicago for Nikki’s death and reanimation. By this time, my beloved rebels were now Enquirer fare, with everyone from my younger brothers to random teenage girls listening to Girls, Girls, Girls. By 1988, even Satan had gone mainstream. Teen girls on the bus had pentagrams drawn on their PF flyers along with the names of their favorite bands (Poison, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe).

When Dr. FeelGood, the band’s only number one album, was released, I was in New York, working for a music publisher. Then Mötley Crüe defected to the alternative/grunge sound with their self-titled album. Vince had quit/gotten fired, and John Corabi replaced him. It didn’t sound like classic Crue, sold over 500,000 copies, but was considered a flop. (Many fans now consider the album to be one of the group’s best.) I always liked it.

Throughout the ‘90s the band became mainstream celebrities, and appeared on many talk shows. I saw them many times on Regis and Kathy Lee. Now, it didn’t hurt that Tommy was married to Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson and Nikki to Donna D'errico. That aspect took main stage in the press, with the music secondary. 

I found out I liked a lot more songs than I thought, even lesser-known ones. We’re not talking the greatest rock songs ever, but fun party anthems. “Bad Boy Boogie”, “Same Old Situation”, everything from the first two albums, even “Saints of Los Angeles”.

The Critics gave The Dirt a 39 per cent score, based on 64 reviews. “Rock bad boy lore as endless bore”, writes Rolling Stone. “An ill-advised remake of Spinal Tap”, says the New York Times, “painfully dated and pointless”, says another review from The Playlist. “A terrible movie about terrible people,” says Stereogum.( 95% of  6124 audience reviewers liked it.)

Critics never liked the Crüe’s music or persona so it makes sense that they wouldn’t like a movie based on their exploits. The first batch of reviews was especially brutal out of the gate, and seemed to criticize the subject matter as much as the actual filmmaking. How dare you even make a movie about an out-of-control 1980s rock band in politically correct 2019?

Somehow, the neatly-tied up ending the meeting at the bar (the real meeting took place in an office with lawyers present) fit in with the fast-paced movie. A more complicated ending (and character arcs) would have only made sense in a fleshed-out series.

The Calm After the Storm 

I searched in vain for a download of one of the Sixx Sense shows on my hard drive. I’d saved the show because Nikki had said something really profound. And now I can’t remember it, or find the file. He talked about looking up at the night sky with one of his kids, that’s the only part of the show I remember.

Years ago, I read an interview with a rock star (Don Henley, I think, but it was so long ago I could be wrong) who talked about how hitting rock-bottom changes people, allowing them to survive and prosper.

People who succumb to drugs and/or depravity and then come out the other side, often have an understanding of life’s true meaning  that others lack, the interviewee (whoever it was) said.  Maybe that’s why I find a lot of Nikki’s comments today to be so profound.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Remembering Peter Tork 1942-2019

Peter Tork died on February 21 of complications from  adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. He was 77, and the second Monkee to pass away. (Davy Jones died in February 2012,). He had battled cancer on and off for ten years. Peter died at his family home in Connecticut.

When Davy died,  it was a total shock. I sought solace with other fans through social media. I started a Monkees blog with two Millennial girls and learned more about my childhood idols than I’d ever imagined.

Now, with two Monkees gone, there's more of a numb resignation to the passage of time, and a tendency to celebrate the past and have more of a rock version of a "jazz funeral" along with traditional  mourning. We were so lucky to have Peter, and the rest of the Monkees, as part of our lives for so long.

Peter was known to the general public as the Monkees' lovable, dim-witted bass player, but  loyal fans knew him as an accomplished musician, free spirit, intellectual, and a constant, low-key presence in the Monkees-sphere.

When we were kids, everyone had their favorite Monkee (Micky was mine), but we loved ‘em all.  After watching two seasons of episodes, we appreciated them all and knew everything about all four Monkees from the fan mags.

Peter was third in line as a teeny-bopper idol after Davy and Micky. That’s hard to believe when you see his beautiful dimple and big doe eyes – shows you the wealth of looks and talent in that group.

There was so much more to Peter than being the Monkees’ third (or fourth) wheel, depending on your tastes.) There were several stages of Peter’s career, in and out of the Monkees.


Peter made a short film in college (circa 1962) called “The Love Potion”. 

Music was his first creative love, though.  He moved on to Greenwich Village and tried his hand as a folk singer. He first met Stephen Stills in the Village. Later, they both auditioned for the Monkees. Stills was passed over due to his bad teeth, and suggested Tork audition for the role.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Peter was cute as a button and sharp-witted, as evidenced in this clip of his audition.

Pete’s auditions starts at 8:58

During the first season, Peter’s character (‘the lovable dummy”) was always getting in trouble. He was kidnapped by gypsies in search of the Maltese Vulture in  “Son of a Gypsy.” As a six year old, I was very worried about Peter in those early episodes, “Mommy, is Peter gonna be all right?” I would ask my Mom. I would always root for him when he couldn’t fly in the sky like the other Monkeemen “C’mon, Peter, you can do it,” I’d say.

In “Monkees Vs. Machine” Peter becomes flustered when a computer (DJ-61) interviews him for a job at a toy company. (Mike steps in to save the day and causes the computer to overheat.)  Peter’s character steals a portrait of Valerie the debutante in “One Man Shy” and the guys teach him the proper way to woo a lady.

 And look at his adorableness in this clip featuring "For Pete's Sake".

He was always wore his belt buckle to the side and often sported mismatched socks.  His most well-known musical contribution on the TV show was the wacky “Auntie Grizelda”. In the real world, Peter played the banjo, guitar, harpsichord, piano and organ as well as the bass.  

I liked the second season of the shoe better than the first..The clean-cut boys of the first season had turned into hippies! Davy and Peter dressed in Nehru jackets and love beads and Micky had an Afro. Mike wouldn’t have any of that nonsense. He still wore his wool hat occasionally, but favored brighter shirts.

We loved the way hippie Peter dressed, in his two toned leggings, flowered tunic, suede boots, and love beads. And, oh that beautiful, sandy blonde hair! He didn’t just dress like a hippie, though, he was one. At the end of one episode, he explained the difference between hippies and free people in San Francisco.

Peter’s comments about free people start at the 17:46 mark

During the second season, Peter (unknowingly) sold his soul to the devil for a harp in “The Devil and Peter Tork”. Considered the best episode of the series by most people, it ends with a moving speech by Mike about the power of love.

Peter  has his paintings snatched by gangster security guards, trades his guitar to a con artist for a treasure map, and becomes involved with a professor’s kidnapping. Davy only had to  fall in love, Micky had to be kooky, Mike had to be sensible and stoic, but Peter had to act dumb and/or disappear.. Sure, most of the episodes had repetitive, one-note plots, but they worked because of the boys’ charisma and chemistry.  

We remembered every bit of Peter’s obscure dialogue, just like we did with the others When my boyfriend an I saw a sign directing us to go down the alley to a punk rock club, we looked at each other and said, “Down the alley?”, imitating Peter in “Monkees Blow Their Minds.” as he walked to the storefront of Oraculo, the charlatan mentalist. 

That episode, the second to last one broadcast, had Peter walking around as Oraculo’s catatonic assistant. Even in the last episode “Mijacogeo (The Frodis Caper),”, he spent much of the story catatonic again, this time from watching the Frodis eye on the TV.

Post TV Show, Pre-Reunion

When I was in college, a friend of mine had a framed photo of Peter on her dresser. I didn’t recognize him at first. He had long, unkempt hair and had a “Jesus” look. When she told me who it was I felt a tinge of sadness. Could this be our sweet, goofy Peter?

Peter was the first one to leave the Monkees. After the TV show ended, he
had a band called Release with his second wife, Reine Stewart, on drums. He played CBGBs and other rock clubs as a solo artist. None of his post-Monkees musical projects met with much success.   

The early ‘70s were a hard time to be an ex-Monkee. Micky was a hard-drinking Hollywood Vampire, along with his buddy Harry Nilsson.  He appeared in a few B movies, including the infamous “Night of the Strangler. Davy appeared on “The Brady Bunch” and released a bunch of nondescript singles.

Mike didn’t need to deal with it, though. He forged ahead as a country rock trailblazer before inspiring MTV with such projects as “Elephant Parts” and “Pop Clips”.   

This 1979 video shows Peter holding his own against a smarmy interviewer. (Only a guy this smart could play a convincing dummy.)

 Peter joined Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart onstage at Disneyland in 1976, released singles that went nowhere, and played shows at CBGB’s and other clubs. (Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, and Tommy Ramone were allegedly present for some of the recording sessions, according to Wikipedia.)

Peter worked as a teacher, baseball coach, and even a waiter before the Monkees reformed in the ‘mid-80s, He was his bouncy, joke-cracking self on the “Win a Date with Peter Tork” skit on David Letterman’s Show in 1982.

The '80s and '90s

Peter and Davy toured Australia just before the official mid-1980s reunion, when MTV reruns reignited the Monkees’ fame. The Monkees made the covers of teen magazines -four 40-something guys competing with the likes of Duran Duran, Kirk Cameron and Corey Haim for a Tiger Beat cover. But this time it wasn’t so much about being heartthrobs as it was about being everyone’s kooky adopted uncles.

Mike rejoined joined briefly in the mid-90s, with the release of “Justus”, the 1997 TV special. He joined Peter, Micky and Davy for a handful of shows. The ‘90s version of the Monkees gets short shrift in the history of the band, but the album Justus had a few bright moments, including Peter’s song “Run Away From Life.”

His longest ongoing band, beside the Monkees was Shoe Suede Blues. Ever the rapscallion, he had a lot of fun with post-Monkees songs, like “Milkshake” (from  his 1994 solo album Stranger Things Have Happened and “Dress Sexy for Me” from 2002’s Saved by the Blues with Shoe Suede Blues.  

In 1996, Peter released the album “Two-Man Band” with James Lee Stanley, a collection of blues and acoustic numbers that selected as an Album Pick. 


Peter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the salivary glands in 2009 After successful surgery, he continued touring with Mike, Davy and Micky.

Davy’s passing took everyone by surprised. The 2012 tour was a heartfelt tribute to Davy and Mike’s return to the stage with as a Monkee.  Micky was the consummate show biz professional, Mike had a dry sense of humor, and Pete was the quirky, sensitive one.  
In 2013, Peter went on a solo tour where he reminisced about the Monkees and his career and played an acoustic set (with lots of his trademark banjo.)  He performed lesser-known and unreleased songs, such as Come on In.

During an interview to promote the album Good Times! and 2016's 50th anniversary tour, Peter teared up when mentioning Davy. They’ve removed the video from the CBS YouTube channel, but here's an article based on the interview. 

Davy and Peter two were the sensitive, sweet ones, even in real life. Peter’s difficulties seemed to be encapsulated in one span of time in the ‘70s, Davy’s hard times were scattered on throughout the decades. (Read his book “They Made a Monkee Out of Me” for more details.) 

 In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in 2000, Peter remarked that “Micky's the best pal, but my heart connection is biggest with Davy. Davy is capable of as much heart as anyone I've ever met. I kind of had a crush on Davy for a while.”

After the 2016 tour, Peter played occasional shows with Shoe Suede Blues and made personal appearances at fan conventions with Micky.  He released his last album with Shoe Suede Blues, “Relax Your Mind”, a tribute to Leadbellly, in 2018. It included a musical appearance by his brother, Nick Thorkelson  (Nick is a cartoonist and illustrator by trade.)

Peter  always had a few creative surprises up his sleeve, even in his golden years.In 2015, he composed "Moderato ma non troppoa" a classical piece for piano and orchestra, which was performed by the Orchestra Kentucky of Bowling Green, Kentucky. In a total non-sequitur move, he acted in a 2017 indie horror movie called“I Filmed your Death”.

He stopped by The Institute for The Musical Arts in Goshen, Massachusetts in 2010, and played a set to raise funds for the non-profit. IMA is dedicated to helping girls and women succeed in the music business. The IMA was established by June Millington of the rock group Fanny and Ann F. Hackler. 

Peter sang lead vocals for “Angels We Have Heard on High” for the Monkees “Christmas Party” album, which was released in October 2018. You could hear in his voice that something was seriously wrong. The song is Peter’s last released recording.

People can contribute to The Institute for The Musical Arts’ scholarship fund in Peter’s name, per his family's wishes. Read more about IMA here.