Segarini: A Monkee, a Montrose, a McQuarrie, and Other Fallen Friends

I felt bad about Whitney Houston. I feel bad about most of my fellow travelers who die from misadventure or self-abuse. I can relate to the fearlessness of youth, the temptations afforded by the entertainment business and more money than brains, and the unforeseen (and oddly unexpected) results some of our most revered icons suffer at the hands of bad decisions and yes-men surroundings.

I appreciate the irony of men of religion and ‘family values’ falling victim to temptations of the flesh, anti-drug celebrities dying because of the very thing they rail against in public, and the folly of those not yet in touch with their own mortality…but it pisses me off when we lose people we care about because of disease, dangerous drivers or delusional fans, lack of resources, or God’s blunder of whisking us off this ball of mud just as we get old enough to start figuring shit out…and that goes for the famous, the not so famous, and the rest of us.

I am willing to bet that the majority of us now get our news, both hard and soft, from either Twitter or Facebook. This is why, in the midst of looking for a clever observation, a piano playing kitty, a link to yet another version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, or an acknowledgement  of your latest Tweet or Status update, we are taken aback by news of mayhem, portents of doom, ugly rumour, and death. None of these affect us more than the passing of a pop culture icon, especially one from our youth who helped define who, and what, we are. Boomers who survived the drugs and alcohol of the ‘60s through the ‘80s are now entering that phase of life when past discretions either stay behind, or catch up with you in one form or another…A time of life where the risk of waking up on the wrong side of the lawn begins to pop up in your rear view mirror. Even at that, there are those we lose that come as a complete shock, without warning. The ones that evoke the time worn statement, “Didn’t see that one coming”. Whitney, though shocking, wasn’t entirely unexpected, but Davy Jones? Davy Jones?!

More than a Monkee

Before we go any further, here’s Davy talking about his early roots. Davy on Davy’s early career.

He doesn’t mention it, but he appeared with the Broadway cast of ‘Oliver’ on the same episode of Ed Sullivan that The Beatles made their North American television debut.

So Davy was a child actor and by that very fact, a throwback to the stars of the ‘30s and ‘40s…a song and dance man. What were the odds that out of the 400 hopefuls who auditioned to be a Monkee, one other would share a similar background, also make the cut, and become a lifelong friend. Circus Boy

Where most child actors end up in the tabloids, jail, or worse, Dolenz and Jones just kept going. The Monkees television show was just a vehicle to cash in on the success of the Beatles, but it turned out to be much more than that. Looking at Facebook these last few days, you would be hard pressed to remember the disdain originally thrust on the four Monkees during their original run on the tube. At the time, most people regarded them as a joke, the Pre Fab Four, a poor man’s construct for the kids to eat up and spend their money on, even in the eyes of their handlers, they were simply cogs in the money making machinery. Wanna-be musicians looked down their nose at them, endlessly telling everyone that they didn’t play on their records, weren’t a real band, didn’t write their own songs. We fans didn’t care about any of that. We were there for Micky, Mike, Pete, and Davy, and they were there for us. Even after their resurgence thanks to being repeatedly rerun on MTV 20 years later, The Monkees were perceived as more nostalgia than musical, more artifact than band. Truth be told, the reality of Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter was much different than the hater’s perception. First and foremost, this was a band of rebels, creative thinkers, and hardworking musicians who fought the powers that be in order to deserve their stardom, show their audience respect, and deliver far above and beyond what was expected of them.

A Little History

With everyone in L.A that read the trades (including people like Stephen Stills) auditioning for one of the 4 lead roles in The Monkees, the decision to put these four individuals together must have been quite a process, and carried out by some people who knew what they were doing. Here’s just a small sample of the elimination procedure, but you can see the connection between these 4 guys even then. When you have the time, watch this whole thing. Honest, charming, and without fear, and Davy the least pretentious and self-serving out of all of them.  The Monkees Screen Tests

From Wikipedia: 1966: NBC-TV debuts its new musical comedy show, The Monkees. Designed as a half-hour American version of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, it featured two folk singers, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, British stage vet Davy Jones, and a former child star named Micky Dolenz. The songs featured in this episode, “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day” and the Goffin-King song “Take a Giant Step,” will not make much impact on the charts, but the band’s first single, “Last Train to Clarksville,” is already racing up the charts. The next episode would vault it all the way to #1. Four stars are born.”

On September 8, 1965, two highly respected entertainment trade publications, Daily Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter, ran an ad seeking “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in a new TV series.” Had I been in L.A at the time and seen this, I would have joined the 400 or so other ‘folk and roll’ musicians that tried out for the 4 roles available, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

The result of what must have been a nightmare for the casting people, 400 rock musicians trying to act and be ‘wacky’, would have made lesser men turn violent, gave birth to the Pre Fab Four, better known to screaming teenage girls everywhere as the Monkees. And the Monkees, my friends, were much more important than what most people made them out to be.

After realizing the band would not be ready to record as a unit in time to start the sessions that were planned, studio players were hired to cut the tracks, a standard practice back in the day, and extra writers were brought onboard to compliment the original material that was being written by the Monkees themselves. The first release, Last Train To Clarksville, written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (pictured here) was well on its way to number one in August of 1966, a full month before the TV series began to air. They also wrote the Monkees theme song (Peter Tork wrote the end credits theme) and even sang the version used in the pilot. Original Opening with Boyce and Hart. Here are both the finished opening and closing themes. The Monkees Opening and Ending Credits

It was the music, not the show that introduced the Monkees to the public. Radio, knowing that NBC, Don Kirshner, RCA and Screen Gems/Colpix were behind the project 100%, went on the record out of the box, and the rest is a tribute to Mickey Dolenz’s memorable vocal, Boyce and Hart’s infectious song, and a public that just couldn’t get enough Brit-Influenced music. Radio and records continued to work in consort and all was well in the world. KHJ Last Train to Clarksville Promo Junket

The Family Tree (pictured here at RCA), my first recording band met the Monkees in early 1967 when we started to record at RCA’s Hollywood studios where the Monkees also recorded. They were in one of the smaller studios every day, rehearsing constantly to become a better live band and be able to play on their next album, “Headquarters”, without so many studio musicians underfoot. They were extremely dedicated, and serious about their music. We jammed with them a few times, got into a water gun fight that escalated into an all-out war that was stopped by RCA security when we started taking fire extinguishers off of the walls while a photographer ran after us in the halls who then sold the pictures and a ridiculous story to one of the teen magazines. It was a great time, and they were great guys, deserving of much more respect than they ever got. As Nesmith pointed out years later, “ We were actors that became a band, Robert Young (Marcus Welby M.D) never became a real doctor.”, which I’ve seen quoted as “We were actors not a band, and Marcus Welby isn’t a real doctor.” Either way, they became a band and remain a very interesting story. A year after the Monkees broke up, I would find myself living across the street from Mickey Dolenz, who was as fine a neighbor as you could hope for. During the RCA era, The Monkees were the first major artists (long before The Beatles) to embrace the talent of one Harry Nilsson. Like the Family Tree, Harry was always around, recording demos and working on his first RCA album. For a while, we all saw each other every day for weeks at a time. Micky and Harry became close friends, The Monkees covered Harry’s “Cuddly Toy”, a song that sounded so innocent on the surface (like The Monkees) but was in fact, the tale of a Biker gang rape. Fresh faced Harry was at times, a very dark character. Davy’s great moment in Head, the Monkees’ feature film was this sequence featuring one of Harry’s great early compositions. Davy’s dance partner in this is choreographer Toni Basil. It is this clip that will always stick in my mind as a great ‘farewell’ from Mr. Jones Daddy’s Song.

One quick Davy Jones anecdote: I walked into the cavernous lobby of RCA Studios one afternoon to work on the Family Tree’s Miss Butters album. The Lobby consisted of a room of about 2500 square feet, two vending machines up against the far wall, entrances to the restrooms, and a single desk and chair smack dab in the middle of this 3 story high room where the security guard sat when he wasn’t wandering the halls upstairs. Davy was perched on the desk, his legs dangling over the side, staring at a piece of paper in his hands.

Me: “Hey”.

Davy (Looking up): “Hey”.

Me (Craning my neck to have a look): “What’s that?”

Davy (Sheepish, almost embarrassed): “After all this time, my first royalty check”.

Me (Craning my neck further): “Really? How much?”

Davy (Showing me the check): “This much”.

Me (Un-craning my neck, a bit woozy): “Holy Fuck!”

Holy fuck indeed. I continued into the studio leaving Davy sitting on the desk, staring at his check. About 4 hours later he poked his head in the control room of Studio B. “Gotta minute?”, he asks with that great lopsided smile. I answer in the affirmative and he motions me out the door onto the side street off of Sunset. There, gleaming in the sun, was a brand new Rolls Royce convertible. I remember it being blue, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was white. He was very happy. Believe me when I tell you that even if he had paid cash for it, it wouldn’t have made the tiniest dent in that check.

More on The Monkees….

While many amateur musicians and hipsters were making fun of the Monkees, they were helping to rewrite the rules of engagement between artists and the record companies and other show business corporations that controlled their creative input and therefore, their destinies. Can you imagine any of today’s artists being this candid, this honest? Michael on the Monkees

The Monkees were also instrumental in bringing the emerging music scenes from both England and San Francisco to the mainstream audience. While the Monkees were dominating television, the British music scene was evolving into a similar experimental hotbed like Los Angeles and San Francisco were, and hip, young music fans were becoming hippies, embracing drugs, free love, and outlandish clothing, the rest of the world happily danced to the sound of hit singles, stuck by the Beatles even as the band out grew them, and turned a curious eye toward San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, some questioning the growing lifestyle, and others leaving their home towns across the world and traveling to the musical and pop culture Mecca that was quickly replacing London as the-place-to-be to see what the fuss was all about. Two of the Monkees were also curious enough to check out what was happening in San Francisco, and in June, Micky Dolenz (pictured here at Monterey with David Crosby) and Peter Tork made the trip to the Monterey International Pop Festival, and were swept up along with everyone else who was there. The Monkees had already contributed many subtly subversive and drug culture oriented messages into their chart topping television program, and were about to present an even more subversive artist to the unsuspecting mainstream audience who viewed them as a cute and clever faux Beatles with fun pop songs and wacky skits. If you have ever seen their feature film, Head, you know how wrong the public was to think that way. What Tork and Dolenz decided in Monterey would bring them both notoriety…and one great story to tell. Tork introduces Buffalo Springfield at Monterey

Monkees/Hendrix Radio Spot

The only way to put the Monkees/Hendrix tour into perspective would be to imagine a Lady Ga Ga tour with the Allman Brothers as the opening act. One, a pop culture phenomenon whose prescence was elevated by her visual accesibility and show business savvy, the other, a group of musicians whose sole selling point was the incredible music they make and their complete lack of artifice. Not to say that Jimi’s concept of showmanship was lacking…far from it. An intimidating black man dressed like a peacock who would make sexual references with his guitar, play it behind his back or with his teeth, and occasionally set it on fire at the beginning of his career in London and when he followed The Who at Monterey (which he reportadly hated and quit doing as soon as people started showing up at his performances to see him torch a Strat instead of listen to his music) his main interest was playing, reinventing his material time and time again, jamming it out and wringing every possibility out of the material, and the instrument he played it on. A lion brought to sheep provided by a musically motivated, but comparitively lightweight enabler, The Monkees.

The Monkees core audience at the time were tweenage girls and the mothers and grandmothers that accompanied them to concerts. You can imagine the dropped jaws, raised eyebrows, and shocked (not to mention uncomfortable) reaction when Jimi strutted onto the stage instead of four fresh faced, well scrubbed television approved teen idols whose series was all pastels, running and skipping, and dressing up like the Three Stooges and getting into trouble which would always have a happy ending by the time the episode was over. At least on the surface.

The Monkees were wonderfully, insidiously, subversive, their drug references and sexual energy subtly infused in their program, that worked subliminally with the more astute hip crowd, but lay just beneath the surface for most. And let’s face it, there never would have been a public outcry about Hendrix if some grandmas and moms didn’t feel a twinge ‘down there’ and be terrified that little Debbie just might get one too. Hypocricy aimed at Jimi, ignored in the case of non threatening boys like the Monkees, even though everybody was getting laid by teens, moms and grandmas left and right. It was the ‘60’s, baby, and being a musician was like having money and power without all the bullshit. Kind of like being a ‘celebrity’ is now.

In a nutshell, Jimi and the Monkees did not mix well. Like gin and rootbeer, they were destined not to be. Hendrix lasted 7 shows, most of which consisted of his set being interrupted by teenyboppers screaming for individual Monkees, and although the Monkees themselves were in awe of him, Jimi had had enough and in New York, gave the finger to the audience in mid set, and walked off stage. The Monkees let him leave the tour, which was no longer worth the trouble for Hendrix because he was finally starting to break inNorth America. Radio had discovered The Experience and he could now tour on his own.

For an absolutely fascinating (and accurate) sumnation of this event, go here.

One of the reasons radio had begun playing Jimi’s single was due to a little FM radio station in San Francisco called KMPX. Record companies on both sides of the Atlantic were popping out albums and singles in ‘record’ numbers from bands no one had ever heard of, and the tastemakers and musos, especially the members of existing, well known acts, were touting this stuff to anyone who would listen.

The Beatles had already reacted (and had been an inspiration to some extent) to the new music with Sgt. Pepper, and the Rolling Stones had added a psychedelic element to their music with Her Satanic Majesty’s Request, throwing out an existing album-in-progress after hearing Sgt. Pepper and starting all over again. The Monkees were spreading the word and adding depth to their music as well. Kootch (The Family Tree’s bass player) and I spent more than one night jamming with The Monkees in studio C at RCA playing music that the majority of Monkee fans would have choked on. During this time hanging out, Kootch smuggled the Monkees bass drum head out of the studio. It was misplaced years later in the Wackers move to Eureka California. I told Micky about it one day on Horseshoe Canyon Blvd. where we lived across the street from one another and he shrugged and told me they went through a lot of those. People just couldn’t resist.

Why did The Monkees fall from radio’s radar. Simple, but silly and kind of sad, really. When NBC cancelled the series, the Monkees were still selling records and wildly popular. It was Bill Drake, one of the fathers of Top 30 radio that pulled the plug at his influential stations. The rest of the stations followed suit. After all that work, all those great records, all those fans, The Monkees were no more.

One last great story about Davy, told by Peter Tork: Osaka.

And a final Beatlesque Farewell: For Davy

Portions of the Monkees article have been published previously.

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Ronnie Montrose

Sammy Hagar on Ronnie: “Ronnie Montrose gave me my first break as a songwriter, as a front man, as a recording artist, as a touring artist, and for that I will always be grateful.

I was looking forward to a reunion for my birthday bash in Cabo with Denny, Bill and Ronnie – one of the few bands from that era where all four original members were still able to do it. It’s a shame to lose Ronnie and I’m so sorry for his loved ones. Rest in peace.

Another well loved artist who didn’t receive the respect from the general public he deserved when he was alive. Ronnie not only gave us great music with Sawbuck, Montrose, and Edgar Winter, he introduced the world to Sammy Hagar and brought forth a rhythm section who went on together and separately to make some fine contributions to Van Morrison and as well as Sammy Hagar’s solo effort and the Edgar Winter band. Check out the comments on Twitter from other, more well-known guitar players. While doing research on Ronnie, I stumbled across the information that his drummer in Sawbuck, Chuck Ruff (an old friend from Reno Nevada I met through the Family Tree/Wackers bassist, Kootch Trochim eons ago), co-writer with Edgar Winter of Frankenstein a rare instrumental record that hit number one in the U.S, Edgar’s drummer, and Sammy Hagar’s drummer with fellow Sawbuck alumni Bill Church on bass, had passed away last year. He was only 60 years old. I last spoke to Chuck back in 2010 and had no idea he had passed.

Finding that out reminded me of another friend who played bass with Chuck in the Edgar Winter group. Another talent who deserved more recognition. A great writer, consummate musician, and all round good guy, Danny Hartman. Danny was mixing a Tina Turner album the last time I saw him in New York. He had also worked with James Brown. Lots of great memories with Danny, but I will always get a kick out of getting a video of him when I was a producer at Much Music and popping it into a video player and seeing this. Funny, I thought, I’m pretty sure Danny’s was a blonde white guy the last time I saw him. Turned out to be actors playing a group called The Sorels for the motion picture, Streets of Fire. Danny had written the song for the film, played all the instruments, sang all the vocals, and produced the track. Eventually we received this version, which made much more sense. Still, I wish The Sorels would have been a real group. The combination of every great R&B style and all the moves from Doo-Wop to Michael Jackson would have made a hell of a great project.

Rest in peace, guys.

And finally

Rock and roll of a different kind. This man created the look for so many iconic films that the mind boggles. E.T, Raiders, Battlestar Galactica, and most importantly, the Star Wars saga and so many others, would not look the way they do without his vision.

Here’s just a tiny sample of the brilliant artistry of Ralph McQuarrie.

What an absolutely shitty week.

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Segarini’s column appears every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

6 Responses to “Segarini: A Monkee, a Montrose, a McQuarrie, and Other Fallen Friends”

  1. Marc Nathan Says:

    check those Dan Hartman links, Bob… I’m getting the ol’ 404 error.

    AMAZING article, by the way!

  2. Thanks for the heads-up. The links have been repaired.

  3. It was quite a shock. Thanks for all the good times Davey. And thanks for the wonderful memories and tribute Mr. Segarini.

  4. Hugo Burnham Says:

    Wonderfully written. Thank you.

  5. Such talent Mr Segarini. You write very well and I enjoy reading your work! 🙂

  6. Pointe Claire Says:

    The Wackers were one of the best Live bands on the planet!

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