GARY PIG GOLD – FOR PETE’S SAKE

Can it really be true that Rolling Stone publisher/magnate Jann S. Wenner has personally conducted a decades-long campaign to bar The Monkees from induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Peter Tork certainly thought so.

“He doesn’t care what the rules are and just operates how he sees fit,” Peter told the New York Post in 2007. “It is an abuse of power. I don’t know whether The Monkees belong in the Hall of Fame, but it’s pretty clear that we’re not in there because of a personal whim.”

The Monkees Photo by Roger Bamber

Now sure, the Monkees (along with the Beach Boys, Byrds, even Beatles, most every Motown act, etc. etc. etc.) certainly didn’t play every single note on every single record they ever made. Nevertheless, in 1967 Jann and his fledgling zine were riding extremely high on the Monkee-bashing bandwagon, using the television rockstars as the best/worst examples of all that was unhip, uncool, and truth be told un-San Francisco in the world.Fair enough. I remember it also took Rolling Stone over a decade to figure out the Ramones too.

Regarding that great big late-Sixties Monkees-used-session-musicians brew-ha-ha though, as Peter most rightfully pointed out “Jann seems to have taken it harder than everyone else. And now, forty years later, everybody says ‘What’s the big deal? Everybody else does it.’ Nobody cares now except him. He feels his moral judgment in 1967 and 1968 is supposed to serve in 2007.”

Of course, looking at the big picture, such Fame Hall squirmishes mean little if anything over here in the so-called real world. But let me just remind Mr. Wenner and countless other Monkee doubters out there – and yes, I fear there’s almost as many in 2019 as there were in 2007, to say nothing of 1967:

Forget about who really played all those flamenco breaks on “Valleri.” If you were just a tad too young back in the daze to teethe your ears upon Pet Sounds or Revolver, like me you tuned into your local NBC-TV affiliate on the evening of September 12, 1966, sat transfixed for the next thirty minutes, and then told yourself “Hey! So THAT’S what a rock and roll band really lives, looks, sounds and acts like!” Eating communal Rice Krispies at the break of noon, practicing in front of the patio window every day instead of going to school or work, yet always making sure to keep too busy singing to put anybody (under the age of twenty-five) down.

This was vital, and in my case at least life-changing information which just couldn’t be gleaned from spotting the occasional three-minute Dave Clark Five or Turtles performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

But even more importantly – and, as it turns out, much more slyly and cleverly – what Peter alongside his pals Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Mike ‘Wool Hat’ Nesmith really did during their fifty-eight half-hours on NBC was, for the very first time, bring the counter-culture boldly into the North American entertainment mainstream.

Really.

You must understand that prior to 1966, long-haired kids were only seen on television getting into no good whatsoever down some dark, garbage-strewn alley …that is until Sergeant Joe Friday rounded them up while giving a stern lecture on morality into the nearest camera.

Suddenly though, here were four seemingly happy-go-lucky kids with hair over their ears and guitars over their shoulders, without any apparent “adult supervision” such as parents or bosses in sight, living for all intents and purposes the same kind of wholesome apple-pie life as those over in Mayberry or My Three Sons. Indeed, at the end of each broadcast day Davy always got the girl, the villains always got what they deserved, and the kinescopic sun inevitably set to the accompaniment of yet another ultra-groovy new Nilsson or Boyce and Hart-penned tune (…which reminds me: long before “Penny Lane” or even D.A. Pennebaker, The Monkees damn well invented MTV too) (please, try not to hold it against them).

But for all their seemingly homespun zaniness, each week the Prefab Four were in actual fact getting up to the kind of (mis)adventures even A Hard Day’s Night wouldn’t, or couldn’t show.

Don’t believe a word I say? Even Timothy Leary, unlike his supposed contemporaries way over at Rolling Stone, immediately saw between the cathode lines. And I quote (from Dr. Leary’s own The Politics of Ecstasy): “The Monkees’ television show. Oh, you thought that it was silly teenage entertainment? Don’t be fooled. While it lasted, it was a classic Sufi put on. An early Christian electronic satire. A mystic magic show. A jolly Buddha laugh at hypocrisy.

“At early evening kiddie-time on Monday the Monkees would rush through a parody drama, burlesquing the very shows that glue Mom and Dad to the set during prime time. Spoofing the movies and the violence and the down-heavy-conflict-emotion themes that fascinate the middle-aged. And woven into the fast-moving psychedelic stream of action were the prophetic, holy, challenging words. Micky was rapping quickly, dropping literary names, making scholarly references; then the sudden psychedelic switch of the reality channel. He looked straight at the camera, right into your living room, and up-leveled the comedy by saying ‘Pretty good talking for a long-haired weirdo, huh, Mr. and Mrs. America?’ And then ZAP, flash. Back to the innocuous comedy.”

And here I was a wee Canucklehead thinking I was just watching a live-action Rocky & Bullwinkle with amplifiers every week!

It’s all wacky and definitely wild throughout, you bet. But it’s particularly surprising how extremely fast-paced and ingeniously edited these half-hours are, and in Season Two especially each show began doing, saying – and showing – things on the family tube that were absolutely unseen and unheard of across the pre-Python-Saturday Night Live landscape.

Plus the music throughout is top-notch, it should go without mentioning. Even the sequences where Liberace takes a sledge hammer to a grand piano.

Come 1968 however, all that was left for The Monkees was to star in the greatest rock ‘n’ roll film ever made (it’s called Head, by the way) before paving the TV way for various Partridges, Banana Splits, and even their old nemesis Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Lest we never forget ol’ ‘Wool Hat’s landmark Elephant Parts series as well, full of the visionary and pioneering work he continues to this very date right there on his own Video Ranch.

Nor, for that matter, shall we forget that Davy Jones taught Axl Rose how to dance.

It was perhaps Peter though who had the toughest go of things, both as a small-screen Monkee (unlike his cohorts who basically portrayed themselves on the series, Peter inhabited a hybrid Harpo Marx / Stan Laurel caricature which couldn’t have been further from the true Peter Halsten Thorkelson) and then during the show’s immediate aftermath (first to bolt from the Prefabs in 1968, his independent production company, despite such clients as pre-Little Foot Lowell George, failed to launch, and by 1976 he was discovered teaching a mishmosh of courses within Santa Monica’s Pacific Hills School).

Still, after a further decade had passed Peter was more than happy to take part in, and was a key element in the tremendous success of the Monkees’ various reunion recordings and tours which circled the globe for the past thirty-some-odd years. And, thankfully, by now he was portraying Peter. And only Peter. And most happily so – for all who saw and heard and basked in the continuing joy and spirit which was, and remains that oft dismissed, yet never duplicated unit.Michael Nesmith:  “I have said this before, and now it seems even more apt. The reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play.“

A band no more, and yet the music plays on. An anthem to all who made the Monkees and the TV show our private, dare I say ‘secret’ playground.

“PT will be a part of me forever.”

Love is understanding
Don’t you know that this is true?
Love is understanding
It’s in everything we do

In this generation
In this lovin’ time
In this generation
We will make the world a’shine

We were born to love one another
This is something we all need
We were born to love one another
We must be what we’re going to be
And what we have to be
Is free

=GPG=

Gary appears here whenever he wants

Contact us at: segarini@rogers.com. 

DBAWIS_ButtonGary Pig Gold may have grown up in Port Credit, run away to Hamilton to join his first rock ‘n’ roll group, hung out with Joe Strummer on his first-ever night in the UK, returned to T.O. to publish Canada’s first-ever rock ‘n’ roll (fan)zine, run away again gary pig gpld facong leftto Surf City to (almost) tour Australia with Jan & Dean, come home again to tour O Canada with that country’s first-ever (authorized!) Beach Boys tribute band …but STILL, he had to travel all the way back to the USSR to secure his first-ever recording contract www.GaryPigGold.com

One Response to “GARY PIG GOLD – FOR PETE’S SAKE”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Gary, many thanks for shining some light on a band from my youth. Well done.

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