On May 6, 1967, my friend Debi Simison and I, plus a couple of other eighth grade girls and a parent or two, went to a Monkees concert at Henry Levitt Arena on the campus of Wichita State University. Getting to go to a concert like that was far beyond normal for me; I must have sprung it on my mom when she was concentrating on something else. My impression of the experience as a whole has blotted out most of my specific memories of the evening. Mainly, I remember thousands of exploding camera flash bulbs and the sound of even more teenage girls screaming “Davey” as TV’s answer to the Beatles took the stage. The backup band was the Fifth Dimension of Up, Up, and Away and Aquarius fame. Later I would comment that the backup band was more famous than the headliners. I was wrong.
Last weekend Dennis and I went to see the Monkees at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. A lot has happened in the forty-six years between these two experiences, but not that much has changed.
The Monkees were maligned for being what they were hired to be– zany TV guys doing slapstick comedy while catchy tunes played in the background. Contrary to myth, each Monkee was a bona fide musician from the beginning but they were trapped in the misconception that they were merely lightweight actors in a silly show, and the show was very silly. The sitcom was cancelled in 1968 but by that time they had earned their reputations as successful musicians, if not from the music business ivory tower dwellers, then from those who bought, listened to, and loved their music. (The Monkees out sold the Rolling Stones and the Beatles in 1967.) Those fans still come to hear Michael, Mickey, and Peter, and they contend with a younger audience for tickets. Surviving major artistic differences, infighting, and even the too-soon death of Davey Jones, the Monkees can still pack the house.
A lot has also happened to me in the last forty-six years but most of it is too mundane to mention. Have I changed since May of 1967? I hope so! But when the crowd started to roar as Mickey, Michael, and Peter took the stage last Saturday, I was just as impressed with the energy in the room as I was in junior high. One drawback of the 2013 audience: middle-aged ladies wearing mini-skirts, go-go boots, and fringed vests. Bummer.
Among treasures that include my “Don’t blame me, I voted for McGovern” button, my second-place USTA medal for baton twirling, and my Brownie pin, is this neato die-cast Husky Monkeemobile. I don’t actually remember how I acquired this gem; it may have belonged to one of my brothers who owned dozens of Matchbox cars once upon a time. Nevertheless, I have it now. It’s mine.
“The only people who didn’t like the Monkees were the French and they don’t even like themselves, so what’s the point.” ~Davey Jones