Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hey, Hey, Find the Monkees at the Library

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the March 23 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website. From the Library - Hey, Hey Find the Monkees at the Library by Charlotte Canelli

I didn’t watch much television as a child. At least not in comparison to most of my friends, then and now. I can sing parts of the Gilligan’s Island theme song but I usually only belt out with confidence only these four words: “a three-hour tour.”

Don’t get me started on the episodes of Bewitched, Get Smart, Lost in Space and the Andy Griffith Show that I missed. Oh and Gomer Pyle, Hogan’s Heroes and The Fugitive I caught up with mainly at my best friend’s house which was conveniently next door. Her modern family had the television tuned in most of the time and they also watched old movies and rerun after rerun of Lassie and Bonanza. I loved hanging out there and found a way to sleep over as often as I could.

What my family never actually missed on television in the mid-60s was The Ed Sullivan Show, the Lawrence Welk Show, the Carol Burnett Show and Walt Disney’s World of Color. Ed had been on the tube since 1949 and Lawrence Welk nationally debuted in 1955. Both of those shows passed my parents’ test of suitable family entertainment. Singing, dancing and that little mouse, Topo Gigio, were all deemed fine family fare.

Until, of course, the fall of 1966 of my freshman year of high school when my parents divorced. At the same time I suppose I was growing up and naturally left to my devices and censorship. Whatever the reason for the huge shift, it coincided with the debut of the Monkees. I remember racing home from school clubs and babysitting gigs to catch the very start of the show each week. We were all a bit nuts about the Monkees. They were quirky, silly but cute. We all had our favorites (mine was Peter Tork.) Davy was just too cute, Mickey Dolenz a bit odd and Michael Nesmith way too moody.

When Davy Jones died on March 1 this month, there were many of us who wondered how he got to be so old so quickly. And of course, he wasn’t. He was barely 20 years old when he joined on to the phenomenon which was the Monkees. He was only 66 when he died.

The Internet went a bit crazy when Davy died. Sales of the songs increased and word of his death spread like wildfire. After all, MTV had begun to air old episodes of the Monkees to an entirely new generation in 1986 and that generation is now having children. Nostalgia multiples across the ages and the Monkees will be forever young. Think Daydream Believer. Check it out in your local elevator or on iTunes. Or Sugar, Sugar. You’ll see.

Nostalgia about the Monkees is here to stay and that’s why we are making sure that we have plenty of Monkees recordings in our library collection. Most of us growing up in high school in the 60s ended our love affair with the group after the first season on television. (They did record and broadcast a second season in 1967-1968.)

1966 brought us the album (now the CD) The Monkees with the singable songs Last Train to Clarksville, Take a Giant Step and I Wanna Be Free. Their second album, More of the Monkees, including Stepping Stone, Pleasant Valley Sunday, A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You and the album was actually the band’s top seller, racking up 70 weeks on Billboard’s album chart. It didn’t hurt that Neil Diamond and Carol King, among others, wrote some of their bestselling songs.

Other CDs of Monkees include the Best of Album and Essentials. Headquarters was their first album recorded after they left the studio and decided to strike it out on their own. Some people say that album is the best that the Monkees did with Forget that Girl and Shades of Gray.

The DVDs of the two seasons of the Monkees television show (1966-1967 and 1967-1968) feature 32 and 26 episodes, respectively. Those were the days. A season ran through at least half, and sometimes more than half a year.

The Monkees starred in the movie Head which hit the screens in 1968, just three years after the Beatles’ Help. Annette Funicello joined the cut-up guys and the movie was a quirky effort at social commentary (think 1968, after all) and their attempt to reach the adult audience that had outgrown the television show. They tried to leave their silly good-boy image behind in the movie and tackled some serious stuff like anti-war sentiment. Cameos included Frank Zappa, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Terry Garr.

The story of the Monkees and their manufactured music and band can be watched online on the Smithsonian Channel. The 46-minute documentary is fascinating and includes footage of all the Monkees, including reclusive and moody Michael Nesmith.

I have such fond memories of the Monkees that just playing snippets of the songs through any search on Amazon or the web brings a smile to my face. Who hasn’t felt the sentiment of their songs at least once in their lives?

“Though you've played at love and lost and sorrow's turned your heart to frost, I will melt your heart again. Remember the feeling as a child when you woke up and morning smiled? It's time you felt like you did then.” Lyrics from Take a Giant Step.

If you would like to reserve any of these titles in DVD or CD version please call the Reference or Information desks of the library, 781-799-0200 or reserve them in the Minuteman Library catalog.