How MTV Led Me to Tulsa, Oklahoma

I was one of those savagely underprivileged children who did not have cable growing up. Thankfully, I had grandparents who did, and it was at their house where I would gorge myself on Nickelodeon shows likeMr. Wizard” and “You Can’t Do That On Television” to hold me over until my next visit. And, like any good red-blooded preteen of the time, I wanted my MTV.

mtvIn the mid-80’s, MTV was a fantastic bizarre of sequins, neon, hairspray, androgyny, and synthesizers. I didn’t care that Boy George didn’t look like a boy, or that if I saw the video to Karma Chameleon,” the song would be stuck in my head for three days. I felt satisfied that a hungry Africa was probably going to be alright seeing as how Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Lionel Richie, and the King of Pop were on the scene singing “We Are the World.” I perfected my lip syncing skills (and shoulder-padded fashion sense) watching Belinda Carlisle in concert. And I learned that Michael wasn’t the only talented Jackson when MTV would host a “Jackson Family Weekend.” Come on, people. Rebbie’s “Centipede” video is quite intoxicating.

Yes, MTV was brilliant. Then again, it was pretty much invented by a brilliant man; a man by the name of Michael Nesmith. He never really claims it as his idea, but he WAS a pioneer in the concept of music video television. And by my estimation, it makes cosmic sense that the man who rose to fame as a member of The Monkees would go on to influence the creation of MTV, which was ultimately responsible for introducing ME to The Monkees, thereby altering my life forever. No, I’m not being dramatic. Picture it: my grandma’s basement, 1986…

In celebration of The Monkees 20th Anniversary, MTV ran a marathon of the television show, sparking a mini-Monkeemania among a whole new generation of teeny boppers, and deep inside me. But somewhere along the line, The Monkees became more than a show I never missed and music I always loved. It became more than adoring Davy and his starry eyes, wanting to hug Peter because of his innocence, feeling drawn to Mike because of his dry and witty humor, and declaring Micky my boyfriend because of his swoon-worthy smile and magnetic voice. The Monkees introduced me to what it meant to have a passion for something, to feel an unbridled force within me fueling my motivation and purpose. While my preteen self expressed that as a ridiculous and obsessive need to see/hear/learn/own anything related to a 1960’s pop band, I did grow up to find other things that inspired such passion within me…things that have changed my life…things that today give me purpose. And I was quick to recognize these passions as I encountered them, because they felt like The Monkees did when I was nine-years-old. I have MTV to thank for that…or rather, Mike Nesmith for giving MTV a path to fame…or rather, The Monkees for giving Mike Nesmith a path to fame. Whoa. I just blew my mind right there.

A Midsummer's Night with The Monkees
I’m proud to say I took this photo…because it meant my seats were flippin’ awesome. I have a very special person to thank for that.

 

And because of MTV and that little Monkees Marathon in 1986, I ended up in Tulsa this past weekend to see The Monkees in concert for the sixth time. As I said, they have become a bit more to me than what they were twenty-seven years ago, but I bet some are wondering if it ever gets old. No, it doesn’t. First of all, reconnecting with a passion is always satisfying. Secondly, I take away new things each time I venture to see them live. It is an evolving passion. The Tulsa concert enlightened me to these little nuggets:

  • While getting to hear beloved deep cuts performed in a live setting is a-maz-ing, old standards like “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and “Mary, Mary” are played on every tour for a reason. They rock hard…and good…and strong. They tear down the friggin’ house.

(My boyfriend is kind of amazing on drums. And I still can’t believe I actually saw Nez play that famous guitar lick right in front of my eyes. And I adore the way Peter interacts with the other guys on stage. Is my swoony-ness showing a bit too much? Sorry.)

    • Tulsa is a better place to see a concert than Chicago (don’t hate me, Chicago people!). At last year’s concert, the Chicago audience sat on their rear ends the entire time. Not cool. But Tulsa was on its feet almost the whole concert. And that meant I could give the proper amount of head bangin’, fist pumpin’, and joy jumpin’ when the guys ripped a hole in the universe playing “No Time.” You say The Monkees and head bangin’ sounds like an odd combination? It’s really as natural as PB&J.

(The audience members in this video, taken in New Jersey, don’t seem to be rockin’ out as hard to this song as we did in Tulsa. But the quality is fabulous.)

  • It IS possible for me to love “Porpoise Song” even more than I already thought I did. Micky, you had me at “My, my…” Every word beyond that was an incredible bonus.
    • Peter’s hips don’t lie. (Go to the 6:50 mark to see what I mean. Hubba, hubba)

(I’m a little annoyed at the people that keep getting up and walking around during “Porpoise Song.” This video is from the show I was at, and I’m not sure they knew what they were missing. Rest assured, I was sitting motionless in my seat, afraid I would miss taking in every moment if I dared to breath too deeply.)

    • World peace probably feels like when the guys are playing “She,” and they get to that “da-da-duh-duh” part, and everyone in the audience shoots their fists into the air and yells, “HEY!”

(Again, this Jersey crowd must have missed the memo on fist-shooting and HEY-yelling. Or maybe they were trying to be polite so this woman could continue to get awesome video.)

    • A guitar-less Nez singing “Door Into Summer” projects vulnerability and strength all at once, like a Samson without his hair who discovers his locks weren’t really the source of his power after all.

  • I sometimes bemoan the fact that I am too young to have experienced the unrivaled Monkeemania of the 1960’s. But after seeing the show this past weekend, I honestly believe I am seeing them at their best. Sure, back then there was a beauty that came with youth, an electricity that surged through lunch boxes and trading cards, and a yearning that was only quelled on Monday evenings in front of the television. But to me, it seems those are the only things I missed out on. I may be wrong, but I just can’t imagine that those young, overworked guys, still trying to find their own sound, still trying to master their craft, still trying to find time for music between episode filming, still becoming a band, could hold a candle to the actualized, polished, master musicians who stood before me on Saturday night. I wonder if those boys of the 1960’s could have understood, amidst all the commotion and promotion, the reflective vehicles of wonder and transcendence they become for the fans who love them and their craft, and who each see something different in the faces of their idols. Because the men I saw on Saturday understood that well. And it is undeniable, watching them on stage, that they know the music and the experience is about more than them. I love that this is my Monkeemania.
    They were cuties. But they only bettered with age.
    They were cuties. But they only bettered with age.

And I will always love the MTV of 1986 for ultimately bringing me to this place, for leading me to Tulsa in 2013. We have both moved on from the 80’s. My highs and lows no longer hang on being able to buy the latest issue of Bop magazine with my boyfriend on the cover, or getting to my grandma’s house in time to watch the Top 20 Video Countdown. And MTV has no time to play even twenty videos in between reality shows about teen pregnancy and the true lives of people who date their teachers. In fact, we don’t have much in common anymore. But once upon a time, MTV and I, we were quite the pair, hanging out in my grandma’s basement, feeding my Monkee passion…and trying to decide if A-Ha’s “Take On Me” video was cool or creepy.

 

This post is part of Emily and Ashley’s “Remember the Time” Blog Hop. Click on their logo to read other great posts about “The Time We Watched MTV.”

blog hop

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31 Responses

  1. I was part of “Monkeemania” in the 60’s and I will attest to the fact that they ARE better as a more mature band.

  2. A. A-Ha’s “Take On Me” = AWESOME!!! (seriously, it might be my favorite video of all time)
    B. As I was singing along to a Monkees song on the radio last week, I realized your passion has led to an increased appreciation of the Monkees for me. So there ya go, you’re rubbing off on people, and spreading your Monkee love! :-)

    • Bo-nus!!!! I do think I might be single-handedly responsible for bringing Monkee awareness to my entire grade school class. I am so proud to hear you were jammin’ out to my boys…but you do have good taste overall, so I shouldn’t be surprised. And yes…”Take On Me”. I would get overly excited when that video would come on. But I always wondered why when the grumpy waitress crumbled up the comic, they didn’t all get squashed. I know, I know…I’m supposed to suspend reality and get lost in the imagination.

  3. Candy Boyer

    This is an EXCELLENT commentary on both the talents of the band known as The Monkees, the talents of the individuals (well we ALL know THEIR names!), the quality & endurance of their music and being. I AM one of those original fans – being 9 years old in 1967 when the show came out, receiving a record player for my birthday and – thrill of all thrills – my first two Monkee records (45s they were, I’m A Believer and Last Train to Clarksville). Yes they were wonderful to my 9 year old self then, and they are even MORE wonderful now to my 55 year old self. We have both matured, the Monkees and I the fan, and we both have a deeper-seated respect & love for each other.
    I was at the Grand Prairie concert, and it was my first-ever Monkees concert. You describe the experience perfectly – I have no idea how ANYONE could be up walking around – as it felt like I held my breath for 2 hours and barely blinked, everything was so fast-paced and so full & enriching, I didn’t want to even BLINK.
    Thanks for writing this, which has helped me relive last Friday night…

    • Thank YOU so much for your kind compliments. I completely agree with you that there is a mutual respect that has grown between the guys and their fans. And CONGRATS on your first concert!!!! I remember mine well…I was just out of my freshman year of college. There is nothing like your first. Then again, they never get any less exhilarating for me. In fact, I think they have gotten more so. This concert and the two I saw last year held a special place with Nez returning to the fold. I wrote about how amazing those concerts were, to finally see Nez live, to hear he and Micky harmonizing together (which will always be one of my favorite sounds on earth). My summation at that time was, “It was everything, it was more, it was not enough, all wrapped into one. In a word, it was perfect.” I can say the exact same thing about this year’s concert as well. And I am just happy so many people uploaded video of it to You Tube so that we can keep reliving it whenever we want to.

      • Candy Boyer

        You are a heck of a writer…”it was everything, it was more, it was not enough, …it was perfect” describes how I felt Friday night. It WAS everything I dreamed of..AND more…but it is NEVER enough – I could have sat/stood there and listened for 8 more hours…it WAS perfect. So many have asked me if it was everything I hoped for – and my answer has been it was more than I expected, I forgot to breathe for 2 hours, and I wish it had been longer. Am also being asked, “Do you feel let down now that it’s over, after all the build-up and anticipation?” Short answer “NO.” Long answer “Absolutely not, it will never be over for me, because I SAW THE MONKEES!!!”
        Thanks for your passion, which I and many Monkees/Nez fans share. I totally understand being considered a nerd for loving them as a kid, and then, as an adult. I’m used to the eye-rolls, the “hey hey we’re the monkees” comments…don’t like them, but I’m used to them :)

        • That’s part of what unites us. Fandom is a funny thing. I absolutely love that the experience was so wonderful for you. I giggled when you said you didn’t breathe for two hours. I totally understand. A friend of mine went to the concert with me, and it was her first one as well. I think I loved watching her experience it just as much as anything.

  4. I completely adore your Monkee passion, and I’m glad you joined the blog hop this week to share this charming story :)

    I so wish for the MTV of old, but if it returned, I don’t know if it would make things much better. Seems like the choice now is either 16 & Pregnant or Rihanna dancing around while singing about her unmentionables. lol

    • Thank you. Funnily enough, this passion that made me a bit of an outcast as a kid has ended up being one of my “charms” as a adult. But that’s how life goes, doesn’t it. Nerds end up ruling the world. And THANK YOU for hosting these blog hops…even when I don’t have a post, I enjoy reading what others come up with.

      I would only want MTV to go back the old format if they played videos from that time as well. I have no desire for 24 hours of The Biebs or Miss Naked and Monotone Rihanna. i WOULD stop channel flipping for some Maroon 5, though. Mmmmmm. Adam Levine.

  5. Friend this post was everything I wished for and then some. Thank you so much for the videos. I have watched them three times already and I know that won’t be enough. I think I can even type better because of it. Love love love this ! Fading into the sunset singing I’m a Believer.

    • I know…I love all those wonderful fans who took these videos and posted them to You Tube. I may have watched them a *few* times as well. If you want to see more of the show, I bet just about every song they performed is floating around on You Tube. Just go there and type in “Monkees 2013 tour.” Then sit back and pretend you have a front row seat!!

      On that note…I think you need to get yourself to a concert sometime. I don’t know where you live, but you should keep an eye out. If they don’t come as the Threekees, I think they all have plans to do some solo shows.

  6. GREAT post! I’m a Monkee fan from waaaay back- but had something of the same experience when MTV (and MuchMusic here in Canada) did the 20th anniversary repeat thing. Michael Nesmith is truly an unsung hero of popular culture- and those other guys? I wanted them to be my big brothers.
    A little jealous that I won’t be seeing them on this tour- for some reason they aren’t coming North- but pleased to see that some of their true fans are representing in a BIG way!
    LOVED this!

    • Thank you so much!!! I agree with you about Nez, for sure. Hopefully they will make it your way in the future. Every fan deserves to see this concert.

  7. OK, so I know it wasn’t your intention to do this, but after I read this I had to go and watch “Daydream Believer” on loop three times and now I’m a little bleary-eyed that Davy is no longer with us. The Monkees were seriously underrated and I’m glad that you sang their praises here! “Another Pleasant Valley Sunday” rocks so hard.

    • So hard. So, so, so hard. It does. EMILY!!! You seriously need to stop giving me more reasons to heart you. I’m going to have to have a full-on blog love affair with you. I am so tickled that you went and watch “Daydream Believer” and fully admitted my boys were seriously underrated. And yes…the only thing that would have made the experience better was if Davy had been there. Because even though I saw The Monkees tour three times as Micky, Davy, and Peter (all of which were fantastic shows), there was really an evolution that happened once Nez came back into the fold this time around. The music somehow ignited with a certain “je ne sais quoi” that resonated so deeply inside of me. And for that to have happened with all four of them present…well…it might have been too much for me to handle :)

      On a related note, you need to watch the Literal Video Version of Daydream Believer. Hilarious.

  8. Reading your post just made me cry. I live in Puerto Rico,an island in the Caribbean,where Monkeemobile #1 was brought and later used as a hotel courtesy car. The Monkees never came to Puerto Rico and i don’t know if they ever will,but they sure have had tons of fans here,since their tv show aired in, back in the late 60s and definitely,once you fall in love with the guys,it doesn’t matter that it was then,the 80s or now..they are a passion that outlives time and generations. Thanks for posting..Monkees hug all over!!

  9. LOVED this!!! Did we have the same childhood somehow? And you nailed the Samson metaphor–I think that was what I was flailing for in my review (If any of you want to read my review of the Tulsa show, it’s at http://fandomlenses.com/2013/08/05/fading-through-the-door-into-summer-the-monkees-in-tulsa/). Glad you liked my video–after i realized just how epic our seats were I realized i needed to capture that as a public service to the fandom. What did you think of your boyfriend spanking Peter?

    Oh yeah–Take on Me? Creepy.

    • I will have to go check out your review…I loved what you wrote about the whole Lefcowicz rerelease. And since we were at the same show, it’s too bad we couldn’t have met. From the looks of the video, we weren’t sitting too far away from each other! THANK YOU for videoing that. I was so happy they did Door Into Summer, which is one of my all-time faves. And the whole spanking thing…ha! I truly adore the way those guys interact with each other on stage. There seems to be a genuine enjoyment and ease between them that makes me happy, partly because all of us *kind of* want them to really be living in a beach house together, and partly because it is heartwarming to think it satisfies them to make us happy.

  10. I love the Monkees! One of the local channels broadcast the show before my neighborhood got cable, so that’s how I found them. I’ve seen them live a couple of times. The last time I saw them, I thought it was clever how they’d take turns leaving the stage to rest (Mickey rested before and after Goin’ Down, possibly sucking on an Oxygen tank because that song probably left him breathless 40 years ago.) Also, they had the opening act play after the set break instead of at the beginning, giving them a long rest, but totally surprising all of us who didn’t expect them to go on on time.

    • They still take turns leaving the stage, but this time it was JUST THEM for two straight hours. No opening act…no intermission. It was a hell of a show! And Micky still amazes me with the energy he puts out on stage! Thanks for your comment!!

  11. This is really a fantastic tribute to the guys, to the fans, and to the love that flows from us to them, through them and back to us at the shows. I’ve loved them passionately since I was a little 5 year old in 1966. My first live show was in 1986 twice, then ’87, ’89, ’96, and after that is when I really went berserk! Five shows in 2011, 3 in 2012, and alas! Only 1 in 2013. But what a show it was. I’ve got a group of friends who are as crazy about them as I am to hang out with, and it wouldn’t have happened if the guys hadn’t brought us together. I like to think of myself not as a nerd but as an extremely tuned-in chick who “got” the whole Monkees thing from the very beginning. Everyone here is much better at expressing all of this, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I’m more than proud to be a “Monkeemaniac.” Cheers to all the fellow Maniacs who have the greatest taste in music in the whole world!

    • You mentioned one of the other great things about being a fan…the friends you make with other fans. I, too, have a group of people I wouldn’t otherwise have known, and they have become great friends to me. Love is just flowing everywhere!!

  12. The video for “Take on Me” blew my mind as a kid.
    I also became smitten with The Monkees when they started rerunning their show in the 80s. I think it’s great you decided to see them in concert.

  13. Sadly, I missed the Monkeemania of which you talk but my friend and I did go through a phase of getting into old-school music. Anything was game. Frankie, Van Morrison, The Beatles, Abba, etc. And one day she told me she ventured into Monkee territory and I listened nervously with her, deciding whether to join her there. Then I heard one of their songs had something about Liverpool in the title and, being a Liverpudlian, I decided to love them. I can’t remember which song it was. Did they do Long Haired Lover From Liverpool?

    • They have a song called “Randy Scouse Git” which is British slang for horny Liverpudlian layabout. Would that have been it? They never mention Liverpool in any of their songs, but that one makes references to The Beatles as “the four kings of EMO”

      • Ah, yes! Randy Scouse Git! That was it!

        • Yay!!! That’s is such a great song! You know, Micky Dolenz released a solo album this past year and he did a remake of Randy Scouse Git that is fan-flippin-tastic. It’s TOTALLY different than the original…dare I say, even better.

  14. […] to be, because there it was. There was the corner where the television sat, the one I used to watch Nickelodeon and MTV on, since we didn’t have cable at my house. And there was the built-in bookcase the fugitive squirrel ran up, scaring the begeezus out of me […]

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