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Interview: Monkees author says Rock Hall berth for group should be easy decision

June 25, 2013 by  
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The cover of the latest edition of Eric Lefcowitz's "Monkee Business."Eric Lefcowitz, who recently published an updated version of his “Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-For-TV Band” (also available for Kindle), told the Monkees Examiner it was necessary after all the developments with the group over the past couple of years, especially the death of Davy Jones.

“The book was written in 2010 just before Davy, Micky and Peter reunited. So many things happened that I felt it was important to add those chapters,” he told us by email.

“The biggest thing, of course, was that Davy died in 2012. To be honest, I thought that was the end of the Monkees because Davy was so crucial to the act. It was unimaginable to picture a future without him. Then Michael Nesmith surprised everyone by joining Peter and Micky for a tour, which was fantastic. Davy certainly would have approved the idea of ‘the show must go on.’ So I cover all that information including some rather-shocking behind-the-scenes stuff about why the 2011 tour broke up.”

The new edition has a foreward by a celebrity who’s a big fan of the group. “I discovered magician Penn Jillette is a huge fan of the Monkees, so I asked him to write a foreword to the book and he agreed to do it. He did a wonderful job of describing what it is like to be a Monkees freak. I also hired an extremely talented artist named Wayne Shellabarger to create a new cover. I’m really proud of how everything came out.”

How would he compare the two Monkees tours with Davy and Mike?

“I loved both tours but for different reasons,” he says. “The tour in 2011 was Davy’s vision through and through. He chose the band, the setlist and the choreography and it received great reviews. Even Rolling Stone magazine started showing the Monkees some love. But there was also a lot of turmoil. Davy hired his wife Jessica to dance in the show. The audience did not respond well and then she was, for lack of a better word, fired. Things got ugly after that. This is all covered in the book. But to Davy’s ever-lasting credit, he was always a true professional onstage. He loved his fans and they loved him back.”

Lefcowitz says he initially had some reservations about the post-Davy Monkees tour.

“When I first heard about the 2012 tour without Davy, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea especially after Nesmith posted some satirical comments on Facebook about replacing Davy with Jimmy Fallon or Kevin Spacey. He was kidding, but most of the fans did not get the joke. So I had my doubts, but I have to say it was a wonderful show.

“When they paid tribute to Davy by having an audience member sing ‘Daydream Believer, it was really a cathartic moment to have the whole audience singing along. And Nesmith was absolutely gracious. I think the take away from that tour was the durability of Nesmith’s songbook. His songs more than held their own alongside the classic Boyce and Hart, Goffin and King material. Plus his impression of a Moog synthesizer was priceless!”

A lot of younger fans have been spotted at Mike and Peter’s solo shows. Why does he think that is happening?

“It’s amazing, right? I think the Monkees are probably more influential now than ever. Shows like ‘American Idol,’ where they hold auditions to create overnight stars and to a lesser degree ‘Glee’ both tap into magic that happens when music is performed by talented good-looking young people on TV. Ironically the Monkees, the so-called ‘Prefab Four’ now seem so authentic compared to today’s factory-made pop stars.

“I also think the whole brand-that-became-a-band aspect of the Monkees phenomenon, that struggle for creative expression, is still as relevant today as it ever was. That resonates with people.”

Lefcowitz says there has been an evolution of attitudes regarding the Monkees.

“I have noticed the Monkees change meanings as time marches on. In the 60s, they were seen as a palatable way of introducing long hair and rock’n’roll in the living rooms of America. In the ’70s, they were embraced by punk rockers who celebrated a certain cynicism about pop music. In the 80s, the MTV era, they were seen as video pioneers. I think today we can view them as an early example of semi-reality TV. I say semi because, as everybody knows, there’s very little reality in reality TV.”

And, he says, the songs endure.

“In the last year alone, Monkees songs were featured in ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Mad Men,’ two of the hottest shows on TV. That’s a pretty amazing fact.”

Do the Monkees have any chance of getting into the Rock Hall of Fame?

“I certainly hope so,” he says. “It seems ridiculous that some people are still holding onto some half-baked notions like they never played their own music. Aren’t these people experts on the music business? The whole concept of what is authentic and what isn’t seems totally ridiculous in this day and age. Who can make that kind of judgment?

“Also I think millions of fans should count for something. Rock music is about inclusivity, not exclusivity. Someone there may have missed that message. Then there is also the fact that Goffin and King, Mann and Weil, Neil Diamond and other songwriters for the Monkees are already in the Hall of Fame. Many of the musicians who played on their records. like Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, James Burdon, not to mention Steven Stills and Neil Young are in. Even Don Kirshner is in!

Lefcowitz put out his own answer to the situation.

“I recently got fed up and put together a video called ’10 Reasons the Monkees Should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’ We just put it out on YouTube. (Note: You can see it on this page.) I hope fans will check it out. Maybe if they show their support the folks in Cleveland will finally see the light.”

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