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Monkee Historian Defends Nesmith’s Decision to Tour

August 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Eric Lefcowitz, news feed

Monkee Historian Defends Nesmith’s Decision to Tour

by Eric Lefcowitz

There’s been a lively discussion on message boards and forums about Michael Nesmith’s surprise announcement that he will be touring with Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork after Davy Jones’ death on February 29, 2012. There have been arguments for and against his participation. Many of those against (or, perhaps, more precisely, suspicious of his intentions) have wondered aloud why the usually-reluctant Nesmith has chosen to join his former bandmates after previously turning down numerous opportunities, most recently the threesome’s successful tour in 2011.

Like many of you, I have studied Papa Nez’s career over the years and I, too, was slightly baffled by his announcement but I would not say I was surprised. Baffled because in my last communication with him—an interview conducted for my book “Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-For-TV Band”–he described his participation in the 1997 UK tour as a “final chapter.” But was I surprised? Not really. This is the guy who put his fist through a wall in an argument with Don Kirshner over creative control back in 1967 and then wrote a heartfelt eulogy when Kirshner died in 2011.

Anyone Nesmith follower knows he marches to a “different drum.” There is a veritable trunk full of bizarre quotes from Nesmith over the years, bizarre song titles, album concepts, business schemes. Some have proven visionary. Occasionally, looking back, some have been just loopy. In terms of batting averages, he’s been far more visionary than loopy.

Nesmith will be turning 70 in December and his decision to grab a little glory and hitch his wagon to the Monkees’ star one more time is certainly not bizarre. In fact it makes perfect sense, especially considering his widely-reported health problems. There’s nothing like a whiff of mortality to make someone realize how precious a commodity time is. As Nesmith put it himself, to Rolling Stone, he realizes it’s “the beginning of the end” and there won’t be too many more opportunities to present his music to a paying audience.

It’s valid to argue the hard work of Dolenz, Tork and especially Jones ensures there will be an audience willing to pay top dollar to see him perform but you can’t blame a musician for wanting to make contact with an audience that is enthusiastic to see him do so live in person. Let’s also remember the other three Monkees happily used many of Nesmith’s songs in performance for years —”Listen to the Band,” “Circle Sky,” “Mary, Mary” to name but a few.

The real question then is why did Nesmith take so long and, more importantly, did he have a feud with Jones that prevented him from touring previously? We may never know the answer to the latter question. All evidence points to the fact that the two had a bad falling out over the 1997 UK tour. Much of that might be chalked up to artistic differences. Davy Jones was a show business professional who delivered entertainment like Dominos delivers pizza—always pipping hot and on-time. Nesmith has been more like a truffle, something that turned up rarely, often when you least expected it.

Pizza and truffles are two very different foods. And Jones and Nesmith were two very different people with two very different skill sets and artistic visions. Looking back it’s impossible to believe they would
have formed a band in real life; in fact, both seem to have been born to be solo performers. It’s only by a cosmic coincidence that they ended up playing bandmates in a made-for-TV band.

Then there are the personal differences. There’s no doubt that Nesmith often acted like the leader of the Monkees off-stage even though Jones was, by far, the most popular. And Nesmith also decided when he wanted to break off with the Monkees, something Jones never did.

On more than one occasion Jones let his personal feelings about Nesmith slip out in public, accusing him of being aloof and selfish. Nesmith, to his credit, never attacked back. After Jones suddenly passed away Nesmith wrote a fond reminiscence that helped many grieving Monkees fans deal with the devastating news. But you have to figure that Jones’ insults were hurtful and may have contributed, partially, to the fact the two never reunited.

A source with close ties to the group recently informed me that Jones had vetoed an appearance by Nesmith at the group’s show in Los Angeles in 2011, although I have not been able to independently verify that fact. I also understand that Dolenz, Nesmith and Tork had agreed to perform a one-off show of “Headquarters” material before Jones died and that Jones had not been invited to appear at this event.
There were a lot of tumultuous behind-the-scenes struggles behind the group’s 2011 tour . It ended
abruptly and, from all accounts, unhappily. I hope to investigate the circumstances behind these rifts—which seem to revolve around money—and perhaps release a revised edition of “Monkee Business” after the latest tour has finished.

But, in the meantime, let’s celebrate what we have: three living Monkees who are eager to get back on the road and reaffirm their legacy. This is a gift for any true Monkees fan, an opportunity, perhaps for the last time, to witness an American entertainment institution doing what it does best: entertaining us. Should we really ask for more than that?



8 Responses to “Monkee Historian Defends Nesmith’s Decision to Tour”
  1. monkees4eva says:

    Speculating won’t do anything to help curb the negativity and animosity people seem to have towards Nez. So they MIGHT have had disagreements. So Davy MIGHT have been the thorn in everyone’s side at one time or another. Well he isn’t here anymore and there is no need to speculate after the fact. I am so so so glad that the other three have decided to carry on. I am a Davy fan for life. I watched the episode ‘Success Story’ again yesterday and still cried when he might have had to leave the guys. But Michael has so much talent, it would be a shame if he didn’t share it with his fans one last time. I’m hoping it won’t be the last time. But you just never know. I refuse to think that Papa Nez is so callous a person that he would do this out of spite or simply because the bad apple has fallen out of the barrel. It’s just ridiculous and any real fan knows better.

  2. shirleyc says:

    I am sick of all the negativity surrounding Mike’s decision to tour. I am so happy to be able to see what I consider my only chance to see them in November. I grew up and life became busy and I must admit The Monkees in a sense ended up on the shelf, but when I heard they were touring this part of me that had seemed to disappear resurfaced and a happy part of my (80s) childhood has come back to life. I would like to think that Mike’s life became busy too, and well now he is now taking the time to reconnect to a time that may have not been so great at times and make it into something that is memorable. I know it will be memorable for me. I know Davy will be there in spirit, I mean he really is the reason they are getting together this time. I love all of The Monkees!

  3. geegee54 says:

    I too don’t care behind Michael’s decision to tour. If The Monkees were ‘coming to my town’ guaranteed I would be there. I love and will always love Davy . He will always live in my heart.

  4. fancypants says:

    Well said, Eric. Great article. I am a huge fan of your writing, mostly because you look at things through a a journalistic lens as opposed to a fawning fan boy’s perspective.

  5. destes says:

    I think Eric hit it right on the head with this article. I was saying something to the same affect on my facebook page when someone was trying to say that they played friends on the TV show but were not friends in real life (Davy and Michael.
    They may have had there diffrennces thru the years but when there is a loss of someone that has had part of your life that was an experience like these guys had and look at how it has turned out for them after all of these years. I mean after 45 years and they are selling out shows within a day!! I’m just wondering what Paul and Ringo are thinking of this:)

  6. jock123 says:

    To be honest, I think Eric is stirring it up to gain publicity for his book; Nez and Peter and Micky have all commented on the tour, and I believe them, so I’m sorry, it’s not really “defending” Mike to suddenly bring up rumours and heresay of old scores and rifts, especially as Davy isn’t around to give his side of things, and at a time when it seems that whatever has happened in the past, the guys are letting bygones be bygones.

    I was happy to be able to see the four Monkees tour the U.K. in the Nineties; happy to see Davy, Micky and Peter at the Albert Hall last year; I’m going to a couple of Nez’s solo shows in London (and am really looking forward to them), and I hope the fans in the U.S. just enjoy the opportunity to have their own retrospective celebration when the latest iteration of the group appear in a few months.

  7. RandyScouseGit says:

    I was very surprised when I noticed all the criticism towards Mike for this tour. By that time I already had tickets and was so excited because Mike is my favorite and I just want to see him play music so badly! I feel like people should realize this is a really big thing and not to speculate it so much. I’d rather not discuss whether or not Davy was fighting with anyone at this point this is a very untimely place for that. Can’t wait to see you in November Mike, Micky and Peter!!

  8. smjblessing says:

    Nesmith is contradictory, they’re idiots for only going on 12 dates. What’s kind of mentality is that ?
    Dolenz: Well, you know guys I’m balding by the minute. Let me record another album of non-original material.
    Tork: Music is my passion, but I release and perform music every 30 years.
    Nesmith: Well, guys I’m afraid my schedule is only open for so long. And I already have enough money.

    What kind of an analogy is Davy Jones delivering talent like Dominos delivers pizza. That’s like insulting Jones on the spot. Dominos isn’t the best pizza or the best delivery. I should know I had their pizza last night ! Nesmith doesn’t even regret not touring last year. It makes no sense !! That’s like The Beatles waiting to reunite only if Lennon dies.

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