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The Beatles and the Monkees

June 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Eric Lefcowitz

Comparing the Monkees to the Beatles is one of those arguments where it’s best to tread lightly unless you have some thick skin. It’s like comparing apples and oranges or, perhaps more to the point, Apple and Microsoft.

Of the two, the Beatles are definitely Apple (before Steve Jobs hijacked the record label’s name they literally were Apple). That makes the Monkees Microsoft—popular, user-friendly but perennially runners-up when it comes to the cool factor.

The scales have tilted quite a bit in recent years and lately the coolness factor has begun to swing in the Monkees direction. It helps that all four are still alive. Also, anything that’s been subjected to ridicule for over 45 years eventually ends up being viewed as an object of fascination. I’m pretty sure mullet haircuts will be considered cool some day (although I’m not sure I want to live in that world).

Anyway in the beginning, the coolness factor of the Monkees was nil among Beatles fans. But, interestingly, the Beatles, themselves, were fans of the group. They admired the fact that four guys off the streets could create a TV show, along with a couple of well-crafted pop songs, every week.

Perhaps they were even complimented. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all. Also, they could relate to the demands of a money-making machine. If anybody knew what it was like to be inside the bubble of a pop phenomenon it was Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.

Check out this web page called Fab Fourum where you can listen to Paul McCartney defend the Monkees back in 1967: You can also click on an interesting discussion I participated in a few months back on the comparison between the Beatles and the Monkees.

Yes the Beatles could have given the Monkees the cold shoulder but evidence points to the contrary. When the Monkees traveled to England on their promotional tours, the Beatles extended many social courtesies in their direction. Nesmith was even invited to Abbey Road during the infamous recording session for the Beatles’ magnum opus “A Day in the Life.”

By the same token, the Monkees took pains to give the Beatles credit wherever they could, tipping their cap in the group’s direction on “The Monkees on Tour” episode. On one episode of the TV series “Sgt. Pepper” could be seen spinning from a turntable. In “Head,” Tork could be heard whistling “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Was it ironic that the Monkees chose the Beatles hometown, Liverpool, to kick off their 45th anniversary tour or was it just another tip of the cap?

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