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The Monkees at the Mayo: True confessions in Morristown

June 14, 2011 by  
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Somewhere, buried in a drawer or packing trunk, along with NASA pictures of the Apollo program, I have a postcard from the Monkees.

From their fan club, actually.

The postcard isn’t in color, and it’s not black-and-white. It has this reddish tint, sepia almost.

They are singing and playing, even though in those days, as rumor had it, their instruments were played by others. (Wonder who dubbed Davy’s tambourine? Glen Campbell? Neil Young?)


Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees at the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


As revelations go, this postcard does not rank up there with, say, Weiner-gate. Yet I admit some trepidation, realizing that such a public confession precludes my hoping for another date with anyone born after the Johnson administration.

Still, the back story is important for purposes of reviewing the Monkees in Morristown on June 9.

Because the show was not about them. It was about us. The people who packed the Mayo Performing Arts Center to trigger some rusty synapses before they shut down for good.

Everyone in there had a Monkees story. Here is mine.

First, it’s essential to realize that reality has very little to do with any of this. Entertainment is about fantasy and illusion and escapism.

The Monkees began as the “prefab four,” a made-for-TV knockoff of the Fab Four, a real-life band.

“Whatever happened to those guys?” Mickey Dolenz wisecracked about the Beatles, before launching into Randy Scouse Git, a song he wrote after partying with England’s “other Royal Family.


From 1966 to 1968, the Monkees beamed into America’s living rooms every week as a musical sitcom. They were on lunchboxes. They were on the radio. One of their albums supposedly charted longer than any Beatles record in the ’60s.

(Every group from that era boasts of outselling the Beatles for 20 minutes…which raises the question: When, exactly, did the Liverpudlians sell all those gazillions of records?)

In our family, the Beatles always will be number one. They were so different that even a kindergartner got hooked– bad news for neighbors forced to endure the little twerp banging on a backyard trash can wailing I Want to Hold Your Hand.

That 45 single (a distant ancestor of the MP3, kids), with its potent flip side, I Saw Her Standing There, joined Peter & the Wolf, The Singing Nun, Mary Poppins and Petula Clark’s Downtown on what must rank among the strangest playlists of all time.

These records blared endlessly from a crude stereo with a cast-iron business end that practically showered sparks from the vinyl. Many thousands of dollars of audio gear later, I can honestly say nothing ever sounded as good.

The challenging thing about the Beatles was their remoteness. Scarcity was part of their marketing campaign. Concerts ran 20 minutes. In the days before e-blasts and social media, a little kid was lucky to find out about a TV appearance. If you missed the broadcast, that was it. No YouTube replays. There was a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon series. Otherwise, access amounted to scanning the magazine racks, spinning the bedside AM dial as long as you could stay awake, and cajoling your grandmother to take you to each year’s Beatles movie. (R.I.P., Grandma. We’ll always have ‘Help!’)

The Monkees were more accessible. Every week, you knew exactly where to find them. They served goofy fun and catchy songs written by pros like Neil Diamond, Carole King, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and later, by the Monkees themselves:

(Theme from) The Monkees…Last Train to Clarksville…Pleasant Valley Sunday…I’m a Believer…(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone…Daydream Believer…Mary, Mary…She…For Pete’s Sake…The Girl that I Knew Somewhere… Papa Gene’s Blues…I Wanna Be Free…

These songs, and many more, formed much of the soundtrack of my youth. They drove me and my siblings into a cave-like duplex basement in Winchester, Mass., for “concerts” with plastic guitars, bongos and wheezy organs. Thank God there were no Flip Cams.

At the Mayo on Thursday, the audience heard reasonable facsimiles of all those Monkees tunes with the help of a seven-piece backing band that assisted Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones with the high notes.



via The Monkees at the Mayo: True confessions in Morristown : Morristown Green.

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