Sunday, May 31, 2015

Outré Intro: The Monkees (1966 - 1968)

Due to the ubiquitous nature of TV reruns in the 1970s, I grew up knowing all about The Monkees (1966 - 1968) before I knew anything at all about The Beatles. 

My sister and I shared a Monkees album when I couldn't have been but six or seven. We both loved it.  I mean...loved it.  We put the album on the record player for hours and danced around our family room.  My favorite Monkee was Micky.

I didn't finally discover the Beatles till I was about ten years old, when I started listening to the group's albums on cassette, on a cross-country trip.  

And I didn't see A Hard Day's Night (1964) -- arguably the tonal and visual inspiration for The Monkees TV program -- until I was fifteen or so.

It's sort of weird to think about all this today: encountering these 1960s music acts in what is, undeniably, the wrong order. 

Today I judge The Monkees with a sense of warm nostalgia. The TV series and albums are a part of a golden childhood, I guess you could say.  

The Beatles, meanwhile, are a group that I encountered in my own way, and learned about on my own initiative (with a little help from my Dad).  Therefore I feel confident (in a critical and historical sense) about their value as artists.

But I still get a kick out of and love The Monkees on TV. 

It does sting a little, having seen and admired A Hard Day's Night -- probably one of the ten or fifteen greatest films of the 20th century -- and realizing that The Monkees, at least at first, was a corporate-created knock-off, designed to capitalize on George, Paul, John and Ringo's success on a weekly basis. 

The derivative aspect of the series -- four sixties era young guys in a band, going on irrationally exuberant comedic adventures -- is so craven that it's tough for me to overlook when assessing the episodes today.

I'm sure other fans of The Monkees feel differently, and I respect that.

The following introductory montage to The Monkees reveals a bit of what I'm talking about. The imagery is absurd and irreverent; a bit surreal and a bit whimsical. It showcases the four members of the band in all kinds of costumes, in all kinds of scrapes.

The band-mates ride in cars, on bikes, on motorcycles and even a skateboard. They dress as cowboys, as cave-men, as matadors and so forth.  

The montage is a colorful, kinetic display of unfettered, un-repressed, imaginative youth.  

Indeed, the montage could easily pass as an early-1980s music video, for all the linear sense it makes. There's a surreal angle (like the first shot, of Davy's head hitting a bell...) to it as well.

So, in short order, we meet each of the Monkees.  First up is Davy.

Then Micky.

Now we're back to the group doing zany things...

And we meet Peter, next.

And finally, Mike.

Here's the montage in living color:

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