smith: We have another dirty little secret. A Monkees song.
depp: Oh, “Daydream Believer.” It’s a great song. I don’t care what anyone says.
smith: “Daydream Believer” came on the radio when we were driving to the set. It was a moment of total happiness. It’s a pure, happy little song. What bad thing can you say about it?
depp: I know, I know. It’s O.K. to like “Daydream Believer.” There’s nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure from time to time. Know what I mean? It’s “Daydream Believer.” I’m justifying my own flag.
— Patti Smith and Johnny Depp (The Crowded Mind of Johnny Depp, Vanity Fair, 2010)
People were a bit bemused when we said we were going to The Monkees concert. “The ‘Hey, hey we’re The Monkees’ guys? They’re still around?”
They’re actually not all still around, Davy Jones having died in 2012. Peter Tork is still active in the music business—too active to go on this particular nostalgia tour. Leaving Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith to perform in what was dubbed “The Monkees Presents: The Mike and Micky Show”.
The show was to feature the hits, along with some “deep album tracks.” Or from my perspective, songs I know along with songs I don’t know.
Because I’m not a deep, hardcore Monkees fan. Like most people my age, I suspect, I watched the show as a kid, and then again when it re-ran in the 1980s. I own The Monkees Greatest Hits album. So when I saw the show announced, it piqued my interest, but I wasn’t sure about attending. Then Centre in the Square sweetened the deal by offering Jean a photographer’s pass:
It turned out that said pass could only be exercised during the first three songs, which Jean reports is not a lot of time! But we stayed for the whole thing, and were suitably entertained.
The two original Monkees members were joined by nine other musicians covering guitar, keyboards, bass, drums (Micky did not play drums, but did joke about having taught the drummer all he knew), maracas, fiddle / banjo, and backup vocals. Mike and Micky took turns taking lead vocals, both proving that not everyone in their 70s loses their vocal abilities. They both sounded very good.
They did not do as much chit-chatting as I thought they might, perhaps weary of telling their history of being TV show cast-mates who became a real band—fascinating though I find that story. The songs I knew in the first half included “Last Train to Clarksville”; ”Mary, Mary”; and (yay!) “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. The ones I didn’t offered more genre variety than I had been expecting (which was pure pop); in particular, a number had something of a country sound. But not in bad way.
(No idea, actually, if some Monkees songs always had a bit of country flair, or if they were reinterpreted the songs that way on this tour.)
Near the end of the first set, Micky did start talking a little more, asking if anyone had ever seen the movie Head and if so, did we have any idea what it was about?
Head was surrealistic, R-rated movie featuring The Monkees in the wake of their TV success. It was a huge flop. But at some point—probably in the 90s?—I got intrigued enough about to seek it out. I believe it required tracking down a rental copy from the alternative DVD store. (Now? Appears you can just watch the whole thing on YouTube.) It was so weird, but in such a fascinating way—they totally deconstructed themselves! And, it had a great soundtrack!
So I was very happy to hear a number of songs from the movie, including my favourite, “The Porpoise Song”. Those were followed by “Me and Magelena”.
Something else that surprised me during the first set was that one or the other of Mike and Micky would sometimes wander off-stage when the other was singing. (Mike started joking about that at one point: “Where are you going? Hey, come back!”) So it was nice that second set started with a focus on just the two of them. Then with each song, more and more band members rejoined them on stage.
Did they do “Daydream Believer”, a song famously sung by Davy Jones? Of course, they did, with Micky starting it off, then handing it over to us, the crowd, to take over. On a week with so much disturbing news (“tender-age shelters”?!?), we needed that moment of pure happiness that comes from singing along to “Daydream Believer”. And we also got “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “I’m a Believer”, for good measure. These guys earned their standing ovation.