Tuesday, December 30, 2014

No Monkeein' Around; Papa Nez Turns 72

I'm taking a page out George's blog, Jim McLean's Rabbit, to mark a birthday. There are so many reasons to celebrate the first 72 years of Mike Nesmith's life, not the least of which is his pioneering work in television, video, film and music video, and he's an author to boot, but it's his musical talents that have had a hold on me since I was a child.

I see Nesmith's music in three distinct parts. There's the Monkees, of course. Nesmith's songwriting contributions during that period are grossly underrated because, well, it was the Monkees, and I'm not going to get doubters to change their opinions on that one (but they are wrong). Some of my favorite Nesmith songs include "Mary Mary," where Mickey Dolenz took the lead, and "Circle Sky" from 'Head.' Tops for me with Nesmith on lead vocals would be "What Am I Doin' Hangin' 'Round?" He didn't pen that one, however. So, today's pick from that period is "You Just May Be the One," which he did write and sing, from the 1967 album 'Headquarters.'

After the Monkees, Nesmith recorded several wonderful country-rock albums. 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'' from 1972 is my go-to from the era. He wrote it while still a member of the Monkees. The formula is simple: Nesmith on acoustic guitar and Red Rhodes on pedal steel. "Tomorrow & Me" is not only my favorite from the album, but it's my favorite Nesmith song. Period.

After his country-rock phase, around 1977, Nesmith began becoming involved in music video. He created a promotional video for his song "Rio," from the album 'From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing.' This would later become part of a one-hour program of music videos and comedy shorts he put together called "Elephant Parts." I'm just repeating what is already well known, but the "PopClips" music-video show Nesmith assembled for Nickelodeon in 1980 and 1981 was MTV before there was MTV. This was America's chance to see videos from Madness, Squeeze, Split Enz and other cutting-edge artists otherwise ignored by the mainstream. Nesmith's own music was on display as well. During this period, his sound was much less country and much more eclectic. Enjoy "Rio," a song that did quite well in the UK and Australia.

I know there must be a few of you out there that share my affinity for Nez because my Michael Nesmith Week series in 2011 still stands as my all-time most viewed posts. Happy Birthday, Michael. You continue to entertain and inspire.

"You Just May Be the One" (from 'Headquarters')
"Tomorrow & Me" (from 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin')
"Rio" (from 'From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing')

7 comments:

george said...

Always good to see a musical birthday written about. It's easy to be dismiisve about the Monkees but there was a bit more to them than them than a lot of people think.

charity chic said...

George is right there.I still fiand myself playing The Monkees from time to time.Much better than The Beatles!

Scott said...

Always felt The Monkees never got the credit they deserved. As CC rightly says, much better than The Beatles.

Uncle E said...

Always loved the Monkees, but only came to appreciate how groundbreaking his solo work was and remains, recently. No mention of Repo Man, a cult classic if there ever was one? Am I mistaken that he was a part of that?

Brian said...

Hey E. Yes, he produced that one, Tapeheads and a couple of others. Repo Man deserves mention among his many accomplishments for sure. You and I have talked about that film many times, and I bet this will not be the last mention either.

Brian said...

Scott, CC and George, Give Tomorrow & Me a listen. I will convert you fellas yet!

Scott said...

All the best for 2015 Brian. hope you and yours have a great New Year....