We lost an unjustly unsung pioneer Friday. Mike Nesmith, most famous as one of The Monkees, a manufactured teen band/TV show of the 1960s who managed to transcend their less-than-pure origins to become influential in many areas.
Nesmith was the de-facto leader of the band, the one who fought for the band’s right to play their own instruments and write their own songs, and he continued to lead after the group’s initial split following the cancellation of the TV Show.
I have to mention here that the TV show was a pretty huge personal influence on a developing PopCulteer, with the blend of music, corny humor and wild surrealism, it was different than anything else on TV. It certainly prepared me for a life of liking really cool weird and funny stuff.
While the band had to fight for their musical automony, they had pure comedic chemistry on screen from the start. Equal parts “A Hard Day’s Night” era Beatles and classic Marx Brothers, The Monkees paved the way for the more experimental television that followed. Everything from Laugh-In to Saturday Night Live to The Young Ones owes a debt to the choreographed anarchy of The Monkees.
Post-Monkees, Nesmith sort of invented country-rock and Americana with The First National Band, realized the commercial potential of music videos and is credited by some as inventing MTV, and produced cult movies like Repo Man and Tapeheads.
Nesmith played his final show with his fellow Monkee, Micky Dolenz, on November 14.
Above you see a video I posted a few years back in this space. It’s the 16mm pilot for The Monkees from 1965. Below we have a random episode of The Monkees, so you can see some of what all the fuss is about.