While other young boys wanted to be spacemen or firefighters, I wanted to be in a band just like the Monkees. I’d write music and have wacky adventures. That was my fantasy.
I taught myself how to play a passable guitar and piano and later was in a number of bands (playing bass), writing and performing my own songs. Never had that many wacky adventures, though…
About a year ago, I teamed up with popular culture historian Mark Arnold and wrote a book about the Monkees’ music, which was published by Bear Manor Media.
So you can guess that Peter Tork’s death yesterday was a blow to my childhood. It wasn’t completely unexpected — he had stayed out of public for the last year for undisclosed medical reasons. Still, it hits you.
I can go into detail about his career but there are plenty of places where you can read that. I’ll just point out that Peter was the most talented musician of the group, and was very frustrated by the fact that he thought he had been hired to be in a television band but they didn’t allow him to play on any of the records (at first). Later, his keyboard playing especially made a big difference to the songs (see “Daydream Believer,” “Randy Scouse Git” and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” and notice how important the keys are to those songs).
He was not the best singer and not the best songwriter. Still, he wrote a few really great songs for the Monkees. Let’s review:
FOR PETE’S SAKE was the song he wrote that got used as the closing theme to the show the second year. Peter plays the distinctive guitar riff that opens the song. You all know this one: “In this generation…”
CAN YOU DIG IT? was a wonderful hippie anthem that was part of the Monkees’ film “Head.”
Also from “Head” is LONG TITLE: DO I HAVE TO DO THIS ALL OVER AGAIN? (and now you get the title of our book, too). Peter gets to sing on this one!
Later, during one of the Monkees reunions, he wrote GETTIN’ IN, an 80s pop ballad that would have fit right in with “Ghostbusters” and “Pop Musik” had it been released as a single.
Around this same time, he had a great song called MGBGT, but there’s only live versions of the Monkees performing it.
He wrote more, but these are my favorites.
So here’s to Peter! (And if you want to read more about the Monkees’ music, I have a suggestion…)