Friday, February 22, 2019

Peter Tork 1942-2019

If you preferred the Monkees to the Beatles, who could blame you?

The reason why the Monkees were successful is because the Beatles started to become “difficult.” They went from straightforward pop songs to experimental psychedelia, and into that stepped the so-called “fake band” that was designed to milk an American audience that couldn’t get enough of the British Invasion.

I preferred the Monkees, of course, because I was exposed to them as something that was already finished. I grew up in the 70s, and we experienced The Monkees as a syndicated TV show. There was more of it to consume because of that. You could watch the shows and be entertained in a way that was more immediate. There wasn’t really the same thing for the Beatles, who were above syndicated TV. For everyone seeing them in prime time in the late 1960s, I guess they were something else. You could find their records in their shops, next to the ones everyone else was putting out. Why be snobbish about it? Plenty of people liked Herman’s Hermits more than the Beatles and the Stones. We have allowed the likes of Rolling Stone to change history on us. Pop music used to be fun. There didn’t have to be a hierarchy of things, a list of the best records of all time, a bullshit accounting of what was good and what should be ignored.

If you completely re-examine everything, and ignore what Jann Wenner incorporated has to say about the popular music of the 1960s, you come away with the belief that it’s okay to like what you like. The hell with whether it’s cool or not.

Well, the Monkees were real artists, real musicians, and really real, man. They were exactly that—the real deal, and they never got the credit they deserved for trying to make art at a time when selling out was frowned upon. They could have given the people what they wanted, but they refused. They became more difficult than the Beatles! But that’s okay.

Peter Tork was in the mix for all of it. His contributions were immense to the group’s success. But he was his own person and his own character. He wasn’t just some actor hired to be part of a rip-off TV show. He wrote songs, played a banjo in Greenwich Village, and lived the life of a Sixties musician.

This touching profile will tell you all you need to know. Peter was never the pain in the ass that Mike Nesmith became, and that’s okay. You can love the Monkees more than the Beatles and you can forgive them all for being “difficult” because that’s what art is. Art that isn’t difficult doesn’t last.

The Monkees? They have lasted.

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