Adventures of a University Finalist

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Everybody's Got Something to Hide 'Cept Me and Peter Tork


The Monkees - The Definitive Monkees (Rhino, 2002)

The Monkees - (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
The Monkees - For Pete's Sake
The Monkees - Randy Scouse Git
The Monkees - Words
The Monkees - Cuddly Toy

Apologies for no post on Monday. Was in Glasgow. Got my results for my entire University carrer and am pleased/vexed to announce that I received a 2:2 degree in Law with Politics at the Univeristy of Durham. This is mainly due to my spending the entire 2nd year eating pasta, playing Prince of Persia (or Burnout 2 dependent on my mood) and going out. Yes, I was an idiot then. As a result of this news I have finished off half a bottle of wine with my lovely lady and thus must seek forgiveness for the rest of this post.
Why was '(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone' covered by both the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols? Because it's the greatest garage single ever released. Fuck '96 Tears', 'Lies' and 'Stryichnine'. 'Steppin' Stone' should have been the first port of call for all the teeny boppers currently polluting the airwaves including the Cheeto-bearing Mrs Spears, Jackass-banging Mrs Simpson and the omnipresent victim of all cultural viruses infecting this gigantic stress ball known as Earth Ms Lohan. Lavigne would be included in this list but her nouveau punk chic is so unbearably grating that it is probably best not to give her fuel for her continued existence.
The other day, 'I Love Rock n' Roll' began blasting out from a revival DJ at the local discotek (sic) creating an orgy of dancing, kissing and off-key singing. Why of all songs has this been chosen as an iconic anthem with its shallow Bob Seger-lovin' bar room prejudices winking the proverbial eye at classic rock's sagnant traditions. "Put another dime in the jukebox baby"? With a quarter of the balls of the Runaways 'Cherry Bomb' and its repetitive riff destroying brain cells faster than a quart of JD, what does such an evil basilisk offer to the general public? Nothing is the answer. 'Stepping' Stone' is the antithesis to such whimsical offerings as Joan Jetts. It's sparkling organ line instantly draws you in before the band begins singing the rambunctious chorus extending "I'm" towards the realm of a Scouse growl or the mewing of a wounded sacred cow. This is an instant shout against the De Barres establishment of the groupie and the hanger-on - the most rightfully despised and loved oxymoronic institution still present within the insittutional walls of rock n' roll. The Monkees are keeping the red snapper on the table, babe, and you're going to know that straight from the off.
And that's just the intro! The body blow before the devastating molar dislodging right uppercut that is Mickey Dolenz's snarling vocal. I don't care that the Monkees were a front for a bunch of faceless session musicians to start with. Is Glen Campbell ridiculed for his partenrship with the great Jimmy Webb? No. And why? Because together they created, with Webb's simple words and Campbell's mink tongue, some of the greatest songs ever to be placed on record. The same goes for Dolenz's vocal track on this record. Boyce/Hart may have created the words but Dolenz delivers them with gusto despite his refusal to descend into comic spits and curses. It's the suburban boy gone bad and you better get out his way. When it finally get to the point when he shouts "Oh no girl not me" you've fallen in love with a song that you have no right to. It's acerbic guitar, pounding toms, and echoing backing vocals make it an essential addition to any Nuggets' themed compilation.
Peter Tork has a co-write on 'For Pete's Sake', the opening track on Side B of their third album 'Headquarters' and it is superb. Dolenz yet again contributes lead vocals and hearing it you realise how fully he encompassed the character of 'Steppin' Stone'. Now, he becomes the clean crooner within the song's pop 'My Generation' framework with its simplistic free love equation equalling freedom. It's rhetoric is simplistic but that never seems to detract from any specific element of the song. Also, placed in conjunction with the song's title, it takes on a charming form looking for a kind of understanding that it can't believe that others haven't realised. A 60's 'Do You Realise?' if you will but rather than shouting "Your eyes are beautiful! Accept the bloody compliment!" it develops into into a plea for rationality than never descends ito the illogicallity of Sir Bob (supposed purveyors of all that is good and righteous).
'Randy Scouse Git' and 'Cuddly Toy' both receive a hoozah for their psychedelic meanderings and Nilsson covers respectively showing how diverse the 'Fab Four' (I can use that term if I want. When it finally becomes trademarked THEN you can sue me) could be. From dense yet well constructed musical experimentations to child like ditties they excelled that everything. Even pseudo-scatting. The Monkees invented Americana with 'You Just May Be the One'! It may not be strictly true (it could do with a slightly stripped down arrangement) but it still sounds bloody impressive. Hands up if you want hear Calexico cover the Monkees? That's what I thought. I'd better start an internet petition.
So we come to the last song 'Words', b-side of the eternally misunderstand vitriolic blast of 'Pleasant Valley Sunday'. It's chamber-pop sensibilities create a phenomenal tune that points toward complex Wilsonian pop arrangements but never falls to twee sentimentalities bluntly hammering away at its avarice fuelled subject. Every time the title is cried in this song I get artic chills down my spine. This song deserves a hell of a lot of recognition that no one seems whant to give it because of its associations with a band that are unviersally regaled as frauds. Well, I'm saying it now. If you put this song in the blue corner and a lot of new garage tunes by bands like The Strokes and The Libertines, the ref would have to stop the fight before it even reached the second round. The dual lead vocal parts, the deep echo, the bass trembling as it is consumed with hate and fear, the shuffling drums... it is magnificent. Wait a minute, what's that? Perusing the credits I've discovered something fascinating. Tork, Dolenz, Jones and Nesmith are listed as all playing the lead parts on this song. Hahahahaha. Well maybe that's 60s pop's greatest joke (other than Nancy Sinatra's newly recovered fame based on a spare death ballad). The Monkees rocked! Learn for yourselves 'cause I'm officially spent and off to consume some Lambs Navy's best rum.

Buy - The Monkees - The Definitive...