Fandom Lenses

Life as viewed through silliness, Fandom as seen through Reality


Leave a comment

We Made Him Laugh! (The Monkees in Tulsa –AGAIN!!!—June 30, 2016)

2016-06-30 19.58.23

My pink Party Hat. Which will become relevant to the story.

I didn’t expect to take Melanie to the neighborhood grocery store, but there we were, grabbing sodas and snacks to take back to her hotel room after the show, and then… I remembered. We were in the spot where I was when I found out Anissa, the Frodis Femme who made me laugh, had died. Well, not exactly in the same spot. I got Cin’s message standing over by the eggs. But close enough. And I wouldn’t know Melanie if Anissa hadn’t died. Because Anissa died, and then PTFB (maybe even PT himself, though the logical part of my brain doubts it) posted a sympathy message and then I dove back down into the Monkee hole to process my grief and I met a cool lady who was writing a book about a TV show about a band and then I offered to help fact-check said book and we became good friends in the process and I brought her on to Zilch shortly after I joined the team and Cin and Mich and I named her a Frodis Femme and then she came down to see the Monkees play IN MY TOWN.

All because of what happened over by the eggs.

I shared all this with Melanie. There was a long, weird pause as we stood near the chips, dips, and root beer, pondering the connection between the loss of an old friend and the gaining of a new one. And because that was way too many feels to comprehend while buying a case of diet soda and some cookies, we promptly changed the subject, checked out, and hightailed it down the block to the Hard Rock to be there for the rest of the Zilchers who were coming to the meetup.

~~~~~

The official events of the evening started with a Zilch Nation Meetup, at a casino restaurant next door to the box office of the venue. Melanie and I hung out with a dozen local members of the podcast community, chatting away about Monkees and everything else. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore that there are so many Monkees fans, even in Oklahoma, but it does. I thought of the lonely, confused girl I used to be, and hoped with all my might that she knew what was occurring this evening.

The Zilch buttons Ken made were a hit, and we handed them out throughout dinner and to fans waiting in the line at the door. Thanks to the casino presale, I was able to get some awesome seats in the third row, just off the left aisle (this will become relevant shortly), and we were pretty much in the sweet spot as far as distance from the stage. In addition to Melanie, Jen, and I, my friend Tamara and her husband Dustin just happened to get the seats right next to ours and right on the aisle. As always, the pre-show playlist was lovely, including Love’s what I want from the Good Times! Bonus tracks, and what we were pretty sure was Neil Diamond singing Love to Love. Unfortunately the pre-show goodies also included the video normally played at intermission, which was a strong clue that we would be getting the shorter casino-friendly setlist, which indeed we did. Fie, FIE upon the Tulsa Hard Rock! I’ll think twice before seeing another show there, although the venue itself is quite nice with a good sound system and nice big TV screens.

No matter, even a compact 90 minute set provides plenty of time for good tunes AND good times. But I’ll get to that in due course. Here’s my recap of the show:

Listen to the Band: Nez still does it better. But not by as much as you might think.😉

Last Train to Clarksville: Cleveland comments from earlier this month still pertain, but I was glad to see my hometown crowd getting into the groove.😀

That Was Then, This Is Now: SOO…MANY….80s…FAN….FEELS… (Oh, and Wayne played an incredible solo, as is his habit🙂 )

Saturday’s Child: The first song of the night featuring Micky on drums, I was struck by Rich and Micky’s skills in a way I hadn’t been before. Being closer and at a different angle than I’d been in a while, I had an excellent view of how Micky and Rich drummed in unison, with the former handling the basic beat and vocals and Rich handling the fancy stuff. This kind of performance should by all rights be a flam-ridden mess, but the two of them stay locked in unison song after song, night after night. It’s the sort of minor technical detail that we don’t think about in these shows, but yet more proof of just how much skill is up there on stage.

Your Auntie Grizelda: And then Peter did Grizelda, magnificently as always. If you were not persuaded by my #teamgrizelda soapbox speech in my last review, then you will never be. Onward. (side note—watching Peter sing Grizelda next to Melanie is almost as much fun as watching Peter sing Grizelda next to my husband. If only Kevin had come too… *sigh*

She: If it’s wrong that most of my attention was on Micky subtly testing the mic stand’s center of gravity for his traditional leaning trick, then I don’t want to be right. (at least he got some use out of those physics courses he took back in the day?)

She Makes Me Laugh: Now I’ve “met” all 3 living Monkees, all in official, stage-managed grip-grin-and-autograph circumstances. I have also had moments with each that I will treasure forever—from Peter Tork walking into our hotel breakfast buffet as I happened to glance at the doorway (nearly making me choke on my omelet in the process), to making Michael Nesmith crack multiple apparently genuine smiles at my conversation reception to dancing with my husband as Micky sang our song, As We Go Along.

But this…thank God Roseanne Cardoza got video evidence from the other side of the stage. Because not only would you not believe this without it, I’m not sure WE would believe it. the weirdness starts around 1:15.

Now, Micky’s obviously been working hard on the new songs, as this was even more solid than in Cleveland a few weeks ago. For whatever reason, he was over on our side of the stage, singing the first few verses. And for some reason he was looking in our general direction. And for some reason around the 1:15 mark, Melanie and I simultaneously reached up and doffed our pink Party hats (she was in the cowboy hat, I was in the fedora), just as Micky was singing about, well, Pink Party Hats.

And Micky cracked up mid-line and then POINTED RIGHT AT US.

You read that right.

Melanie and I (and probably Tamara too) made Micky Dolenz Laugh.

DURING “SHE MAKES ME LAUGH”.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.

I’m sure the rest of the song was quite lovely, but frankly I was dumbstruck in my seat, feeling rather like I did back in 2012 in Bay City when I looked up from my omelet at the exact right moment and saw a bedheaded Peter Tork amble in for a bowl of Granola. Because apparently I live a life now where stuff like that happens every so often.

A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You: I recovered from THAT just in time to hear Peter unveil a new-to-me joke! (“If you don’t recognize this song, you’re probably in the wrong venue.”). And so it was.

The Girl I Knew Somewhere: Don’t tell Nez, but Micky sings this better. Sorry, have heard them both do it multiple times, it’s incontrovertible truth. Jen and I sang along all the counterpoint lines, and not for the first time, I wish we’d known each other as kids. We were both lonely, awkward Monkee nerds who thought we were along in the wasteland of 1980s middle America, but we were actually much closer to each other than we knew. We’ve been making up for lost time in the several years since Tumblr brought us together, but if only… *sigh*

Also, I think I’ve mentioned, but Monkees Get Out More Dirt looks AMAZING restored. That blu-ray can get here any old time…

You Bring the Summer: Y’all are familiar with the new video, right? If not, this is required viewing.

Because the band did this song to the video, almost exactly in unison. They were maybe a second or so off at the end, but I can’t believe they even got this close. I don’t know if they use a click track or what, but truly magnificent for a song they played live for the first time like 3 weeks prior.

Shades of Gray:

13590326_10209773759406379_2176929921236363849_n

Courtesy Paul Undersinger–actually from the Town Hall NYC show but so poignant I had to use it…

Thank the lord I got the near miss with the PTSD meltdown out of my system in Cleveland—this time I was able to enjoy this song for the wonderful poignant classic it is. Every time I’ve returned to the Monkees (and Shades of Grey) over the years, the song seems to have accrued another layer of meaning. I was terrified of what life would hold (or not hold) for me the first times I heard it, when I was on the brink of puberty. In those years, the song gave me a way to grieve the loss of innocence every kid that age has to grapple with in one way or another. I feel a gentler, less paralyzing version of the same uncertainty now, on the brink of my forties, enhanced by more losses and an increasing awareness of my own mortality. The latest verse in my “movie of the mind” for this song seems to relate to a growing tension between Monkees Fan Me and PhD Librarian Me. Now, if I learned nothing else in The Year of Our WTF, I learned that I need both the fangirl and the striver in my life. However, with the anniversary festivities inevitably ending soon, the balance point will probably shift—I feel it shifting already in some ways toward a new and different shade of grey.  Now don’t panic, fair listeners, I’m not quitting Zilch or leaving the fandom or any of the things people assume I mean when I get in a pensive mood and start saying stuff like this. I’ve just always felt an obligation to squeeze as much joy into my life (and the lives of others) as possible on as many levels as possible for as long as possible. I didn’t fully understand what that meant till after Anissa died, but now I do. I have to put my energies where I can find (and make) the most joy and the most positive impact. 5 years from now I may well be spending much more of my time on things that are utterly unrelated to the fandom, but the Monkees will still put a smile on my face, even if it is, as times, the bitter sweet smile Micky and Peter exchanged at the end of Shades of Gray.

And that’s enough of my maudlin self-indulgence—but hey, at least I kept it way shorter than the first time I heard this damn song live. Yikes.

Back to the concert!

Papa Gene’s Blues: Still fun, still love the acoustic touches on this duet, still doesn’t compete with hearing Nez do it live. Three Different Times.

Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow): My memory is fuzzy enough that I don’t totally trust it, but Monkees Live Almanac seems to verify that I DID hear Davy do this one back in 2001. Whether or not I did, I haven’t heard it since. However, Peter took this one to a hilarious place, almost making us feel a little bad for the plight of the song’s protagonist.

Almost.😉

Randy Scouse Git: the Usual, hold the “Royal Family” anecdote, with a side of “The Colors! The COLORS!!!”

For Pete’s Sake: The usual wonderfulness done in the usual manner. A little more apology for renting their instruments, though.😉

Let’s Dance On: I liked it in Cleveland and adored it in Tulsa. Performed at full-blast like the rough garage rocker it is, Tamara and some other folks who were right on the aisle actually got up and started rocking out in the aisle.🙂 The only sad thing was they immediately went into the next song, verifying (as we had already guessed) that this would be the shortened intermission-free set.

Mary, Mary: excellent as always, and I love seeing Micky on Drums on this one!

Circle Sky: more solid than in Cleveland (which was still pretty damn good), I still don’t know how Micky drums and sings this one. Yet another revolution of their—and my– fabuloofy wheel of karma.

Porpoise Song: I suppose hearing this song done live may get old one day, but I seriously doubt it. One of the best things Goffin and King ever did, and Micky’s vocal highlight of the evening. If I know in advance that I’m going to my last Monkees concert, I will cry at this one. It belongs right next to Shades of Grey as one of my personal anthems. Many, MANY years from now (seriously, no rush here), I want this played at my funeral.

Oh—and Micky kept his hat on while drumming the outro this time.😉  Also, kudos to (we think) Peter, who manages to do those porpoise noises in his guitar, and to Melanie for pointing it out.🙂

Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again? One of the luxuries of seeing these guys so many times in the last few years is getting to notice how capably this band handles more technically challenging stuff like the signature changes in this song. Peter and company make it look easy. And then they slid almost seamlessly into the songbook’s other unabashed hard rocker

(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone: Peter gave Micky some Kiss-esque tonge waggling during this one, making him remark “So gross!”. After he recovered from Peter’s scene stealing, he proceeded to attack the song in the usual proto-punk manner.

Words: Everyone’s still solid on the lyrics, and still a great duet from the two of them. My favorite version of this is still from the last time they played Tulsa, but this was excellent too.

Goin’ Down: No victims were plucked from the audience, a pity as I now make sure I remember the second verse before every concert after that near miss in Nashville. As in Cleveland, they picked this song to introduce the band, which made me sad to know the end was in sight.

D.W. Washburn: so glad this has become a setlist standard. It did not work at ALL for the 20-something Monkees, but the 70-something Monkees NAIL this “ode to the power of Alcohol”, as 35-years-sober Peter quipped.

What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ ’round?: After hearing him do it twice, I can definitively say Peter owns this song in the same way Micky owns Girl I knew somewhere. If Nez comes back after he finishes the book, I think he’s gonna have to arm wrestle Peter for it (and I think I’d put my money on Peter).

Daydream Believer: About halfway through this song, right after turning on my flashlight at Coco’s prompting, I turned around to see a sea of phone flashlights and screens glowing and swaying, a sea of stars in all our eyes, an effect captured so well in this video taken from the far side of the stage.


The power of the Monkees is no more or less than the power of friendship and community, a power that makes such trifles as fear and death look as insignificant as they truly are. This power wasn’t anything anyone planned, but there it is. And when it’s done right, as it has been over and over in these later years of the group, it’s one of the most beautiful forces in the world. High on that power, we all cheered and clapped enthusiastically as the band left and then swiftly returned for the encore.

Pleasant Valley Sunday: Not that I’ll ever forget Nez playing on this one (twice!), but Wayne takes it to some incredible places, as does the rest of the band.

I’m a Believer: No Shrek for the second time in a row—good Lord, maybe Micky DID hear we found the guy! But then that would imply he listens to Zilch or reads this blog, and both of those possibilities are too frightening a prospect to seriously consider.

And that was it. The end of my probable second to last Monkees show this tour. Maybe my second to last show ever, but every time I said that the last few years something else pops up. Jen had to head back to OKC, but Melanie and I didn’t feel like leaving. We lingered in the lobby for a while as Tamara’s husband Dustin bought some last-minute souvenirs, and Melanie and I even met some more fans of the show (including this tall guy who seemed REALLY familiar—oh well, I’m sure his name will come to me later). Every solo or group Monkees show I’ve attended since Zilch started, I’ve run into a few more fans. It’s exciting to know what I do touches so many people, but humbling to realize that this podcast has become so much bigger than us.

Maybe that’s a little bit like what it feels like to be part of the Monkees?

Anyway, neither Melanie, Tamara, Dustin nor I felt like heading home immediately, so we scoped out a quiet bar in a secluded corner of the non-smoking second floor of the casino, and spent the better part of an hour sipping drinks, decompressing from the show, and getting to know each other. Each show beings a different set of faces, a different town, and/or a slightly different vibe, but the connecting theme always seems to be good songs, good friends and, yes, good times. Just like the album.🙂

~~~~~~~

The next day Melanie and I just hung out, the two of us. She’s a sucker for road trips (being the type of person who would drive from Dallas to Tulsa via Wichita Falls), so we drove in a big leisurely circle through some of my favorite bits of northeast Oklahoma, touring through the Osage nation to Pawhuska, cutting across to Bartlesville (with a brief stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper), and then headed back home to record a few bits for Zilch (possibly the first time two Zilchers have recorded at the same microphone). Next was a dinner with my husband and mother and Law (as I suspected they would, JoAnn and Melanie got along immediately). Then, sadly, I had to drive Melanie back to the hotel since she was leaving early in the morning. Rush hour traffic was still pretty heavy the other direction, so I used that as an excuse to dawdle a half hour at the hotel before going home by the way of the grocery store. Kevin asked me to pick up some eggs.

The full implications of that didn’t hit me till I was most of the way to the grocery store.

Now I’m a grownup. I’ve got a PhD for heaven’s sakes! People who don’t pay much attention likely think I’m a normal human being. But if you saw someone take an extra moment by the eggs to glance upward, tip an imaginary pink party hat, and wink at the ceiling, now you know why. Because Melanie and I may have bought those lovely pink hats and decided to tip them at the appropriate moment, but I have no doubt in my mind that my smart aleck sister (perhaps assisted by a vertically challenged partner in crime) prodded Micky to look our way at that moment, helping us to make him laugh with out pink party hats.

As of now I have one more concert to go in the year(s) of the Monkees, November in St. Louis. Due to factors I’ll wait till later to share, I think this one will either be the hardest or easiest show of all to write about. But between now and then, I’ll talk to you on Zilch.🙂


1 Comment

How much to protect your heart: The Monkees in Cleveland (again), June 5, 2016

13407314_10208195163054348_7381164402299097378_nThere is no obligatory throwback intro. That’s because nothing obvious sprung to mind around which I could frame this review. I could have talked about listening to She Makes Me Laugh as the plane descended over the Cleveland skyline, thinking of Anissa, who I was still grieving when i flew in to town for my first serving of Gazpacho and who IS the subject of that song for me. I could have written about the first meeting of Melanie and my fellow charter members of the Frodis Femmes, and the Instant Click that proved she was an appropriate new member of our sisterhood. I could have written about touring the Christmas Story house/museum/gift shop, gazing at the cornucopia of themed shirts, mugs, flagpoles, BB Guns, and above all Leg Lamps in every size, and wondering if that’s where Clevelander John Hughes got the idea to sell those dang ponchos. I could have talked about working the line for Team Zilch before the doors opened, handing out pink party hats, accepting compliments on the show, recording bumpers, and wondering exactly when I’d become revered by a (very) small minority of a (decreasingly) small minority.

But none of those moments seemed like a big enough theme to hang an essay on, so I sat there, chatting as the lights dimmed, and waited to see what The Monkees would tell me. They’re pretty handy that way. I just sat back, watched the utterly stunning remastered show footage, and screamed my head off alongside Cindy and Melanie as they launched into a new opener:

Listen To The Band

With the rediscovered Clarksville train ride concert playing on the screen, Micky and Peter nailed their duet opening. I know that Nez/Micky is the vocal pairing we all swoon over these days, but those two are nothing to sneeze at either, with Micky soaring to the top of his vocal range over Peter’s rock-solid foundation. HOME RUN, even though I’ve never thought of it as an opening.

Clarksville

Moving on to the traditional opening, it was sung in the traditional manner, with the traditional panache. Liked how they wove the LTTB closing into the Clarksville opening, though. One note on the video screen—Peter’s sweatshirt in the Clarksville train romp IS RED. Not orange like we thought for 50 years.

Saturday’s Child

99% sure this is new to me, but it works well live. :-)  Wayne Avers (glad you’re back!) played a barn-burner of a guitar solo, though Peter did join in on the fun there if memory serves.😉

Auntie Grizelda

OK, there are times in life where I must take a stand, and this is one of them. I don’t care if you philistines disagree with me—IT IS NOT A MONKEES SHOW WITHOUT AUNTIE GRIZELDA. Obviously Peter’s knee surgery took, because that’s the craziest I’ve seen that man dance since he climbed the amp tower back in ’01. And that patter he does over the bridge must save him THOUSANDS in psychotherapy. In fact, as I watched Peter sashay around the stage, it occurred to me that it’s high time for us Auntie Grizelda fans to strike a blow for this obviously beloved song, not as a guilty pleasure, but as an iconic touchstone of pure, unadulterated Monkee Magic.

Here’s my Pro-Grizelda argument in a nutshell:

  1. Auntie Grizelda is really a poignant protest song all about fighting for freedom against the snobbish, oppressive, and emotionally frigid older generation who are refusing to give way to change and creativity.
  2. Seriously, i think it’s safe to say Andrew Sandoval isn’t frogmarching Peter on stage at gunpoint or something at this point in the proceedings. If Peter didn’t want to do the stupid number, he most likely wouldn’t do the stupid number. He certainly wouldn’t do it with such unbridled, cathartic joy, right down to the parrot sounds and therapeutic mocking asides he raps over the bridge. It’s Peter’s Mooging the Nightly, he just doesn’t get enough credit for it because
    1. he’s been doing it in every show for decades, and
    2. when Nez does essentially the same schtick with Daily Nightly or No Time, Lord Nesmith, the Right Honorable Baron of Sparklyshoes is hailed as being all “witty” and “creative” and “subversive”. (Aside: I love Nez. In a disturbing number of ways I am a far dumber and dorkier version of the guy. Please don’t hit. But really, folks…what’s the difference?)
  3. Fans, both hardcore and not, LOVE this song. The second best memory of my husband at his first (and probably last) Monkees concert was him singing along cathartically with Peter, thinking of his own personal Auntie Grizeldas. (Every family has at least one…). I can verify that Melanie, who is one of the wisest and most insightful fans I know, appeared to love every second of it.

Snark is a time-honored and frankly necessary ingredient of the Monkees Fandom Recipe, lest the Good Times get too treacly. However, to mangle a famous quote by Samuel Johnson, he who is tired of Auntie Grizelda is tired of life. Therefore, I am hereby inaugurating the #teamgrizelda hashtag, for those who share my love of this song as a completely non-guilty pleasure. Go Forth and retweet your love of this song on its own terms!

She

Once again, Micky nailed this song, and once again Peter nearly stole it out from under him with various gestures and asides at key junctures. Oh—and Micky AND peter nailed the mic stand tilt!

She Makes Me Laugh

Before I get into my thoughts on this one, I’d like us all to take a moment to stare in awe at a universe where Micky Dolenz can say in 2016, “Here’s a song off our new album!”

Are we good?

Ok, onward.

Micky’s still learning the lyrics on this one, which is understandable. However, the band is definitely getting solid on it, and it was a crowd pleaser, with a strong round of applause from the audience.

A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You

After dispatching a smart-aleck in the front row yelling “Manchester Cowboy!” while Peter was attempting to introduce a song by his “dearly departed friend”, Peter (yes PETER!) launched into lead vocals on this song, and he and Micky, trading verses, knocked it out of the park. I hope they give Peter more of Davy’s traditional vocals—they have similar ranges, and Peter’s voice gets more rock solid every time I see him. And if you disagree with me, you can just surf on over to the next overly verbose and existential PhD fangirl Monkees concert reviewer in your bookmarks. :-p

The Girl I Knew Somewhere

It never ceases to amuse me that Micky is more solid on the lyrics to this tune than Nez (who got a lovely and warmly received shoutout) was on the gazpacho tours. Though in fairness Micky HAS probably sung it a few thousand more times than Nez has…

Steam Engine (click link for facebook video)

This isn’t one of those things that’s on my Monkees Live Song Bucket List, but it’s near the top of Cindy’s, right next to Oh My My. As Micky belted it out and Wayne shredded his solo into musical confetti, I watched my sister Cin chair dance in bliss.

Shades of Grey

The minute I interpreted Peter’s setup about the wayback machine and realized what was coming, my gut clenched. I knew it was in the setlist, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of seeing it live for the first time till now. I saw the Davy fans around me reaching for Kleenex. An involuntary “Oh no,” escaped my lips in a murmur. As Peter started the keyboard introduction, I found myself transported halfway between Then and Now, images from 30 years ago battling in my mind with the real world sight of a young Davy and an old Peter singing the duet that I’d longed to hear live, never expected to hear live and was suddenly absolutely terrified to hear live.

 When the world and I were young, just yesterday,

Life was such a simple game, a child could play

tumblr_naj41pIM5h1rvhqlvo1_500

As Davy’s archived vocal track rolled out of the speakers and into my ears, my own wayback machine roared into gear, and I suddenly found myself experiencing

a Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1986. I was 9 years old, and a brand-spanking new Monkees fan. Mom was running errands. Dad was watching me and Daniel, as well as the football game. I’d been spinning my new album Headquarters non-stop all day. That’s probably why I missed the knock at first. By the time I got to the door, Dad was opening it up to reveal my new friends. At least I hoped they’d be new friends. After my best friend’s Mom died of type 1 diabetes and her Dad remarried and they moved to Texas, I needed to make new friends. But I was finding it harder to make friends than it used to be. The girls looked up at Dad as I poked nervously around the corner into the front hall. They asked if I could go ride bikes with them. I looked up at Dad, grinning hopefully.

It was the Rocksino in 2016. I forced myself to stay in 2016, in the now. Listen to Davy. Listen to Peter. Listen to the Band. Feel the tears starting to roll down my cheeks—yes, for the man who left us too soon, but mostly for the girl I used to be.

It was easy then to tell right from wrong,

Easy then to tell weak from strong

Back in 1986, the girls had just asked dad if I could go ride bikes. He just stood there.

Still.

Too still.

From 4 years of experience I knew what was coming, and ran in front so I could try to break his fall as he pitched forward, already starting to tremble before the real convulsions of his seizures. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the girls back away in fear, or revulsion, or I didn’t really care much what. Then Me held on to Dad with all her strength as Now Me heaved herself forcefully back to

2016, as Peter and Micky both joined in to the chorus. My shoulders started shaking. I knew I had to keep my eyes open, even as the tears streamed. I had to stay in 2016. I would not have a flashback here, not now, NOT AT A FUCKING MONKEES CONCERT.

“I remember when the answers seemed so clear,

we had never lived with doubt or tasted fear…”

My throat caught in a sob as Peter started in on the second verse, his eyes looking suspiciously misty, his weathered, post-op voice adding a new, gloriously horrible layer of resonance that sent me careening back into

1986, where I’d managed to tip dad away from the concrete of the front porch to instead fall on a slightly softer kitchen floor. I tried to hold Dad’s limbs down as he convulsed, but he was too big to maneuver. I found myself on top of him, holding on for dear life in a sadistic parody of a bareback rodeo ride, trying to keep him away from the table legs. He had work Monday and wouldn’t want a bruise on his head. As his tremors calmed, he resumed his normal breathing pattern, and looked up at me with glazed eyes. A random, insane but ever-present thought flew through my 9 year old head, “God let them fix my heart but I’m not good enough to deserve it, so he made Dad sick instead. This is all my fault.” 39 year old me and her various psychotherapists had heard quite enough of THAT nonsense, and so I dragged myself with a LURCH back to

2016, where Peter and Micky were doing the chorus. The Monkees were and are my elixir. I was 39, older, stronger. My dad hadn’t had a seizure in 25 years, I would live to a fucking ripe old age and I WOULD NOT BE RULED BY MY PAST. I felt Melanie’s arm slide over my shoulders as I trembled. I felt stronger, more grounded. I could do this. But then I glanced at the monitor as Davy and Peter and Micky sang

It was easy then to know truth from lies, selling out from compromise

Who to love and who to hate, the foolish from the wise

13331101_10201794454619278_5004879109369253465_n

Photo courtesy Scott Edwards

And I was

BACK in 1986, after helping Dad back to the sofa. I ran to the door to reassure my friends, but they were long gone. Oh well, it really wasn’t worth the bother, they all would find out eventually, and then they’d all run away. But the versions of Davy, Peter, Mike and Micky that lived in my head wouldn’t leave me. I knew intellectually they were almost a decade older than my parents. but even as a brand new fan I already knew the music and the show made it better, made me less desperate to die or to run away forever. If other kids didn’t want me, well, I didn’t want them. I had the Monkees.

Dad was fine, already starting to talk back to the OU football game. We didn’t typically talk about the seizures unless we had to, because what was there to say? The seizures were a family routine whose perverse banality I only appreciated years later. I went back to my room, shut my door, turned on Headquarters. Shades of Grey was next and 1986 Me and 2016 Me sang along in a bizarre time warp with

It was easy then to know what was fair

When to keep, and when to share

How much to protect your heart

And how much to care…

And I found myself back in 2016, waves of terror receding. And I hoped the Me of 1986 could somehow sense the band singing in front of me, the replica poncho in my bag, and everything else I had done and would do to give her the glorious, hopeful, healthy, friend-filled future that she couldn’t believe in during those dark days. I found myself shaking from catharsis and relief, as Peter, Micky, and Davy’s magnificent performance drew to a close. And I screamed out my triumph as much as my appreciation as the crowd cheered.

 Papa Gene’s Blues

tumblr_o5icvdmN6O1v93l42o2_500

And in a transition that felt a something like that moment in Hamilton right after It’s Quiet Uptown where Jefferson and Madison rap “Can we get back to Politics? PLEASE?”, Micky and Peter riffed on the “Quiet, isn’t it, George Michael Dolenz?” line, making the assembled crowd (your neurotic author included) bust out in cathartic laughter. And then we launched into Papa Gene’s blues, confirming as we all guessed that there would be no Skype tonight. Having just rather violently and melodramatically discovered my theme for tonight’s concert, I was content to sit between two of my best friends on earth, and hear Micky and Peter do a lighthearted duet on a song I’d somehow heard Nez do live more times than I’ve heard them do it live. I’d worried this year’s events would feel forced and contrived after the twin shocks of Davy’s loss and the Gazpacho tours, but the 50th anniversary actually seems sweeter for all we’ve lost and gained and overcome the past 5 years. I have no more than I had before, but now I have all that I need, indeed.

Randy Scouse Git

13346747_784592891642703_399324601978388877_n

Photo Courtesy Andrew Kruczek

And if that wasn’t enough…Micky put on the tablecloth (A REPLICA OF WHICH I NOW OWN) and cut to the chase, sans story. Excellent as always. 1986 felt 30 years ago again as Micky did his “The Colors, The COLORS!” freakout. Which is still apparently obligatory, as well as hilarious.

For Pete’s Sake

Well, after 50 years, Peter finally confessed that the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments. (The drums were rented, and he’d borrowed a guitar from Wayne). And then after reciting the tale of the palace revolt, Peter sang another setlist staple with another rock-solid performance. Rich Dart added some tasty fills throughout, as is his habit.🙂

Johnny B. Goode

I’ll admit feeling a little sad that Micky didn’t do Don’t do It for his solo number (the topic of one of my first, small “tryout” appearances on Zilch back in episode 2 or 3), but he apparently removed the Red Bull from the tour rider, resulting in a much more reasonable tempo that Micky could even dance to some. (Side note—the guys were MOVING around stage more than I’ve seen in a good 15 years. Wayne’s solo, again, was awesome, and Dave Alexander contributed some tasty honkytonk work on the keys that would have made Jerry Lee Lewis smile from that wackadoodle Piano Pyramid they put him on back in ‘69.

 Higher and Higher

13319772_10153476314786059_357461209026541567_n

Photo Courtesy Nicki Lock

You know how Cin was blissing out during Steam Engine? This tune was Melanie’s turn. I was thrilled to hear it live myself! But then, some, erm, *lubricated* gentleman started screaming out “you guys rock!” I tensed up, not looking forward to him potentially spoiling something Melanie had seriously been looking forward to (and a favorite of mine from his solo repertoire as well). However, Peter Tork is not only 35 years sober. he’s rather (in)famous for not suffering fools. He raised an eyebrow in his inimitable Peter Tork fashion, and drily retorted, “One of the things about getting old is you can’t hear people very well.”  The guy bellowed something else, and Peter snarked back, “Steve Martin used to say at this juncture in his show, ‘Yeah, I remember my first beer…’ ”. As the crowd busted up in hysterics, the drunken gentleman was suitably chastened. (or ejected. Either way, not a peep from him the rest of the night.)

Higher and Higher was lovely (once he ordered the crowd not to clap along and we meekly obeyed), with Coco’s background vocals and John Billings’ rocking Bass solo particularly worthy of note. Melanie looked like she was in heaven.😉

Let’s Dance On

So happy for Craig Cohen.😉 Solid song, sung well, with the relevant romp from the pilot playing in glorious HD in the background and plenty of goofing around from Micky, Peter, and the rest of the band. They seem to have figured out the weird pacing issue they were dealing with in Nashville, because this was a perfectly organic act 1 closer.

Intermission

Stay if your bladder allows! Among other things, we got restored footage of the original pilot opening credits, some less familiar Yardley Black Label commercials, and the uncut Daddy’s Song performance (black suit, white background. Without the strobing crosscutting, you can tell it was mostly filmed in only 3-4 long continuous takes. You can also see just how damn good a dancer Davy was. The remastered Teardrop City and Someday Man performances were also noteworthy.

Mary Mary

Act two kicked off with a bang, and Micky back on drums for Mary Mary! This one’s easily one of my favorites with him on drums.

 Circle Sky

After a slightly wonky entrance, Micky settled nicely into the groove, with a little help from Rich Dart and John Billings.

Porpoise Song (Click for video)

And I was transported on a pleasanter trip to the past—Dundee by way of Cleveland and Tulsa. I wouldn’t have much new to say here if it weren’t for the fact that Micky made up for his struggles on Circle Sky by wailing so hard on the drums that his fedora plum flew off his head. See video.😀

Long Title

Not much to say about this, aside from the fact they did this just as amazingly as they have every time the past few years. And that Peter’s voice is the best I’ve heard it. EVER. I can’t believe I’ve been able to say that each and every time I’ve reviewed him for this blog. Yet another reason the #teamgrizelda hashtag’s time has come.

I was There (and I’m Told I had a Good Time)

It’s a sign of how strong this album is selling that they’ve already added a second song to the set. Micky was much more solid on the lyrics for this one, but I suppose co-writing it helps.😉 It’s gonna be hard with Micky and Rich doing an incredible dual performance on drums, but watch the animated cover art streaming down the video wall in the manner of the end credits of a Pixar film. I got the giggles when the spaceship took off and started flying around. Alas, said animations didn’t translate well to the video but this is still worth a watch.

Stepping Stone

After 4 years I’m running out of creative ways to say “The band played the hell out of this setlist staple”, but, well, the band played the hell out of this setlist staple. Micky was maybe a little heavier on the glam 70s antics than usual, though, and Peter got in on the act as well.  The drawn out outro was awesome too.😀

Words

Micky’s got the words to Words rock solid again! Woohoo! Another great duet from Micky and Peter.😀

Goin’ Down

Forget my random 30 year time warp during Shades of Grey—Micky’s dancing legs just teleported in from 1967. Cin and I sang along with the first verse or two, then sat there, jaws agape, as Micky sashayed across the stage with as much panache as his onscreen TV version. After a quick interlude to introduce the band (minus one—we’ll get there), he ended the song with flair. No audience participation this time, that may be gone from the set.

DW Washburn

Glad to see this still in the setlist after falling in love with it in Nashville, and Peter contributed lovely banjo work as well as commentary asides.😉 I’ve concluded it’s one of those songs that works best live. J The only thing that would make this song better would be Davy’s presence—I can only imagine what vintage Threekees antics he would have brought to the proceedings.😉

What am I doing Hanging Round (click for video)

Another song Peter inherited (from Nez this time). Apparently he was doing this one back in the ’80s, but, well, I was a kid/broke/in a state that didn’t get many Monkees shows in the 1980s, so this was new to me. All I’m gonna say is that Nez better hurry up and get his butt on tour before the ink dries on his final book draft and get his song back, because this might be my favorite live version of this one. And NO. I AM NOT KIDDING.

Daydream Believer

2016-06-03 15.06.58

From the moment Micky and Peter yelled back my seat number from my flight to Cleveland at the screen, I knew they’d arrived at the only possible long term solution to the Daydream Believer Problem. Now, I don’t think that they should have done this from the start (we ALL had some grief to process), but from now on they need to do it this way, whether the Monkees tour for one more year or 50 (hey, researchers say they’re supposedly getting close to the Singularity! It could happen!) We sang as Micky and Peter conducted the crowd and we gave a rousing and collective FUCK YOU to fear, despair, and the Existential Abyss.

13335875_10201793793122741_2908692922510396546_n

Photo Courtesy Scott Edwards

Not to belabor the point, but that spirit of acknowledging and then joyously overpowering the darkness is why I have loved the Monkees since I was 9 years old, and always will.

Pleasant Valley Sunday

The main show ender was marvelous, as always. This was when I realized for certain I wasn’t getting Heart and Soul, but I’ve got at least 2 more shows planned for this tour. (good Lord, what new stuff am I going to SAY?! Oh well, good problem to have.😉 )

That was Then, this is Now

After a minute, Micky and Peter re-emerged for the encore, and introduced both the writer (Vance Brescia) and the song. As he and Micky traded lines, I watched the screen and was jolted back on a much more pleasant trip to 1986, as I saw video clip after instantly-remembered video clip from the MTV and Nick footage that helped me fall in love with the “real” Monkees just as hard as I’d immediately fallen for the cute 20 year olds in the beach house. It wasn’t Heart and Soul, but the trip was similar enough.😉

I’m a Believer

No Shrek Schtick! Did Micky hear that Melanie and I found the guy back in January, or was it just that we were at a 21 and over show?😉

And that was it. We inched out of the venue, right past Andrew Sandoval. I very nearly opened my mouth, but what do you say to a guy who curated your childhood as well as your midlife misadventures in rewriting your childhood the way it should have played? A guy who you would love to have back on Zilch after the Good Times dust settles to talk about how he FOUND all this STUFF? So I clammed up and kept the crowd flowing. Melanie was a little behind me in the crowd, and gave him a quick Thanks.🙂

In summation

Even the saddest Monkees song is delivered with a dollop of ‘Yeah, but it’ll get better soon’.

–Andy Partridge

This was a very different experience seeing the Monkees, after truly thinking I’d seen it all. 2001 was my first time, and I was overwhelmed simply by FINALLY losing my Monkees Virginity (Not like THAT) after 15 years of near misses, dumb decisions, and low cash flow. 2012 and 2013, well, that was all about the gazpacho. And in 2015, I was a worried fangirl, hoping the Twokees could carry the torch and rejoicing to learn they could. This show was different. My subconscious had other stuff for me to process. It was an old lesson, but reinforced in a new way from a new angle. The Monkees (group as well as much of their solo stuff) are the founding artists in a playlist on my phone I jokingly titled Audio Prozac. But their songs don’t numb the feelings. Instead the music holds my hand as I grapple with whatever crap I’m grappling with that day. I emerge stronger and happier in the skills that I need to squeeze every last damn drop of joy out of my life, both for myself and for my loved ones and for the kids who died for the medical knowledge needed for me to live a healthy, happy life writing emo 4000+ word essays about the Monkees. And I think that the ticket sales and record sales we’re seeing in The Year of the Monkees prove that their flavor of hard-earned joy is something the world is crying out for right now. So let’s let the Good Times roll. I’ll see you after the Tulsa show in *gasp* about 3 weeks. No clue what new things I’ll have to say, but I also think I know who’ll tell them to me.😉

2016-06-07 21.33.18


Leave a comment

“I’m heading out in the sunshine, baby!”–Good Times Album Review

1035x1035-Monkees-Good-Times-cover-art[1]The Obligatory Anissa-invoking prologue:

For all that it felt like the evening I bought Justus in a record store in Dundee (it was even gray and rainy), the circumstances couldn’t be more different. In 1996 I had scarcely thought about the Monkees in almost a decade. In 2016 they’ve been a constant in my life for the last 4 years, and in the last few months my Zilch duties have essentially sucked up all the time I didn’t give to my husband, my job, or my new website/podcast, Better Library Leaders. (Librarians, check it out! End plug). In 1996 I didn’t even know there was an album out—I found it by accident in the M bin while looking to replace the copy of Jagged Little Pill I’d left back in Oklahoma. In 2016, I (I guess I can reveal it now) was sitting in my home office with the drapes open, waiting to see if the UPS guy with my advance copy from John Hughes at Rhino would beat the garage door repairman to the house.

2016-05-19 13.19.37 HDR-2

UPS came first. Also, i will be eternally grateful my garage door broke down (inexpensively) and made me stay home to wait on the repairman.

I held the package in the doorway for a moment, fighting the urge to rip it open right then. Instead, I went back to my office, opened the end of the package carefully and turned to the framed photo of the Frodis Femmes on my bookshelf. I grabbed the CD blindly, made sure it was facing the right way, and pulled it out facing away from me. It’s so dorky and stupid, but my old friend Anissa, the one who made me laugh for years, deserved to see this miraculous album cover before I did. And then I stared at the album myself for a long moment, feeling a distinct sense of “Anticidread”. The songs we’d heard were uniformly solid, but what if the rest were duds? Would it feel like a real group project? How would Love to Love represent Davy? I’d tried as hard as I could to only wish for an album that didn’t suck, but in my heart I knew I was hoping for one more miracle.

Ultimately, there was nothing else for it. I opened the case, removed the booklet and the CD, stuck it in my computer, and hit play. Here’s what I heard, and thought.

2016-05-19 13.27.08

Much of this is redundant to my Zilch comments (you’re essentially reading a tidied version of my roundtable notes), but there are some things I didn’t get a chance to say.It’s also a bit rough, because it’s been a long week. Here goes.

Good Times: I can’t believe this was an incomplete track! Also, when we think of Harry Nillson Monkees tracks, we think of these sweet-tart creations that have a dark undertone to them. This one’s just flat-out unabashed fun! And I can’t tell you how great it felt to get a new track with Eddie Hoh on Drums! I just wish he’d been around to hear it. Love his work on it, somehow soulful and funky at the same time.

You Bring the Summer: I’m gonna tattle on Iain Lee here. Right around the time this album was announced, he sent me an IM. He’s friends with Andy Partridge, who apparently called him and played the demo of this song to him. He told me that he was in the middle of a shopping mall, listening to this song, and weeping like a little kid. Once I heard this tale, from a guy who makes me look like a casual fan, I knew we were gonna be ok on at least this one song. I particularly like the whole Brian Wilson good vibrations psychedelic changeup on the outro—Especially when Peter and Nez come in on the refrain. It’s like that moment in Milkshake off of Stranger Things have happened, but times ten. That trio was unlikely in the early 90s. by 2016 it seemed all but impossible. And yet, there it was.

She Makes Me Laugh: what stands out to me listening to the song in the context of the album is the Banjo bits on the verses. They’re subtle, but are just one of those touches that say “Hi! I’m a Monkees Song! I can include banjo non-ironically while still not sounding like Mumford and Sons!”

Our Own World: It was cool to have the chance to sit with these songs for about 4 days before reviewing them, because this one really grew on me with multiple listens, and the tune got stuck in my head for about 2 hours on Friday. I’d that isn’t a sign of a good song I don’t know what is. Looks like Peter and songwriter Adam Schlesinger contributed the keys on this one, and that’s really what this makes the song so catchy, beyond Micky’s performance, which is one of the best on a uniformly solid album. Also some of the best harmonies on the whole thing. Finally, I dig Adam’s guitar solo.

Gotta Give it Time: This is the second of the hybrid songs, started in 67 and finished now. Can I confess I’m not big on Jeff Barry as a general rule? I heard Iain say on his radio show or something that he thought Nez sounded bored on the backing on this one, I think that’s a little harsh, but something about this felt a bit filler. A fine album track elevated by an energetic performance from 2016 Micky, but not a highlight of the album for me.

Me and Magdalena: I’m not sure what I can say about this beautiful duet that hasn’t been said, except this—I think in some ways this is what Justus SHOULD have sounded like. And I defy you to listen to Nez’s solo verse at the end without getting misty eyed. It was the first of two times I wept listening to a song from this album for the first time. There were tears. At work. Streaming world café. Thank goodness I have a door.

Whatever’s Right: The Vintage Boyce and Hart track for this album, it’s very Boyce and Hart, mostly in a good way. However unlike Gotta Give it Time it was totally recorded in 2016—and it says something that I wouldn’t have been sure had I not read the liner notes. It’s got this cute 50s/early 60s semi-doowop vibe that would almost fit on the Grease soundtrack—or maybe as the flip side to That Thing You Do! (see what I did there?). And Bobby and Coco are a hoot on the background vocals! Another thing that hasn’t changed in 50 years is that Peter’s organ work is a highlight, ditto Mike Viola’s perfect guitar! He’s a gem and adds some great touches throughout the album. All that said, this is another one that feels a bit like album filler, maybe it’s the brevity. HOWEVER, even the “filler” on this album is still better than a good 90% of their post-Head output.

Love to Love: I’m a little afraid this will come out the wrong way given who sang lead and why the song was included, but I really expected them to do something more involved to this song. Not that I don’t like the new backing vocals, I do, but to my relatively poor ears it’s exactly identical to the missing links and music box versions aside from that. I’m also sad they couldn’t get Nez in the studio that day to be in that harmony mix. I had really expected this song to be the last time we heard all four Monkees sing together, and I’m a little sad it wasn’t. All that said, I do want to mention one thing about the CD booklet. Next to the lyrics of each song, there’s a little quote from somebody involved with the project. Peter got the pull quote for Love to Love, and it’s a poignant reminder of the bittersweet aspect of this album.

2016-05-26 22.18.53

Little Girl: This is going to freak people out, but this is the song that made me think the most of Justus, specifically I Believe You. I’m not sure the lyrics work well for Peter in the same way I had some initial misgivings about She Makes me Laugh, but Brian Young’s funky drums are a big help, and Mike Viola contributes some nice backing vocals. But even though this was another one that doesn’t shine as brightly in the bigger picture of the album, it ALSO got stuck in my head at one point in the last few days. Ergo, it can’t be that bad.🙂

Birth of an Accidental Hipster:

Holy Shit.

You got to understand, the Psychedelic stuff is my JAM. Daily Nightly was on the first episode I ever saw, and I think it hooked me as much as all the surreal stuff with Mike Nesmith as a dress. Porpoise Song, Mommy and Daddy, Randy Scouse Git, Shorty Blackwell, Writing Wrongs, Can you Dig It, Even the Instant replay You and I in some ways are what are MY Monkees. The different movements, the whole swirly psycho jello thing, this song is a love letter to that side of the Monkees. The second time I wept when listening to this album was the verse where Nez sings:

Old Friends say

Oh he’s lost his way

But they can’t see

What I can see

Oh, I’ll never come back

I’m heading out in the sunshine, baby!

I know Nez didn’t write the song, but it just seems to evoke so much of the Gazpacho era, at least to us Nezheads watching from afar. In any case, long-time readers of Fandom Lenses can see why I got the feels there, because that verse is as perfect a description of my journey in the past four years as anything could be. Ken thinks it’s a song about death, but I read it more as a song about REBIRTH, or rather a reconnection and re-integration with a part of you you’d let drift away. But again, that’s me reading my own positionality into the thing. However you slice it, it’s about transformation, and the music is the elixir that causes the transformation. It’s perhaps the most stereotypically 60s sounding song, yet also the one on the album that feels the most like it’s grounded in 2016.

Oh yeah. Mike Viola. Guitar. INCREDIBLE.

Wasn’t born to Follow: I am a proud Carole King Fangirl, so I was glad to see a Goffin/King tune represented. Peter’s right in the liner notes, this one does have a nice bit of Dylan in it.  It’s another blend of 1968 instrumentals and 2016 vocals, and it was neat to see names in the liner notes that I’d learned more about from my chat with Jay McDowell a few months back, like Mike Deasy and Earl Palmer. This was a third example of a song that I thought didn’t work well for me, till I listened a few times and found myself randomly humming it. I don’t know that Peter could have done this one in 1968, but his 2016 voice suits it to a tee. It’s very Early Morning Blues and Greens in that way.

Also, does anyone else thing the melody sounds a tiny bit like a folk version of Macarthur Park? Or am I just weird?

A few moments after I finished playing this one to take notes, I heard Kevin whistling it in the next room, so there’s that too. Carole King is amazing.

I know what I know: The first thing I need to point out, is that this is a Michael Nesmith song in which there is exactly ONE WORD with more than two syllables. It’s an exercise in complexity via simplicity, and not just in the lyrics. I actually didn’t like it all that much in the version you can find on Videoranch, but Adam Schlesinger transformed it in a similar way to how Nez rethought Rays for Movies of the mind. All the synths are gone, and it’s just Nez in full-on Don’t call on me/Tropical Campfires crooner mode. No fancy words or fancy arrangements, just the man honestly honestly and earnestly singing a love song. Adam Schlesinger’s on all the instruments, most notably a gorgeous flowing Piano line and a captivating instrumental break on the Chamberlin.

I was there and I’m told I had a good time: They made us wait for it, but the final track on the standard album (and possibly the final song ever on a Monkees album) features drums by one Micky Dolenz. I’ve heard it compared to Randy Scouse Git by others who heard the album, but I think No Time’s the better analogy. Micky has a tendency to take quips and, um, run them into the ground, but in this track we discover that he has a nicely self-aware sense of humor about that habit! Also, the chatter in the back of the room was a cute touch, somewhat reminiscent of Don’t call on me, and I would love to know who was in that. Also, this appears to be the snippet of drumming that was posted on the Monkees’ facebook a while back, so it’s good to put a song to the video. Very tribal, loose, and fun. Adam Schlesinger’s Bass holds the track together in the grand Chip Douglas tradition, and Mike Viola provides a tasty, deliberately rough and ragged guitar line. And Micky’s line at the end was a gem. Overall, I’m not sure it’s a better last song by the Monkees than was It’s Not too Late (it’s certainly not as retroactively poignant), but that was gonna be a high bar to clear. And who knows? After hearing this I’m actually not totally convinced these guys are done yet.

Overall

When word of this album came out, we were excited but also, I think it’s safe to say many of us felt some, um, trepidation about this album. We all love the Monkees’ music in general, but their post-1968 output has been a little mixed (she says delicately). As a child in the 80s I owned Pool It, but I played it maybe a tenth as often as Pisces. Ten years later I loved Justus immediately just for the sheer fact it existed (the fact I didn’t know it was coming out till I bumped into it at a record store helped), but I liked the album a little less every time I played it. However, if the Monkees have taught us nothing else, they have taught us that the unexpected thing always happens. In a rational universe the 20th and 30th anniversaries should not have happened. The Threekees shouldn’t have had their best tour ever in 2011. DAVY JONES SHOULD NOT HAVE DIED ON LEAP DAY 2012. Nez shouldn’t have come back for a project, not once, and certainly not FOUR TIMES counting this album, with the promise of more concerts later this fall. And this album, this insane, hybrid thing that features songs from Boyce and Hart and Ben Gibbard sitting right next to each other, should not be the best album they have put out since Head, if not Pisces.

And yet, all these things are true. Even the worst songs are listenable and the best songs approach some of the peaks of the Headquarters and Pisces era. A lot of things get called miracles that shouldn’t be called miracles, but Good Times is damn close to a miracle. Go Buy It, folks.


Leave a comment

You Make us Laugh

2016-05-12 13.53.12Dear Anissa,

This year I think we’re going to keep it short. First, I finished the PhD. I hope you’re OK with me only dedicating half of it to you, but, well, as mentioned in my last letter an unexpected friendship arose. It’s been a fun 12 months of meeting lots f neat people and doing lots of cool things, thanks to me subbing for you as guest podcast host and group admin over at Zilch Nation. (and Yes, it’s now “Zilch Nation”. WEIRD.). There’s probably more coming, with it being The Year of the Monkees and all.

Finally, this song is for you. It pisses me off something fierce that you aren’t here for it, but then I remember that you two were no doubt sitting in that studio making snarky remarks.

I love you, Sis. Talk to you again next year.


1 Comment

“You need no longer wear a disguise”: Micky Dolenz, Ram’s Head (Annapolis, MD), January 18, 2016

12573216_1739583629611605_825859135571701083_nObligatory Flashback Prologue: May 2012

Mich, Mattie, Cindy and I were driving to the cemetery to bury our Best Frodis Femme Friend Forever, Anissa. Aside from a brief moment of tears the afternoon I arrived in Ohio, I had kept it together. After all, I was the one who drifted away into a looser friendship for a decade, the one who felt the need to throw myself into accomplishments to keep my demons at bay. The only thing I had figured out in the past few days since I learned of Anissa’s death was that I had screwed up colossally. I wasn’t sure how it happened, but the very actions I had taken to keep myself from wasting my life had actually caused me to waste my life on a deeper, more important level. I knew step one was to be present for Cin and Mich, to hold them as they cried and to be the strong one. This wasn’t my first time to bury a friend, after all, though I was pretty sure my friends didn’t know that and it didn’t seem like the time to bring it up. The first time I saw a dead body was my friend Jenny. She was 7. I was 4. Her heart defect killed her. My heart defect was successfully “corrected”. I’ve been trying to earn that quirk of fate ever since. Anyway, I got through Jenny’s viewing at an age when most kids were still grappling with the mortality of goldfish, and so now I would be strong and stoic and help my friends through Anissa’s funeral. It was the least I owed them. The car radio was blaring Monkees, of course. I was staring out the window on the way to the cemetery, pretending to look at the beautiful countryside outside Columbus. And then, the stereo caught my attention as Cin’s Random MP3 shuffle turned to Sometime in the Morning. As the song played out, I was getting closer and closer to losing it. For the first time it felt like Carole King’s lyrics were describing my unlikely friendship with my sisters in general, and Anissa specifically. Determined NOT TO BE WEAK, I gritted my teeth through the second verse, bracing myself for the bridge.0931-micky

Now in her childlike eyes
You see the beauty there
You know it was always there
And you need no longer wear a disguise…

And at that last line I lost it. Cin squeezed my hand as I wept, and I let her. More to the point, I realized that if I was going to make anything positive come of Anissa’s death, and of my life, I would have to shed my protective shields and camouflage. Of course, at that time I thought it would be a simple matter of digging up some albums and seeing if there were any Monkees fans still puttering around online in the wake of Davy’s death. Heck, maybe I’d even start a blog or something. Let’s just say I did not yet comprehend just how deep the rabbit hole of radical vulnerability would take me. Continue reading


4 Comments

The Poster: The Monkees in Nashville, Tennessee, July 31, 2015

Twokees

All Nashville photos courtesy Sherri Hansen unless otherwise noted.

Prologue:

It was June of 1997, long before meeting the Frodis Femmes and even longer before Gazpacho became one of my favorite soups. Fresh home from my study abroad year in Scotland that coincided with one of the most eventful periods of the Monkees to date, I tried to make up for one of my dumbest life choices (not seeing a Justus show in the UK) by driving down to Dallas to catch Peter in a Two Man Band Show with James Lee Stanley. After the Justus Reunion imploded I knew that there would almost certainly never be another Monkees reunion or tour again (especially since all four of them were in their *gasp* 50s), but at least I’d get a chance to see one Monkee, one time, and say thanks to one of the people who had saved me in the 1980s, and introduced me to new friends in the 1990s, courtesy of the internet.

2mbIt was a memorable night. From meeting other Monkees fans in the flesh for the first time in my life, to nearly weeping when Peter opened his solo set with Take a Giant Step, to awkwardly stammering my way through my first meet and greet with any celebrity, I knew I would treasure that evening forever. When I went home, I rummaged through my old foot locker filled with childhood relics. I was specifically looking for my old orange poster, with the vague notion of putting it up in my dorm room when I moved back to college in the fall. It was at the bottom of the truck, dogeared and and creased beyond any hope of looking good on my wall. I pulled out my childhood diary and a few LPs from the trunk, and then closed the lid with a gentle sense of regret. Around the time I left elementary school, I listened to the band, and took a giant step back into the world. The risk turned out to be worth the price, but the price was leaving behind the childhood obsession that saved my sanity but which had eventually become a gilded cage separating me from reality. I didn’t imagine that one day I would find the strength to return to Monkees fandom, if only at what I was certain was the very end of the band’s story.

18 years and 7 concerts later… Continue reading


Leave a comment

Three Years.

Hey Anissa,

Zilch15box

This year, just a few days after my last letter, I joined the Zilch! podcast. I became a cohost in large part because I’m pretty sure it was what you would have done, but also it was one of those “sparkly shoes” opportunities that I just don’t turn down anymore, spare time permitting. Because of that decision my life has changed irrevocably. I’ve done things now I never would have expected a year ago because of it, like interview members of the support band, mingle with various fandom notables, and even get shared by multiple Monkees’ social media. I have listened to New Monkees music of my own volition (Cin was right, for the record). I got Mich on the show as a guest.  I’m working on Cin, who for the record is doing MUCH better than she was a year ago. You’d be proud of how they’ve both changed in the past three years, I think. God knows how lucky I am to call them my sisters, and I hope they know it too. All of our lives have gotten busier and more abundant this past year. I’m less than a year from finishing my PhD, and though I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with it, I am sure that the lessons I took from 2012 and what came after will dictate my decisions as much as anything I picked up in coursework.

However, the things I’ve learned and done this past year haven’t been the sorts of things that are easily bloggable. Much of it has been internal work of rebalancing the Fangirl and the associate library director. Also, what time and creativity I’ve had to give to fandom has mostly gone to Zilch–both the podcast and the vibrant discussion group on Facebook. Also, and most of all, there was Zak, something I’ve tried to write about half a dozen times here but find I can’t—at least not in a form that feels appropriate for the glorified diary that is Fandom Lenses.

 

Zak in Zilch teeHere’s the very short version of the Zak story which contains everything I’m willing to say about another person’s experiences in a public forum: Because I joined Zilch, and connected up with Zak and his family, I was able to pay forward debts I have owed to the Monkees–or at least The Monkees(tm)–since I was nine years old. You know what those debts are (Lord knows you suffered through beta reading some deeply horrible fanfic where I was trying to process them). Any sufficiently thorough reader of my essays here can do the math as well. Anissa, you were one of the people who created the conditions that allowed me to maybe help a kid out a little bit at a scary moment, and finally set down some of the baggage related to my *ahem* scars. Not to say I won’t have to compensate for certain physical realities for the rest of my life, but, again, I guess that’s how it goes sometimes. As you know, of course. *sigh*

Zak and Micky

Peter Anissa FB Post

 

On a related note I am no longer able to abide anyone who says Micky Dolenz is not good to his fans. It’s at least as visceral a feeling as I get when Peter gets accused of lacking empathy.

 

OKAY! Enough of the Feels, on to a more immediate matters. Beyond this annual letter marking the day you left us, I’m not sure that I have much more to say here. For that matter, I’m not sure how many more of these missives I’m going to be moved to write (This year, honestly, was mostly so I could tell you about Zak, because I knew you’d Get It). I don’t have all that much to say about the fandoms that I’m not currently doing a podcast for, and most of what I have to say gets said in the context of Zilch or in gossipy IM sessions with friends. By this time next year I’ll be done with the PhD, and probably taking some giant steps in my professional and social lives. It’ll also be the 50th anniversary, and I think there’s a better than even chance that things will go nuts in the fandom (And on Zilch) one more time. More to the point, I’ve pretty much integrated compassion and silliness in my life, which means I don’t feel as moved to use those forces to explore pop culture in 3000+ word blog posts.

tay bridge picture only

Speaking more broadly, it’s time for me to do less stuff, and to delve more deeply into what I do take on. I can bleat all I like about “fulfilling my potential” or “making my life worth the miracle”, but busyness for me is mostly just how I hide from things I don’t want to face, and boy are there a lot of those demons. I’ve taken to calling that overachieving impulse of mine “May 11th thinking”, actually. I’m not a kid anymore—the biggest proof of that is how fearlessly silly I’ve become in the past 3 years. Fandom Lenses is no longer how I make sense of what was probably a (hopefully premature) mid-life crisis. I’m proud of what I wrote here, but my life in the fandom has changed. I need to focus more on making friends who are here in Oklahoma. I need to give more time to Kevin.  I need to give more time to Zilch. I need to take what I’ve learned from the students I’ve talked to for my dissertation and figure out what their experiences portend for my field. I need to make space for stillness and to take care of myself.

I wasn’t sure when I started writing this post, but I suspected this letter would also serve as an official announcement of the probable end of Fandom Lenses, at least for now. And so it seems. Although you shouldn’t expect much new content here, I’m keeping this page up for the foreseeable future. It’s too much a part of me to let go. (I do apologize again to whomever Jessica Pacheco might have working on her Search Engine Optimization. I seriously didn’t mean for that essay to become the top google result for her name…)

Anyway, tell The Midget I said hi, and thanks for any role he may have played in getting that book chapter accepted. One Manchester-affiliated conference or book editor giving me a major career boost is chance. A second one has me giving a serious side-eye to my collectibles shelf.  ;-)

I love you, Sis.


1 Comment

The years have passed, and so have I…

Owl coffee mug

Owls were something of Anissa’s spirit animal. They have since become mine.

Dear Anissa,

You died two years ago today.

Wow.

Time flies, even when our shared fandom isn’t breaking my brain on what seemed like a weekly basis for a while there in 2012. I won’t lie, that first year was hard, especially with all those Improbable events coming true reminding me over and over of you not being there to share them. The good news is that it’s all gotten way easier, as I know you would hope. I still get a stab of nostalgia when one or two tunes come up on my playlist (Dancing Queen, Sometime in the Morning), but those are a lot less regular. Every so often I’ll feel your presence—the last time was when you and Davy were standing just over Nez’s shoulder when I picked up that third and last signature on Listen to the Band. I’d bet $5 he sensed at least one of you too. Those moments are starting to hit less regularly now. I know that’s as it should be, and in a way I‘m glad of it. I’m living life in the now, which is what you reminded me to do. Continue reading