Often it depends on your age.
When I first started my Monkees fansite in 1999, the Monkees were not cool. Sure they had reunited in the 90s and made an album and toured and had a TV special on ABC but they definitely were still a joke in most mainstream pop culture circles. Rolling Stone NEVER wrote about them. The only band I remember even mentioning the Monkees in a positive light in that era was REM and I don’t like REM so I was like, cool story bro.
If the Monkees were mentioned in any capacity back then, it was “MANUFACTURED BAND THE MONKEES or “TEENYBOPPER BAND THE MONKEES” “FAKE BAND THE MONKEES.” The stigma from music journalists in the 60s was still around, mainly because these old farts were still working at the prominent mags like Rolling Stone, Mojo, etc. In fact, Mojo made one semi-positive blurb mention about the Monkees in 2001 (I’m guessing) and I was so ecstatic they were positive about them I wrote a letter to the editor and they PRINTED IT. Booyah.
These days, Rolling Stone writes about the Monkees all the time. I think they’ve had maybe half dozen stores in the last year about them including prominent coverage after Davy passed away and a huge Nez interview and stuff. Trust me, this used to never happen.
So back in the 90s the Monkees were only known for being cheesy and manufactured. COOL. Even online in the 90s, there were hundreds of fansites but they generally were G Rated. The most popular place was a message board called Monkeeland where you couldn’t curse, talk about sex, talk about them in way negative way, talk about their private lives, or use the word Nazi (they once censored me from using the word NAZI I am not even making this up)
There was NO INFORMATION ONLINE about the Monkee wives, the Monkees party vibes, the Monkees being cool with celebs, the Monkees doing drugs, ANYTHING. So of course people thought they were boring as shit!
So the mission of Psycho Jello has always been to elevate the discourse on the Monkees by showing IT ALL. The good the bad and the ugly. I was the only person who had a site showing the Monkees smoking and talked about their party lifestyle and their drug use, and Nez cheating on Phyllis, and the fellas partying with Laurel Canyon folk, and I was the first person who wrote about Peter Tork allegedly having a big one and being plaster casted. These were all things that were briefly mentioned in music circles and maybe mentioned in out-of-print books, but none of this was ever put on the net. Is this relevant? I’d like to think so.
All I’ve ever trierd to do was make the Monkees look cool, man. I hope this is all included in my obituary when I die, btw. This is my only legacy in life.
ANYWAY. So things have changed a lot in the 2000s. People my age (ie: 20s/30s) are now writing for Rolling Stone and Spin and Mojo and Uncut and Entertainment Weekly. People who grew up watching the show in the 80s and 90s. People who didn’t give a fuck what JANN WENNER thought about the Monkees.
And now the Monkees discourse has changed, probably because of the internet. And people our age want to know the Monkees as a phenomenon and as people and not as some white-washed bullshit version. I mean the Monkees are COOL DUDES. Finally people get it.
Nowadays, when I tell people I like the Monkees, most of them who are even remotely hip and with it and tuned in man, not only are positive about the Monkees, but most have seen HEAD in film class at college or with stoner friends, and most fondly remember the show from watching it back in the day. I’m not kidding, at this point in life, it’s weird if you are 30 years old and even remotely psychedelic and haven’t seen HEAD.
BACK TO MY POINT. What comes to your mind when you think about the Monkees?
Previously, if you would’ve said the Monkees to a prominent hip entertainer in the 80s or 90s they would’ve been like, meh. Or maybe said “oh that band, they didn’t play their own instruments.”
But here is what came to NOEL FIELDING’S mind when he was talking to ALICE COOPER about the Monkees in a 2012 interview.
ALICE We ended up not so healthy and fit; rock’n’roll will do that to you. We started out being much more wholesome than the Monkees.
NOEL The Monkees? I heard that they were quite into their party scene at one point.
I HEARD THEY WERE QUITE INTO THEIR PARTY SCENE. Not “oh yeah the Monkees were totally wholesome” which is what the stereotype used to be. Fascinating how the perception of the Monkees has changed in a GOOD WAY. It used to be “fake band/Kirshner/Wool Hats” and now it’s all “oh the Monkees? They partied and made a movie with Jack Nicholson and toured with Hendrix.” AND IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.
In that interview, Alice went on to say, by the way, that the Monkees and Mamas and Papas and James Taylor and bands that most people thought were wholesome actually partied harder than he did, because all he did was drink.
He also has this fun story about the Hollywood Vampires:
ALICE I was right there. We had a club called the Hollywood Vampires. That was sort of like the old drinking club in Hollywood – Errol Flynn and WC Fields, all these great actors, the Barrymores – who could drink anyone under the table. So we created a group which was sort of a modern version of that: it was Harry Nilsson, Micky Dolenz and Keith Moon and myself, and we would meet at the Rainbow every night and it was sort of last man standing … we would sit there and drink, and just wait to see what Keith Moon would wear that night. One night he would be full-out Hitler, with a sidecar and a motorcycle, and the next night he would be the Queen of England. He would get these immaculate costumes and walk into the Rainbow, and we would just applaud, that’s how amazing it was.
On Tumblr that is all I really try to do (and many others as well). It’s nice to have a place to analyze, to discuss, to bring new facts to light, to show how shit like the Monkees or Adam Ant or Brian Eno are influential and important and worth learning about.
These are artists that IMO have not gotten a lot of credit or press in the mainstream arena like bands like the Beatles, so it is up to people like us to keep this shit alive and circulating on the internet so people that normally wouldn’t want to discover the Monkees can maybe see something on Tumblr and go listen to their songs or whatever.
Like Natasha’s Buzzfeed article that was circulating for awhile, it made a lot of connections that the average music fan probably didn’t know but ended up making a few new fans (I’m guessing) because it made the Monkees look cool as fuck!
So with the Monkees it’s all about perception and how we choose to talk about them as a phenomenon. Or with Adam Ant, “oh 80s has been” will hopefully soon be “oh Adam Ant that guy who was the main bridge between the UK punk scene and the entire fucking 80s new romantic shit video age marketing etc etc” (please buy my book for more about this).
So for Noel Fielding to hype up the Monkees party skills instead of parroting the old school “THEY DIDNT PLAY THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS” line it shows to me that people fucking GET IT these days. And it’s taken a lot of work! We sure know that Rolling Stone or anyone in the mainstream didn’t give a flying fuck about presenting the Monkees in an accurate way.
How does all of this relate to Tumblr, I don’t really know. I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing. I understand that Tumblr is an escape and a wankfest for some of ya’ll to just look at pretty photos, but I still see it as a viable place to discuss and analyze and nerd out and hype up things that deserve to get hyped. I mean just think, Natasha wrote that Buzzfeed piece, I put it out there on Twitter, and one of the fucking Monkees and the Monkees official FB posted it and it got like what, over 50,000 hits and was on the front page of Buzzfeed music! I mean this is what it’s all about man. EDUCATING THE FUCKING MASSES. CHANGING THE PERCEPTION. The internet is rad now because we have the actual power because no one buys stupid magazines anymore or looks to those people for guidance. They look to their peers. I mean when was the last time you read an album review in a magazine? But if someone I trust on Tumblr tells me to get into some band, you bet I’m going to listen.
ANYWAY. I love bands. I love music. I love my babies. I want them to look cool and be appreciated. I like having discussions with you guys. I love Noel Fielding. PEACE AND LOVE (drops mic)