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NOW Can We Induct The Monkees Into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
March 1, 2012

When Davy Jones died yesterday of a heart attack at 66, Twitter, Facebook and the Internet in general lit up in warm remembrance of the amiably pint-sized Monkee who was that group’s best fit for the prevailing teen-idol mold of the mid-1960s. It was a gentle outpouring of affection for someone that a lot of people felt symbolized a happy part of their youth.

Me, I got kind of angry but determined. I’m not happy that it’s taken Jones’s death to force us to seriously consider righting what now seems to be an obvious, glaring injustice, but now that it’s happened, we need to accept the facts. It’s time to induct the Monkees into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Strike that. It’s well past time. (They’ve been eligible since 1992, 25 years and change after the release of debut single “Last Train To Clarksville,” meaning that they’ve been snubbed for almost as long as it took them to become eligible in the first place.) Yes, they were assembled by outside forces to be Beatles clones for a television show. No, they didn’t write most of their own material or, early on, play on their own records.

But since Jones’s death was reported, I’ve been reminded that the Monkees sold more albums in 1967 than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. That the TV show The Monkees, working from the template of Help! and A Hard Day’s Night, helped invent the music video. That they introduced Jimi Hendrix (their onetime opening act) and Frank Zappa (who appeared on their television show and in their crazily incomprehensible movie Head) to American teenyboppers. That, once established as hitmakers, they fought hard for more substantial involvement in their own music and, stunningly, won. And, even more stunningly, kept cranking out hits; “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer” and “Valleri” are among the songs from this period.

Valid arguments, all. And ultimately, I’m not sure I care about any of them. The simple fact is that if the Hall can (deservedly) induct acts along the lines of the Ronettes, the Temptations and Sam & Dave – none of whom wrote their own music, played their own instruments or were the masters of their own fates – then there’s no good reason not to have the Monkees alongside them.

If you want to hear the case made firmly but eloquently, just check out any good Monkees best-of. (I have Rhino’s 20-track Greatest Hits from 1995, but there are plenty to choose from.) This is a group – whether you define that as a full band, a central core augmented by additional musicians or a purely vocal quartet – that gave us “Clarksville,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (as good a garage-rock track as has ever been produced, and a punk touchstone), “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (anti-bourgeois social criticism!), “Daydream Believer,” “Porpoise Song” and other, lesser-known gems that still hold up today.

It’s a deeper, richer catalogue than the Lovin’ Spoonful (inducted into the Hall in 2000) and the Dave Clark Five (class of 2008). The Monkees have proven themselves worthy of the honor entirely on their merits, yet they’re snickered at because they were put together for TV.

But that puts a disproportionate emphasis on the circumstances of the group, rather than on the quality of the music and the influence it wielded. Enough. It’s sad that Jones may have had to die to press the case, but their legacy speaks for itself. Monkees 2013. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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