Nostalgia, The Monkees and RIP Mike Nesmith

Nostalgia.

That was to be the theme of today’s post as it’s something many of us feel acutely at this time of year. When I started this retrospective music blog nearly six years ago, I hadn’t yet realised that writing about old Christmas songs can really pull at the heart strings. You remember happy Christmases with your family as a child, you remember happy Christmases with your friends as a young adult, and then happy Christmases with your own children when they came along. (Link to previous festive posts here.)

From this end of the conveyor belt of life it’s all a bit different – Many of the people in those memories are no longer with us and this year DD will be with her boyfriend’s parents on the big day, which seems only fair after having bagsied them for two years in a row because of last year’s sudden change in ‘the rules’. I am still hopeful we might have grandchildren some day, which would really perk things up around here, but of course a grandchild is not just for Christmas so I’ll have to be patient on that front.

But back to nostalgia, defined as, “the pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again”. Looking at various examples of its use in a sentence, nostalgia can be either a good thing or be somewhat crippling, as in reality we can’t go back in time. Best to just remember it all as it was and enjoy the memories.

It soon became apparent that my first musical memories were from 1966 when I was aged six. I was already aware of the Beatles, and of many of the singers who appeared on the prime time shows my parents watched, but when the Monkees television show (also called The Monkees) hit our screens that year, I was immediately smitten. Their scheduled slot in the UK was teatime on a Saturday, so perfect for family viewing. I was therefore saddened to hear of the death of Mike Nesmith last night before going to bed, the third Monkee to leave us.

(Theme From) The Monkees by the Monkees:


I have written about both Davy Jones and Peter Tork around here before, and now it’s going to be Mike Nesmith. Let’s hope it’s a while before Micky Dolenz puts in an appearance.

Anyone who remembers those days will know that Mike was the tall Monkee with the woolly hat and the Texan drawl (although at age six I wouldn’t have known what a drawl was). He was one of the older Monkees and was primarily a musician rather than an actor. The show ran for two seasons, between 1966 and 1968, and followed the adventures of four young men trying to make a name for themselves as a band. Ironically, because of the success of the show, they became one of the most popular bands of the 1960s, but got increasingly frustrated at the control exerted over them by the show’s creator. They were acting out their roles and were never expected to actually play their own instruments or write their own songs. In time that changed however and some of their own songs, many written by Mike Nesmith, proved to be the most popular of all.

Mike Nesmith 1942 – 2021

It sounds as if Mike hadn’t been well for some time but he had been well enough to head out on one last Farewell Tour which ended only last month. He was no longer the young man in the woolly hat, and had to stay seated for the first few shows of the tour, but made it through to the bitter end. A fitting conclusion perhaps to his life.

My favourite fun fact about Mike Nesmith is that his mother invented Liquid Paper (known to others perhaps as Tippex or correction fluid). She went from being a ‘single mom’ to being the owner of a multi-million dollar company. As someone who went through a lot of Liquid Paper working in offices over the years, I thank her for helping us keep our paperwork looking tidy. I’m guessing in these days of paperless offices, it is no longer needed.

Since starting this blog I’ve made a lot of new song discoveries and one of my favourites is Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. It was written by Mike Nesmith back in 1964, long before his years with the Monkees so thank you Mike for that amazing song. Time to hear what it sounded like in your hands.

Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I suppose it was inevitable that if I started to revisit the music of my youth, there was a fair chance many of the associated artists would already be no longer be with us, and many more tributes have been written around here over the last few years. The upside however is that you get a chance to revisit their back catalogue of songs and enjoy listening to them all over again. Keeping nostalgia in check is a tough ask at this time of year for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth, but there is definitely a pleasurable side to it too.

Until next time… RIP Mike Nesmith

Different Drum Lyrics
(Song by Mike Nesmith)

You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum
Oh, can’t you tell by the way I run
Every time you make eyes at me Wo oh
You cry and you moan and say it will work out
But honey child I’ve got my doubts
You can’t see the forest for the trees

So, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

Oh, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

My 100th Post, Linda Ronstadt and “Different Drum”

Well, didn’t think I’d reach this landmark so soon but after only 10 months of blogging I’ve made it to 100 posts – Averages out at…, well you can do the maths, but probably why I’ve not had much time for other hobbies this year (or seen as much of my friends, or got that promotion, or kept on top of the garden) but hey, I think I’m about to get one of those virtual blue “congratulations” badges from the WordPress people, so all worthwhile!

So, why did I start blogging? For all sorts of reasons probably but I realised that something had to be done last year on New Year’s Eve, when holed up in bed with a nasty cold. Due to miss the Hogmanay celebrations we are so fond of here in Scotland, and with not much to do except feel sorry for myself, I picked up my iPhone to do a bit of stalking, I mean Facebooking. Anyone who uses Facebook will know that there is a little box at the top with the prompt, “Whats on your mind?” – I took them literally. A thousand words later I was done (but not recommended as if you’ve ever done a 1000 word post on your iPhone you’ll know that after 500 words it starts to really slow down, only letting you key in one letter every 5 seconds). Most of my friends either ignored it or put it down to the delirium caused by my malady but one kind soul did submit the comment, “I see you’ve been busy sharing your thoughts. All the best for 2016”. Hmm… what would be the best for 2016 I wondered – Not sharing my thoughts on Facebook that’s for sure!

And so I discovered WordPress – Ideal, I could write away to my heart’s content without bothering any of my friends. A couple of decades ago I would have probably gone down the Carrie Bradshaw route (a bit of an idol of mine despite her expensive taste in shoes) but I no longer live in a city and I don’t think any of my middle-aged friends would appreciate having their sex lives strewn across the world wide web. No, it had to be something else and for some time I had thought it would be a good idea to write about those memories conjured up by a song or piece of music. After a few false starts and changes in format, WIAA? came about, and it has been quite a journey (as they say on those televised, reality-cum-singing shows).

First of all I had expected at least a few of my friends and family to read what I was posting but it turns out they don’t, so that is quite liberating and allows me to regale all sorts of tales from the past without fear of redress. Secondly, I hadn’t expected to make “blogging buddies” which I kind of think I have. Thanks to everyone who has left comments over the months, especially the hard-core music bloggers (their sites on my sidebar) as I know the song choices here at WIAA? are not always to their taste, but I’ve had to stay true to my remit of writing about what is relevant to me at the time, and if it happens to be the worst song in the history of mankind, then sobeit. (Hopefully not gone there yet but when National Treasure Sir Terry Wogan passed away I did include The Floral Dance although no-one would begrudge me that one I’m sure).

An unexpected bonus of writing about songs is that you have to do a fair bit of research beforehand and it has been a joy finding out so much more about the artists and songs than would ever have been possible first time around – It has been an education indeed, especially as I was always more of a “geek” about music, recording chart rundowns, alphabetising record collections and memorising books of hit singles.

What on earth to include in this historic post then? As it turns out that’s an easy call. Over the months it has become apparent that the year I keep coming back to is 1967 which is very bizarre because I was just a little kid then. I have put it down to the fact that songs from back then have not yet become over-familiar; no unpleasant memories are attached; spiritually I think I would have been a flower-child; the radio stations I listen to often play songs from that year and finally the sub-genre (I had no idea there were so many) I find myself warming to most of all, is orchestral/baroque pop.

A few months ago, over at A History of Dubious Taste, Jez featured the song Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt as part of his “Sunday Morning Coming Down” series. (To be fair the song is actually attributed to The Stone Poneys but she was the voice of the aforementioned Poneys.) I was smitten, and immediately had to make a purchase which wasn’t easy as it was one of those “buy the whole album or nothing” deals. It was of course from 1967, and was of the baroque pop/rock persuasion.

Different Drum by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt:

The song was actually written back in 1965 by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, before he joined the band, and is penned very much from a male perspective but was tweaked a little for a female songstress. The song tells of a pair of young lovers, one of whom wants to settle down, while the other wants to retain a sense of freedom and independence. The narrator wants to remain free, telling the other that they’ll “both live a lot longer” if they part ways now. I can see a pattern forming here as the 1964 song We’ll Sing In The Sunshine by Gale Garnett (featured last time) told a similar tale but I’ll put it all down to “the times” as not something I could ever have done myself, being an all or nothing kind of girl.

Before discovering this song, my only memories of Linda Ronstadt were from the late ’70s and of her big hit Blue Bayou. She was cute as a button back in 1967 and even in 1977 she was the girl we all wanted to look like. I have written recently about how this was a really confusing time for young people in Britain – Out of the big cities, we still dressed like Amercian kids in wide flared jeans and oufits like the ones Linda Ronstadt wore (I had hair like this in 1977 although my mum made me take the flower out for school), but our boyfriends had adopted the clothes of their punk-rock idols. A right bunch of odd couples we must have looked – The song my new boyfriend (he’s been mentioned before and his ears will be burning wherever he is) and I adopted as “our song” in 1977, was indeed Blue Bayou. What I hadn’t realised then was that Linda had previously been with The Stone Poneys and unbelievably, once she set out on a solo career, her original backing band was The Eagles.

heart-like-a-wheel-outtake_0_1
Lnd Ronstadt circa 1977

In all, Linda produced more than 30 Studio Albums and has won 11 Grammy Awards. It is with great sadness that I have now discovered she has Parkinson’s disease, and “can no longer sing a note”. This nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years” can be somewhat harrowing at times – Where have the years gone?

The orchestral pop genre that emerged in the late ’60s and which I seem to be so fond of, incorporated symphonic strings and horns played by groups of properly arranged studio musicians. Many pop arrangers and producers worked orchestral pop into their artists’ releases, including George Martin with the Beatles, and John Barry for his scores to the James Bond films. Burt Bacharach (who has featured here a lot) and the Beach BoysBrian Wilson were also seen as “gods” of orchestral pop.

As for baroque pop/rock, by early 1966, various groups had began using baroque and classical instrumentation. The Zombies‘ single She’s Not There marked the starting point and would inspire New York musician Michael Brown to form the Left Banke, whose song Walk Away Renée was possibly the first baroque pop single. Other examples include Spanky and Our Gang‘s Sunday Will Never Be the Same, and of course The Stone PoneysDifferent Drum, all of which used harpsichord and strings.

stone

An extremely long post this so thanks for bearing with me if indeed you have. I wasn’t sure if I would keep going after 100 posts, as blogging does tend to impinge of the rest of your life, but I’ve enjoyed it all so much I think I will, until it no longer works for me.

Again thanks to those followers who have jumped in with comments – Chris, Marie, CC, Jez, Rol, C, The Swede, Rick, Lynchie, Ovidiu and anyone else I might have missed. It is much appreciated and I have in turn learnt so much from your blogs. Thanks also for allowing me to be part of The Chain Gang, despite my lame choices, and finally thanks to Denise Marsa for finding my post about her Lucky Stars duet with Dean Friedman and whom I cannot believe that I have as a follower.

Last but not least there is of course Mr WIAA to consider, who has had to spend long evenings watching television on his own this year whilst I have been beavering away on the computer. Couldn’t have done it without him though and despite the odd raised eyebrow when I am yet again caught blogging when supposed to be doing something else more worthy, on the whole he has been my biggest supporter. Not so much travelling to the beat of a different drum this year therefore, more a case of the same drum being in different rooms of the house. Post a hundred and one, here I come….

Different Drum Lyrics
(Song by Mike Nesmith)

You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum
Oh, can’t you tell by the way I run
Every time you make eyes at me Wo oh
You cry and you moan and say it will work out
But honey child I’ve got my doubts
You can’t see the forest for the trees

So, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

Oh, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me