Friday, April 28, 2017

Monkee Mania

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Hey, hey, did you like the Monkees? I NEVER missed a show—and back then (senior citizen voice) you had to watch it when it was on—or you missed it.   Remember?

Well, Monkee mania has changed the life of a dear friend of mine…and I cannot wait for him to tell you all about it.


“They Made a Monkee (Writer) Out Of Me”
By Scott C. Forrest-Allen

It took me nearly fifty years for me to score my first official writing assignment – and it came so easily!

A routine scroll through Facebook led me to a post from Rebeat Magazine  with whom I was unfamiliar at the time. They were honoring the Monkees’ 50th Anniversary with a countdown of their Top 50 Songs. My love for both the Monkees and countdowns drew me in. 

Reading these song reviews brought me back to when I was in my single digits enjoying their TV program. I have vivid memories of watching them and seeing how much fun these boys were having challenging authority and society.

Initially impressed at how much research each individual Rebeat writer had contributed to the entries, I was hooked, especially since they were including several album tracks and not just the “hits.” There were even some tunes that I had forgotten.

HANK: So then what?

I reviewed the entire website and noticed how well written the articles were. Then I spotted the “Write For Rebeat” button. Deciding to be bold, (which is rare for me), I wrote an email expressing how much I enjoyed the countdown and asked if they would consider me to be on their staff. Included in my email were writing samples with links to my blog and theatre reviews. It is both humbling and rewarding for me to admit that several of my musical reviews have made it to the North Shore Music Theatre website.
  
HANK: Holding breath. And then what?

They responded to me, and I was thrilled to read that not only did they appreciate my writing, but they invited me to be a contributing writer to their upcoming weekly series that would recap the Monkees’ TV episodes fifty years after their premieres!

HANK: Oh, that is hilarious. What a job!

SCOTT: Yes, after I started breathing again, I accepted. Not long after that, my first assignment arrived – to review the episode “Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers.”

And soon: there it was! My very first official article on-line! What made it more real was to see it as a post on Facebook! I did it! It was and is happening! It was okay to breathe again!
Here’s where you can read it:

The Monkees helped my dream come true!

(And there’s a villain named Trump! This was what, fifty years ago?)

Since then I’ve written eight more articles, including a recap of “Success Story,” my personal favorite episode. It was very early in the TV series and was unafraid to take a serious turn halfway through.

HANK: What happens?

SCOTT: In it, Davy’s uncle threatens to take him back to England because he is not a success. There is a very poignant scene during which his band mates say farewell to him before his flies back to England, complete with Peter handing Davy a parachute in case his uncle changes his mind. It was that sincerity that cemented my love for the Monkees, both TV show and music. This scene always made me cry when I was younger, and I loathe admitting that I choked up when I was writing about it! I’ve seen the episode numerous times, and I know how it all turns out!

HANK: Aw.  Has this assignment taught you anything?

SCOTT: Yes, absolutely. Reviewing these episodes and reading other articles by my fellow scribes has me refelcting on the band’s career and my never-ending attachment to them.

Although time has been kind to the Monkees, I will never understand the initial backlash from critics and fans alike. Remember?  People were outraged when they discovered that the Monkees weren’t playing their own instruments; at least not initially. They had never lied to their public – the TV show was about four actors portraying a struggling rock band. Mission accomplished.

To be fair, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were accomplished musicians in their own rights, and Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones both had musical theatre backgrounds. So, they had all approached the project with valid experience. Eventually, they became a “real” band and played all of their own instruments for their concerts and would eventually compose material for subsequent albums. Theirs are some of the most professional concerts I’ve every attended.

People are just now realizing how important they are to popular music. On one side, the show could be considered nothing more than an entertaining half-hour filled with great music; on the flip side it was and still is one of the most clever half-hour commercials to promote a band and sell albums, complete with an unofficial introduction to Music Videos.

The plan worked. If the TV show was an innocent salute to the madcap comedy of the Marx Brothers, the music was always approached seriously, being written by the top songwriters in the business and professionally produced.

HANK: There were some big names!

SCOTT:  Definitely. Carole King helped to catapult the Monkees’ success with “Sometime in the Morning” and “Take a Giant Step,” both co-written with Gerry Goffin.

Neil Diamond contributed “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” to the group’s catalog. The song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Singles Chart, but his “I’m A Believer” peaked at #1.
The band enjoyed two more #1 singles – “Last Train To Clarksville” and “Daydream Believer.”

As a matter of fact, their first four albums (The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones, Ltd.) all peaked at #1.

HANK: What if you run out of Monkee episodes?

SCOTT: No problem!  Since then, Rebeat Magazine has asked me to contribute to their “Deep Tracks” Section with an article reviewing 10 underrated songs and one album by Fleetwood Mac, who is also celebrating fifty years!

This has been such a rewarding experience for me because not only am I discussing subjects that I love, but I am learning how to expand my writing style. I’ve always written with a very compact approach, but Rebeat Magazine has taught me how to write and express more. Instead of expressing my thoughts in a few sentences, I am now writing several paragraphs.

This experience has done wonders for my self-confidence when it comes to my writing. I have since then dug out drafts that had been otherwise abandoned; I’m co-writing the Book for a full-length musical; I’ve contributed an article to a charity organization’s newsletter; and an author has asked me to write reviews for his books. My Dad is happy for me, and my Mom would be proud too.

So, Fifty looks pretty good for the Monkees, Fleetwood Mac, and me!

They made a believer out of me!


HANK:  A daydream believer, right?  SO happy for you!  And now I’m singing.  So Reds, did you love the Monkees? Any Monkee memories?

60 comments:

  1. Wow, congratulations, Scott. What a great story! I must admit to not having seen the Rebeat Magazine website . . . now I’m anxious to look at it. Two of the songs you mentioned --- “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” --- were among my favorites.
    And yes, Hank, although I have no terrific tales to tell, I certainly do remember watching The Monkees . . . .

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    2. Thank you, Joan, for your comments! I hope you enjoy the Rebeat articles.

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  2. No authentic Monkee memories, except that it was one of those shows my mother used to always turn off, just before she shooed us all outside. I was definitely not raised to be a TV kid. But this post reinforces advice I often give to young artists who want to know how to build a career after high school. I tell them that the stuff they love without effort and do just for fun is where they should look for their talent. If it seems easy as pie, and a natural fit for you, that's what you should do, whether it's writing music reviews and plays, or mapping out plans for a major project. We all seem to believe we need to do "hard" stuff to make a living; doing the "easy" stuff is just being lazy somehow. We never seem to realize that the stuff that's easy for us is really hard and obscure and amazing to somebody else. No, I wasn't a Monkees fan, particularly, but I love music, and I'd really enjoy learning about music I don't know, and why it's important to the reviewer and to music history in general. Congratulations, Scott, on turning your life-long passion into a real career.

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    1. Gigi, this is such smart advice. I love the idea that the stuff that comes easy to you will seem hard to someone else.

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    2. Great advice, Gigi! It's something to keep in mind in other areas of your life as an adult. Some hard stuff you have to do, but maybe there's some you can just stop doing!

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    3. Thank you, Gigi, for your great advice.
      I also remember being "shooed" outside as a child -- until 430pm when the Monkees were on!

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  3. Scott, welcome! this is fascinating and I will go read your article as soon as I finish here. I assume Rebeat must be a play on Tiger Beat? I was Monkee crazy and wangled tickets to an early concert for my birthday--on my birthday--in 1967. What a hoot!

    Question, do people always want to know who is your favorite Monkee?

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    1. Thank you for enjoying in the article and for your interest in Rebeat Magazine!

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  4. Hi all! I am on the first train to Washington (Monkee reference :-) ) after being at the Edgars last night. Have you heard everything that happened? The Todds won the Mary Higgins Clark award, and even though I was disappointed, how can you be unhappy when the Todd's win? There was a little health scare with Jeffrey Deaver, but I hear he is fine. What a night! And so much fun to read about the monkees this morning.
    Off to the train, more to come!
    Good question Roberta: Scott, what's the answer? My favorite always changed… I was Davey, initially, but changed to Michael.

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    1. Congrats to the Todds, and for Hank, always an honor to be nominated! For me it was all Mickey, all the time:)

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    2. So happy for all the winners, including the Todds. Of course, Hank, you are always a winner in all you do. xo

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    3. Hello Hank, Yes, people always want to know my favorite Monkee, and my answer is Davy ;-)

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  5. Scott--clicking on one little button--taking a step outside your comfort zone--and look where you've gotten! Being willing to stick your neck out for something you love--it's amazing how far it can take you!! My sisters and I were diehard Monkee fans. My oldest nephew's wife is a Monkee fan--she fell in love with them via reruns. My sister surprised her last year with tickets to a Monkees reunion concert--when she actually got to 'gasp' speak to Peter Tork. MIL scores major brownie points AND the concert was great fun as well! So there to those naysayers about the Monkees' musical ability!!

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    1. Whoa, a close encounter of the first kind,

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    2. Thank you, Flora! I have seen the Monkees several times in concert, and I'm always impressed at how professional they are. What a great opportunity to speak with Peter!

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  6. Scott, I love this story! Of your love for the Monkees, your boldness, and your success. Wishing you all the best with your writing.

    I remember getting home from ninth grade, putting on a Monkees record, and immediately calling my friend Cindy to rehash the day. Soundtrack of my early high school years!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and memories, Edith!

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  7. Everyone should have at least one job in their lifetime that makes them leap out of bed in the morning, shouldn't they? Scott, that was a bold move on your part. Glad it paid off for you, and that you get to spend quality time with such a fun activity.

    One of my three best friends in high school was an uber fan of the Monkees, and some of my favorite memories of us came from our wild dance sessions in her basement, grooving to their music. I tagged her on Facebook for this post, so I hope she gets to see it for her own fangirl self!

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    1. Oh what a fun memory! Hope she comes to visit!

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    2. Thank you for your words of encouragement, Karen!

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  8. Somehow I thought Lucy was a big Monkees fan... As for me their heyday was in a black hole for me, musically speaking--in college and right after when I rarely turned on TV or radio (remember radio?) The big deal some years later here in Boston was New Kids on the Block... and I confess I can't name a single one of their songs, either. And congratulations, Scott! And let's hear it for putting your passion to work.

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    1. Thank you so much, Hallie! I really appreciate your feedback.

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  9. I wasn't a fan of The Monkees in their first go-round. Instead I caught the show when it was in reruns (during the UHF days) on Boston station WLVI channel 56. That station had all the shows like The Brady Bunch (didn't Davey Jones appear on an episode?), The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Monkees, The Banana Splits and so many cartoons. Not too mention Uncle Dale doing voiceover work in between each show and The Creature Double Feature on weekends.

    Once I did start watching the show, I do remember liking it, but I wouldn't say that I was HUGE fan or anything. I barely remember anything from the show really. I know that I do still love "Daydream Believer" though.

    And I can relate to Scott's writing story as well. Since 2005, I've written for a couple of pop culture related websites and a couple of music websites. And I was always invited by the owners because they'd read stuff I posted in online forum message boards and thought I could bring something to their site.

    But in spite of the fact that I was at least borderline adequate in my writing ability, I had an attack of the nerves when I was given a tryout to write for an actual print magazine. But I passed the test, the submission was printed and I got added to the Mystery Scene magazine pool of reviewers. Not bad, landing a spot to write for your favorite magazine, eh? And I get paid, so I can say that I'm a paid "professional" writer. (Okay, try to stop laughing that hard, willya?)

    And when Hank Phillippi Ryan informs a crowd of people in your hometown library, including your senior year English teacher, that you are a "very good book reviewer", it is suddenly all worth it, no?

    So congrats on your writing gigs Scott. Oh by the way, I can't wait to see your stuff on Fleetwood Mac. I just picked up their "Tango In The Night" reissue.

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    1. I watched them on channel 56, too! I remember liking the show, and Davey was definitely my favorite, but I wasn't crazed about them.

      I'm sure we're all going to be reading a lot more of your reviews and articles in the days to come, Jay!

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    2. Thanks Ingrid, I always appreciate the support both you and Hank have shown me. There'll definitely be more reviews(I've got four more submitted, with a fifth I'm waiting on the book to arrive), but I don't know about articles. That doesn't seem like my forte, at least not on the see in print level. The stuff I've written online (like the one I did about the first time I was at your book signing) or comic convention reports are my comfort zone since I control the deadline. But you never know.

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    3. Jay you named some of my favorite shows and I think I may have been watching them in reruns. Loved the Banana Splits and so few people remember that show. My favorite lunch box!

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    4. Thank you, Jay! Yes, Davy appeared on one of the episodes of The Brady Bunch in which Marsha promises he will sing at their prom. (Of course!) I am looking forward to reading your reviews, and I am interested in your opinions about the Tango In the Night reissue.

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    5. Kay, and the cartoons like Casper the Friendly Ghost and Mighty Mouse... And how could anyone forget The Banana Splits. Once you see them and hear that theme song, it is ingrained in your brain. :D

      Scot, the reviews I've done for Mystery Scene are available on their website. Look up my name in their search box and you should be able to find all 6 thus far. As for Tango in the Night, I loved the original album so when I do my review of the reissue, it will probably focus more on the additional material but I will get something about the original material in the piece as well.

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  10. I was late to the Monkees party, catching them on after school reruns in the 70's but they led me to the Beatles so it's all good! I had a mad crush on Mike Nesmith when I was nine before my heart was stolen by Shaun Cassidy! LOL. What a great writing assignment, Scott! It's so much easier writing about something you love. I can't wait to read your articles!

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    1. Thank you, Jenn, and I hope you enjoy my articles!

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  11. Scott, did you ever imagine when you were a kid that the Monkees would play a role in your work life as an adult? I'm looking forward to reading your articles, but I fear they will send me down a black hole of nostalgia from which it will be hard to return!

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    1. Does that mean we are going to find out in a future novel that Fina is a closet Monkees fanatic?

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    2. She's a little too young, right? And no, I don't see it!

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    3. Hello Ingrid! I never dreamed that the Monkees would play such an important role in my life as an adult! Thank you for your comments. Hoping you will enjoy my articles.

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  12. Scott, congratulations of stepping out of your comfort zone and writing about something you love! Who knows where it might lead? I have to admit I was not a big Monkees fan (those were hippie days for me, lol) but I thought they were cute, and now I want to go back and watch some of those episodes. And, boy, did they have some songwriting star power!!! How many people knew what Last Train to Clarksville was really about, I wonder...

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    1. Hello, Deborah! Thank you for your well wishes. You are correct -- it is so satisfying to "take a giant step" outside of our comfort zone! I believe I know what "Last Train" is about....

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  13. Scott, thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane. I loved The Monkees television show and their records. The show was on TV during the years I was 12-14, so I was the perfect audience age. Their enthusiasm and silliness was fun entertainment. The show and their songs were mostly a feel-good experience, and that isn't at all a bad thing. And, Jen, Michael Nesmith was the one I pined for, too.

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    1. Hello Kathy, you are very welcome for this trip down memory lane, and I thank you for your comments!

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  14. My brother, sister, and I watched every Saturday morning. We used to argue about who we liked best - everybody liked Davy, so we had to chose out of the remaining three and my brother got Mike, sis got Peter, and I got Mickey. I loved the music, and still do.

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    1. Thank you, Pauline, for your great comments. Choosing your favorite Monkee has always been part of enjoying both the show and the music!

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  15. Scott, you're an inspiration to all the aspiring writers out there - sometimes you need to screw up your courage and try for something that seems out of reach!

    As for the Monkees, I was a little kid when their show was on and I LOVED them. I had a Monkees hand puppet - each finger was one of the boys' heads in plastic, and the thumb was an arm. It had a clunky voicebox inside and when you pulled the string, one of the boys would say, "Groovy," or "Let's play!" I don't remember many toys of my childhood, but that one remains in my heart.

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    1. Thank you very much, Julia, for your kind words, and thank you for sharing your memories about the puppet!

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  16. The Monkees was a hoot! We never missed it. My three old son (yes, I'm old as a redwood) would bounce around to "I'm A Believer "singing "Sy ya fay" (saw her face) and to this day I still sing "Sy ya fay."
    Julia, you can have Peter if I can have Michael Nesmith. Remember his single, "Joanne"? She lived in a meadow, by a stream.

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  17. I knew about the Monkees in my youth but didn't become a hardcore fun until 1996 or so when VH-1 ran the episodes every weeknight. I've been to dozens of concerts and have meet Micky, Davy, Peter, Bobby Hart, Henry Diltz (their photographer), Ami Dolenz and Dave Evans (scripwriter). Loved the Rebeat article and will have to rewatch the episodes. Oh yeah, and at my last concert I got the towel that Mick threw into the audience. I had to fight off the other women for it! And the Monkees inspired my Sandy Fairfax character who appears in four cozies.

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    1. Thank you, Sally, for your comments and for enjoying my articles. Thanks for sharing your memories -- and hang on to that towel! ;-)

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  18. I loved watching the Monkees. I was a huge Mickey fan and always will be. Their songs form the music of my childhood. Love the article

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    1. Thank you, Kay! It's nice to know the songs are still resonate with people.

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  19. Every time I go to the North Station I get that Clarksville ear worm going.

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    1. Thanks, Reine, and I understand that!

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  20. Congratulations Scott! Fantastic interview! I love the Monkees.

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    1. Thank you so much, Robyn! I appreciate your feedback.

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