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.
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.
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?