Take the last train to Clarksville.
I’ll be waiting at the station.
We’ll have time for coffee flavored kisses
And a bit of conversation.
Oh… Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
“Last Train to Clarksville” Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s answer to the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” hit the music scene August 16, 1966. Just 13 months shy of its 50th anniversary, I finally managed to hear Mickey Dolenz perform the Monkees’ first released single live in concert.
Summer 1996 found me at 12 years old in between 7th and 8th grade. One evening, my parents made a huge deal about all of us sitting down to watch a show together. It was some old show they had both watched in the 60s that was now releasing a new episode. Some music group? I couldn’t understand their enthusiasm, and felt lost through most of the episode (what was the big deal about a green ski hat?), but the music was decent. But then the old versions of this show started airing every day on VH1, and my parents insisted that we watch. And my addiction to the Monkees began.
Mike, Peter, Davy, and Mickey. Over the course of my summer break I would come to learn about these four performers and memorized the lyrics to every single one of their songs. I began acquiring each of their albums (on CD, of course. I am, after all, a true 90s child), and even sought out the Missing Links CDs that featured previously unreleased songs (including the original version of “Words” which included the haunting flute solo instead of that ridiculous organ solo) and other interesting bits, like the cereal commercial jingle the Monkees performed. My family even enabled this obsessive fangirl behavior. My parents found and purchased an old movie poster at an antique store for my bedroom wall. Aunt Connie and Uncle Mike purchased me a beautiful, picture-filled history book about the Monkees –did you know that such a thing really exists!?! And then Davy Jones came to Knoxville. While Davy was far from my favorite Monkee, he was step one of a four step bucket list.
Fast forward almost twenty years! I don’t watch much television and honestly do little to keep up with local news and happenings. I only listen to public radio on my short drive to work in the morning, and home in the afternoon. But two Tuesdays ago, I just happened to be listing to NPR at just the right time. I typically switch stations during commercial breaks, but as I was a bit distracted on my drive, I didn’t this one time. Through my distracted fog, I realized that I heard the familiar organ riff to “I’m a Believer.” My long dormant inner fan-girl sat up and began listening to hear one of the best announcements of my life: The Monkees in concert, this Friday at the Nashville Symphony! So I did the only thing I could think to do. I called my mom and asked her what section she would like for me to buy seats in.
Friday evening finally arrived and there we were, staring at the stage that would soon
support my beloved Mickey…and Peter. The speakers played old Monkees songs, a few songs by other artists performing songs the Monkees had written (actually, songs that Mike had written), and some covers of the Monkees’ songs (why would you cover a Monkees song. NO Smashmouth!). And then they took the stage…
Mickey Dolenz began by belting out “Last Train to Clarksville” and sounded exactly the same as he did 50 years ago. Which means that he was not particularly great. But it was still wonderful. He’s learned to play a few more instruments in the last 50 years, as opposed to receiving his first percussion lesson just hours before the Monkees performed their first concert ever. Peter, one of the only Monkees with any musical training, has lost some of his edge and does not play as well as he once did. There were missed notes, cracking voices, and a guitar change at one point that left the band without lead guitar for several measures…and I didn’t care. At one point I may have threatened to my mother that I would pitch an obnoxious gal who kept screaming throughout several songs over the balcony if she did not shut up and let me listen to step 2 and 3 of my 4 part bucket list. I still haven’t decided how I feel about the concert goers who got up to dance in front of the stage. This is the only rock concert I’ve ever been to where those dancing were in their 50s and 60s.
When Mickey and Peter left the stage, a bit abruptly, they of course returned to perform their encore. Finally, here came “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” I’ve kept this song title in my back pocket for nearly two decades now. If I ever own a palomino gelding, this will be his show name. I have dibs, so no stealing! Then they ended with their final number, “I’m a Believer.” While “Believer” is far from my favorite Monkees’ song (check out “Shades of Grey” or “Mr. Webster” when you get a chance), I truly believe that it is the most iconic Monkees song. It is absolutely bubblegum manufactured pop, which totally describes the entire concept of the Monkees. Four guys with little musical training who were cast to be the faces that Boyce and Hart could not be, performing a weekly half hour episode of A Hard Day’s Night.
The only sad parts of the show included the tributes to Davy Jones. While Mickey will always be my favorite, he just can’t sing Davy’s numbers. But the videos of Davy himself performing were sad and wonderful all at the same time.
Michael Nesmith remains at large as number 4 on my list. If he will ever venture out anywhere near Tennessee, I will finally be able to complete my Monkees bucket list.