8/2/10

Shafted!: The Monkees


Despite the historically awful reviews from critics, I took the kids to see The Last Airbender - they loved it.  I kept waiting for it to be horrible; instead, it was entertaining throughout, akin to something like GI Joe or The Transformers.  It certainly didn't deserve the universal derision of movie critics - were they expecting Citizen Kane?

Anyway, it got me thinking about other pop culture things from years past that had also been unjustly criticized, and my mind immediately went to the Monkees. They were the critics' favorite punching bag, and even worse, they were mocked by other supposedly credible artists.  For instance, The Byrds' "So You Wan to Be a Rock and Roll Star" was a jab at the prefabricated band, aimed directly at the Monkees. 

Mike Nesmith has stated: "The press went into a full-scale war against us, talking about how 'The Monkees are four guys who have no credits, no credibility whatsoever and have been trying to trick us into believing they are a rock band.'"

The irony is that The Beatles, the greatest, most talented and influential band in history, actually liked The Monkees. Indeed, there was a lot to like about them: Mickey Dolenz was an amazing singer, they did contribute to their recordings, they were innovative (i.e. Dolenz was the first to use the moog in a rock song), they did play their instruments on tour, etc., etc. Sure, they didn't always write their own music, but so what? Either did Sinatra or Elvis.

The Take Home Message: Critics are idiots. It's astonishing that we still listen to their opinions when they've demonstrated time and again their irrelevancy.

23 comments:

  1. Wow! I took my son to see THE LAST AIRBENDER yesterday, too, and I felt just as you did. Didn't think it was anywhere near as bad as most everyone else has said. You don't have to post the link to my review blog if you don't want to, but my review of it can be found here: http://budsreviews.blogspot.com/

    Good to know someone else was of like mind with me. I was starting to feel like the Lone Ranger.

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  2. I think the Monkees' 1967 album "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." is a pretty good. My favorite cut off that album is "What Am I Doing Hangin' Around", where Nesmith sings lead vocals, and then there's the classic "Pleasant Valley Sunday". Anytime I see a new housing development going up, I always say "There's another
    Pleasant Valley Sunday".

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  3. They were a great band - just ask the people who still recognize and love their music 40 years later. My band plays a couple of their tunes and they always get people on their feet.

    Critics. Feh. The critics in Entertainment Weekly continually give good reviews to talentless pukes who rap, which proves they wouldn't know music if it walked up and punched 'em in their stupid face.

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  4. i would also like to add, that a lot of musicians are idiots, especially self-important ones from San Francisco who took too much acid and thought they were saving the world from the type of people they ended up being themselves- greedy people, greedy for fame and money all while pretending they didn't care about that stuff. The Monkees looked like they were having too much fun but that was a result of the image they had to maintain for the TV show. anyone who starts a band, gigs and makes records is part of the pop process and it's all down to what people like, which makes the audience look like idiots too sometimes, considering that some of them like the worst crap imaginable. all pop is corrupt, period. but i like it!...

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  5. I rarely listen to critics... I'd rather listen to fans. Most movie critics these days seem to have a specific idea of what a movie is supposed to be, and anything that doesn't fit that idea can't be good.

    There was (may still be, for all I know) a movie critic for the Tacoma News Tribune named Soren Anderson -- whenever he'd review a movie, I'd basically take his final rating and reverse it... worked pretty well!

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  6. When was that picture taken? Looks like some photo manipulation going on there, the mushroom cloud looks like Bozo the Clown, in the middle cloud, you can see the eyes, then the bulbous nose, then the cheeks and his upper teeth, left and right clouds form the hair.

    Either that, or I've watched Head way too many times (big cameo from Frank Zappa there too!).

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  7. Here's one by the Monkees with some big-league friends like Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll, and Buddy Miles which is probably one of the more unusual musical performances ever broadcast on network tv:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqPs8BAVI5I

    This is the climax of the show, and arguably the high point, but the whole thing is worth checking out while it's still on YouTube.

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  8. I'm a big supporter of the Monkees. I use the present tense because people still throw these same criticisms at them today without actually listening to their music.
    These same people often like music or bands that I consider even MORE prefabricated but think it's a deserved insult for the Monkees.

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  9. Wow how funny CLM mentioned Pleasant Valley Sunday; just yesterday we went walking through the woods by the Watchung Reservation right off of 'THE' Pleasant Valley Way where they are currently building more housing developments....it's almost as ironic as when we are driving on Pleasant Valley Way and the song comes on.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleasant_Valley_Sunday

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  10. @CLM in ND Nothing sums up the late '60s for me like Pleasant Valley Sunda. As soon as I hear the opening bars, I'm 17 again. And I grew up in Australia.

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  11. I have often thought that Good reviews were written to sell the product and Bad reviews were written to sell the media posting the review.
    Both contrived for a purpose neither very valuable for decision making.

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  12. Mitch Miller, who just died a few days ago, was slammed pretty good by the critics, too. Yeah, his music was square & had an overly wholesome quality to it, but he sold albums. His album, "Sing Along With Mitch", was one of the biggest sellers in the Columbia Records catalog for decades & has been in print since it was first released. For full disclosure, Mitch Miller is one of my music guilty pleasures!

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  13. I've been a huge fan of the Monkees since I was just a kid, and have (much to my husband's embarrassment) told many people in conversation that I actually prefer The Monkees to The Beatles.

    I've gotten a talking to from a number of people after saying that, but I'd say a third of people actually agree with me! Critics can say what they will, but it's obvious that the band has many, many devoted fans.

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  14. Thank you everyone for defending the Monkees! They are, and I say this without hyperbole, one of my alltime favorites musical entities. I watched their show when I was but a wee lad in the late 70s/early 80s, fell in love with their full catalog of music in the mid 80s when they reunited, and they were my "gateway drug" into the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and all of the late 60s rock bands.

    Just the past couple weeks, I checked out their first season on DVD from my local library and played them for my kids, and they loved every episode. My 7-year-old daugher is now in love with Davey!

    The Monkees rock; always have, always will!

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  15. Don't listen to critics...see it, hear it, and make your own opinion of something. For some reason critics just love to rip apart Mr. M. Night Shyamalan. Not sure the reason, but they love to hate this guy...which is sad. I have not seen the film yet, so I will not comment on it, but I have enjoyed all of the other films I have seen and felt that many of them were undeservedly bashed by the critics.

    I don't recall the harsh critics re: the Monkees, but then again, I was probably too young back then. Still, I did catch their show in re-runs in the 70s and loved all their music.

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  16. While it is always fun to paint with a broad brush, not ALL Critics are self important weasels, and not all French and independent films are this generations salvation.

    The important thing to do is find a critic who looks at the film itself and NOT what he/she thought it should have been. Look for a critic who shares your interest and values. A good critic is a valuable screener. You don't have the time or money to see and hear EVERYTHING produced, and movie ads are almost worthless in deciding where to blow your hard earned money.

    Also realize that time heals all wounds. Many "classics" were derided when they first came out. Sometimes a film or music has to wait for the audience to catch up.

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  17. I think they actually sold the most records out of all the bands in the sixties - or at least I think I read that somewhere.

    I have always liked them. Rhino does a great job putting out Monkees stuff.

    And now I am thinking of the movie Head.

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  18. Time has redeemed The Monkeys. We'll see how it treats The Last Airbender. I suspect it won't be kind.

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  19. Click the link below to read a new and interesting Monkees/Beatles bit of trivia!

    Al Bigley

    http://bigglee.blogspot.com/2010/08/mighty-monkees-60s-pics-in-japan-peter.html

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  20. I always liked the Monkees. They were talented and they had a great talented team working with them. One of your commentators posted a YouTube link to their last TV special "33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee". It is either sheer genius or pure trash, I can't decide. It will be my s"Song of the Week" on 8/15.

    As to Airbender, we were looking forward to this but based on my daughter's recommendation, who is a big fan of the original cartoon, we decided not to spend money in the theater on it. She really disliked it. Her opinion was that the movie was a disconnected series of set pieces, the totality of which made no sense. I'll wait until I can see it for free on cable.

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  21. The Last Airbender was trash from every perspective. Both critics and and fans would agree.

    I'm glad you liked it much though.

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  22. I don't think the critics hated the Monkees. I think they hated that they were successful.

    "A monument was never raised for a critic." -Socrates

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  23. "Headquarters," the band's summer of 1967 effort, is one of the best albums of the decade.

    There, I said it.

    The show was also absolutely hilarious, especially in its first season.

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