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HomeMusicPapa Nes Blues - Celebrating the Music of Michael Nesmith

Papa Nes Blues – Celebrating the Music of Michael Nesmith


Michael Nesmith was a Monkee, an excellent comic, a rustic rock pioneer, an ornery cuss, and a deep thinker; he additionally wrote and sang songs that go the take a look at of time with flying colours. Within the wake of his loss of life, there have been a great deal of tributes, most likely probably the most transferring was from his good friend and bandmate Micky Dolenz.

There have been the same old obits that talked about Mike’s tenure as a Monkee. About his fierce individualism, his hand in growing Cosmic American Music, the half he performed in getting MTV off the bottom, and that rattling inexperienced hat. Not sufficient of them talked concerning the music, so we’re right here to pay tribute to him as a songwriter, a singer, and a guitar participant. Rounding up individuals to speak about their love of Nesmith and his songs wasn’t onerous — retaining individuals to brief blurbs was. As you may see, Mike’s music meant (and can at all times imply) loads to these fortunate sufficient to fall underneath their spell. I do know his songs resonate with me as a lot as any songs by anybody from any time. As I grew out of my Micky worship, I spotted that the perfect Monkees songs, those who weren’t simply good blasts of gooey bubblegum, have been the odd little ones that appeared to exist out of the pop mainstream in an area the place every kind of music collided and the phrases have been just a bit deeper than the same old moon-June stuff. One widespread thread that runs by way of the tributes right here is the affect each day reruns of The Monkees had on younger musicians. Seeing these three goofballs (and one man who appeared to hilariously maintain all the pieces in disdain) have the time of their lives enjoying songs sparked one thing in viewers, and listeners, that lasted a lifetime. It is powerful to say goodbye to somebody so beloved and influential, however because of the music he left behind, we by no means need to.


Kicking issues off is without doubt one of the proud inheritors of the psychedelic nation rock mantle, Brent Rademaker. As a member of Beachwood Sparks, he helped make albums that tipped joyously over into the psychedelic facet of the equation. Lots of their songs sound like they might be late-period Monkees album tracks, particularly on their traditional self-titled 2001 debut. His more moderen group GospelbeacH lean extra in direction of the type of rambling nation rock Nesmith made within the ’70s. Brent’s decide is “You Simply Could Be the One,” two minutes of pop perfection from Headquarters.

As a carefree six-year-old I took this music very significantly and as a totally grown folks rock freak, part-time songwriter with a terminal case of Byrds fever, I nonetheless do. I have to’ve developed a love for the hollow-bodied 12 electrical string jangle by watching The Monkees’ reruns. The episode the place Peter (my fave) falls hopelessly in love and his rival suitor is a straight dude in a swimsuit and tie…my brother and I had lengthy hair and wore colourful groovy garments so there was tons to narrate to, but in addition tons to study. I at all times assumed Nesmith had written this one himself even after I grew sufficiently old to know the detractors who accused them of being “manufactured” — positive that is true, however that does not imply that they weren’t actual. Michael Nesmith not solely had an influential stocking cap (as seen for the final 50 years on the heads of many younger hip teams) however his affect on nation rock from his personal information to being “hootmaster” on the traditionally essential Monday nights on the Troubadour isn’t misplaced on me as a member of West Coast nation/folks rock concord group who additionally shared an enormous home in Los Angeles!

That custom-built Gretsch 12 string was the primary one which I can recall seeing and “You Simply Could Be The One,” whereas lyrically over my head as just a little child, undoubtedly created a sense in my coronary heart. The chord construction and really feel, to not point out the manufacturing and presentation, have stayed with me at all times. The facility of a single music to change the course of only one life, if not hundreds of thousands, is effectively on show right here. How proud he should’ve felt to have one in every of his songs utilized in that deep effectively of songwriters that the Monkees producers went to again and again. I am so grateful to have seen him play on the Troubadour in 2019 it was excellent…a nationwide treasure.

— Brent Rademaker, Beachwood Sparks/GospelbeacH


We’re tremendous stoked to have Marshall Crenshaw on board. In the event you aren’t hip to his recordings, cease what you’re doing instantly and take a look at “Cynical Woman” or “Calling Out for Love (At Crying Time)” or “Starless Summer time Sky.” In case you are within the know, you may have some thought why we’re so excited to listen to his ideas! He picked one thing just a little totally different, the Monkees’ “Nice Valley Sunday,” a near-perfect music that options Nes on guitar.

It is not a Mike Nesmith tune, however he is distinguished on the document, enjoying the signature guitar riff all through. I like The Monkees — a misunderstood and underrated Rock act if ever… Most followers learn about how they broke away from Don Kirshner in ’67-68, shaped their very own document manufacturing workforce with Chip Douglas, and so on. In the event you’ve heard Carole King’s demo of “Nice Valley Sunday,’ you hear how the group fully made the music their very own and raised it to a better stage (although her demo itself is nice). And it’s important to give it up for Peter Tork’s piano enjoying. — Marshall Crenshaw


Singer/songwriter Amy Rigby made an enormous splash along with her 1996 solo debut Diary of a Mod Housewife, knocking individuals out with a mix of ’60s-inspired rock, nation, and pop. She by no means seemed again after that, crafting a robust CV of albums stuffed with witty observations and real-life emotion. Her most up-to-date tasks embody writing her memoirs (Woman to Metropolis: A Memoir) and releasing an archival assortment of early songs titled A One Method Ticket to My Life. Her decide is “Rio”, a shock hit from Nesmith’s 1977 album From a Radio Engine to a Photon Wing.

After I was seven years outdated, I fell in love with the Monkees on TV, declaring myself a member of the Wool Hat Membership. Like the opposite three guys within the group, Michael Nesmith was cute and humorous and gifted, however nerdy women may inform our Mike wanted that hat to maintain his overactive mind heat. He did not appear to need adulation or success, besides on his personal phrases, so it was straightforward to overlook how giant a shadow that bobble cap solid because the many years tumbled by. When his cerebral celebration observe “Rio” popped up in a combination this previous summer season, it was like recognizing a one-time crush throughout the room and pondering “Good God, why did not I work tougher to get to know him? He is…a genius!” With cowpoke parallels to Marvin Gaye’s “Obtained To Give It Up” (launched the identical 12 months, 1977) “Rio”‘s groove is constructed on a bass observe and round chord development that works its manner down and round solely to elevate the listener onto an ever increased aircraft of escape, the place the reluctant sybarite talks himself into letting go whereas a crowd simmers within the wings, urging him to take that flight. The accompanying video Nesmith made for “Rio” was very practically the primary music video, and his wacky charms are on full show. If a capability to snigger at your self was a vital life ability I sensed from these early Monkees reveals, this man wasn’t only a superb musician, he was a damned sage I want I might had the sense to observe extra carefully. Seeing him on the ultimate Monkees tour this previous 12 months was life-changing in a retroactive sense, validating selections I might made at his behest all these years in the past to “Hear To The Band.” — Amy Rigby


Glenn Donaldson of the Reds, Pinks & Purples is an enormous Nesmith fan, which is evident from the way in which he balances gleaming pop hooks with impossibly tender, generally indirect lyrics. The band has launched fairly just a few breathtaking albums over the previous couple of years. Their latest, Summer time at Land’s Finish, simply got here out and it is one other intestine punch destined to hit deep within the feels, whereas the melodies linger like a heat breeze. His decide is one in every of Mike’s signature tunes, “Hearken to the Band.”

Apart from being a success songwriter and affecting vocalist, Nesmith most likely helped push the “pre-fab 4” into one thing extra subversive and alongside the way in which blessed us with flashes of psychedelic exploitation brilliance. Working example, this fried model of “Hearken to the Band” from their NBC TV particular 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, which begins off with Peter Tork proving he’s legit by ripping some CPE Bach on a Hohner Clavinet. This segues right into a uncooked model of Nesmith’s proto-country rock tune with Dolenz taking over a slack groove on the drums. Even non-musician Davy Jones is clearly rocking the tambourine. This arresting second of actual reside music morphs right into a full-on freakout with tape results with the Buddy Miles Specific guesting, wild percussion crashing, and gyrating hipsters coming into the fray. — Glenn Donaldson, the Reds, Pinks & Purples


Steve Stanley is an archivist, producer, and label proprietor whose Now Sounds imprint has launched a ton of nice reissues. Final 12 months, they made followers of the Beau Brummels very, very joyful by placing out a large field set that collected all their ’60s recordings in a lovely package deal. His decide for a favourite Nesmith observe is the Monkees’ “The Woman I Knew Someplace.”

An exhilarating folk-rock anthem and an electrified hymn. The muse of a chiming guitar, a percussive harpsichord, and a pulsating bass helps the once-in-a-generation voice of Micky Dolenz. From the pen of Michael Nesmith, “The Woman I Knew Someplace” tells the story of a person crippled by his personal worry of failure, originating from a lady he can not even clearly recall, rendering him unable to like. Or… is he sarcastically chatting with the identical individual, refusing to be burned by her once more? Regardless, it was such a elegant launchpad for the Monkees’ self-contained Headquarters interval — it will allegedly be one of many first songs they’d document primarily themselves —, this three minutes of perfection was criminally relegated to the B-side of the one that acquired Don Kirshner dismissed (“A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me”). (Did the Beverly Hills Lodge save that door that Nesmith lunged his fist by way of?) As a child rising up in Seventies Oklahoma Metropolis, they have been my first favourite band. I used to be hooked from the second I first noticed a repeat of their present on my black-and-white TG&Y set. Listening to this recording now — a month after Nesmith’s passing — makes the loss even tougher to simply accept. — Steve Stanley, Now Sounds Data


Slick soul crooner, smooth rock balladeer, snazzy mod, jangling folks rocker, Bart Davenport has worn many hats throughout his lengthy profession in music. We right here at AllMusic have doled out many stars to his albums, giving particular consideration to his near-perfect traditional rock homage Sport Protect from 2003. He has a brand new album popping out actual quickly referred to as Episodes and the early returns have it pegged as one in every of his greatest, a beautiful detour into baroque ’60s jangle pop balladry. His selection of a favourite Nesmith music is one I discover myself singing endlessly all through the day as I am doing dishes or dusting, the timeless “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Spherical?”

I acquired into the Monkees watching reruns on weekdays simply after college. At six years outdated I did not fairly perceive what reruns have been and initially assumed The Monkees have been a present band (this was round 1976-77). The adults needed to clarify to me these episodes had initially aired ten years earlier. I hint my ’60s obsession to this. It appeared to me I might been born too late as a result of the world contained in the TV set seemed much more enjoyable at any time when the Monkees, the Munsters, Bewitched, or Gilligan’s Island have been on. That world appeared shinier, extra fashionable, and extra harmless. Davy Jones was my childhood fave, most likely as a result of he appeared probably the most like a child himself. Michael Nesmith seemed like a grownup, perhaps a bit like my dad with these sideburns. I did not decide up on his dry, straight-faced humor till later. However all 4 Monkees have been early position fashions. Some adults would say they “did not actually play their devices,” mentioned they have been a “faux” band. I refused to imagine this. The Monkees (together with The Beatles) made me need to be a musician after I grew up.

Nes grew on me after all and he is now my fave. The tune I at all times come again to, the one which brings me again to these afternoons glued to the TV is “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Spherical?” Nesmith takes the lead vocal on this and I at all times assumed he’d written it. Seems the music was written at Nes’ request by good friend and labelmate Michael Martin Murphey (who later penned the smooth rock hit “Wildfire”). However, the music was written particularly for Nesmith who sang it with all the center and soul of the true Texan gentleman that he was. As a child, I hadn’t heard Marty Robbins and I did not perceive the music’s “south of the border romance” theme. I simply knew Mike had a prepare he ought to have been on. The Monkees have been at all times entering into bother, usually trapped by villains and having to flee some ridiculous scenario. So the quandary depicted within the refrain made sense. Nonetheless, some a part of my six-year-old thoughts heard the existential query: “what am I doin’ hangin spherical?” There is a sense of nostalgic longing conveyed by an ideal mixture of lyric, melody, and chord change. It was by way of songs like this that I discovered how the center yearned for locations distant.

— Bart Davenport


After a spell enjoying bass for the Go-Betweens throughout their prime mid-80s period, Robert Vickers moved into PR, working with Jetset Data within the ’90s, then beginning his personal firm Proxy Media. He is repped a great deal of cool information and works carefully with Tapete Data, a German firm with a roster of artists who’ve undoubtedly absorbed the teachings of Papa Nes someplace alongside the way in which (like Robert Forster and the Jazz Butcher.) Robert’s decide is “A few of Shelley’s Blues,” a music written for the Monkees, however in some way by no means launched by them.

I’ve at all times considered “A few of Shelly’s Blues” because the youthful sibling of “Totally different Drum”, I suppose as a result of it is the lesser recognized of the 2 Mike Nesmith songs that Linda Ronstadt recorded along with her band The Stone Poneys within the late ’60s. The Monkees did document “A few of Shelly’s Blues” in 1968, but it surely by no means made it on to an album which appears inexplicable. Nesmith himself recorded it just a few years in a while a solo album, however regardless of its stately tone and his beautiful vocal I want two different variations: The Stone Poneys and from 1970, the Nitty Gritty Filth Band. The music itself is brilliantly easy, simply two components, a type of mixture verse/refrain and a bridge that happens twice within the music. The hook isn’t a melodic phrase with a repeated lyric however as a substitute two notes which are used at the start of the verse/refrain after which on the finish of every line all with totally different lyrics, decrease on the finish of every stanza than at the start. Because the music progresses, you end up ready for these notes with rising anticipation after which pleasure at their arrival with their varied lyrics. The Nitty Gritty Filth Band’s bass participant cleverly echoes that within the rollicking nation rock outro of their model. I do like that model, however in the end I’ve to return to the Stony Poneys, who take away many of the style accouterments and permit it to be what it desires to be, an excellent pop music. Ronstadt’s beautiful crying vocal makes each phrase sound like a determined plea made not with despair, however with logic. And containing the perfect recommendation ever given in a pop music… “you agree down and stick with the lady who loves you”. Thanks, Mike. — Robert Vickers, the Go-Betweens/Proxy Media


Seeing the Chris Richards identify on the sleeve of a document means you are in for some top-notch pop with chiming guitars, large hooks, and tenderness to spare. The songwriting collective he is a part of, the Authorized Issues, launched the beautiful Chapter Three in early 2021, and it was top-of-the-line pure energy pop albums of the 12 months. He is totally certified to opine on Nesmith’s music and his decide is “9 Instances Blue,” one other music Mike demoed for the Monkees that did not see the sunshine of day till Rhino unearthed it within the ’90s.

That is one in every of my all-time favourite Mike Nesmith songs. First off, it is an excellent music and I’ve additionally been intrigued by the music’s journey from composition to document. Mike had written this music in 1967 across the classes for Headquarters, the Monkees’ true evolution document the place they took the reins of writing and performing again solely as a band. “9 Instances Blue” is a type of songs that just about writes itself – and has all of the feels of an ideal Gene Clark tune. However Mike apparently felt that it simply wasn’t the best time for it and shelved it for just a few years till the discharge of Mike Nesmith and the First Nationwide Band first document – 1970’s Magnetic South — the place it is on show in its full Burbank twang glory. — Chris Richards, The Authorized Issues


Because the editor of AllMusic, Zac Johnson is liable for green-lighting this mission so it solely appeared proper to deliver him in. Particularly since he was the bass participant in Porchsleeper, a really superb nation rock band that performed and recorded in Ann Arbor in the course of the early 2000s. His decide is the title observe from Nesmith and his First Nationwide Band’s third album.

I grew up listening to the Monkees (a Micky man, however my dad at all times preferred Mike greatest), and as a Assist!-era Beatles fan I dug deep into the reruns once they aired (continuously) on MTV. I solely actually grew to become conscious of Michael Nesmith and the First Nationwide Band after I exhausted the Gram Parsons and Byrds catalog and now I discover myself extra more likely to flip to his ’70s country-rock stuff than mud off the Monkees LPs. “Nevada Fighter” is a observe I by no means get bored with. A weirdly droning and chooglin’ anthem with a pouch-of-bees guitar mumble and someone simply hammering on the piano like a percussion instrument. The lyrics inform a lonely western story of deserted hope and compelled obsolescence however are delivered like a shouting cyclone. It showcases Nesmith’s storytelling and imagery with an unflappable drive and a passionate punch, and is only one of 100 of his songs that share the identical vibe and power. — Zac Johnson


John Andrew Fredrick is an artist, author, and chief of the Black Watch, a protracted working band that began within the ’80s and remains to be going robust immediately. Their most up-to-date album, 2020’s Good Failures, was launched by the A Turntable Pal labels and reveals that the band, and Fredricks, have not begun to expire of concepts. His decide is the rollicking jam “Mary, Mary,” a music famously coated by the Butterfield Blues Band and far later, sampled by Run-D.M.C.

Was Nes one of many patron saints of these of us songwriters who do our stage greatest to remain as distant from political discourse as attainable? Presumably. Actually we pop youngsters of the a-go-go sixties rated the Monkees extremely — not fairly as excessive as we did the Beatles after all, however nonetheless. Not so very way back — as a result of it’d been a few years and miles since I revisited their catalog — I pulled out all my outdated vinyl and acquired caught in; and “Mary, Mary” caught out in the identical manner that it did all these years in the past. The persona’s craving to study (a couple of lady — the place she’s going, the place she’s been, will she ever let him take her someplace?) holds sway right here. And naturally, many romance songs type of rejoice the histrionic, the cod-sincere sense that life’s not price dwelling if the article of 1’s affection is not in it, because it have been. That is “Mary, Mary.” Plus these immemorial maracas. Plain! These “make” so many sixties songs! And make one shake oneself — like we did in fourth grade on uncommon wet days in Santa Barbara when Mrs.Teacherlady allow us to whack onto the classroom drill press of a document participant our copies of Extra of the Monkees or Headquarters. All this, plus the truth that my beloved My Bloody Valentine used to cowl this music of their early Creation days. Having heard simply the opposite day that Lilys have been going to do some reveals on the west coast, I wrote to Kurt (outdated good friend, large Monkees fan) to request that he do a Nesmith music. I feel covers are for pots and pans and bedsheets, however generally they’re as enjoyable as a barrel full. Haha. — John Andrew Fredrick, the Black Watch


As in case you aren’t already exhausted… listed here are my high 5 Nesmith tracks not already talked about:

From the early days of the Monkees, “Papa Genes Blues” is a sprightly fusion of folks rock, nation, samba, and pop that also sounds fully contemporary 100 years later. No one else was making music like this on the time…

Mike wrote the attractive ballad “Propinquity (I’ve Simply Begun to Care)” earlier than he joined the Monkees. They demoed it in the course of the Head classes, however did not actually match the temper of the film, particularly since there have been no segments set on horseback, so it was shelved. Too unhealthy, as a result of it is a tear-inducing love music that somebody like Merle Haggard may have had a timeless hit with if he had coated it. Nes did lastly situation it on a solo album in 1971 and it is a good model. The Monkees demo is the one which cuts the deepest although.

Mike did not write “Love is Solely Sleeping” however this music from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. — my vote for greatest Monkees album — is a shocking instance of what an excellent vocalist he was. The harmonies with Micky … subsequent cease goosebump metropolis! It is also a superb instance of his guitar enjoying and a observe that rivals any of the psychedelic sounds popping out of the U.Ok. in 1967.

One from Mike’s solo profession, “Joanne” is a really fairly ballad with some improbable yodeling. The melody is timeless, the efficiency sugar-sweet, and phrases are sometimes difficult. Mike by no means takes the straightforward manner out lyrically and his greatest songs, like this, combine brains and wonder completely.

“Sunny Girlfriend” is 2 and a half minutes of giddy pop from Headquarters that would put a smile on a statue. A lot jangle, superb harmonies from two of my favourite singers ever (Mike and Micky) and the music of a band making an attempt to determine the best way to play; it is Hollywood storage folks at its most interesting and I may take heed to it on a loop most days. (Aside from the times after I need the guitar riff from “Circle Sky” to return in and clear out the cobwebs.)

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