Last Train To Clarkesville – The Monkees

The fucking Monkees man.

I seriously considered leaving the review at just that. The fucking Monkees man. But I do want to say some things about Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork. Surely for most people who were born between 1950 and 1980 they were the first rock band where you knew the names of all the members when you were still a little kid. Well. Except for that one other band that is. The one your parents were obsessed with.

The Monkees though. They were more fun than the other guys. They were old news by the time I was watching them every Saturday morning on TV but they were in syndication and alongside The Banana Splits, That band the kids in Battle Of The Planets played in and Chubby & The Gang.

We had a Monkees best of (on tape!) which Big Brother ForTheDeaf and I loved. Choosing the single favourite song was the hardest part of writing this post. These songs got to me so early they predate a love of rock and roll. They do rock though (and they also roll, in case you were in any doubt). Stepping Stone has a pissed off nasty under current. A lover spurned and lashing out. It’s a really great early rock song but not representative of the overall output of the band. Daydream Believer is somehow the opposite. Too optimistic and hippy eyed. Too on the nose. Catchy as all hell, but we might as well be singing along to Mrs Long at the school piano in class assembly (she bummed so many notes when she played this).

I’m a Believer suffers from the same issue plus an omnipresent over exposure for the last 50 years. Not to mention the Oi Oi Oi inflections of its myriad later life cover versions and more recent ironic needle drop moments. They do the song a disservice. The bands title sequence theme tune might have made it into Imaginary Bands Week if they weren’t as real as The Sex Pistols (for instance).

So Last Train To Clarksville it is. The greatest Beatles single they never recorded (sit down ELO). A catchy McCartney style pop number with a chiming guitar riff, a melancholy heartfelt lyric and hooks akimbo.

Those iconic performance videos written into each episode to delight kids in the moments as they gulped down cereal before heading out to kick footballs, ride bikes and do Saturday stuff. Every time I hear them I’m automatically comforted like it’s a day off school and the sun is shining.

Not many bands carry that portent. The band I loved before I even knew they were really playing their instruments. Almost as good as Josie and The Pussycats.

15 thoughts on “Last Train To Clarkesville – The Monkees

  1. Ah yes, the American Beatles they were hailed to be. A thirty-minute video full of music and comedy would keep any rebellious child in check. I was a teenager when the Monkee’s hit the radio and the television, my sister was in grade school, and she instantly loved them, especially wee Davy. I took her to see them in concert. An arena that was packed full of parents and children and a few of us older siblings with our younger ones in tow. It was a good show. The boys could actually play and sing. Screaming young girls, and a few mothers, made it impossible to hear some of the songs. I imagined it was like this at the Beatles’ early concerts. A few months ago, I was sifting through my 5 boxes of classic albums and found two of theirs. My sister said she didn’t want them, so they were mine to keep or pass on to the grandkids. I put one on the player for a spin. Last Train To Clarksville jumped from my speakers. The jangly Gretch 12 string makes the song sound like the Byrds stopped by the studio and helped the Beatles write the tune. I would never admit it to my old bandmates, but I kinda dig the Monkees. Good, write-up.

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  2. I remember watdhing “The Monkees” on Saturday morning TV as a kid in the late 1960s. I didn’t appreciate their music then but I do now. Scary thing was that as a teenager, I was told I looked like Mike Nesmith.

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  3. As a little kid I often confused The Beatles and The Monkees- I knew one was American and the other British but I had no clue on who was first or best– I’d vote ‘Last Train’ my favorite song of theirs.

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  4. Great post! I’ve come to appreciate the brilliance of the Monkees more over time. Sure, they didn’t write many of the songs and didn’t play on the first two albums, but man they captures something exciting. Compare them to the pre-fab bands that came later – wow. So much better. But even in their own time, we know that many bands were just as pre-fab as they were in terms of using the Wrecking Crew for backing, but the Monkees singles were something else. Personal faves: Pleasant Valley Sunday and For Pete’s Sake.

    Liked by 1 person

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