In 2007, Peter Tork postulated that The Monkees deserve to at least be considered for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was later reiterated by Mike Nesmith, and several well known publications have gotten on board.
There was a time that I would have said, “No way,” despite the fact that I really do enjoy them. But as I’ve grown older, and seen what passes for being a “rock band” the last couple decades, I’m reconsidering. In a way, you could say the Monkees were a forerunner of the way popular music was going to go. No, they didn’t always play their own instruments. No, they didn’t write most of their songs. They were still iconic, and delivered a viable entertainment product. Some of the greatest hits from the late 60s came from them. “Daydream Believer”. “Pleasant Valley Sunday”. “Last Train to Clarksville”. And dozens of lesser known songs that are really quite good.
Their television show was (and remains) popular. Their sole movie, Head, accomplished being a solid, entertaining psychedelia movie; something the Beatles failed at miserably.
I’m ambivalent. I love the Monkees and really would like to see them in. I think Micky Dolenz is underrated as a singer and performer. Nesmith gets (and deserves) respect for his writing and playing.
On the other hand, what does that mean? What does the Hall of Fame mean? The Monkees weren’t a fake band (after a bit), but what they did as an actual band is a pretty small thing. We wouldn’t be discussing them for the Hall of Fame if it was just on their merits - Nesmith’s songwriting, Micky’s singing and even some of Tork’s songwriting are good, but they’d be a tiny splash in the pond if they didn’t have a show and many made-to-order tracks written by others to start them off.
Well, sure, but take that tack and you lose Elvis and a whole host of other great rock and roll performers. There are a LOT of bands that drink from that well. Most of Motown, the girl groups, a bunch of the teen types and so forth all had it put together for them by others.
Hell, there’s an argument to be made that such applies to the Sex Pistols and no one’s arguing them. And in terms of impact with the population, the Monkees are much greater than the Pistols.
Shouldn’t Peter & Mike be apprehensive of becoming the go-to marker for “worst band ever inducted?” But I’m no authority on such matters, so please let me know if that wouldn’t be the case of the Monkees VS the current membership.
Since the baseball All-Star game was played yesterday, I caught the old argument about the meaning of an All-Star. Is it the person who’s had the greatest first half of this season, the best year since the last All-Star game, the best person to play that position and is still around even if his skills have dropped, the in-the-news personality fans want to see regardless of skill? Every year the answer is yes to all of the above.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is even worse for definitions. Talent, influence, awesomeness, historic importance, name recognition, peak, longevity, and more go into the pot.
The Monkees are hugely important historically and have absolute name recognition. I could make a case that’s enough. They did three albums - Headquarters, Pisces, Aquarius and Jone Ltd, and The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees - on which they played their own instruments and controlled their production and contributed more than a third of songs. Can you compare them to someone like Buffalo Springfield, who are in the Hall with three albums to their name? I love the Springfield, but their inclusion is as much for their later influence in spawning 50 great groups as it is for the albums themselves, although they contain lots of good music. You might even argue that those three Monkees albums have an equal amount of good music and a wider range of styles, though you could use that as a point against them as well as mere followers. Also, the Monkees’ members’s songwriting skills were far less, obviously, and their importance in creating what we now know of as music videos was the work of others.
I don’t think I’d be upset in The Monkees made it in, solely on historic grounds, no matter how much the purists would blow the Twitterverse. Probably an excellent reason for ensuring that it happens, actually.
Yeah, the RNRHOF is fairly meaningless, anyway. In a world where Link Wray isn’t in the HOF, and KISS is why not the Monkees?
I’m not bitter, but I do realize that the HOF is largely long-term Grammy storage, and letting the Monkees in would crack that a little bit. Nesmith is genuinely talented, the Monkees probably collectively made it OK to be a good band that everyone knew was an act.
I’d vote “yes.” It doesn’t matter that they didn’t write their own songs – neither did the Animals – and they did eventually play instruments (Tork and Nesmith could play to begin with; Dolenz was able to learn drums). Their music was good, solid pop and they put on a good stage show.
Also, they deserve a lot of credit in trying to be respectable. They fought to be taken seriously as musicians, getting their producer fired for not crediting the other musicians on the first album, and working to put together a live concert setup so they could play themselves. None were great musicians, of course, but all could play. And Dolenz was a very good singer.
Were they as talented as their inspiration the Beatles? No, of course not. But if that’s our standard, then we’re going to have a mighty small hall. Did they revolutionize music? No, but again, that’s a mighty high standard. Were they a good, talented group which produced entertaining music? Yes, absolutely. They might have used a simple, common formula, but they used it well.
In other words, there is a long long line of much more deserving artists ahead of them whom this Hall of self-appointed, dispassionate & unbiased voters has yet to deign to deem worthy of election. Get in line, fellas.
I answered “No,” but now I’m unsure. I’m never going to really respect the Monkees, but I think it would be wrong to say they had no influence on music - they created the idea of a completely commercially formed boy band, which we still see today. Now, I might not like boy bands, but I can’t deny they don’t exist and are extremely popular. And as boy bands go, the Monkees were good - I like “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer” as much as anyone else. So I might change my answer to “leave it to the fans.”
No worries for the Monkees, ZZ Top owns that marker.
The OP mentions several Monkees songs that most people would recognize. IMHO most ZZ Top songs sound the same. Historically, I guess they could be noted for being way ahead of their time in the beard department (Duck Dynasty style decades before the look became semi-hip)