I was eight or nine years old. I had grown up on television, and was just discovering the radio. But I was a little kid, and still wasn’t aware of the world around me all that much. My interest in music was heavily influenced by what I saw on television and what I heard on the top 40 station that my sisters would play on the car or in the house.
And then I saw my first episode of The Monkees.
It was summer time. Where I grew up, we got about four television stations that would broadcast clearly all year. But during the summer, probably because of the winds over Lake Ontario, we would also be able to tune into television stations from Rochester, which was 134 miles away.
And one of those stations was independent. No network affiliation until 1986 when it became a charter affiliate of the Fox Network. Because of this lack of network affiliation, it had a programming lineup full of syndicated sitcoms from the 1950s, 1960s, and the 1970s.
This station was my summer school when I was a kid. I would watch everything, because I knew, come autumn, we’d no longer be able to get that station clearly, and I wanted to spend as much time with it as I could. I treated it like a friend that only visited for the summer.
I don’t remember what time of the day it was. It was probably morning, because like a nerd, I had completely memorized their broadcast schedule, and I remember that at noon they would air Leave it to Beaver, then I Love Lucy, followed by The Honeymooners and Bewitched. If it wasn’t in the morning, it might have been in that hour long block before the cartoons started at 3pm.1
All I remember was, I was sitting there, watching television, probably eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate syrup2. And I was instantly hooked by the goofy guys on television that also happened to be in a rock and roll band.
Now, at that moment, I figured that they were like any other characters on a tv show. The music was fun, but it never played on the radio. So it couldn’t be real, right?
Of course, I was wrong.
I discovered this thanks to another summer friend.
Every summer, my neighbor, a kind old lady who I think may have been a widow3 , had her grandkids visit a lot. There were three of them. An older sister, and a pair of fraternal twins.
The twins were my age, and we were amicable - the boy, he was into a lot of the same stuff I was, He-Man, GI-Joe, stuff like that. But the older sister, who was only about a year or two older than me, she was into other things, including, The Monkees.
I began to hang out with her a lot, talking about the Monkees, discussing our favorite band members4 and favorite songs5. And then she blew my mind one day by producing an actual Monkees album on cassette.
She let me borrow it. And I treated it like gold. The Monkees were like, a real band? They were definitely a real band.
Ever since then, The Monkees have held a special place in my heart.
When they made their comeback in 1987, I could only dream of seeing them in concert, and I never did get to see them play live. But they’re definitely in my top 10, and I know it might not be cool to admit that, but I don’t care.
But what about Good Times! ?
Well, I was absolutely over the moon when the Monkees produced a brand new album in 2016. And the best part? They had recruited a number of incredible songwriters to help them, including Rivers Cuomo from Weezer and Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne.
It became my soundtrack for that summer. From the title track, with it’s funky rock and roll sound, to the delightful “She Makes Me Laugh”, and the ballad, “Me & Magdalena”, Good Times! is a fun, modern Monkees album, without the trappings some older musicians find themselves in, mainly trying to reinvent themselves for the modern fan.
Instead of reinventing themselves, they adapted to modern sensibilities without losing who they are. And it’s a totally worthy addition to anyone’s record collection or Apple Music.
I realize that this makes me sound like I’m a total nutcase. I can’t remember where I put my keys some days, but I can still remember the broadcast schedule of a TV station I watched when I was 8. The human mind is a fascinating thing.
I would eat this a few times a week, letting it melt and turn into something like a very thin milkshake. I was a weird kid.
I honestly don’t remember, because I was a kid, and kids didn’t ask about this stuff. I just remember that she was really nice, and her daughter, who was also old (at least to me, she could have been 30 years old for all I knew), lived with her full time.
For me it was Mickey Dolenz, and I have no idea why. I guess it’s because I thought dudes who played the drums and sang were cool. Come to think of it, I loved Genesis and have a soft spot for Night Ranger, so that might just be it.
"I’m a Believer”, of course.