"We’re more popular than Jesus now," John Lennon told an British journalist in 1966. A year later, the Monkees‘ Mike Nesmith, in town for a show at the St. Paul Auditorium, humbly explained his band’s place in the cosmic pecking order.
|Mike Nesmith of the Monkees spoke with a Tribune reporter at an undisclosed hotel in downtown St. Paul. (Minneapolis Tribune photo by Kent Kobersteen)|
Monkee Mulls Music
When Mike Nesmith of the rock group, the Monkees, wants to hear good music, he goes to a record store and buys Beatles’ records.
“Don’t buy us if you want good music,” he advised as he lounged in his suite in a downtown St. Paul hotel Friday. “our music is sort of inane, banal. The Beatles give the kids the good stuff.”
Dressed in blue jeans, cowboy boots and a green velvet shirt, Nesmith talked freely about the Monkees, their past and present.
“Do you remember our second album?” he asked, waving a pair of blue-tinted sunglasses. “That was all tripe.” It was until after that album that the group began accompanying themselves on guitar and drums, he recalled.
“WE’RE LIMITED in musical ability,” he said. “We have to over-dub, but those are really my fingers strummin’ on the records.
Nesmith credits the quartet’s weekly television show for their phenomenal success, but believes the Beatles “opened the door” for them.
Yet the 24-year-old former folk guitarist is quick to point out the difference between his group and the revered Beatles.
"The Monkees are just four long-haired fans — super rich, yes [Nesmith owns seven cars and a Lear jet) — but fans rather than stars," he explained.
"WE HAVE no cross to bear, no point to make," he continued. "Our only point is no point. These 13-year-old kids just want to use us for growing up, and that’s fine with us. God willing, they will have forgotten about us by the time they’re 20, and that’s the way it should be."
Nesmith said the Monkees the kids see on TV are the same crazy guys in real life.
"The TV show makes no sense, and we’re quite open about it," he said. "But what goes on on the TV show goes on 24 hours a day in real life. These guys will do anything for a gag."
NESMITH ADMITS that audiences at their concerts often hear only "a rumble" on stage ("With a $45,000 sound system, what do you expect?") But he noted that the group spices up the program with such extra musical diversion as movies, costume changes and anything else they feel like doing.
"The kids have been cheated so many times by groups who just play for 12 minutes, that we want to give them a real show," he explained.
What’s in the future for the Monkees?
"We’ll probably go for three years, but the kids we’re playing for will grow up by then and we’ll make way for a new group," he said.
"THE KIDS may not remember us," he continued. "But they’ll there was something that brought them some fun back in their teens."
A knock on the door meant it was time for Nesmith to prepare for the concert, but first he had a "secret" to show.
"See these," he said, pointing to a pair of earplugs. "I wear them during every concert. I can’t hear a thing with them, but then I wouldn’t be able to hear anything without them either."
|More than 10,000 "teeny-boppers" screamed for more than an hour when the Monkees performed at the St. Paul Auditorium in August 1967. "The group apparently played quite a few songs," the Tribune’s Brian Anderson wrote in his review, "but because of the never-ending shriek, every song sounded the same." (Minneapolis Tribune photo by Pete Hohn)|