Why The Monkees Should Be In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
The death of Davy Jones Wednesday isn't just the end of one man's life.
For fans of the Monkees, it means the end of a lot of things. It means no more reunions. It means no more movie and TV cameo appearances. It means no more new music
It means no performance to celebrate the Monkees' induction to The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
That is, of course, assuming that the "rock experts" who make the decision on who is worthy enough to be inducted get over their 44-year grudge against the band.
While much is written every year about why KISS and Rush should go in to the Hall, no one ever defends the Monkees. Writers fall back on the same things critics have been saying since '68 without ever explaining why those issues matter. It's musical snobbery at its laziest, and it's asinine.
What qualifies one to be part of the musical elite? On "Eligibility," from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "Induction Process":
To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence.
We shall consider factors such as an artist's musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.
By those standards, The Monkees were first eligible for induction in 1991, 25 years after the release of their debut album. While their career might not have warranted a first ballot nomination, it is ridiculous that there has never been a serious push for them in the 21 years since they were first eligible.
Let's break down the arguments against them:
They didn't play their own instruments on their first two albums. It's true - session musicians performed the music, but this had less to do with their individual musical talents and more to do with the fact they needed to have music ready by the time the TV show hit the air.
It's not like the members of the group weren't competent musicians. True, Micky Dolenz drew the short straw and had to learn the drums, but he could play guitar when he was cast. All four members could sing and they did: All of the lead vocals on those first two albums are done by The Monkees.
Meanwhile, plenty of solo singers and vocal groups who never played instruments on their recordings are in the Hall.
They didn't write their own songs. It would be more accurate to say that they didn't write their own "hit" songs. As early as their second album, the individual members were contributing songs. "Mary, Mary," famously sampled by Run-DMC, was written by Mike Nesmith.
By the time of their fifth album they were contributing half of the songs that made it on the record. What's more interesting is that they didn't have to write songs: they could have coasted along doing songs written by other people. They wanted to write music and wanted people to hear their songs.
Countless artists in the Hall performed songs they didn't write. Are the Four Tops and the Supremes less deserving of respect because they relied on Holland-Dozier-Holland to write their songs for them?
Yes, the Monkees were assembled via a casting call for a television show. Success was handed to them on a silver platter. Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider wanted to capitalize on Beatlemania, and they assembled a group to do just that.
How is that any different than what Malcolm McLaren did with The Sex Pistols? He didn't care about punk rock- he cared about money. He found a band, replaced the parts of it he didn't like with people who would fit the aesthetic, and rode all the way to the bank. The Sex Pistols might have been revolutionary, but not because someone was trying to change the world.
So why should they be in the Hall? The music might have been rooted in the '60s, but the band was ahead of the curve in other places.
They fought back against their record label. They fought to have more control over what they recorded and fought to get their songs on the albums. Any artist whose ever felt handcuffed by their management can respect that. Even the (manufactured) anarchists and antichrists could get behind that. They did cover "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone."
The weren't the first band to have what would be considered a "music video," but they were the first "video band." And those videos are timeless. If they didn't hold up, there wouldn't have been the resurgence in popularity the band experienced as new fans saw the reruns on MTV and Nickelodeon.
As to the question of whether or not they demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence, which is the prime criteria to make it in to the Hall, consider this:
In Cleveland, you can visit The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where you'll find an exhibit: "The Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll." There are 500 songs listed as the most influential rock songs of all time.
Most artists only get one song on the list. Santana? "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen." Run-DMC? "Walk This Way." Fleetwood Mac? "Go Your Own Way."
The Monkees have two: "I'm A Believer" and "Last Train To Clarksville."
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