Let me first report a conversation that took place ’round about the fall of 1967 (can’t say it’s verbatim, but the gist is full–I was present only as a listener, being socially and intellectually unqualified to participate):
JM: Sergeant Pepper is the greatest album ever made.
AC: The Beatles. The Beatles are cool.
JM (adamantly): The Beatles are the coolest!
AC: I like the Monkees, too.
JM (in the style of Torquemada confronting a heretic): The Monkees!…The Monkees!…The Monkees are for babies!
Along about now I should probably mention that this public bathroom was in a public elementary school and the average age of all present–two participants, one bystander–was seven.
That’s because all three of us were in the second grade.
I’m guessing JM had an older brother.
I’m guessing AC didn’t–else he would have known to keep his mouth shut about the Monkees while we were shaking our seven-year-old peckers.
I never told anybody but word inevitably spread.
I think it took him until about the seventh grade to live it down.
As for me, it was my introduction to the concept of hipness and a very strange introduction it was. I lived in a house where the television did not work, the hymnal was Baptist, the few records ran to show tunes and the radio was seldom if ever tuned to the pop station. I only vaguely knew who the Beatles or the Monkees were and if I had ever heard their music I didn’t recognize it as such.
Therefore I had no way of knowing it was slightly irregular that just the previous year–you know all the way back in the first grade–JM had been the one called in to settle a dispute about the exact lyrics of “I’m Henry the XIII, I Am” by the era’s reigning philosophical geniuses, Herman’s Hermits.
I think his arbitration went something like: “Yeah I know it’s pronounced En-er-y, but it’s spelled H-e-n-r-y. It’s on the record stupid!”
And it was this very incident that made him our resident pop culture genius. The one who could tell us second-graders what was hip.
The young man was clearly ahead of the curve. I mean for all I know looking back, he may have already outgrown Herman’s Hermits by the fall of ’67. The world moved fast back then and not just for second-graders.
I moved away after the eighth grade and by the time I got out of high school I had become very involved in knowing what was “hip.”
And let’s just say that, in 1978, if you had told anyone I went to school with in the second grade or the twelfth–in two parts of the same state which might as well be on different planets–that a member of the Monkees would die of a heart attack in the year 2012 without ever having had anything resembling a major pop moment past the few years when they ruled the charts, and that his death would warrant a segment on the nightly news of every major broadcast network, we would have assumed you had smoked an awful lot of the stuff DO, CS and SS sold out of their hall lockers.
Let me also add that I bought the Monkees’ Greatest Hits in 1978–not knowledge I shared with any of my classmates I can assure you (I bought Herman’s Hermits Greatest Hits and the Beatles’ red album the same year, though, of course, I only admitted to one of them)–and in the 34 years since, “Daydream Believer” never once failed to give a lift to the heart wherever it found me, never once failed to bring the happiest of smiles.
Somewhere along the way, I also shook free and learned to trust what I cared about over what others told me to think. Not by coincidence I think.
Thanks Davy. And not just for the memories.