Monday, March 05, 2012

'Adios to the Manchester Cowboy'

I used to love the Monkees television show when I was a kid. Well I think I did - I was about 5 when it started so maybe I remember it more from later repeats? In any case, I loved it. Maybe you did too? Along with the Beatles films 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help!' they showed your (young) humble narrator what fantastic fun it was to be in a pop group. Well, they just muck around all day in cool clothes don't they? No arguing, unlimited money and the odd bit of singing - now that would be a job worth having wouldn't it?
Years later I realised that their records were some of the greatest examples of 1960s pop music. Detractors said that they were just manufactured by a television production company and called them 'The Pre-Fab Four' as they were originally intended to be an American rival to The Beatles; they also derided them for not playing on their early records. The same detractors no doubt hail 'Good Vibrations' and 'Pet Sounds' as works of genius - but they also featured session musicians and was recorded while the 'real' Beach Boys were away on tour. The Phil Spector productions of the time also are held up as works of art, yet again they are pure products of the studio rather than being a group performance - but of course Wilson and Spector were to cool to be criticised, while The Monkees were 'just' actors playing the part of a pop group. Well they may have started out as that, but they became one of the most iconic examples of '60's pop culture (you could of course argue that their 'manufactured' status also contributes to that title) and, I say again, made some of the greatest records of the era. Davy Jones's death means the end of The Monkees - I for one are very saddened by that news, and I happen to think that any pop music fan should be sad too.

And Ronnie Montrose has died - hardly a household name to many (although I guess that depends upon your house!) but a great guitarist none the less. I first heard of him when my older cousins Steve and Gary played me 'Bad Motor Scooter' by Montrose way back in the mid-'70s (it was on 'The Warner Bros Music Show' sampler album) which for me remains one of the great American rock recordings of the time. Here is an OGWT clip of the band from 1974 playing said song, featuring a young Sammy Hagar on vocals who of course went on to bigger but not necessarily better things. Great stuff. No really, it is. Ronnie himself went on to play for all sorts of people and remained an excellent and well-regarded musician who was still out gigging until recently. He is a sad loss to the guitar-playing World.

When last we spoke your writer wasn't exactly at the top of his game; fortunately things have improved and I'm more-or-less back to (ahem!) normal. I still haven't worked out if my sickness was caused by something that I ate or one of these bugs that we all hear about - I suppose it doesn't really matter although it would be nice to know if a weird way. Anyway I still felt a bit shaky several days after the incident last Saturday in Ascot so for once it was probably a good thing that I didn't have any gigs over the weekend. I did however see Chicken Legs Weaver at The Load Of Hay on Sunday evening - it was the first gig for Andy with a new band line-up and overall went very well, with excellent versions of 'The Israelites' (slower and heavier than the Desmond Dekker original, with barely a hint of ska) and 'When The Levee Breaks' (similar to the Led Zeppelin version, maybe a bit bluesier) standing out. I'm playing there with The Rikardo Brothers this Sunday, then Kris Dollimore returns on Sunday 25th March. Now that's something to look forward too!

In the meantime I'm off to listen to The Monkees and, er, Montrose. 'Here we come, walking down the street...' 'you get on your bad motor scooter and ride...' Hmm... I wonder how many other people are playing those two songs back-to-back?

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