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Episode Info: Scot and Jeff talk to Bruce Walker about The Monkees. Introducing the Band Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Bruce Walker, policy advisor for the Heartland Institute, contributor to The Federalist and host of the Acton Institute’s “Upstream” pop-culture podcast.  Follow Bruce on Twitter at @BruceEdWalker. Bruce’s Musical Pick: The MonkeesHere the gang comes, walking down the street, getting the funniest looks from everyone they meet as this week they discuss the Monkees. Long dismissed as a “fake band,” the Monkees underwent a critical renaissance in the late ’80s and early ’90s as a new generation of fans discovered the ’60s TV show that spawned them and the older generation of listeners who had once dismissed them returned to their music shorn the cultural preconception that once burdened them and discovered just how consistently great it was. Bruce was there from the beginning, listening to them as a kid in the late ’60s, while Jeff and Scot (who are roughly the same age) remember them from their late ’80s revival era. All are pretty emphatic that this was a pretty great band, and are entirely uninterested in questions of “authenticity” that mean even less in the modern era than they did back in the ’60s, despite noting that the band had managed to wrestle complete creative control away from their creators after a mere year into their career. The Prefab Four: The Monkees and More Of The MonkeesBetween late 1966 and 1967, the one band that owned the U.S. charts wasn’t the Beatles or the Stones, it was The Monkees, who spent a whopping 36 weeks at #1 in Billboard between October of 1966 and December of 1967. The band started, obviously, with the TV show of the same name introducing the four guys: Mickey Dolenz (vocals, “drums”), Davy Jones (vocals, “percussion”), Peter Tork (vocals, “bass”) and Mike Nesmith (vocals, “guitar”). The scare-quotes are intentional, but not entirely accurate: Dolenz couldn’t play drums and Jones’ instrumental contributions were little more than the occasional shake of a tambourine, but Tork and Nesmith were actual musicians and Nesmith in particular had been playing (and pioneering) country-rock on the local Los Angeles scene for years before he got cast in the show. The stubbornly independent streak of the latter two would soon assert itself, but for these two records they were primarily singers, and aside from Nesmith (who as a songwriter got to record his own numbers) they were performing songs written for them by professional songwriters. But so what? These are great albums. The gang rolls its eyes at schlock like “I Wanna Be Free” or “Gonna Buy Me A Dog,” sure, but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy “Last Train To Clarksville” or “Take A Giant Step,” or the assured proto-country-rock of Nesmith’s “Sweet Young Thing” and “Papa Gene’s Blues.” And More Of The Monkee...
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