Infinite Tuesday

So what made Nesmith stand apart from his three fellow cast/bandmates? How did he manage not to allow the two years he spent on a TV show about a fake rock band define the 48 years that followed? How did he become the one Monkee it was acceptable to dig? Musician. Actor. Businessman. Producer. Novelist. Philanthropist. Inventor of MTV. Composer. Old Dude. How did he find the time? I was put off by the book cover initially, thinking the normal thing for an autobiography would be an author’s selfie. One would think it would generate more sales and be more eye catching for Monkees/Nesmith fans.

However, like his very cerebral vocabulary, a generic cover like that would be “too easy.” And easy this guy doesn’t do. Instead, he marries the word Infinite (culled from Christian Science teachings) with Tuesday (part of an old comic strip involving hippos that particularly touched him) and hurls that on top of a psychedelic background wallpapered with monkeys. Anyway, down to business: the representation of Southern men on TV between 1966 and 1968 mostly consisted of woozy, clodhopping rednecks on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” and “Gomer Pyle USMC,” with family-friendly entertainers thrown in for good measure. But Mr Nesmith’s cool, witty, moral, unmistakably Texan persona offered a sweet inversion of conventional masculinity on the small screen. As a writer, Nesmith is practical without being conventional. And he riffs on metaphysical topics like “non-time moments” — when portent and symmetry seem to enter our lives — without sounding trippy or losing his relatability.

He also abstains from using his pen to settle scores, something from which other celebrity memoirists could learn. You don’t have to be a hardcore Monkees fan (you know who you are, guiltily hiding vast collections of Monkee stuff in your grandpa’s basement) to enjoy this book. He is not hesitant to talk about both his business successes and failures, with one exception that I know of. He does deserve credit for creating the music video. And how lucky for him that his mother had created Liquid Paper prior to this, so he had a financial safety net. Not surprisingly, this was not in the book. Nesmith seemed to have disappeared when the Monkees broke up as the other three had formed more than a band, they had formed a bond. Nesmith is not into that. He’s all about business. He was equally not into the “illegitimate bubblegum music” the TV show’s songwriters produced for the band.

Some Monkee singles released reminded him of jingles used to sell cigarettes and soap. He wanted the Monkee musical bar to be set higher. But this was music for the masses. It was a nightmare for all four but they hung in there for two years while their bank balances grew fat. The tension was ever present and Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork fought verbally and physically while Nesmith writes he held back. The others “broke into half hearted meaningless fistfights at the drop of an insult”… “The set would turn into a playground of entitled eight-year-olds at a private school. I was always for stepping back and letting them fight it out,” leaving it to the producers to jump in and curb the mayhem. So Mike wanted out. And while he didn’t view himself as a Beverly Hills hillbilly, he did recognize he was naive and uneducated. At least he recalls all this with a droll, ironic sense of humour, which has helped him connect with like-minded spirits and which readers should find engaging.

He’s also an eccentric who describes the aftermath of Monkeedom as “the detritus of a collective dream we were all waking from, each in our own room, and each afflicted with our own case of Celebrity Psychosis informing us about the furniture in that room.” As much as he resented those who treated him as a puppet or a “pariah…pummeled by opprobrium and ridicule and reviled among my peers,” he eventually came to consider his Monkees experience “a gift, an odd gift to be sure but with a deep message for me that I am still parsing and for which I am never less than thankful.” More recently, the author has been involved with virtual reality and received a patent “for the embedding of real time video into a virtual environment.” Along the way, he was influenced by both hippie mystics and a Christian Science teacher, and he bonded with Jack Nicholson, Timothy Leary, Douglas Adams, and John Lennon. Nesmith doesn’t even bother to mention that Linda Ronstadt enjoyed her breakout hit with his “Different Drum” or that the Monkees have experienced a series of comeback reunions (with and without him). A book—and a life—unlike any other in rock.

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Comments

  1. Absolutely fascinating! Mike always seemed to be the enigmatic one out of the four Monkees, I’ll definitely be giving this autobiography a read. Thanks for sharing this informative review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My pleasure…and thank you for the positive comments! 🙂

    Like

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