By Mike Scinto
In the summer of 1966, just a few months before entering high school, I remember the excitement my best friend Mike and I had waiting for the mail at his house. It was the day they were delivering a new album by a band we’d never heard before but that looked pretty “cool”. The album was coming by mail because Mike’s dad smoked cigars and if we collected enough cigar bands we could order, from a catalog, the occasional as-yet-unreleased album to preview. This particular album was the debut from an unknown group called The Monkees.
Little did I know that 50 years later I’d be sitting with Kathy, my wife (of 41 years), at an outdoor concert in Huber Heights, Ohio to see that same band. As ironies go, that’s the same city where the album was delivered to us a half century earlier just about five miles down the road. To my amazement the group sounded very much the same as when I removed the shrink wrap from the vinyl album and put it on the turntable oh so many decades ago!
Few things bring back memories from our yesteryears as profoundly as music. When, on the second song, the band broke into their first huge hit “Last Train to Clarksville” I could tell we were in for a super show. And that anticipation was fulfilled as the evening moved on.
The Monkees today is not the same band of long-haired boys we listened to in the beginning, but the tradition of the band lives on in the remaining touring members. The original line-up was Davy Jones on vocals, Michael Nesmith on guitar, Mickey Dolenz on drums and Peter Tork on keyboards. Dolenz and Tork are the remaining touring members. Jones died unexpectedly in 2012 and Nesmith, who has remained a Monkee, has only performed with the band live on limited occasions over the years. Nesmith is on the newly released album “Good Times”, highlights of which were included in the concert; and pretty darn good I might add!
I could write a book about the history of this band but it would take much more space than this column would allow. Here is the condensed version. The band was formed as the cast for a TV show. The show lasted two seasons. The “band” played none of their own music on the show and first two albums but as their popularity grew they hit the road to perform live, yes playing their own music as they did on all subsequent recordings. They went through cancellations, breakups, labeling, ridicule, style changes and individual stereotyping issues. They were called too pop, too bizarre, too “Hollywood”, too psychedelic and many other adjectives along the way. But as evidenced by the 50th Anniversary Tour, the band lives on and is thrilling packed houses across this country!
The show was constantly moving classic Monkees and quite nostalgic right through a special tribute to Davy and their biggest hits as the band bid farewell to Huber Heights. In pointing out the passage of time as Tork put it during the show, referencing the 50th anniversary, he said if an act had been celebrating 50 years when The Monkees debuted in 1966, the celebratory group would have started in 1916! The crowd looked like the folks we attended concerts with back in our youth. The surfer’s crosses and peace symbols many wore around their necks then were replaced by medical alert necklaces that night! There was seriously a great mix; small children rocking out to those seasoned citizens and all ages in between.
It was a summer night with a cool breeze, in the open air at a fabulous, relatively new venue that is totally crowd-friendly, The Rose Music Center. A word about the venue; the friendly, helpful staff makes you feel totally welcome, the concessions and patio tables make you forget you’re at a stadium and feel more like a neighborhood festival and the parking is easy-in and easy-out with cooperation between the team and Huber Heights police. Oh, and there literally isn’t a bad seat in the house! The summer concerts are just beginning at The Rose and there are huge names from yesterday and today for your enjoyment. Go to www.rosemusiccenter.com and be a part of it all!