It didn’t take a DeLorean time machine to take me right back to 1967 last
Friday night. Seeing the Monkees – Mike, Peter and Micky – live at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona took my heart and mind back to the first Monkees performance I ever attended at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on January 22, 1967. On that night, I flew in their private plane to San Francisco International Airport and rode to the arena with Davy in his limo.
Déjà vu was the feeling of this more recent night. I have been away from Hollywood since 1972, so making arrangements to have my first reunion with the Monkees was not easy. Fortunately, working through a number of sources I got in touch with Andrew Sandoval the Monkees’ tour manager. Being a rock archivist in addition to his recording and tour management background, he knew who I was when I contacted him. He told me he has every issue of Tiger Beat through 1970.
I told him how I lived just nine miles south of the upcoming concert at the Mesa Arts Center. He graciously asked the guys if they would be willing to have a brief reunion, and he emailed me the results – he was leaving two tickets at the box office for me. I could meet with Peter backstage before the show, Micky after the show, and Mike, according to Andrew, “is the most reclusive of the bunch and usually passes on meetings,” which is what came to be.
I got the go-ahead for our reunion just nine hours before I was to meet them. I spent the day going through my previously scheduled appointments, but my mind and stomach would not let me forget about my 6 p.m. date with Peter. I invited my good friend from work, Mindy Evanson, who is a great photographer. I had two plans for Mindy. One, I wanted her to experience this great group that was popular before she was born and yet were still putting on fantastic concerts today, and two, I wanted her to record my reunion.
We arrived at the backstage door, barricaded by security guards and where a small crowd of fans had gathered. The guard called in to Andrew, and he came out to greet us. What a lovely man, and so gracious about making this dream come to life – plus this was a first for me. You see, every concert I attended during my Tiger Beat years I traveled with the band, and I would arrive backstage with them. I don’t mean to sound smug, it was just the way it worked when I was invited to travel with the groups. This time it was fun being outside with the eager fans. It was also a trip to see how devoted their fan base is all these years later.
I had been doing the math all day. It had been forty-seven years since I had first met the Monkees. Andrew showed us to Peter’s dressing room, knocked, and there was Peter, like me, older, but with the same warm eyes and sweet smile. His hair was mostly gray and thinning; mine was too except for my beloved hairdresser, Audrey. He immediately drew me into a bear hug and kiss on the cheek. Then he held out his hand and pulled his lady forward by her hand saying, “I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Pamela.” We shook hands, and I introduced Mindy to them both. I couldn’t help but reply, “Fiancée is such a lovely word. I am so happy for you!”
We all sat down and there was the déjà vu spreading over me – it was exactly like when I used to sit with Peter on the Monkees’ set. He was always totally comfortable answering my questions and asking me just as many. That’s what set Peter apart from Micky and Mike for me: he was always as interested in my life as I was in his. He was the same thoughtful, caring boy I knew so long ago. He told me about how he’s living in Connecticut and trying to restore his family childhood home that was built in the 1700s. He and Pam have not set a wedding date because they keep getting “interrupted” by Peter’s children getting married. He asked me about my family, and I proudly told him my husband and I just celebrated our 33rd anniversary last week. And how we are so proud of our sons, Matt and Mike who are 28 and 29, and that Matt married his college sweetheart, Katy, almost four years ago.
He asked how Mindy and I knew each other, and we looked at each other and laughed. I explained, “We work together at an orthodontic office. Mindy is the Lead Clinical Assistant and I am the Treatment Coordinator.” Peter was slightly taken aback. “You mean you didn’t stay in journalism?” he asked. “No,” I said and explained that after I left Tiger Beat I didn’t do much writing up until now. I know he was surprised.
Soon it was time for Peter, Mike and Micky to do their vocal warm-ups, so Andrew showed us the way to the theater lobby. But not before one more genuine hug and kiss on the lips from Peter. We were grown-ups now and it seemed natural to embrace the history we had with one another.
Hundreds of fans waited for the auditorium to open, but they busied themselves at the souvenir stand, including a long line for the $35 tee shirts. I laughed to myself as I was writing this and fact checking some dates of those long ago concerts because I found photos of ticket stubs where seats were $4 and $6.50. Tickets today are $59 – $125 each. I also thought back to the concerts I had attended with the Monkees where they were playing 20,000-seat stadiums. This venue was much more intimate, seating about 1,500. So much better. I had to giggle when the big video screen showed scenes of screaming fans from those days. Mindy asked, “Is that what it was like?” I assured her it was.
The theater filled quickly with anxious fans. Mostly an older crowd, I imagined
many of them were fans from the sixties. As soon as the lights dimmed, a great video show began on the huge screen at the back of the stage. We saw clips from the TV show, plus the Monkees ads for Kool-Aid and Rice Krispies. The crowd loved it. Then the announcer from the radio station sponsoring the concert introduced the Monkees, and as they walked briskly on stage, the crowd jumped to its feet and cheered at high volume. Peter was dressed in black jeans and a shiny blue shirt, Micky wore black jeans and sneakers, red shirt and a brown jacket and his dapper hat, and Mike wore black jeans, black shirt and a white jacket.
I can’t remember every song, but the video presentation was integral to the performance. I explained to Mindy that some of the videos she was seeing were the precursors to music videos like the ones on MTV. The Monkees were the first band that added the jumbo screen flashing still photos of the group throughout their shows, as well as making personal political statements by showing images of the civil rights marches.
What I noticed as the show went on — and it was a full two hour, all-out intense performance — was that the audience was on their feet, dancing and singing along to every Monkees song. But when each of the three would come out to do a solo, the audience was in their seats and clapped enthusiastically, but not nearly as turned on as the Monkees songs they had come to enjoy on their time machine, taking them back to their days as young Monkee fans.
I was dumbstruck as Micky introduced and thanked all the members of their backup band. I had watched the woman at stage left all night playing a rhythm instrument and singing backup, but when he introduced her as his sister Coco, I was blown away. I had met Coco when I flew up to Micky’s family home in ’67 to do a story on Micky’s “Hometown Haunts.” At that time, I took tons of pictures of Coco, and she began writing a column “My Brother Micky” in Tiger Beat. Then they introduced one of the backup guitarists and the name shocked me: Christian Nesmith. I can still remember meeting Christian at age three, and here he was this tall, lanky like his dad, dark thinning hair, grown man. Wow!
There was an awesome tribute to Davy Jones, (he was seen with the others in all the other videos on the screen). This video was all Davy, dancing in a white tuxedo, then as he’d make a turn he’d be in a black tuxedo. Great editing and it made the presentation so much more dramatic.
After the tribute, the audience went silent. Micky walked around the stage with the hand microphone. “When we were trying to decide who would sing this song, we thought Mike? Me? Peter? And then we knew who should sing this song,” and he pointed to the audience. “You.” In an instant every audience member was on their feet, cheering, and the Monkees began the musical intro to “Daydream Believer.” He invited a young woman from the front row to join him on the stage for the sing-a-long. Then Micky began the first few words:
“Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings.
The six o’clock alarm would never ring.”
The audience rose to the challenge, and we were all singing our hearts out:
“But it rings and I rise,
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes.
My shavin’ razor’s cold and it stings. . . ”
It was the most fun song of the whole night.
At the end of their two-hour set, they walked off stage to a standing ovation and hoots and hollers and cheers. Of course, that earned us two encore songs, one of which was “Last Train to Clarksville.” Where it all began.
After the show, Mindy and I went backstage and now was my chance to re-unite with Micky. He didn’t recognize me, but, hey, as soon as I introduced myself “Hi, Micky, Annie Moses, Tiger Beat,” he grabbed me into a big hug, and then held me back by my shoulders for a closer look. He remembered I was going to be there, and I told him how great the show was. He, too, quizzed me about what I’d been doing since the Monkee days. We only had a few minutes, because he was greeting the radio station contest winners, who were backstage to meet him.
After my good-byes and thank yous to Andrew, Mindy and I drove home in the darkness. “Can you believe what a great show that was?” I asked her. She wholeheartedly agreed. What she did not realize after seeing such amazing musicians, singers and performers in Mike, Peter and Micky, that all those years ago there was a world-wide brouhaha that the Monkees did not know how to play their own instruments. On their early records, session musicians played the rhythm tracks and lead parts, and then the Monkees overdubbed the vocals. But from their first live performance on their promo tour in 1966, they always played their own instruments on stage. It just occurred to me that via the time machine they had gotten better and better every year that has passed.
Good times. . .Ann Moses reporting about “back in the day,” and last Friday night!