Hey, Hey, We Were the Monkees

I was six years old in the spring of 1976.  We had moved into a new house the previous summer and I was making new friends and going off to Kindergarten in the afternoon.  I was growing up.  My television watching reflected this new maturity.  While my shows still included Sesame Street, Mister Rogers Neighborhood and the rest of the PBS lineup, I started checking out my options on other stations and one afternoon I discovered The Monkees.

The bus dropped me off from school a few minutes before the show started.  I would race home down the street to catch the opening teaser.  I didn’t always make that, but I never missed the theme song.TheMonkees

Here we come…
Walking down the street…
Get funniest looks from…
Everyone we meet…

I wasn’t the only fan of The Monkees in my neighborhood.  My friends Scott and Dave from school would watch with me sometimes.  Charlie – when he wasn’t busy throwing my toys in the lake behind the house – also liked the show.  I was surprised to find a record by the Monkees in my parents’ collection in the living room.  I played it practically to death on my little portable record player.  Most of the songs were featured on the show and – with a little practice – we all knew the words to Daydream Believer and I’m Not Your Stepping Stone, I’m a Believer and Mary, Mary.

It was my dream that we could be just like the Monkees.  There were four of us and there were four of them.  Out of our group, I was the only one who played any kind of musical instrument, but – even then – I didn’t see that as a major obstacle.  We watched the show, we knew the songs, we could even act out a lot of the skits (though we couldn’t figure out how they could run so fast).  I had the Monkees on the brain and talked at my parents about them all the time.  They smiled and nodded a lot.

One day, the show ended with a clip of the Monkees playing a concert.  They mentioned they would be playing “at a town near you” very soon.  Well, I had to be there.  I began pestering my mom and dad about it.  They continued to smile and nod, say “we’ll see” and so on.  That wasn’t good enough for me; I needed a firm commitment.  Finally, my dad had enough.

“Bobby, the Monkees broke up a long time ago; before you were born,” he said, exasperated.  “You’re just watching the reruns.”  I was a step ahead of some of my classmates.  I knew that little men weren’t hiding inside the television.  Still, I had assumed the people in the shows were live out there somewhere and living in those houses and apartments they showed.  The idea that none of it was real and that it could have all happened a long time ago…  I was shocked.  It was a sober moment after school when I gathered my three friends out on our new patio and had to tell them the Monkees were no more.

“I guess Mike went north, Mickey went south, Davy went east and Peter went west,” I said.  Charlie’s normal shit-eating grin vanished.  Scott’s jaw hung open and Dave was uncharacteristically still as he worked through the news.  We shared a long, quiet moment together, with the cool wind whipping the dust of the uncompleted neighborhood around us.  No one felt like playing.  Scott took off on his bike and Dave walked around the front of the house.  Charlie headed east, walking slump shouldered; he didn’t even pause to throw anything of mine in the lake.  I slipped open the patio glass door and went down to the basement.  It was too late to watch The Monkees and none of my regular shows were on.  I found PBS showing a movie about four other guys who looked like the Monkees.  They got chased by girls and played music on a train.  I liked the songs they did.  I liked them a lot actually.  But that’s another story.



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