Friends of Stateside will attest that I have an unhealthy Monkees obsession. Like most of my generation, I grew up watching the American television series The Monkees a decade after its initial two-season run (1966 to 1968). The show was a staple of syndicated television in the 1970s and, in many cases, The Monkees were the first pop group that children of the era were exposed to.
There was also a huge resurgence in interest for the series after MTV began airing episodes in the mid-1980s, just about the time that I was getting into punk and new wave, and musicians ten years my senior were covering The Monkees and digging into their albums for influence. “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” was covered by The Sex Pistols, Sham 69 and Minor Threat. The proto-shoegaze “Porpoise Song” (from the soundtrack to the surreal feature film Head) has been covered by Bongwater and The Church. It is worth noting that neither of these songs were written by the band, but each member did write tunes that appeared on every record, from the 1966 debut through 1970’s Changes.
Rhino Handmade has just released a three CD set (with bonus 45-rpm vinyl) built around the 1969 album Instant Replay, and Stateside is putting it at the top of his Christmas list.
Instant Replay was the penultimate Monkees album before the group reunited in the 80s for Pool It, but is perhaps better known as the first album that didn’t feature the band’s most gonzo member, Peter Tork. The Monkees were a trio for Instant Replay, with Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith all contributing songs, vocals and instrumentation.
While the new Rhino set offers alternate takes, backing tracks and unreleased material for the Monkees collectors, the core twelve tracks that originally made up Instant Replay are still standouts. The Dolenz-penned “Just a Game” is a baroque gem; Mike Nesmith’s “Don’t Wait for Me” proves why many consider him to be the granddaddy of alternative country; “You and I,” co-written by Davy Jones, highlights his theatrical voice and pure pop delivery.
What really makes Rhino’s Instant Replay reissue worth the $60 retail price is the label’s dedication to celebrating an underappreciated album by a group that was manufactured for television, yet took control of their music and inspired my generation to take them seriously.