the beatles and the monkees -- 11/2/18

Today's selection -- from 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded by Jon Savage. By 1966, a weariness had come over the world of rock superstars:

"The British beat boom was over. The Beatles had begun the cycle in early 1963 and, in September 1966, they brought it to a close. Their contemporary interviews reflected this realisation. 'I think we've all got a lot to learn and a lot to do,' George Harrison said during the campaign to promote Revolver. 'Songs like "Eight Days a Week" and "She Loves You" sound like big drags to me now,' Lennon told Ray Coleman; 'I turn off the radio if they're ever on.'

"At the same time, 1966 was the year when the unrelenting, accel­erating pace of sixties pop -- three singles a year, one or two albums, hundreds of live dates, television shows, radio commitments, photo shoots, foreign tours -- began to catch up with many of its leading protagonists. It wasn't just the constant pressure to come up with hits and enforced intimacy that did for these musicians; it was the unprecedented nature of their global fame, the sense of being pro­pelled far from any familiar shore.

"There was an outbreak of surliness and moody behaviour, which was not the way that stars were supposed to behave. Having already commented on the rudeness of the Who and the Rolling Stones, Rave ran a feature in August about the withdrawal of Brian Jones from the public eye: 'He hasn't disappeared, his office assured us. Well, where is he then? The fans want him, we want him. Why doesn't he come out of his secret pleasure dome?'

"There was a sequence of well-publicised breakdowns and hos­pitalisations: Mick Jagger's 'exhaustion' in June; Scott Walker's apparent suicide attempt in August. Several major groups split up or shed key members: Paul Jones left Manfred Mann; the Hollies sacked bassist Eric Haydock; Eric Burdon reconstituted the Animals as the New Animals; Georgie Fame dissolved the Blue Flames; while the Yardbirds lost arranger and composer Paul Samwell-Smith. 'Everybody has had enough,' ex-Animal Chas Chandler told the Melody Maker. 'In the Animals, we were just getting into a rut and we were just repeating ourselves for the last 18 months. We weren't getting any kicks. We had to go on stage every night and be expected to put on a raving show every time. We didn't always feel like that.' ...

"The tide was ebbing away from the UK. This sense of disso­lution was a hot topic in the British music press that summer. In July, Record Mirror had asked,'Are our stars finished abroad?' In the Melody Maker, Chris Welch noted that the British beat group scene was 'tearing itself to pieces', before simply concluding: 'One thing is certain. An era has ended.'

May 1966

"By August, America was the source of half of the records in the UK Top 50. As well as what the NME called 'the sudden Tamla Motown comeback', the new threat came 'from the new school of West Coast groups -- the Beach Boys, the Lovin' Spoonful and the Mama's and Papa's'. At that point, West Coast still meant Los Angeles and, as if to seal its position as the centre of the pop uni­verse, the city came up with the next Beatles right on cue.

"Pop abhors a vacuum, and just as the originals disappeared, their simulacrum was heavily promoted by a full-page ad in Billboard: 'A different sounding new group with a live, infectious feeling demonstrated by a strong rock beat'. 'Last Train to Clarksville' was the first single by the Monkees, the four-man group assembled, after a long period of research and development, to star in a Hard Day's Night-type TV series. The timing was perfect. Touted as 'the spirit of 1966', the four good-looking group members reproduced the elements of the Beatles' unified 1964 camaraderie. An infec­tious acrostic of 'Paperback Writer', 'Last Train to Clarksville' was released four weeks before NBC's premiere of The Monkees. With its crackling performance and Vietnam-timely theme of unwilling partings, it entered the Top 40 a week after the series premiered -- the start of a three-month run that would top out at #1.

"It was a great record, but it also contained a clear message: if the Beatles weren't around, they would be cloned by the industry. And the younger teens would hardly care: 'I luv 'em,' said a reader polled by KRLA Beat after the show's premiere. 'Mickey and Mike are so funny and Davy's so cute and Peter's just so ... ' As another commented: 'I thought the show was great. It's kinda like A Hard Day's Night but it's even better because it's in color and we can see it every week.' "



Jon Savage


1966: The Year the Decade Exploded


Faber & Faber


Copyright 2015 Jon Savage


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