Listen – Papa Gene’s Blues – MP3
I suppose I should start things out by apologizing for the long period between posts.
If you’ve been following things over at Funky16Corners you’ll already know that a dire combination of illness and borderline exhaustion kept me from the keyboard for a few days.
I’m a busy guy, and it has almost nothing to do with extracurricular activities. I did manage to squeeze in a DJ gig last week (which was a blast), but squeeze is the operative word, as I worked a full busy day, came home for chow with the fam and the strapped myself into the ride for the 90 minute trip into Brooklyn, after which I drove back to Jersey, slept a few hours and woke up sick.
I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff.
Which is not to say that I’m not having fun. I’m actually enjoying my job for the first time in a long time (which says a lot about the value of intellectual stimulation), love raising my two little boys with my lovely wife, and still dig taking a hot box of 45s just about anywhere to rock the house.
It’s just that when you get to be 45, no matter how good you think you feel, it all ends up as a kind of diminishing returns deal on the physical end of things.
When I was a kid, staying out all night was small potatoes. My body and mind would recharge rather quickly and I was up and back in the saddle before you knew it.
Nowadays, when the specter of a 20 hour day looms large I know that there will be an extended recuperative period required, and that the responsibilities of everyday life (Dad and husband stuff) will not step aside and wait patiently while I get my shit back together.
So…that’s where I’ve been.
I have been thinking about the blog, and while I was preparing for my gig last week I pulled a bunch of 45s for future appearances here at Iron Leg.
One of the things I had in the hopper already is – surprise, surprise – another delicious slice of 60’s pop, this time from that penultimate 60’s pop band, the Monkees.
Say what you like about how much prefabrication was involved in the genesis of the Monkees, but as any dyed in the wool rocksnob/crit type worth his/her salt will tell you, they made some tasty music in their day, and no matter how the disparate elements that made up “the band” were stapled, pasted or otherwise lashed together, the members were not without talent.
Of course the individual levels of talent varied wildly. You could line the various Monkees up like some kind of talent evolutionary chart, with Davy Jones on the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal end of things and Mike Nesmith at the other end, as the Homo Erectus with the enlarged brain pan.
It would seem that his talent was not unknown to his handlers, because as tightly managed an affair as the Monkees first LP was, Nesmith managed to get two of his tunes on the record, one of which is today’s selection,
Back in the day, when I was an actual kid, I first saw the Monkees on Saturday mornings around noon, right after the Lone Ranger cartoon (a lost work of genius) and just before Kukla Fran and Ollie and the Childrens Film Festival. This was the waning hours of Saturday morning kid TV, in which the powers that be were clearly aware that most kids had by this time unglued themselves from the sofa, put on their outside clothes and dragged themselves out into the sunshine and fresh air.
At that time, I had no idea that just a few years before, the Monkees had been a primetime sensation. As far as I knew, they were just another Saturday kids show, and I loved them. One of the reasons I did was the fact that in addition to their hijinks, the Monkees always took time during a show to sing a song or two.
Some of these songs were excellent, which had a lot to do with the fact that Don Kirshner had gathered some of the finest pop songwriters of the day to fill the bands records. That they happened to have an excellent songwriter in their ranks was but a happy coincidence (though not that happy for their puppet master Kirshner, especially when faced with a Nesmith-led mutiny at the height of their success).
One of the finest tunes that Mike Nesmith would write and perform with the Monkees was today’s selection, ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’. Nesmith always had a taste for Nashville flavor, and ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’ is the perfect mix of Countrypolitan and Sunset Strip pop. That James Burton was among the many guitarists on the track didn’t hurt things in that regard (he did much the same for Rick Nelson a few years before), and the chorus is pure bliss.
When I pull out that first Monkees album, aside from ‘Last Train To Clarksville’, ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’ is the only other song I need to hear, and that has a lot to do with the fact that no matter how you feel about the Monkees, that tune is a classic.