Bert Schneider will be remembered for ushering in the great films of the 70s by producing “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces” and “The Last Picture Show.” But to this pop culture devotee, Schneider’s greatest achievement remains the pre-Fab Four.
Schneider, who died Monday at the age of 78, collaborated with Bob Rafelson to create a TV show aping the success of the Beatles. It all started with an ad in Variety seeking “4 insane boys” to take part in a bold new comedy experiment.
Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones were among the 400-plus lads who came a calling, and the Monkees was born.
The television show wasn’t expected to yield a band that would outsell the Beatles, but that’s just what happened for a short, surreal time. The group quickly drew fire from rock critics who complained they didn’t play their own instruments – partly true, since session players did the honors on their first two disks.
The Monkees eventually rebelled against their plastic roots, mocking themselves in their lone film venture, the psychedelic flop “Head.” History ended up being quite kind to the group even if their insta-fame proved fleeting.
“The Monkees” show proved a hit or miss affair, but it broke ground in ways few could have predicted at the time. The cast members routinely broke the fourth wall, frolicked in ways modern rockers would mimic decades later when MTV arrived and blurred the line between reality and fiction.
Micky Dolenz played Micky, Davy played Davy, and so on. They were quasi-reality show stars before the term even existed.
The first Monkees revival came in 1986, when three of the four original members hit the tour bus and MTV started playing the show’s two seasons all over again. More tours followed, and even though reluctant Monkee Nesmith avoided the reunion express the band found its fan base simply wouldn’t fade away.
And why would it? Monkees hits like “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” are sonic gems that resist the passage of time. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find more slices of pop perfection including “The Door into Summer,” “She,” “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” and “Shades of Gray.”
The Monkees recently wrapped yet another reunion tour earlier this summer, and who’s to say the band won’t do the same in 2012 – or beyond?
Does anyone think the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block, the pre-Fab bands of their era, will still be in demand in 30-odd years?