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Correspondence

Sounds of the Sixties

To address the main question first: Yes, they really can.

That’s the definitive answer to America’s burning cultural debate of the 1960’s about whether or not the Monkees could actually play their musical instruments.  Perhaps you remember the general contours of the arguments pro and con: on the one hand, that the Monkees were four studio-molded young actors who merely impersonated a pop group on TV; on the other, that the scripted narrative soon became a reality, and that the lads themselves were in fact talented all-around performers who were ultimately responsible for some of the decade’s great pop-rock standards, quite often including the word Believer in the title.

Without delving too far into the briar patch of psychiatry, let alone the Frankenstein myth, it may even be that the original early twentysomething bandmates—Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and the winsome Englishman Davy Jones—started off as mere automata, but then, like the rogue cowboys in the Westworld franchise, went on to become animate and self-aware.  Either way, things took a decidedly strange turn for the Monkees in 1968 when, at the height of their Saturday matinee-cartoon success, they parted company with their management and joined forces with Jack Nicholson to produce a film called Head.  A psychedelic satire of surveillance, state control, consumerism, and...

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