16 Sep Fangirling Since 1986 – My Life as a Monkees Fan
The year was 1986. We were stationed at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. I was watching MTV while getting ready for softball practice, and instead of watching a video I saw a TV show with some long-haired weirdo acting crazy. The 3 other guys around him were acting crazy as well, or they were trying to calm him down. I didn’t think much more about it and went on to softball practice.
Same show appeared on the same network at the same time of day, after school, again and again. I was curious. Then I was hooked. I learned this was a 1960s rock group called The Monkees.
Thirty years later I have their third album, Headquarters, on my wall with all four autographs. I collected their episodes, their music, and many items such as posters, books, a watch, a lunchbox. I even created some wall art back in the day. And I went to many concerts. The most exciting one was the one in New York in 2012 when I was invited to sing “Daydream Believer” on stage. I shared the mic with Micky Dolenz, with Peter Tork to my left, Michael Nesmith to my right, and Davy Jones on the screen behind me… and in spirit.
So why The Monkees? Me, born in 1971, after their heyday? Well, since the summer of 1986, they were an ever-present fixture in my life.
My father served in the Air Force for 22 years, so he, my mother, and my younger brother and sister traveled the world. Prior to living in Arkansas, we lived in the Philippines. Six months after glomming onto The Monkees, we were on our way to the UK, where I finished out the remaining 2 1/2 years of high school. The whole time The Monkees were there — on the walls of my bedroom, in my Trapper Keeper notebook, in my Sony Walkman.
Eventually I came back to the States and they came right along with me. I went to Converse College and thought I might graduate and get a corporate job and settle down to live a normal civilian life. I did graduate and get a corporate job or two but the rest didn’t happen. I continued the trend of moving around and my ever-expanding Monkees collection came with me to each new place. To Charlotte in 1999, then California in 2003 where I earned my Master’s degree in Psychology. They even joined me on my travels to France and Italy. I came back to Charlotte in 2008.
The original VHS tapes I used to record the shows from MTV long ago now hold the Guinness world record for the most distance traveled. Or they should.
So there were many changes in my life — people in and out of my life, pets who couldn’t move overseas with us, job changes, changes in men — until 2011 when Milton and I got married. The Monkees were an unchanging essence than ran through my life, and they also brought joy during those transitions, especially through their music.
Speaking of which, I love listening (and dancing) to music. My late father listened to a variety of music, often late at night, even on school nights. Lots of R&B — in fact, Earth, Wind, & Fire is my second favorite band. He also liked the Eagles and Steely Dan. And then living in other countries meant I was exposed to a variety of awesome music. And within The Monkees canon there is quite the blend of Broadway, Country and Western, Pop, and Folk music. And of course there was the good ole Moog Synthesizer. I actually prefer to listen to the lesser well-known songs, although I still rock out to “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer” at the concerts.
Then there’s the album that is on my wall. That was the album they created after firing their producer and challenging the folks who said they couldn’t play their own music. It was also a reflection of their desire to be authentic. And while that album was not as successful as their first two, it was their creation. They broke out of the mold that was created for them and chose to go their own way — which is something I encourage people to do.
I could list many more reasons why I’ve been a Monkees fan for 30 years – and counting – but those are the top three. The guys, individually and collectively, their music, and their TV show provided a sense of constancy through the ever-changing landscape that is my life. I’ve always enjoyed music and theirs was a great addition to my eclectic collection. And they represent the desire to break free from norms and systems that no longer work and to honor creative self-expression.
I’ve watched many TV shows over the years, and listened to what seems like lifetimes of music, but I had no idea back then that this particular one would have a profound affect on my life and who I am.