Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
My prayers for Mike Nesmith and his family. I didn’t know him, but I wish I did. He left us in December, but he left us with a lot.
I wouldn’t expect you to know who Mike Nesmith was, and I speak to no one in particular. He mattered.
He was a Monkee. The wool cap-wearing guitar player for the semi-fictitious band The Monkees. Famous for their television show and their music. They weren’t a band, but they were. Mike, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Mickey Dolenz.
They sang their songs and played instruments on the later albums, but they were uniquely talented. They were actors and all four could sing lead though Dolenz and Jones were exceptional. The show was simple, to put it politely, but sometimes hilarious. They always performed a song accompanied by a "video" loosely based on the episode's plot.
Mike mattered, as each of them did because they made great music. I never cared for “I’m a Believer” or “(Theme from) The Monkees,” but there were a lot of outstanding recordings, particularly on the Headquarters album.
It is a frustrating listen of any Monkees album because there are throwaway tracks on each that you wonder, “who thought this was good?” You can say that for any recording artist. They didn’t usually have a say in what made it onto an album.
Mike Nesmith wrote songs and performed before and after The Monkees' run of success. He wrote “Different Drum” for Linda Ronstadt in 1967 and recorded 15 albums after the Monkees run ended. Styles range from country to pop to tropical but usually fall somewhere in between.
I always liked “Joanne,” credited to Michael Nesmith & The First National Band in 1970. He had a nice melodic way with the music, usually expressing emotions that lean on the side of disillusion.
I read his book, Infinite Tuesday, written just a few years ago, and he told a tale of disappointment in describing his career and life. I was disappointed that he didn’t detail the recordings and inspirations for his and the Monkees’ songs. He mainly wrote about the politics and relationships involved in his career, and most of it was a downer.
He played guitar, sang, and wrote beautiful songs. He was surrounded by talented teammates in The Monkees and wrote some of their songs, including “Listen to the Band,” “Sunny Girlfriend,” and “The Girl That I Knew Somewhere.”
If you want a recommendation for one of his albums, I suggest Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma from 1979. Stick with side A. Well produced, good performances, and an interesting blend of styles. “Flying” is my favorite.
Micky Dolenz is my favorite Monkee and the only surviving member, but I identified with Mike. In the TV show, he played the under-spoken, George Harrison role.
I always wish he had more to say, particularly on camera, but he lived life on the sidelines. He wrote good music and was a pioneer in the music video business. You must search to find his talent, as he wasn’t one to flaunt it.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to The Monkees and Mike Nesmith. Too much. And most people have no idea what I’m talking about.
His work made my life better.
Especially to me, he mattered.