Jun 19, 2011

Concert Review: Hey Hey We're The Monkees: 45th Anniversary Tour (Westbury Theater, New York)

People may laugh when they hear a Monkees concert? But The Monkees are probably the most under rated, disrespected rock & roll band of all time.

Many like me grew up with their TV show in the early seventies (second generation in reruns). In 1967 the Monkees TV show was groundbreaking, in the style of the Beatles; A Hard Day’s Night comedy /rock, the Monkees conquered the television market. Their show broke into the main stream, on at prime time (7:30 PM) the so called “younger generation” hit main stream America.
They also introduced “the romp”; which is what developed into music videos. Each week a Monkees song would be played over a montage comedy skit or a scene where they performed the song live. Most of the rock groups & hipsters of that time loved & respected what the Monkees did for the generation.

As for the music, their first four albums went to number one, The Monkees (October 1966) & More of the Monkees (January 1967) went five times platinum. Headquarters (May 1967) & Pisces, Aquarius, Capriron & Jones (November 1967) both went double platunum. They had three number one songs & six top ten hits from 1966-1968 & actually were the top selling artists of 1967.

As kids, my generation first enjoyed the zany antics of Mickey, Davy, Peter & Mike, then as we got older we started noticing the pretty the girls in bikini’s on their show & the music.
John Lennon said of the Monkees back in 1967; “They’ve got their own scene, and I won't send them down for it. You try a weekly television show and see if you can manage one half as good!” he told them “I think you're the greatest comic talents since the Marx Brothers. I've never missed one of your programs."

CONCERT REVIEW: All roads leading to the Westbury Theater were flooded with a lot of detours on Friday night, making it a close call in getting to the show on time. In any event we made it with seconds to spare.
The Monkees were fantastic, a wonderful night of nostalgia, sixties music & some comedy. I thought there were a few times; especially early on that they struggled to get going, but the tight stage may have had something to do with it. I was more surprised how some of the less popular songs went over, notably the set from the movie “Head”.
By the last segment of the show everyone was up on their feet singing & clapping along, having a ball! We had good seats about 10 rows back, which helped me take the good pictures. As for the sound, at times I thought some of the over head sound system got lost in the mixing, but that’s the effects of a Theater in the round.
The small stage was filled with a seven piece band behind the three Monkees, there wasn’t much room to move but they adapted well with the surroundings as the show progressed. Their backing band were pretty good (nothing spectacular) but good enough to play the two hour, fifteen minutes without a break.

They began with a medley of Monkees songs that would be played through the night. There were four video screens, showing clips from the old Monkees TV shows, the movie Head, & photographs all through the concert. It added a great nostalgic background to the music. Then the three Monkees hit the stage to a huge ovation.
(Mike Nesmith has rarely performed since the old days. He has been successful in video production,, producing & his mother invented Liquid Paper & sold the rights for 48 million dollars in 1980.)
They still have their sense of humor, cracking little one liners, while playfully bouncing their slapstick comedy off each other. Davy said as the show began, “I’m Davy Jones father, Davy will be out a little later”.

Mickey Dolenz was dressed in black jeans & black button down shirt over a black t shirt with a design on it. He donned a black fedora hat (later a beige one) covering his balding head. He looks good & still has the energy along with that Dolenz sense of humor.
His voice was pretty much right on most of the time although he did struggle with a few songs. He sang lead vocals on his songs, backing vocals on others, played drums & tambourine.

He told one story about how the Beatles threw a party for the Monkees in London in 1967. It was at the height of physchedelia & the Beatles were making Sgt. Pepper. The Monkees got to sit in on some of those sessions & Mickey heard a preview of Strawberry Fields /Penny Lane from Paul McCartney, two weeks before their release.

Mickey said he wrote “Randy Scouse Git” from that experience. In the 1966 Monkees TV show romp for the song, Mickey is scene in complete hippie regalia with a colorful poncho, love beads, & permed hair.

Another Dolenz story told how he & Davy were driving in their ’66 Mustang convertible totheir Hollywood home when they first heard “Last Train to Clarksville’ on the radio. They knew they arrived!

Davy Jones is still good looking & still short (a bit of Monkees humor there). Davy was one teen idol I never disliked & always thought was a kool dude. The girls (now women) still love him too, especially when he does his famous sliding dance moves.

His voice sounded great although, I thought he was changing some of the singing style on a few songs early on. But he was phenomenal on “Daydream Beliver” “Little Bit You” “She Hangs Out” & “I Wanna Be Free”. He sang lead & backing vocals as well as played his tambourine. He made his usual wise crack jokes in the background as if it were 1967 again.
He told one story about how on each episode they would have him fall in love. Then a montage of pretty girls from his romances on the show, were played on the video screen. He later said, that on the show, they weren’t allowed to talk about any of the controversial issues of the sixties. He stated how important of a song “I Wanna Be Free” was then & still is today.

He also did a fine dance number, to “Daddys Song” (from Head) in a white tuxedo complete with tails outfit. (Remember he was the original Artful Dodger in the classic play Oliver . in both England & on Broadway. Did you know he was on the Ed Sullivan show with Oliver’s cast the night the Beatles first preformed!!).

Peter Tork the true musician of the group is still the truest hippie of the band as well. His zany humor is still intact, but let’s also give him his due as the best musician on the stage! He played keyboards, piano, guitar, banjo, French horn, percussion & sang vocals.
He wore a kool red velvet shirt tied criss cross on the the chest with black pants buttoned along the sides. Tork is still funny, one of the highlights of the night for me was his version of the great “Auntie Grizelda”. He also did a great job on vocals, singing his & a few Mike Nesmith songs, most notably the county western “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round”. Other Peter Tork musical highlights were the psychedelic “Shades of Grey” & “Can You Dig It”.
It was a great night for nostalgia, a great night for good sixties music & great night out. Seeing the Monkees made me feel a bit younger as they took me back. To see them still going and able to do it so well is an inspiration.
I was/am a fan of the TV show, I went to the 1980’s reunion Tours, I have Monkees collectibles (the DVD box set, trading cards, books) & I’ll be there for the next tour as well, thanks guys.

The Monkees Set List 6/17/11
Westbury- Long Island, New York
I’m A Believer
Mary Mary
Look out here comes tomorrow
The girl I knew somewhere
Randy Scouse Git
Papa Gene Blues
Saturdays Child
I wanna Be Free
That Was Then This Is Now
I Don’t Think You Know Me
All Of Your Toys
What Am I Doing Hangin Around
She Hangs Out
Sometime In the Morning
Someday Man
Can You Dig It
As We Go Along
Do I Have To Do This All Over Again
The Porpoise Song
Daddy’s Song
For Petes Sake
Cuddly toy
Shades of Grey
Going Down
So Nice To Be With You
Auntie Griselda
Last train to Clarksville
Little Bit You (A Little Bit Me)
I’M Not Your Stepping Stone
Daydream Believer

Encores: Listen To the Band
Pleasant Valley Sunday
I’m A Believer (Reprise)


Remembering "The Big Man" Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

It is a sad day today in music & in our lives as we lost a friend, "the Big Man" Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band has passed away after complications from a stroke he suffered in Florida last week.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. was born on January 11, 1942 in Norfolk Virgina. He became intrested in gospel music being a Southern Baptist as well as King Curtis & his work with the Coasters. He attended Maryland State College on a musical scholarship. He played football & was a team mate of Emerson Boozer. His football career was cut short by a serious car accident at a time when the Cleveland Browns were showing interest in drafting him.

Clemons eventually married & moved to New Jersey. Throughout the sixties he worked in Newark, New Jersey as a counsellor for emotionally disturbed children. Clemons joined various bands & was playing with a popular Jersey Shore guy named Norman Seldin. One night while playing at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park he learned a guy named Bruce Springsteen was playing a few doors down. He had heard about Bruce from a mutual female friend who was singing in his band. He walked over to the Student Prince club where Bruce was playing in between his sets & checked him out.

He told Bruce he wanted to join his band, the door literally blew off the club that night due to a storm. Eventually the two did "Spirits in the Night" together & they knew they were the missing links to their music.

When Bruce did his debut album he called on Clarence to play the sax parts he needed. When he put together a touring band to promote the album, he asked Clarence to be his sax man. The original version of the E Street Band was formed officially by 1974: Bruce, Clarence, Danny Federici, Gary Tallent, David Sancious & Vinnie Lopez got their name from a street in Belmar, NJ that they rehearsed on.

From that point forward Clarence & Bruce became the best of friends. Together with  the E. Street band they became one of the greatest rock & roll bands of all time. Their tours & performances are legendary as well as the music they made on record. The Big Man will live on the great solos for Born To Run, Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Jungle Land, Bad Lands, Prove It All Night, Promised Land, Out In The Street, Cadillac Ranch, Rosalita, Spirits In the Night, The Rising, Sherry Darling, Ramrod & so many more.

Who could ever forget all the classic introductions Bruce has given Clarence through the years, the last member of the band to be introduced. Maybe the best of all was "Do I need to say his name?...as the crowd roared.

Personal memory: I was lucky enough to spend half a concert on the 20000 Tour in front of the stage at Madison Square Garden under Clarence. It was there I saw how big he actually was in person & how big his hands were when he gave us all high fives in the front row. Quite a thrill.

Clarence has also had a successful solo career, as well as playing on tour with Ringo Starr & appearing live with the Grateful Dead. He did the song "Your a Friend of Mine" with Jackson Browne, & had guest appearances with Aretha Franklin (Freeway of Love) Twisted Sister (Be Cruel To Your School) & Lady Ga Ga (The Edge of Glory) . He also did work with Zuchero, Joe Cocker, Roy Orbison, Greg Lake, Alvin Lee, Ronnie Spector, Luther Vandross, Janis Ian, Ian Hunter & Michael Stanley.

He was featured in movies such as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Blues Brothers 2000 & New York New York. He was in many TV shows (the Simpsons, Different Strokes, Nash Bridges,  Jake & the Fat Man, My Wife & Kids & The Wire). 

Clarence was married five times & has four children. He was legally blind in one eye, has had spinal surgery & a knee replacement in recent years. Sadly he is the second member of the E Street Band to pass on, we lost Danny Federici in 2008.

We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years," Springsteen said on his website. "He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

Jun 18, 2011

1973 N.L. Champion Mets Bat Boy: Danny Garcia

This is an updated post, as Danny himself contacted centerfieldmaz with a correction to the photo that was previously used. Danny said he was one of three bat boys that season & attatched some correct photos of himself. Thanks for the update & thanks for reading Danny............

Daniel Raphael Garcia was born April 29, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised in Queens & attended Baruch College studying psychology. He played baseball & somewhere along the line got a chance to work for the New York Mets. In 1973 he was one of three Mets bat boys the N.L champions used.

The 19 year old kid from Queens got a chance to sit in the same dug out as Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Bud Harrelson, Tug McGraw, Rusty Staub & the rest of the legendary squad. He was the kid with the  semi afro sprouting from under his blue Mets cap.

After the season, he went to play for the Alaska Gold Panners, & in 1975 was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, in the eleventh round. He spent seven seasons in the minor leagues batting .288 & stealing 108 bases. He was never a power hitter, hitting just 11 HRs in 2851 at bats in his minor league career.

In 1980 at AAA Omaha he hit .320 and the next year got his chance to debut in the major leagues. He was brought up to the Royals at the end of April & batted just .143 (2-14) before being sent back down in late May after playing in just 12 games.

He retired after the 1982 season at AA buffalo, & went on to play in the Mexican League, Venezuela & Australia.

In the 1990’s he returned to MLB, fist as a minor league instructor for the San Diego Padres (1990-1992) & then a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers (1992-1999). From there he went on to a position as special assistant to the GM with the Baltimore Orioles (1999-2003).

He currently lives on Long Island
a baseball consultant, motivational speaker, and instructor.