s a kid, I thought the Monkees were pretty talented. As a teen, I subscribed to the myth that they were just actors, fronting a real band and stealing their glory. Now that I’m old, I know how talented some of them really were, and still are.
I’d love to track down Peter Tork’s LA band “Shoe Suede Blues” some time, but for now, I’m content to listen to as much of Mike Nesmith’s unique approach to music as I can. Imagine Lyle Lovett if he was happy; that’s Mike Nesmith.
“Tropical Campfires” broke a 13-year fast for Nez, and “Laugh Kills Lonesome” is undoubtedly the best track; possibly his best effort to date, despite my lifelong love for 1970’s “Joanne.” Inspired by the painting by cowboy artist Charlie Russell which graces the album’s cover, the lyrics remind us that laughter is the best medicine. “Their smiles shot out like sunbeams and made the night give in, because laugh kills lonesome every single time.”
True to the album’s moniker, it really is a calypso country tune such as you’d expect to hear sung around a tropical campfire. Bongos and congas vie with acoustic guitars and a cowboy chorus, and amidst it all we’re treated to a guitar solo turning into a piano solo the cries out for Carmen Miranda to dance. You cannot sit still; you cannot not sing along with the chorus; everything about the tune is infectious, and I like the disease.
When you’re in the mood for some fascinating music history, business history, and music business history, dig up all the stories about Nez’s mother inventing Liquid Paper, his subsquent masterminding the origins of music videos, and how the master won the first video Grammy award. Oh; and if you’re in the mood for one of the strangest most fascinating books you’ve ever gotten lost in, order an autographed first edition of “The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora” — I haven’t quite made up my mind yet, but after reading the first seven chapters online free, it’s hard to give up just as we learn about the apparently psychotic mastermind of a subculture pyramid scheme who is somehow threatening the existence of an invisible city and the greatest blues singer of all time.
And he was the quiet Monkee.