Twenty-six years later I finally got around to tracking down the video to Michael Nesmith’s ‘Rio’ and I ask you: has there been even a single music video better?

(Ah; sadly, the video is no longer available online. Perhaps I’ll check with Nez about sharing an officially authorised version.)

I think not.

A-Ha’s “Take On Me” comes close as a video, but when you compare the songs themselves, contest over. And when you consider that, until Nez blazed across the sky, ‘music video’ meant film of a band performing, not visions of Salvador Dali, it’s even more remarkable to see him flying through the sky with three Carmen Mirandas aboard.

The song stops me in my tracks every time I hear it (I own both ‘The Older Stuff’ and ‘The Newer Stuff’) but watching the video again for the first time in 20 years was overwhelming. I officially don’t care if my own genius goes unrecognized by the masses; Nez has been his fans’ best-kept secret for four decades and he don’t care.

The first music video to win a Grammy, ‘Rio’ was first featured in ‘Elephant Parts’ the same year MTV played their first video. (Guess who invented MTV? Yup; Nez. Bonus Question: What was the first video MTV played?)

You could buy ‘Elephant Parts’ at Amazon (and I’d get fifty cents) but buy it from Nez’s Video Ranch instead. Yeah, I need the money more than he does, but there are loftier ideals at work this morning.

Nez the Conducer

He’s smart. I just keep thinking how smart he is.

Brief but interesting interview with Michael Nesmith at Wired. He says things like “The problem with those kind of companies is that they don’t have any good way to add value anymore.

For years, they’d support the artist in their nascent stages and get the goods to market. Those are old-time, Methuselean economics”

Tip o’ the hat to Nez’s VideoRanch for the link.

Laugh Kills Lonesome

As 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.

Mike Nesmith's 'Tropical Campfires'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.