Friday, November 2, 2018

The Monkees Blow Their Minds

A day late… It was 51 years ago last night, 7:30 Eastern and Pacific, that The Monkees penultimate episode aired (not the second best; the second to last). The show was at the top of its game, but NBC pulled the plug. It wouldn't be for another week that The Monkees changed "Hey, hey" to "Bye, bye," but it was episode 57 when the "Monkees Blew Their Minds," the oddest and shortest episode of all.

Fittingly, the Fab Faux acknowledged their debt to the Fab Four in the finale, awakening to the Beatles' "Good Morning." It was the first time the Beatles allowed their music to be used in a project that had nothing to do with the band. (John Lennon, it seems, was a huge Monkee fan.) Peter stumbles upon a charlatan mentalist named Oraculo while searching for inspiration to write a song. The Monkees are up for an audition for a ten week gig, and Peter wants to knock everyone's socks off. Oraculo uses a potion to take over Peter's mind, then uses him to both sabotage the Monkees and nab the gig for his mentalist act instead. The guys figure Oraculo is controlling Peter's mind, and set out to save him. Mike distracts Oraculo by posing as an amnesiac who lost a briefcase filled with $50,000 while Micky and Davy rescue Peter. They boys wind up under Oraculo's control, but are unintentionally freed by Oraculo's assistant, Rudy. 

Burgess Meredith makes a cameo as Penguin, one of the club patrons watching Oraculo's act. The highlight of the episode, though, is the opening teaser in which Frank Zappa and Mike Nesmith play each other for a mock interview. Mock is the appropriate word, as they both rip on the Monkees' music as banal and insipid. The pair end up destroying a truck to the beat of a Mothers of Invention song. 

"Quite frankly, we were getting a little jaded with the show as it existed," drummer Micky Dolenz said. "We were, to be quite honest, getting tired of the same format," he added, noting that the band contemplated the idea of doing a live variety show or a sketch series like "Laugh-In." "We wanted to do something a little more unusual, a little more out there."

Later that year, Dolenz and bandmates Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones starred in the bizarre cult classic movie, "Head," but they never did return to TV, except in reruns.

While this episode is the most bizarre, the final episode, while more typical Monkee fare, is equally remarkable in its non-sequitur appearance of Mickey’s friend, Tim Buckley. As the story part of the episode ends, on walks the late singer-songwriter Tim Buckley to perform a solo acoustic version of his classic "Song to the Siren." Buckley was a friend of Dolenz, who thought he should be introduced to the world. The beautiful song would go on to be covered by the Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil and Robert Plant. The appearance on the Monkees’ final show remains one of Buckley's finest moments. 

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