Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Monkees, The Beach Boys, and Me

I recently read a book called Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time by Courtney E. Smith. It was an interesting read. Reminded me of those few years in and after college that I was a music snob. You know, it takes a lot of effort to be a snob of any kind, and I really couldn't continue being a literary snob and a music snob. I eventually gave up both. Now I read Twilight books and listen to Coldplay.

And I like it. So sue me.

The book is about Smith's favorite music, her least favorite music, how to choose your favorite music, and how to judge other people's music choices. (I have to agree with her theory on obsessed Smiths fans. Never date one. So depressing.) One thing she said in the book really struck me, though. She called the Monkees a "throwaway band."


I love the Monkees. They're not my absolute favorite band, but I used to watch the show on Nick at Nite when I was a kid, I've owned their albums, and I even got to see them in concert once (sans Mike Nesmith, which was a bummer). But they're fun to listen to, their show was funny, and their music single-handedly launched the career of Neil Diamond, who wrote a ton of their songs.

And that is something for which we should all be grateful. Neil Diamond is super awesome.

The reason I contest their label as a "throwaway" band is because I don't think they got their chance. Or at least they never took their chance. Despite being actual musicians, they were packaged up for the sole purpose of the TV show, and the producers of the show carefully controlled what music the Monkees were allowed to put out. They weren't permitted to follow their own artistic pursuits. Mike Nesmith (the one in the green hat, for those not familiar with the band) was the most frustrated with this and ended up leaving the band. Turns out his mother invented Liquid Paper correction fluid (I'm not even kidding on that one), and he had inherited enough money that he could go do whatever he wanted. The show ended, the rest of the guys passed on some opportunities, and that was pretty much it for the Monkees. They put out a terrible album in the 1990s that I used to own, but—well, it was terrible. They missed their window. Even the Beatles thought the Monkees were great.

And yet.

So I look at the Monkees and think, "Man, they never got their chance. Maybe they'd have put out something good back then if someone would have just given them the chance." And then I look at the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys started out as a boy band (as did the Beatles, if anyone's forgotten that), and they had a bunch of songs about girls, fast cars, and surfing (although only one of them ever surfed).

And then came Pet Sounds.

It was an awesome album. It was very different from their previous music. Brian Wilson did some incredible arrangements. And if at least one of your favorite songs isn't from that album, you should listen to it again. I promise you you'll find one you love.

But what if they hadn't done Pet Sounds? What if they hadn't taken the risk and just spun out more songs about cars, girls, and surfing instead? Would the Beach Boys have been a throwaway band, too?

I shudder to think.

It makes me wonder if I'm going to be a throwaway. If there are chances I'm not taking—opportunities I'm not investing in—that would make all the difference in my legacy. I mean, right now I'm taking some time off to build a human being, so, you know, that's a big deal. But afterward, will I be willing to take the risks necessary to become more than just a throwaway? Will I be willing step out in faith and believe that the gifts and talents God's given me had better be put to good use? I sure hope so. And I hope you will, too.

I have to say, as much as I enjoy The Monkees, I prefer The Beach Boys. Their music as well as their musical legacy. What about you?

Are you the Monkees or the Beach Boys?


  1. Good job Rachel. We have to think of what legacy we are leaving. The thing is we are leaving one either by default or on purpose. It is so much better to leave one on purpose.

  2. Ok seriously the most creative post I've read this year on making the most of our gifts. And you're right, it does take a lot of effort to be a snob of any type... something to ponder when I feel low in energy. Maybe there are some lame drains I'm creating myself!

  3. The Beach Boys are my favorite band of all time. And as great as Pet Sounds was, Smile would've been better. Speaking of Christian artists. A shout out to the brilliant Danielson Famile!

  4. The Beach Boys are my favorite band of all time! Pet Sounds is great and the music for Smile would've been even better! Speaking of Christian artists, a shout out to the amazing Danielson Famile!

  5. I will agree that over all the creativity in Christian music is lacking.


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