By Their Instruments (as told to Jeff Gold)
Peter by his bass:
Most people kind of think us basses have a kind of natural sense of rhythm, but take my word for it, it just isn’t so. I had to learn my timing and rhythm sense the hard way, by practice. And Peter taught me all I know. You know, he won’t let go until I get a new thing down just right. He’s a hard person to please sometimes, because he’s such a perfectionist, and it’s good for me, too, because it makes me a better instrument. Also, when I get something right, he’s really up there with me, wailing and so outasite we’re back. Peter has an ear for what sounds are good for the whole group, and that’s good, because if he didn’t, I’d go off on my own all the time, drowning out everyone else. But Peter keeps a close eye on me. I think he’d get better response from me if he’d take his thumb out from between the strings from time to time, but that’s his bag, I guess. I sometimes let Peter play the other instruments, but not too often; you know how musicians are.
I have a secret about Peter, but I never talk; but if I did, which I don’t—well, Peter does talk, doesn’t he? I mean, if you think he stops talking just because we’re in concert, you’re wrong; all during a concert, he talks to me; tells me what to do, whether I’m doing all right, when to begin or stop or take a two-bar break, things like that. Sometimes we talk about the people in the audience, but mostly the lights are too bright to see very well. Sometimes, you’ll notice, he looks down at me. This is to check on whether I’m still there all right; of course I am; I wouldn’t be anywhere else, would you? But Peter is the greatest. Whether at a concert or recording or just traveling between—he really turns me on.
Mike by his guitar:
It was just an ordinary day. I sat in my place in the top row of the guitar rack in the instrument section of the music shop. It used to impress me as a big place, the music shop, but after going so many wild places with Mike it seems a lot smaller. Anyway, there I was, waiting to be bought, or at least twanged once in a tryout, when Mike walked in. At the time I don’t suppose I paid any more attention to him than to any other New Customer of the shop, but that was a lot of attention. After all, I didn’t want to spend the best years of my life there! But he looked right at me, at my fine workmanship and my reinforced neck, which I’m very proud of, by the way. I saw he was interested in my bridge, too. When he told the shopkeeper he wanted me—ME!—l could hardly believe my strings! But there it was. I was wanted.
We went home and he introduced me to Phyllis, and we got along really fantastically. He played some stuff on me, and we had some neighbors over to listen. Everybody grooved on my singing, which is pretty good, if I say so myself. We all stayed up late, but I remember I was pretty tired—first night home, and all that. So I think I may have dozed off a few times. Well, anyway, that was the first night. Now, of course, I get to go all sorts of places with Mike. We go to concerts together, and on tour all over, and of course I go all over the MONKEE set with him, and we have a lot of fun. Once I almost broke a string laughing when Micky cut up, and things like that happen all the time. Sometimes the group will get together for some outasite “jams” and then other times Mike and Phyllis and Chris and I will just sit around the house (in between the clutter of weird objects scattered all around) and sing, just like old times.
Micky by his drums:
So many people keep asking the old question about whether I like getting slugged on the head all the time. I feel I should get the facts out in the open, so there’s no misunderstanding. To begin with, Micky is a very tender person. He doesn’t like to hurt anyone, even if it’s not his fault. That’s how considerate he is. So when we first met, we talked about it, and worked the whole problem out. What he does is, he brings the sticks down on beat, hard or soft, fast or slow, but he stops the sticks just short of my head. Now I can see by the way he brings the sticks down what it is he wants me to do. I give out with a rattle, or a boom, and so forth, just as if I’d been hit, which saves wear and tear on my head, and makes Micky feel a whole lot better about it. But for those of you who have written me, I want to thank you for your concern, anyway.
If you wondered about his shoe size, it’s eight, according to my bass drum pedal. He gets a good heavy thump out of me in spite of that.
I’m Micky’s buddy
You probably know Micky’s hobby is photography, but did you know who his fave model is? Yes, it’s me. Everywhere we go, he takes me along, and when there’s time, we’ll go sightseeing together in all the fab towns we visit. He takes shots of me in front of all the landmarks we see and some we don’t. Which explains why there are so many large blowups of me, neatly framed, all around the house. Naturally, we pal around, sometimes watch color TV together, and all that, but I like best just to take off for a tour. Everything is exciting, and the rush, rush, rush puts me in a good mood, so Micky and I cheer up the others when they get tired. Well, I guess you know all about Micky and me now, and I guess this settles the question about the Monkees and us by this time. They really play us, all right, and who would know better? Of course, there’s the rumor that they all wear toupees and are really in their late forties, but that’s another story.
Davy by his tambourine:
Davy is always wrapped up in his music, but he never fails to have time for me. Of course, that’s natural, because I’m involved in his music in a big way. He’s a very quiet person, you know, and so I try to be like him, but he likes me to be a little noisy sometimes just to break it up. But mostly we just like to be together quietly, to think about life and things.
Everybody always asks me how Davy and I met. Well, actually, it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Davy and Peter, Mike and Micky were all doing their first recording session. Davy was listening (along with everyone else) to the playback, to see how it sounded. It’s hard to tell what you sound like, you know, while you’re playing. I happened to be on a nearby table, watching Davy, who was sort of humming along and tapping his foot. I could see he really dug what was happening with the music, and it was then I knew: he needed me. It’s all very well to tap a foot, or hum, or snap your fingers when you flip out on a sound, but for real involvement, there’s nothing like a tambourine. I tried to get him to notice me, but he was too involved in the music. It was only after the music stopped that he finally saw me. He picked me up in his hand and looked at me very thoughtfully.
“Say,” he said to the control booth, “let’s have that once again, all right?” The music started, only this time, instead of humming and tapping his foot, he played me. Well, everyone said how much it added to the music, and so Davy decided to keep me. And we’ve been the best of friends ever since. He tells me he’s going to write a concerto for me and orchestra, but I think that’s a bit too much. The poetry he writes to me is quite enough.