If television made the Monkees—why isn’t Ena Sharples top of the pops? asks Jackie Richmond
If it isn’t one thing, it’s the other. If people aren’t attacking the Monkees on the grounds of copying, or not playing instruments (which WE know isn’t true anyway), then they are being positively horrid about HOW it was that the Monkees really found fame here.
We want to be fair about this. “Last Train To Clarksville” was issued here and wasn’t a very big hit. Then later on, we got the television series and the boys really shot to the top of the charts. But where is the connection between the two events… A record and a television series? No connection, I can hear you say. Two different worlds, I can hear you murmur.
But those people who take great delight in hammering our Monkees say that the boys couldn’t possibly be as big as they are now if it wasn’t for the television series going out every Saturday night. Right, then, let’s just get to grips with this theory…
Obviously television exposure helps anybody. If your face is there before the public, and it’s a good sort of face, then the old telly certainly isn’t going to do you any harm. But what we say is that merely being on telly, even in a regular weekly spot, doesn’t guarantee that you will have hit records.
What counts in selling records is what is actually on that seven-inch series of grooves. Remember that the Monkees had, in America, a hit with “Last Train To Clarksville” before the telly series even started. It wasn’t the immediate massive clicker but when you think of the number of “new” groups released on disc each week, it was amazing that it roared up to number fifteen (in one chart) before their TV series even got under way.
Same thing here. The debut disc DID get into the charts and the boys made the grade entirely on their own. But who can honestly say that having your old face on television is any sort of passport to the Top Twenty?
Consider “Coronation Street”. This has been the longest-running serial, watched mainly by the older folk, on British television. Pat Phoenix, alias “Elsie Tanner”, has appeared on record. There’s been a sing-a-long sequence on disc from the redoubtable Ena Sharples, herself. Did they have hit records?
Take it a stage further. Bruce Forsyth comperes the “Sunday Night At The London Palladium” series, to the biggest audiences in British Television… at that time, anyway. He makes records. But do they even nibble at the foot of the Top Fifty? No, they do not.
Do film stars make hit records? No, they don’t. Recently, following a film seen by some 25,000,000 people through the world, Robert Mitchum appeared on record with little success.
What people should do is give full credit to the marvellous Monkees for conquering TWO separate fields of show business. Hit records AND a tremendously popular television series.
Okay, somebody who doesn’t like the Monkees could read this and say that it was a terribly one-sided argument. Well, what can be more one-sided than saying, as if it were hard and cold fact: “The Monkees would NOT have had hit records if they had not been appearing regularly on television.” Who on earth could ever prove that? Fact is that the boys, by sheer strength of personality and talent, made the charts before anything else happened for them.
If you have the best television series in the world, you can’t sell records on the strength of it unless you make GOOD records. And that is the whole point of the dispute. Nobody buys rubbish just for the sake of it. Television can help make somebody a household name, but it can’t make Margate, Kent, England, somebody go out and fork out the money to buy a record on the strength of having a friendly face.
So there! Makes me hopping mad to hear these stupid things said about the Monkees. Nobody minds fair comment but this is hopelessly unfair. The boys don’t attack other stars; but they do get fed up with people attacking them.
The Monkees are big stars and would have made it whatever happened to their TV series. Praise be that many millions take no notice at all of the knockers…