MIKE NESMITH EXPLAINS HIMSELF TO FLIP’S KEITH ALTHAM!
In Britain, Mike Nesmith has the reputation as the Monkee that bites. “I don’t know how I got tagged with this uncoperative [sic] bit,” Mike told me during a recent trip to London. “But you know it’s terribly difficult to answer a question like ‘why are you so rude?’ pleasantly.
“I said so many wrong things on my last trip to England that by 24 hours, I was walking around with my mouth buttoned up, and people were looking at me with ‘you say one more word out of place you loud mouth Texan and we’ll cut your throat’ in their eyes. I try to be frank and I try to be honest. Perhaps I set my ideals and standards so high that I tend to be over critical of those that fall short of them.”
That is a very generous attitude for, as far as I am concerned, Mike’s only fault is that he does not seem to suffer fools even gladly!
I first met him on my trip to San Francisco at the RCA recording studios where the Monkees were cutting a new LP. He had been up since 6 a.m. on the set and recording until midnight. He was very tired and, bearing in mind his reputation for being sharp with the tion [sic]. Having introduced myself from England, he was impressed that I had come a long way to see them. “I could never have turned anyone away who wanted to speak to me after travelling 5600 miles,” he told me later. “You looked as tired as me.” Which was not far from the truth.
The outcome of my introduction was that Mike took me outside to the reception hall and we sat talking about Monkee business! “I hope you can put down all those people who have been saying we don’t play on our discs,” said Mike. “You’ve just seen us playing.”
They were completing a number called ‘Star Collector’ for their next LP, and Micky was still weaving happily in and out of the studio telling everyone what great things he would be able to do on it with his mood [sic] synthesiser—his latest electronic toy.
Mike is very much concerned and interested with the attitudes and ideas of the flower power movement out on the West Coast. “Let me make it quite clear that what I’m interested is the really significant change of thought and not the actual flower children routine,” said Mike. “The only definite action I’ve seen from the flower children is that every morning I come out of my house and have to clear the mailbox out of flowers. Which is nice anyway—so I’m not complaining.
“But the really important people—the people who are changing peoples ideas on life are men like Frank Zappa of the Mothers Invention, Timothy Leary, the Beatles and sculptor we have in L.A. called Vito(Could be referring to Vito Paulekas). Their new ideas are important.”
When Mike came to England for the first time he met few people but those that he did see, like Ray Davies and John Lennon, he liked. “I liked John Lennon because he is a compassionate person,” said Mike. “That’s going to sound funny to some people who regard him as a kind of sarcasm king but it’s true. I know that the sarcasm is only a cover for his true feelings. He is capable of great intensity—he feels things a great deal deeper than some realize.”
It might be interesting to note that no more than one occassion [sic] in the British Press Mike has been likened to John Lennon. “I suppose comparisons between John and I are inevitable,” said Mike, “I’m married with a young child and so is he but the comparisons are beginning to bother me, I’ve written a couple of books and I’m frightened to publish them in case people think I’m copying John. No one likes to be thought of a carbon copy and I’m certainly not setting myself up to imitate anyone however much I admire them.”
Mike’s book is in fact a long poem of some 300 words in which he tells the story of a boy who falls through the eye of a camera and sees the world in which all the values are reversed. Black is white and so on. Eventually he intends to try and get the work published under another name.
“I don’t want to cash in on the Mike Nesmith of the Monkees idea,” said Mike. “If my work has any value it should stand up under any name.”
Another of his freelance activities has been the arranging of a lare [sic] orchestral album(The Wichita Train Whistle Sings). Again, the title and music have been issued under another name.
One of Mike’s big hang ups is that he feels the Monkees are not criticised in the field in which they have set themselves up as exponents.
“We are primarily actors in a TV show,” explained Mike. “I think we do a very good job and some of the ideas we come up with are classics of their kind. Y’know I sat at a desk with a telephone in one sequence we were filming and I sat there and thought for three hours trying to think of something funny to do with the phone. That may sound stupid but believe me it’s necessary to think and think hard to be funny.
“The Beatles gave us an excuse to have a TV show around four guys in a group, but we have evolved our own humor. I doubt whether the Beatles could do our show every week. We’ve never been fairly evaluated as actors on a TV show. Everyone expects us to come up the Beatles’ musical standards because we represent their kind of combination as actors. We’ll, we’re trying now but you don’t make musicians or combinations like the Bealtes [sic] in 2 years or even five!”
Mike Nesmith is an honest and outspoken personality in the Monkees and when he came to London some weeks after my U.S. trip I was able to talk some more of cabbages and kings!
Which I’ll report to you in next month’s issue of FLIP.