Well, it makes a change! I’d just about got used to the differences in time between here and America, so I could calculate when to expect Monkee telephone calls for this monthly feature when suddenly—the boys up and away to Australia and the Far East. Fair enough… but it meant that when Peter Tork called me, it was actually the middle of the night, Richmond Standard Time!
Still, after some of the worst crackling noises I’ve ever heard on a telephone, and after a long silence which made me wonder if Peter had been eaten by a kangaroo or something, he came over loud and clear.
“Hi, Jackie—say, what time is it your end? Gee, I’m sorry it’s so late, but I had to snatch what time I could between shows. Now, what shall we talk about?”
Me: Oh, the tour, Peter—PLEASE! We’ve all been wondering how the Australian fans are liking you and we’re so excited because we hear you may be visiting Britain rather earlier than expected.
“This tour, Jackie, is one of the most interesting we’ve ever had. Right from the time we boarded that Quantas jet—boy, it seems ages ago—we have had a real ball. Remember we didn’t know too much about Australian audiences but they are every bit as keen as the fans in America or Britain.
“And, what’s more, they go for the same sort of songs. We’ve been made most welcome all the way along the line and this country is really beautiful… not that we get out to see much of it. Our schedule is very tight indeed but we’ve still taken time out to sample Australian hospitality.”
Me: I’ve heard that you’ve reduced the number of your party this time.
“You’ve heard right, Jackie. But we’re still a big mob. Phyllis, Samantha, Ric Klein, Bill Chadwick, Brendan Cahill, oh yes—Marilyn Schlosberg, Dave Pearl of course, Floyd Ackerman, Ward Silvester—you know, the usual guys and gals. But everyone has a special job to do and everything goes smoothly when you know you can trust everybody right to the hilt.
“Say, one hotel we stayed at was called Lennon’s, in Brisbane. At first we figured it was named after the Beatle, but it turns out it wasn’t! But so far all the hotels have been very comfortable indeed. The Aussies just can’t do too much for us. And between us we’ve picked up a lot of their expressions. When we arrived we went round saying ‘fair dinkum’ and calling people ‘cobber’… but the funny thing is that most of the locals just don’t use them at all!”
Me: Met anybody we know from London?
“Well, we’ve met so many people in just a few days that I can’t rightly remember them all. But your disc-jockey Mark Roman was here and called to see us. And just everybody is asking about the film.
“It’s gratifying to have so much interest expressed in the film. At first we thought we might be called back for some last-minute editing, but it seems the technical boys have done a good job without us.
“I’m specially keen to get to Japan, of course. I’ve had a long-time interest in Far Eastern influences in religion and so on and I’m hoping that we’ll get time to study local customs. I find meeting people, rather than seeing things, is always the most interesting part of touring. And you must remember that these concerts this side of the world are our only ones, outside of London last year, that we’ve ever undertaken.
“Say, you know our funny habit of growing beards whenever we have a bit of spare time? Well, two or three of us grew quite good beards just before we left for Australia. And some of the pictures of us, all fuzzy-faced, got through to the papers in Sydney. And this caused a lot of alarm among the promoters and Press people here, because they thought all the publicity pictures they had of us were out-of-date. But I was the only one who didn’t shave before the tour. Every so often I like to give my face a rest from the razor.”
Me: As a matter of fact, I think you look great with a beard, but I guess it’s a matter of personal opinion. Anyway, what about the proposed tour of Britain?
“Jackie, I’d love to be able to be specific about this. You know that we want to visit with you all again. We’ve heard that it might not be until February. We want to come, that’s about all I can say. But while we’ve been touring here, there have been a lot of negotiations going on in Hollywood and I guess the only thing is to wait until you hear something really official.”
Me: Okay, we’ll be patient. But it’s going to be hard work, believe me!
“Say, Jackie, how much have you heard about the Archies?”
Me: Archies? Who, or what are they?
“Oh, obviously you haven’t heard much more than us. But they are actually a new group being created over in America—by some of the same guys who were in at the birth of the Monkees. They’re gonna make records and all that, but the television series featuring them will be based on cartoon characters. No reallife folk, but groovy drawings. I think it is interesting—I’d like to see how it makes out. Last time we heard, it looked as if the Archies would be on television screens in Britain, too.”
Me: More about the Monkees, IF you please, Peter!
“Sure, let’s stick to Australia for a while. It’s a groovy place because there is a kind of rugged feel to it all. Somehow you can sense the history of the country, the fight to build it up, just by looking at the people. The girls all have this healthy out-door look, sun-tans that sure didn’t come out of a bottle. Okay, so the California climate is usually great too, but the characters there just don’t look so… yeah, rugged is exactly the right word.
“I guess the only thing that has upset us at all happened at one of the Press conferences they laid on for us. I’ve probably said this before, but it’s still worth repeating. We’ll go along with any questions people ask, because we think the fans have a right to know what they want about us. But some of these Press guys go all out to needle us. You know, is it true that you’re spitting up? We’ve answered it all before, but they keep on asking.
Me: I’m sure you coped fabulously well, Peter. And do please remember that there are millions of us who love all of you—and admire everything you do.
“Jackie, knowing how great the fans are is one of the nicest things about being a Monkee. I have to go now, but just pass on my message of love ’n’ peace to everybody who reads your column.”
With a “bye now” and a click, Peter Tork was gone. But I’ll tell you this—it was a long, long time before I was able to get back to sleep! Peter’s voice had a jelly-making effect on every bone in my body.