My first pop experience- the Monkees annual 1968

It was 1968.

A warm day in Edinburgh during the summer of long hair, the White album and riots. I’d love to say I was on the barricades singing ”˜Revolution’ or quoting Guy Debord but I was a shy, gangling seven year old day dreamer walking around in a pair of shorts holding my grandad’s hand whilst on a day trip to Edinburgh.

Pop culture was an alien experience for goofy children then. No-one knew much about pop at seven years old in the sixties apart from freaky pig puppets Pinky and Perky singing speeded up versions of the hits. We had all sung ”˜Yellow Submarine’ in the school playground without knowing what it was or who it was by and that was about it.

The Beatles may have been the biggest group of all time but they barely meant anything atall to the knobbly kneed children of the UK who were way beyond the marketing plans of labels at the time.
That warm Edinburgh afternoon, though, as we walked past a newstand I saw a book that intrigued me. I was already a vicious reader, reading encyclopedias and weird books about explorers that got eaten by polar bears as they starved to death on their ship wrecks giving me endless nightmares about the same polar bears ransacking my hometown of Blackpool.

The book said ”˜Monkees’ at the top of it and I wanted it instantly. It had the group holding a guitar made from flowers on the steps of a plane, they looked really cool and the picture was intriguing but to be honest I was more interested in the idea that it was about real monkeys- the furry, cheeky ones that had intrigued my from the nature programmes that I was mesmerised by but I was also aware that this funny haired bunch on the cover looked like fun.

That was my first pop MOMENT.

I remember buying it or more exactly getting my granddad to buy it for me as my one penny a week pocket money was not going to go that far.

My granddad was not exactly into pop culture and was a bit embarrassed about buying such rubbish but being a great granddad he bought it anyway.

I took it back to my grandparent’s house in Selkirk in the Scottish borders and devoured it in the early evening wan sun. The Monkees seemed to live in a perfect world and their upbeat childike fun and snappy American humour hit a chord. It looked like the perfect world where you never got old and lived in a wacky house with your mates and got up to endless wackoid japes.

Back in the sixties pop culture was not everywhere like it is nowadays. A comic strip annual like this was about as exotic as it got and I had no idea that the Monkees were a TV company’s idea of a Beatles rip off, infact I had no idea that they were a TV series, that came later.

When I finally saw them on the television those opening credits were pure genius and the Monkees theme song is still one of those great pop moments- a pop moment that is steeped in the strange innocence of a decade where no-one ever died (sort of) and innocence and goofing about was enough to get by on.

The Monkees, though, like childhood didn’t last for ever- real life stepped in and the annual fell apart a few years later, about the same time my granddad died, and finally got lost when my parents moved house but I still remember most of the comic strips in my head and I still appreciate it as my first real pop moment.

Weirdly enough In 1996 Goldblade did a live acoustic radio session on the Ned Sherrin show on BBC Radio 2.

The audience was made up of the delightfully drunk old fruit Sherrin and, bizarrely, the Monkees promoting one of their comeback tours. When we stopped playing the song the Monkees genuinely seemed to like what we did and said ”˜nice harmonies’. We sort of laughed and they said, ”˜no really we love the harmonies’.

They were a wonderful bunch of people, a middle aged version of those skinny japesters from thirty years previously. It was a great if unlikely pop culture moment for me, like a full circle.
We should have got them to sing the Monkees theme”¦



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