Nice piece in fastcocreate.com (h/t to DB) on Adam Schlesinger and what he brought to the production of the Monkees’ new album, “Good Times!”
Schlesinger, the bassist and co-songwriter for Fountains of Wayne, has become a go-to guy for what the author terms “fictional music” — that is, music for fictional musicians — including “That Thing You Do!” for the Wonders, “Way Back Into Love” for the film “Music and Lyrics” and songs for the TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
(“Music and Lyrics” is underrated, in my opinion — a sweet film that allows both Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore to be far more human than their usual movie-star caricatures. And “Way Back Into Love,” Schlesinger told me in 2007, had to work on a number of different levels.)
One thing Schlesinger addresses is how the Monkees were scoffed at when they debuted in the ’60s (the “Pre-fab Four” was one of the nicknames) but now are considered a “real band”:
“There’s always been this sort of ongoing debate about the Monkees, and whether they’re a real band or not. At this point, it’s been proven that they’re a real band. They’ve sold millions of records, they’ve written lots of songs. They’ve produced their own stuff. They play instruments. Just because their origin was a little unusual—they’ve outlasted most bands.”
He’s right, of course. Were the Ronettes not a “real band”? The Four Tops? The Beach Boys when Brian Wilson was creating all the music in the studio with the Wrecking Crew? The Beatles gave us this notion that a real band had to sing, write songs and play their own instruments, and God bless ’em, they’re still the best. But for a time there was a dismissal of vocal groups as being less-than, and the Monkees — due to their odd origin story (though a look at rock history demonstrates that any number of bands didn’t come together as seemingly naturally as the Beatles) — were sneered at more than most, even after they became more than simply a vocal group.
But damn, it’s the music that matters, and I think any number of bands would take “Last Train to Clarksville,” “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” and “Porpoise Song” and not think twice.
Also, as Schlesinger noted, they weren’t cardboard cutouts. Mike Nesmith has become rightfully known for his post-Monkees career, including such songs as “Joanne” and the whole “Elephant Parts” video, but Peter Tork is a talented multi-instrumentalist, Micky Dolenz a hard-working singer and the late Davy Jones should have gotten more opportunities to act than the famous “Brady Bunch” guest spot.
The new album features contributions from Schlesinger, XTC’s Andy Partridge and the Jam’s Paul Weller, along with some revitalized material from the archives. Ultimate Classic Rock calls it a “masterpiece,” which is hyperbolic, but the reviews have been good.
Now if only Schlesinger would get to work on a new Fountains of Wayne album.
(Side note: Does anyone hire copyeditors anymore? In the article, a certain songwriter is listed as “Carol” King — it’s “Carole,” of course — and Dolenz is described as being a real “trooper.” It’s “trouper.” I’m sure these blog entries are full of mistakes, too, but jeez.)