Record Machine: The Monkees vs. The Beatles

Although my father was partially responsible for my great love for music, and the compulsive collecting therein, his tastes would often surprise and amuse me. Perhaps the most amusing revelation is that he had a greater nostalgic love for The Monkees than he did The Beatles.

The Beatles - Let It Be

I have a few Beatles albums in my collection, most of which were originally my mom’s— which then were absorbed into my dad’s collection, and then I inherited them. Only the White Album did I purchase on my own. Let It Be, Rubber Soul, the Blue Album — they’ve been floating about the house for decades without much love.

“Everyone loves the Beatles,” my dad once said. “I just couldn’t ever get into them; I felt like they were overrated. I always liked The Monkees better.”

(Regarding the use of “overrated” — Dads: The Original Hipsters!)

The Monkees, you may recall, were originally created in a television studio petri dish, and only after assembling the actors did they become a “real” band. They were meant to be like The Beatles, but “never successful.”

We know how it all turned out. Despite their catchiness, when compared to The Beatles, how could my dad love them, while giving (arguably) the biggest band that has ever existed a resounding, Meh?

“Well, I’m talking about what I listened to when I was a kid,” he said. “I was 10 years old, and I’d hear them on the radio every morning, getting ready for school. I loved them, and Herman’s Hermits.”

Although this is somewhat hilarious on the surface, when I think about it, it is not unlike my great love for The Bodyguard soundtrack (may Whitney R.I.P.), while remaining wholly indifferent to Nirvana when I was 10 years old. We all have those bands that were once our cultural blind spots, and only by arriving late to the party did we eventually recognize their significance.

Not too long ago, I flipped through my dad’s old 45s case, an object that is its own retro beauty:

60s-era 45 singles storage box
“A Quality Product.”

While I had to giggle at his indexing the contentsOh god, this habit is in my DNA! — sure enough, I found more than one Monkees single. The sleeves have creased over time — and the Neil Diamond-penned “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” sleeve is missing — but the vinyl itself remains in great condition. I love that the back of “I’m a Believer/(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” has an address for the fan club. There’s no zip code, but I wonder if this street address still exists:

Monkees - I'm a BelieverMonkees Fan Club Address

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, of course. We grow fond of meals because our mothers made them, we delight in the adult versions of the Sweet Valley High twins because of our elementary/middle school obsession with them, and those songs that remind us of a time and place, sometimes happy and sometimes not, have a powerful effect. It’s not that The Monkees are a “better” band than The Beatles, or that my young father was “wrong” for preferring the extra-manufactured version of pop music at the time. Taste is arbitrary. What matters is the emotional lift he felt while hearing those songs, and the one I get while thinking about our conversation.

Monkees - I'm a Believer 45

And now I ask you: What music do you unapologetically love? What songs remind you of being a kid? And for what bands did you once have a complete blind spot? Let me know in the comments.

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

6 thoughts on “Record Machine: The Monkees vs. The Beatles”

  1. I have a huge soft spot for the Monkees. There was a bit of revival when I was in high school, and I started watching the show. To this day I am always tickled when I find people that prefer the Monkees to the Beatles. I do listen to much more of the Beatles’ songs, but I enjoy them both.

    Besides that, this post really struck a chord. One of the things I remember most fondly about my dad is that he loved music, and he loved all kinds of music. When I was a child he had a large record collection, and I remember him telling us not to run in the house because it made his records skip. I remember him serenading my mom with lyrics from the Bee Gee’s “Too Much Heaven”, blasting Dr. Dre, and rocking out to Smash Mouth.

    We can talk about the quality of this or that band or this and that song. Certainly, there are bands I listen to that I think, really, aren’t great bands or, worse than that, engage in oppressive dynamics in their music. But, I agree that what really matters in what I music listen to is how I *feel* when I’m listening to it.

    1. Oh yes, we must respect the record! Haha

      My dad more or less had a rule that harming his records in any way would get us in major trouble. My brother wasn’t super interested as a kid, but I would sneak listening to certain albums when my parents weren’t in the house — mostly the Pretenders’ singles collection, along with Fleetwood Mac. He was the type to make friends replace a record if he let them borrow one in high school and they returned it scratched.

      There’s a whole wall of records of his that I’ve inherited, and although he passed away in 2005, I still haven’t moved them from their shelves because I feel like I need proper shelving space for them. If they work where they are, then I’ll keep them where they are for now.

      1. It made me smile when I read that you inherited your dad’s records. I so wish I had my dad’s records, but they were ruined before he passed. I do have the memories though, so there’s that to hold onto. Thanks for sharing, by the way. This post really made my day, haha.

  2. Hee, I like your dad. I feel the same way – give me The Monkees any day. It’s not just that my first every tv crush was Peter Tork; the music itself speaks far more to me that Lennon and McCartney ever did. (Take A Giant Step and Sweet Young Thing tie for top spot, close seconds include What Am I Doing Hanging ‘Round and Pleasant Valley Sunday)

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