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.
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:
While I had to giggle at his indexing the contents — Oh 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:
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.
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.