Arthur’s Law, Pre-Fab 4, smooth jazz

We get the funniest looks

More of the MonkeesIn response to my Phil Collins post, Arthur, who I’ve never mentioned, wrote: “As well you know, ‘Arthur’s Law’ keeps me from getting too worked up about what other people like or don’t like…

“This post reminds me of all the fashionable pile-ons over the years—Kenny G, Michael Bublé, Justin Bieber, etc., etc., etc. That’s a topic you could work on for the future?” Nah.

Arthur’s Law, as you all know, is: “Everything you love, someone else hates; everything you hate, someone else loves. So, relax and like what you like and forget about everyone else.”

Two things come to mind, one a group, and one more a subgenre. I know there are others, but usually, I had so absorbed Arthur’s Law so completely that it became a non-issue.

Or I have no real idea about their oeuvre. I’ve heard the music of Bieber, for instance, and it just doesn’t stick to my brain. You could play My World, and I’d say, “Who is that?”

Here We Come

The group is The Monkees. They were the Pre-Fab Four, a created group who didn’t even play their own instruments! And I suppose I bought into that disdain for a time.

Eventually, they did play some of their instruments and write some of their own songs. More to the point, lots of singers and groups couldn’t, or weren’t allowed to play on their albums in the day.

As I recall, most of the Byrds were piqued when only Roger McGuinn was allowed to perform with the Wrecking Crew on a particular album. The next time out, with the Byrds playing, the process was considerably longer.

Or Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, studio musicians besides Herb in the studio, and pickup bands on the road. The Beach Boys was a working band, but the music they created in the studio was often augmented from Pet Sounds and forward.

Walkin’ Down the Street

The Beatles’ legendary Sgt. Pepper album came out in 1967. It was #1 for 15 weeks on the Billboard charts. Do you know the number one album in 1967 in the US? More of The Monkees, on top for 18 weeks, following the eponymous first album, #1 for 8 weeks in 1966, and 5 more in ’67.

Plus 1 week for Headquarters and the last 5 weeks with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones, Ltd. That’s 29 weeks for The Monkees at #1 in the Summer of Love.

Now, success is a weak reason to laud a band. But I learned to actually LIKE many of their songs. Pleasant Valley Sunday, with Mr. Green, “he’s so serene.” WordsGoing DownListen to the Band.

And Mary, Mary, which was originally performed by the Butterfield Blues Band. When The Monkees covered it, the rock intelligentsia was appalled. But the song was written by Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. So there, music snobs!

Music lite

The genre is light jazz or smooth jazz. REAL jazz was Ella or Satchmo or the Count or the Duke or Miles. That commercially successful stuff of Kenny G or Chuck Mangione – is that REALLY jazz?

Here’s a definition: “The fundamental difference… lies in the chief instrumentalist’s approach to improvisation. Typically, at least on record, smooth jazz musicians just don’t improvise. …

“As the artists found on smooth jazz playlists make clear, the ‘smooth’ is usually more important than the ‘jazz.'” Here’s the thing, though. If jazz is limited to mostly dead people, or people emulating dead people, the genre will die.

Moreover, a lot of those smooth folk are extremely talented. I caught the Christmas 2020 program of Dave Koz. He and his contingent (including one Rebecca Jade!) could really cook! And I don’t mean in a culinary way.

As one sage person once wrote, “Music is music if the feeling’s right.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Arthur’s Law, Pre-Fab 4, smooth jazz”

  1. This one resonated for me, Roger, if only for your appreciation of the Monkees. We watched the show at our house, we bought the records. I didn’t like Davy Jones, but more on that in a moment.

    I was in LA doing a singing waiter gig at the Great American Food and Beverage Company. My cousin Gregg had gotten me out of Binghamton and to LA when I was 19. We were a hard-working, harder-partying crew. Best time I ever had, with friends I am in touch with today despite being off Facebook, after over 30 years.

    I was answering phones when Peter Tork called, asking to speak to the manager about a job there! I told him, “Auditions are Tuesday afternoons, be prepared to sing two songs, but don’t be surprised if they only want one… Oh, and here’s a tip. Don’t sing Feelings, or you won’t finish the song!”

    He replied, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Peter Tork.”

    “I heard you, but like I said, you have to audition.”

    “I’d like to speak to the manager.” (That was my cousin Gregg.) So I got him to the phone and listened as he said, “Auditions are on Tuesday afternoons…” word for word what I had said, except he never warned anyone about not singing Feelings!

    Eventually, he did audition, playing some flawless banjo. He was hired, became a friend to all of us. He had been humbled, he told me later, by the breakup of the Monkees. He was teaching school at the time but really wanted to get back into music. And just a nice guy.

    Davy Jones. Well, he stopped in and got a table up front, presumably to see his friend. Actually, he was there (in a very loud voice) to rub in Peter’s “reduced circumstances.” After he was done, I approached him and said, “You know the difference between The Monkees and this gig?” Davy tried to dismiss me, so I said, in an equally loud voice, “The reason Peter’s gig here is different is because here, he has FRIENDS.”

    Pete and I became even better friends. I would run into him over the years. He played a club in Endwell years later, and it was great to catch up. We wrote letters back and forth, and at one point, we laughed about how I used to call Davy Jones “a bitter little troll.”

    So The Monkees? Still on my playlist!

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