One of the more overlooked streaming services is Tubi, which features a ridiculous amount of free content. I was browsing their selection of old television shows last week, and discovered The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour there. This was a variety show hosted by the then massively popular (and always massively talented) Campbell, which ran on CBS from early 1969 through the summer of 1972.
The first thing I stumbled across while investigating was an episode from February of 1969, featuring one of the stranger Monkees appearances I’ve seen. Peter Tork had left the band in 1968, so the spot featured the remaining members of the “prefab four:” Micky Dolenz on drums, Mike Nesmith on guitar, and Davy Jones, also (surprisingly) on guitar (as opposed to his normal tambourine workout). This trio recorded two albums without Tork before the band called it quits (for a while anyway), and this appearance would have been in support of the first of those, Instant Replay, which was released the month of this appearance, and reached #32 in the charts, and the lead single, “Tear Drop City,” which hit #56, and would be their last single to chart inside the top 60 until 1986.
After an introduction from Campbell (in which he awkwardly refers to the band as “one of the hottest groups and most professional groups to ever hit show business”), the clip begins with a super brief (as in under two minutes) medley of Monkees tunes. They begin with a snippet of “Last Train to Clarksville,” segue into a bit of “I’m a Believer,” sidestep briefly into Nesmith’s “Salesman,” and then wrap up with a “Clarksville” reprise. At about one minute, thirty seconds, it’s not only disjointed, but seemingly pointless. Still, the producers did add the requisite psychedelic gloss to the proceedings:
From there, Campbell invites the group over to engage in one of the weirdest segments I’ve ever seen. The band clowns around in front of a green scene, singing lamely written odes to Twentieth Century history (“I’ve Got a Brand New Stanley Steamer,” “The Rage Dance Craze,” etc.), the gag being that the band had been around since the turn of the century, and … whatever. The fellas have a hard time hiding their lack of commitment to the bit, and Micky’s energy level is best described as “amphetamine-fueled.” The performance is aided and abetted by some professional dancers and bad graphics.
After that painful bit, the band gets to do what they presumably signed up to do, which is badly lip sync their latest single, “Tear Drop City.” Not a hit, but not a bad tune.
The clip below starts with that segment and rolls through the rest of the episode, which does include a couple other brief moments of Monkee comedy (such as it was by 1969):
Here’s the isolated performance of “Tear Drop City:”
It’s a minor bit of pop culture ephemera, but it is kind of interesting in the context of the group’s history. The band had torched any lingering teen idol residue with the Jack Nicholson/Bob Rafelson-penned film Head (now regarded as something of a minor classic artifact of the era) and subsequent album (also regarded as something of a neglected classic now), and the three remaining members were determined to forge their own path, controlling their own artistic destiny. It’s sort of remarkable they were ever able to wrangle that opportunity, considering the fact that they were literally assembled as actors playing a role. It’s also remarkable that the band did produce some fine music once given that opportunity, even if the public had stopped paying attention.
But I think this appearance, kicking off with a mico-medley of two hits and a non-hit, moving into a nonsensical overlong clowning session, and culminating with a chance to promote a new single very few people would care about, and one you’d assume their label had little interest in promoting, demonstrates how steep the hill was they had to climb to regain anyone’s attention. No shock that they floundered around for a little over a year, ending their first and most successful phase with a Dolenz/Jones only “Monkees” album that once again turned most of the songwriting and production over to outside producers and writers.