Joel Goldenberg: The Tee Set and others

Peter Tork

We continue this week with the T list, but before proceeding, we must grieve over two important music- related passings:

I was in my car a couple of weeks ago returning to work from lunch when I was jolted by an ABC News radio report that Peter Tork of the Monkees had just died. If my car windows were open, passing motorists might have heard me utter an expletive that begins with the letter S.

Not that Tork's death was completely unexpected. About 10 years ago, he had been diagnosed with cancer, and I had a somewhat sinking feeling when it was clear he was not joining surviving Monkees Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith on their current tour, which itself had to be delayed as Nesmith had some health problems months ago.

Tork played the sweet, somewhat daffy band member on the Monkees, but he was also the group's most proficient musician. Along with Nesmith, he wanted the Monkees to be an actual band instead of the prefabricated made-for-TV group that just sang while studio musicians played the backing. In fact, he was the first one to leave the Monkees because after actually playing on two of their albums, the group reverted to mainly just singing, although they had more control over the output.

Tork also wrote some of the group's most interesting songs, such as For Pete's Sake, which was the closing theme of the show in its second season; two somewhat psychedelic songs for the movie Head; and some unreleased at the time songs that could have been placed on the album The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees, including Lady's Baby.

At least Tork appeared on the last two Monkees albums, released in the last couple of years, with a somewhat grizzled and very folky new voice. His passing makes the current Micky and Mike tour more emotional — I wish Montreal was one of their stops. Unfortunately, the closest gig is in Albany, New York.

A while ago, Retro Roundup devoted a column to the best of the Monkees, and Tork's Twitter and Facebook team (his family and friends) provided a link to the article on their Facebook page. I was highly honoured.

And now, this week, another very sad passing. Hal Blaine, one of if not the greatest pop and rock music drummer of all time, died Monday at the age of 90. He is said to have performed, including for the Monkees and most notably for the Beach Boys and the productions of Phil Spector, on some 35,000 recordings and about 40 #1 hits.

Blaine was also a character — he was enlisted by Brian Wilson to perform a skit related to the long-unreleased Smile album, playing a disgruntled and selfish landowner who doesn't allow Brian and company to eat any of his vegetables. Also, he was to feature in a Jan and Dean TV series called On the Run, playing a drummer named Clubber. Only the pilot was filmed, as soon afterwards, Jan Berry was seriously injured in a car accident.

In past months, I was seriously happy when I realized that Blaine was still living, and I sent him 90th birthday wishes  via Twitter last month. Blaine lived a long life, but he was such a dominant figure in music history that it's hard to believe he's gone.

And now, with head hung low, we continue with the T list.


The Tee Set: The early 1970s triple LP K-Tel album Today's Super Greats might as well as been called The Best of the Dutch Invasion, because several big hits from the Netherlands were on there, including Shocking Blue's more edgy Venus (in fake stereo), Mouth and McNeal's cartoony How Do You Do, and this featured artist's song Ma Belle Amie, whose lead vocalist also sounds quite bluesy notwithstanding his pop idol looks. It's also interesting pop, with great drum parts.


The Temptations: I love Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, but collectively, The Temptations was the best vocal group on the classic Motown roster, with several wonderful vocalists. I've heard My Girl ad nauseum, but Since I Lost My Baby is a stone cold classic, filled with emotion. Just as good is the triumphal You're My Everything, with fantastic vocal interplay between David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks. But my favourite Temptations song was recorded after David Ruffin left the group in 1968, before Eddie Kendricks departed inn 1971, and while they were in a more psychedelic mode.

Ball of Confusion is not only intense with all kinds of great sound effects, but has the greatest couplet in music history— "great googa-mooga, can't you hear me talking to ya?"

Shockingly, this isn't my favourite version of the song. But we will wait for the Undisputed Truth's entry to discuss their rendition.

Next time: 10CC, Tammi Terrell and others.

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