|Posted: 24 February 2019 at 11:55am | IP Logged | 10
I am a fan of The Monkees, both the show and the unlikely sprawling nature of them as a band, so the loss of Peter Tork was a very sad moment for me.
The articles that I think best capture Tork were by Randy Lewis in the Los Angeles Times:
... and Rob Sheffield’s loving tribute in Rolling Stone:
Peter Tork was a musician first, and the one true hippie of the bunch. I’m glad to see his musical legacy get the proper context above, but I also loved him as a comedic actor. Earlier this year, we also lost James Frawley, whose first directing jobs were the lion's share of MONKEES episodes. He was a natural to direct because he was new and experimanetal, and he spent two to three months teaching the four Monkees improv comedy before they started shooting the show. This isn’t talked about a lot, but it’s a defining aspect to why the show was so good - they really did develop great comic timing through working with Frawley. It’s amazing to see how well Tork took his innocent Folkie act and used improv techniques to get real laughs on the show.
When I learned of his death this week, I broke out my DVDs of the TV show and watched some episodes that had commentary by Frawley and Tork - “Monkees Vs. Machine,” “The Devil and Peter Tork,” and “Royal Flush.” They both recall the improv classes, with Peter even remembering the moment he froze on stage during a workshop. Interesting he would remember that so many years later - it was probably memorable because it is the stuff of nightmares for performers.
Frawley brought the spark of improv to TV, and Bob Raffleson and Bert Schneider’s post-production team brought the comedic pacing (and sound effects) from Warner Bros cartoons, the Three Stooges, and the Marx Brothers. The comedy on the show still holds up.
From a musical standpoint, Tork contributed a favorite song of mine - “For Pete’s Sake,” which is from the landmark HEADQUARTERS album and was used as the closing credits for the second season of the show (and all of the syndicated shows). It’s a great song, with Dolenz giving a wonderful vocal - of all Tork’s gifts, singing lead was not one of them! But the message and musicianship are impeccable, and great legacy to leave behind.