One-shot: What’s That Spell?
Hollywood, June 1967
Two years into covering pop and rock concerts, and Ann can confidently say she’s gotten over ‘fangirling’ at the superstars performing in front of her. Especially if she was regularly friendly with one of the bands she writes about. Like the Monkees, whom she was about to see open their summer tour at the Bowl tonight. A lot of things have impressively progressed since she was first introduced to them as a music act and as acquaintances during their meet-and-greet train show last year. For instance, Micky can actually keep a decent beat, and Mike even cracks a smile once in a while now. And because she talked to them so often, it made creating her magazine pieces smoother than usual too. She wished the boys played a little bit more live, because they always looked like they were having so much fun, but the TV schedule on top of recording made it harder than the regular music groups.
Stepping out of her apartment, Ann headed to her car in a black+white, polka dot, long sleeved mini-dress and white ankle boots. After parking in the venue’s lot, she applied a bit of lipstick using her car mirror before grabbing her purse and locking the vehicle. Strolling up backstage, she found Davy and Mike already ready and warming up, with Micky and Peter missing. The two band members/co-stars were in matching three-piece, velvet black suits. She waved as she entered, and Davy walked over to share a hug.
“Do you ever still get nervous?” She asked.
He chuckled in amusement. “No. I didn’t earn a Tony nomination for performing in my family’s living room.”
Ann rolled her eyes playfully. “Oh right. For a second I forgot you were already a big shot before these guys showed up.”
Just then, one of the dressing room doors opened and out came Peter. He tossed his long mop-top to the side as he straightened his top. A big smile instantly formed when he spotted Ann. She returned her own smile as Peter moved over to the middle of the room and lifted her off the ground. She let out an exuberant squeal as he set her back down.
“Thank God our good luck charm is here,” he exclaimed.
She giggled. “Oh, really?”
“Of course! And I think you’re going to really enjoy writing about tonight’s show,” he claimed anxiously.
She arched her left eyebrow at that. “How come?”
“You’ll see,” was all he added with a secretive smile.
“Okay…” She ended just as vaguely as she noticed him run his hand through his hair. Sometimes she wondered how he gets it so soft, but knew she would feel embarrassed asking.
“Don’t tell anyone yet, but I’m thinking of changing my hair,” he also revealed by chance.
“Oh?” She perked up at the news and noticed his bangs were getting a bit long and might be due for a cut. “What are you planning?”
He shrugged, “Probably just parting it down the middle like when we recorded the new LP.”
Ann automatically let out a small groan. “Oh no, please no beards this time. You’re so much better looking than that,” she felt her cheeks blush only a second later when she realized she said the second comment without thinking.
Peter genuinely sported a sideways smile. “Hey, thanks!” He chuckled before continuing. “Don’t worry, I’m not allowed to have facial hair for cameras, remember?”
“Hey, guys, we’re on.” Ann then suddenly heard Micky’s voice for the first time that night. “Oh, hi, Annie!” He exclaimed spotting her.
“Hi!” She waved and turned to greet Mike until instantly remembering they don’t usually talk—which he reminded her by entering the stage without acknowledgment. After the band situated themselves on stage, Ann took a spot on the left side of the wings nearest Peter and Micky. She didn’t bother with notes since she already knew the guys and their shows so well; and she was aware that Tiger Beat’s head photographer, Bob, was probably walking around somewhere in the arena. Hearing Micky introduce the band right before Mike went into the first chords of ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ caused Ann to cheer and clap along with the fangirls. The new 16-piece setlist consisted of the big hits like ‘I’m a Believer’ and ‘Steppin’ Stone,’ plus more recent songs like ‘The Girl I Knew Somewhere’ and ‘Sunny Girlfriend.’ Even rarer, tonight Peter swapped his usual banjo solo of ‘Cripple Creek’ for ‘Pick a Bale of Cotton.’ Was that what he was referring to earlier? If so, it was a pleasant change of pace, though he made it seem like it was something bigger. Then in between ‘I Got a Woman’ and ‘I’m a Believer,’ the band played a surprise ballad of ‘Shades of Gray’ from their new album out, ‘Headquarters.’ Cool! Still, Ann felt like the special additions weren’t going to be the only things planned for the show…
One thing the Monkees did in concert that other bands didn’t was include a huge projector screen erected behind them on stage. Throughout the performances, still images of the guys from the sitcom, photoshoots and candids would appear on the screen. Right around the time of the penultimate song of ‘Randy Scouse Git,’ Ann noticed the screen began switching to news photos of the recent civil rights marches in Alabama in between band pics. The out of place images didn’t faze the screaming fangirls, but Ann did arch her brow at the inclusion. When photos of soldiers serving in Vietnam were projected with additional anti-war slogans spread across the screen, the audience’s stance gradually changed. The tweens looked confused and uncertain, while their parents didn’t seem impressed at all (especially the dads). ‘Oh…this is awkward.’
Ann grimaced a bit at the presentation. She knew Mike and Peter were generally liberal (particularly Peter), and Micky and Davy didn’t seem to hold any traditional values. Plus Davy was almost drafted through his visa, so the topic was at least somewhat relevant. Still…the setting of the social commentary was making her cringe. Ann didn’t mind political statements in music, and she would be lying if she said she didn’t have her share of Bob Dylan, Donovan and Joan Baez records at home. But…at a teen pop gig?
The crowd went back to typical cheering when the band stepped away from their instruments and took a bow. The boys then skipped off the stage while waving and smiling, now in the white sweaters they usually changed into mid-show. Ann tried to shake off her second-hand awkwardness and give her friends a big grin.
“Great show! I wasn’t expecting you guys to perform ‘Shades of Gray,’” she shared.
“It’s just for the opening night,” Micky revealed. “A little bonus for our locals.”
“Oh, groovy.” Just then Peter leapt toward her and opened his arms in an attempt for another hug. Ann quickly raised her hand to halt his action, causing a perplexed look from him. “Sorry…you’re sweaty,” she tried to explain gently.
The musician’s face instantly softened. “Right. Hey, what did you think of the projector images this time?” He asked with a hopeful tone.
“Oh…um…interesting montage…” Was all she said in hesitance.
“This will make your next article much more intellectual for a change,” he offered excitedly.
“Peter, it’s Tiger Beat…we don’t do intellectual,” Ann reminded him.
“Monkee Spectacular then.”
“This is topical and could educate them!” Peter insisted.
Suddenly the backstage door opened to two young fanclub members arriving for a photo op. The father of one of the girls also entered and appeared irritated, though not at the hyper-ness of the junior high kids. As the two fans gleefully strolled over to greet Davy and Micky, the older man took their distraction as an excuse to jeer at Peter.
“That was some stunt you four pulled near the end there,” he started coolly.
Peter chose not to respond verbally, though did cross his arms as a reaction. Ann tried not to cringe at the tension she could sense building up.
“My nephew’s up in the DMZ in Asia right now. You think that’s amusing?”
“No,” Peter finally spoke. “I don’t think he should have been sent over there at all.”
Ann held her breath, knowing that wasn’t the answer the man wanted to hear. He huffed in response.
“You kids have no idea what you’re talking about,” he scolded.
“Maybe if the quack in Office hadn’t—”
“Hey, Pete,” Ann interrupted hoping to intervene the argument and took hold of his arm. “Why don’t we just go over to the—”
“Keep your crap opinions to yourself and my kid,” the man ended before grabbing his daughter’s hand and storming out of the room in a huff. Ann could hear the tween complain about only meeting half of the band as she sighed and shook her head.
“You have my permission to gag me if I ever become a parent like that,” Peter dully commented at the incident. Ann chose to stay quiet rather than reply. “So, this can be something else you include in your next piece too,” his tone changing to optimistic again.
Ann winced slightly at the reminder. “Oh…yeah…I’mnotdoingthat,” she rapidly claimed while looking away.
Peter’s demeanor dropped. “What? Why not?”
“Oh, come on, Peter. You really think Chuck and Ralph want something as politically divisive as the Vietnam war in their teenybop magazine?” Ann retorted.
“Possibly. We are the publication’s most valuable band behind the Beatles,” he reminded.
Ann sighed again in frustration. “NBC will probably have you censored anyway like during your first press conference,” she considered. “Can’t you just present some NASA photos if you want the show to be socially relevant?”
He shook his head. “No, that’s not provocative enough. We’re trying to make a statement,” he explained. “Ann, you’re our favorite reporter, they’ll give you leeway. Plus, you want someone else to grab this scoop?”
She wouldn’t budge though. “No. I mean, I’ll mention the pictures in my concert recap because it’s news, but…I can’t endorse a subjective narrative on this. Sorry.” She ended the last bit with a small, apologetic smile.
“But you know we’ve been trying to add more fans our own age, and this is something we’re all conscious of. It can’t just be junior high kids forever,” he kept insisting.
“Peter, look around.” Ann added a wave of her arm for effect. “Your shows are still filled with 6th graders.”
“I know, and they’re great, really. But the reputation is starting to hold us back…”
“Well, what did you expect? You’re not the Byrds.” Ann instantly felt regret the second the words left her mouth. Peter stood still, taken aback. “That came out ruder than I meant…”
“Gee, thanks,” he tossed sarcastically and put out before heading to the restroom.
“Peter, please,” she tried weakly as he left sight. She rubbed her forehead in annoyance. She didn’t want to end the night fighting with one of her friends.
“It’ll be alright,” she heard Davy say as he stepped beside her. “You know he doesn’t hold grudges. Not against pretty girls anyway,” he added in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“I hope so. We’re going to the Monterey fest next week. I’d hate for there to be tension lingering from this…” Ann worried.
Davy shrugged. “Don’t worry about it too much,” he assured her before going into the dressing room. Ann grabbed her purse from the couch by the wall, still not content with the current events.
“If it makes a difference, I wasn’t expecting you to go through with the article anyway.” She heard Mike’s speaking voice for the first time that night behind her. She snorted as she turned to face him.
“Thanks for that,” she replied sardonically.
He gave a slight tilt of his head and tossed his bag over his shoulder, already freshened up and ready to leave. “Don’t forget to mention in your next issue I added a sunburst Gretsch to my gear this tour,” Mike informed as he left the room. While the door slowly closed behind him, Ann spotted Phyllis waiting by the exit, clearly just arrived. Ann took one more breath before leaving herself to close the evening.