Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Peter Tork Interview Part 2: Nobody Ever Lends Money to a Man With a Sense of Humor

Tonight is the Monkees show at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, PA. I was hoping to have posted this, the rest of my chat with Peter Tork, over the last two days. But things – like weather which kept my internet connection down last night – prevented that. Here it is now. And for those Monkee fans who just discovered this blog over the past few days, you might want to check out an (email) interview I did with Michael Nesmith last year:

The conversation continues from the previous entry, where Tork talked about songwriting.

I owe a lot to my piano lessons. At one point I switched from playing Beethoven and Mozart to theory. And I learned how to spell chords, you know like, “what’s an F# minor chord?” and when I took up guitar I would say, “OK, what’s the next note in such-and-such a chord above the note on the string? How many frets do I have to get up to, to play a note that’s in the chord I want.” And I came up with some unusual formations too, like that add-4 chord I mentioned earlier.

I know you couldn’t have predicted that 40-plus years later the stuff that you did with Monkees would still be on the radio…

I couldn’t have predicted that I would live to be 40-plus myself!

Well I’m glad you did.  But at the time, what was the view [of the music and the band]? How did you guys think? “This is fleeting. It’s just going to last a couple years”? What did you think?

[Takes a breath] I did not think. I did not think past…I knew it was going to be big before it happened. I could just tell that it was lined up properly. It wasn’t surprised. But as to the longevity, I really hadn’t given it any thought. I still don’t much. Right now, the Monkees are on tour, or we will be starting tomorrow night. We’ll be doing this for about three weeks, I think, more or less. There is some talk amongst us of doing something else this fall together. But that’s as far ahead as I think.
Other than that, I like to sit at home and play piano and write stuff. I have a blues band. This coming January, I’m going to be going down to Lexington, Kentucky. I’m going to have them play a piece I wrote for piano and orchestra. It’s fairly brief. It’s seven minutes long. They’ll be doing some pop music, it’s a pops orchestra. But I’ll have them tackle this thing I wrote. It’s not easy.
So that the thing: what’s next on my agenda. I don’t pay too much attention to what goes on ahead of me. I have started to wonder if I’m going to outlive my money or not. That’s what you start to think about when you reach my age. But I ain’t dead yet, and I’m not taking drugs.

Well it is great that you still out there playing shows.

Oh yeah, man. It’s fabulous. I’m a very lucky guy. Extraordinarily lucky in many, many ways. Turns out that I have an extraordinary constitution. I get over being sick about twice as fast as anybody else with the same diseases and the same troubles. So I’ve gotta thank whatever source I’ve got. Say thank you, that’s all I can do.

When you and Mike and Micky got together for rehearsals, I think it was about a year and half ago since the first ones, what was that like, having the three of you all together again?

It was good. It was interesting. Michael sounds almost exactly the same as he did back then. Micky sounds hardly different, a little bit. But he’s still one of the best pop singers of all time. Michael’s voice is resonant and clear. It kind of swept me back to the day to hear Michael sing the songs that he sang, the way that he sang them. I found out I was a little more nostalgic for the old days than I would have guessed, if anybody had asked me beforehand.

In some of the shows that you’ve done, there’s been a tribute to Davy in it. As an audience member, I could see it being really emotional. And you guys are doing it night after night. Does that take something out of you? How does it feel?

No. An entertainer’s mindset is not very well understood by people who don’t do it. But you go to work every day, you do something almost every day. And day in and day out and day in and day out, you never go, “Oh my god, I did this yesterday!” You just do what you do. And entertainers really have to look at their work that way. Nobody, there are very, very few of them. Robin Williams did routines. He did most of the same show night after night. And he’s one of the fastest, cleverest, funniest people you’ve ever heard of. And he doesn’t do all brand new stuff every day. He does routines.
And you do them. The same thing doesn’t happen for us that happens for the audience. We do the tributes. And the audience goes, “Oh, my god, that’s right!” But we did the tribute last night as well.
You know: an actor doing the same show on Broadway, day after day, night after night. He better find a way to make it real every night. It better not be the same thing he did last night, or he’s going to be dead. It’s going to be a short run. There are skills that are involved with this business, and you have to learn them.
Mike, we have only a couple minutes left before I have to run away, I’m sorry to say. So if you have one more blockbuster question, now is the time!

I do! When you look back on the movie Head, what do you think of it?

I have…you’re going to have to listen to Torkelson’s Theory of Theatrical and Cinematic Criticism. If the point of art is to bring you forward, to carry you on, make life worth living, or at least to give you something to make you work towards, what happens to the protagonist represents the creator’s point of view. And when the protagonists start off lost in the water, and they end up lost in the water, there’s not a very good message in that. That message is: You don’t get out. The cycle just keeps on going, it’s not good and you’re always trapped.
From that point of view, I think Head is an inferior movie. Technically, of course, it was advanced. Columbia Pictures had never released a movie that avant-garde, at least not for a long time. What was the movie that they did, I think it was with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in a psychological thriller. There was a sequence that Salvador Dali had a hand in creating. It was very strange, very far out. But other than that, I don’t know of anything in the movies that was as far out as the solarization techniques and so on. So you have to give it to Bob Rafelson for that side of things.
I think we get points — the Monkees, as an operation which includes the producers, directors and all that. I think we get points for taking the Monkees out of the tv series. We didn’t want to do another episode of the tv show. I think we win points on that respect.
But I think you’re supposed to make a movie that either says how awful it is to be caught in a loop or [says] you don’t have to be caught in a loop. That movie didn’t say that. All it said was, “You are caught in a loop.” And that’s not a message I need to give to my children. 

So our time has come to a close. Thank you for asking the big question. I’m sorry we can’t carry on. 

1 comment:

Gene said...

Great interview-thanks for posting!