The Last Train

Posted on Mar 1, 2012 in The Photography

If you are around my age (60) you will remember the first time you heard The Monkees.  And it wasn’t the t.v. show, at least not for me.

It was a dark winter night.  One of those nights where because of the time change in New York the darkness felt unusual.  It was on Mosholu Parkway.  If you are from the Bronx you it’s pronounced: MAH SHA LU and if you are from anywhere else it’s: MAH SHULE LUE.  Something like that. And I have two separate memories that are part of the same event.

It began on the #4 train.  As I say, an early winter night, and the #4 train is elevated at Mosholu Parkway.  And I had a small transistor radio with an ear plug and was listening to Cousin Brucie (maybe) when this twangy song came on called The Last Train to Clarksville… very twangy and I remember the doors to the elevated subway opening while the song was playing – and momentarily I lost the signal while I hopped down the stairs and then it picked up again as I got onto Mosholu Parkway.

And I’ll meet ya at the station…

Something about a reservation and then that twangy electric sound again.

I didn’t know who Davy or anyone else was yet – but in those days you could buy singles.  45 r.p.m. records.  Sort of like iTunes today except you’d be able to walk around the record store looking to see what the flip side was.  If you were going to make a single you might as well put a song on the B side. (That you don’t have now).

And it was too late to go across the street when I got home to the record store but next day, right after school I was there looking at posters that had magically popped up for the Monkees and soon they were on t.v. and we had our favorites.  Yeah, yeah, yeah… we knew they were a copy of the Beatles.  But they were surprisingly good.

And like the Beatles, each one had a very distinct personality.  You had this guy who always wore a hat, and there were rumors that he was actually rich because his father had invented post-it notes.  But he was the quiet one.

And there was the crazy drummer guy who you couldn’t get to shut up.  He was the bad one.  Maybe he was supposed to be John.

Davy was definitely supposed to be Paul.  The teen idol.  And he was.  And he was even British.  I don’t think the guys liked him much, but he had his share of screaming teenage girls. And I wouldn’t leave out the guy with blond bangs cut like a Beatles mop, who was – well he was just enigmatic.  I don’t know who he was supposed to be.

And so it would turn out that Last Train to Clarksville would go to number one.  And the t.v. show would be on.  And a tremendous number of hits were produced that are still around today.

As everyone knows – they had some of the great songwriters of the day working for them.  But they weren’t half bad musicians.  And how they would complain about not getting any recognition for their own stuff.  And that they really did play their own instruments.

But they signed a deal with the devil.  They really did.  Jack Nicholson who wrote the awful movie for the Monkees (and is in it for a bit) was way too smart for that sort of thing.  Talk about selling your soul.

That was a shame.  Well Davy – I guess it’s time to say farewell.  You’ll still get the funniest looks from the angels that you meet.  But it does seem too soon.  And maybe you’ll take the Last Train to Clarksville and that’s about all the lyrics I can fit into this ending.  I’ll think of you when your songs are played beneath commercial tracks for cleaning products.


  1. Lester
    March 2, 2012

    Wonderful memorial. “Day Dream Believer” brings back the most vivid memories for me, listening to the song for the first time at my kitchen table in my family’s tiny apartment in a housing project in Queens. When a song you loved came on the radio, it was an intense experience. Back then you didn’t have the luxury of listening to a favorite song over and over again whenever you felt like, unless you bought the single, of course. You had to listen all day to Cousin Brucie, hoping he would play the song you loved.

    Other songs from that time that I remember falling in love with were Merrily Rush’s “Angel of the Morning” and the Bee Gee’s “I’ve Got to Get a Message to You.” They were played frequently by Cousin Brucie, who I got to meet in person when a neighbor of mine won two tickets to the premiere of “Yellow Submarine” and she asked me to accompany her. Anything by the Supremes was also a great treat.

    Just recently I downloaded these songs from iTunes and now I listen to them on my iPod when I walk the dog. They bring back vague feelings from the past – a time when you felt the intense yearning that these songs conveyed – but it will never be the same again.

    I was taken aback when Davy Jones died and they showed pictures of him when he was young. He looked shockingly like Justin Beiber. And indeed he was the Justin Bieber of his time – a cute little boy who made it big in pop music. Along side of those pictures, photos of him at 66, still trying to cash-in on his boyhood fame, all the while the arteries of his aging heart closing up.

  2. dave
    March 2, 2012

    I had seen him and 2 other Monkees on The View about six months ago.
    My viewing habits are seriously deranged. But it turned out to be his last televised outing.
    And no matter what they do it’s an awful sad sight when boy heart throb performs at 65.
    It may even be sadder then the woman who was a major star in the 50s doing adult diaper ads.
    I just can’t find anything good about becoming ancient except that you don’t care about looking foolish.
    At least I don’t.

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