Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fifty Years of 'Manos' and Music

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds
"I take care of the pets while The Beach Boys are away"
It's the 50th anniversary of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Happy anniversary to the weird and wonderful horror movie that has gained cult status, thanks to MST3K.

1966 was also a great year for music. That was the year that The Beach Boys released what many people consider the greatest album of all time; "Pet Sounds."

It was the brainchild of Brian Wilson and is an absolute masterpiece.

Naturally, I couldn't resist inserting Torgo into the famous album cover. He doesn't look out of place on "Pet Sounds", seemingly shepherding those animals.

It's also fitting because the rumour is that Torgo was supposed to have goat legs in Manos but that has never been confirmed. Maybe it was in the script but they had no budget to actually pull it off.

"Pet Sounds" was a very experimental album on which Brian Wilson even included barking dogs which were his actual pets, Banana and Louie. That's not unlike Manos in which director and writer Hal Warren had his pet poodle Pepe in the movie, while Tom Neyman (The Master) had his pet doberman Shanka in it as well. Too bad Wilson didn't know Warren and Neyman or else he might have included Pepe and Shanka on the album. Wouldn't it be nice?



Also celebrating their 50th anniversary are The Monkees. They started out as a fictional rock band on their own TV show but eventually became a real band. The members of the group were Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith.

They disbanded in 1970 but occasionally reunited in some form. Their biggest resurgence was in 1986 during their 20th anniversary, when they had the highest grossing concert tour of the year.

Over the years they continued touring and even released  a couple of new albums. "Pool It" came out in 1987 and "Justus" in 1996. However, none is more surprising than their latest album, "Good Times!"



"Good Times!" was released earlier this year to celebrate The Monkees five decades since they were founded. Not only is it surprising that the group put out an entire album of new songs in 2016, it's also who they got to write songs for the record.

Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Andy Partridge (XTC), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Paul Weller (The Jam) and Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) all wrote great new songs for "Good Times!" Schlesinger also produced the album.

Also included on the record were unfinished songs that were found in the archives. These were from the usual suspects of Monkees songwriters including Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, Harry Nilsson and Gerry Goffin & Carol King.

Manos The Hands of Fate
"I am Torko. I take care of the bass 
while The Monkees are at play."


I can't forget that the three surviving Monkees (Davy Jones died in 2012) each wrote a song on the record also. Peter Tork wrote and sings "Little Girl" which he originally intended for Jones to sing. Mike Nesmith wrote and sings an achingly beautiful song called "I Know What I Know." Micky Dolenz co-wrote (along with Schlesinger) and sings the amusing and catchy "I Was There (And I'm Told I Had a Good Time)" based on an oft-told story during Monkees concerts. Dolenz also plays drums on the song. Tork and Nesmith play various instruments on several songs.

"Good Times!" is appropriately titled and surpasses any expectations anyone might have. It's the best Monkees album since "Head", without a doubt and one that should be considered for a Grammy nomination.

I thought since both The Monkees and Manos are celebrating their 50th anniversaries in style, one with a new album and tour and the other with a new movie (Manos Returns), it would be cool to combine the two.

Had Steven Shields not been cast as Torgo in the upcoming sequel, I would have loved to see Peter Tork become the Master's new caretaker, Torko. He could even have accompanied the soundtrack singer, on banjo. Yikes! I'm definitely getting a Deliverance vibe.

The best song on "Good Times!", in my opinion, is "Me and Magdalena." Mike and Micky harmonize like old times on a composition by Ben Gibbard. It sounds like something that Manos' Mike (Hal Warren) might sing on yet another vacation with his beautiful young wife if we pretend that Maggie is short for Magdalena and not Margaret. Or maybe it's Torgo singing about Maggie, since he's kind of sweet on her. Come to think of it, Torko has been singing it in concert recently, since Nez performed his last show as a Monkee (see further down).



I'm so glad that I have this song to listen to. Have a listen to this whimsical and quirky song written by Rivers Cuomo.



Andy Partridge wrote the cheerful song "You Bring The Summer." Listen for Nez's deep "Baby!" in the closing moments. The video was animated by Mike's son Jonathan Nesmith and also Susan Holloway.



Mike Nesmith announced his retirment from monkeying around. He'll no longer be coming to your town, not as a member of The Monkees anyway. Here he is in his final concert with Micky and Peter at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood on Sept. 16, 2016. Here they are...The Monkees!
 

Let's not overlook the fact that the music for Manos is also fifty years old. It's also the most professional part of the film, sounding like it belongs in a much better movie. Nevermind the fact that many people say the jazz style songs don't fit in with the flick's horror theme. "Forgetting You", is a hauntingly-beautiful song on its own. I would even say it's worthy of a Grammy award. It shouldn't be ignored just because it was in an obscure movie that was quickly forgotten.

Not only was the movie and music obscure, so was the singer who sang the songs.

For years, the uncredited and unknown singer of "Forgetting You" and "Magic Circle" remained a mystery. It wasn't until Jackey Neyman Jones, doing research for her book, discovered the singer's name was Nicki Mathis. In fact it's still her name because she's alive and well.

Not only did Jackey get in contact with Nicki, she also convinced her to re-record both aforementioned songs for Manos Returns.

Take a moment now to listen to Nicki Mathis' new renditions of her signature songs from Manos: The Hands of Fate, commemorating its 50th anniversary.

 

"Magic Circle"


Happy 50th anniversary, Manos!

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