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New Monkees – New Monkees (1987)
purchase this album (Amazon)

When all is said and done, the 1980s may not go down as the decade with the highest per-capita quotient of misbegotten sequels — it was the rise of the direct-to-video market in the ’90s, after all, that brought us films such as The Stepfather 3 and The Land Before Time MLXLM — but still, it’s hard to discount the era that brought us Smokey and the Bandit III, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

And who can forget the New Monkees?

Oh, right. Everybody.

Devoted Jefitoblog readers may remember that I covered this album a few years ago, in one of the first Cutouts Gone Wild! posts — which is how I discovered that it’s actually acquired something of a cult audience in the 20 years since nobody bought it. (Insanity, thy name is Amazon.) Anyway, I received a request for a repost of that earlier entry a couple of weeks ago, and when I checked the archives, I discovered it was lost in all the Jefitoblog Is Dead chaos a few months ago, at which point I renewed my vow to give the owners of Jatol Hosting the savage beating they…wait, what were we talking about?

The old farts in the audience will remember the Monkees madness that gripped America in 1986 — a madness that started with unexpectedly high-rated cable repeats of the show’s original episodes, spilled over into a Monkees reunion tour, and would have reached its logical conclusion with a Monkees-minus-Nesmith reunion album (the shamefully titled Pool It!, which will never be covered here, not ever) were it not for the unabashed greed genius of original Monkees producer Steve Blauner.

Blauner decided that the best way to capitalize on the renewed interest in the Monkees would be to try and bring the pandering cynicism that motivated the original group’s formation to a new generation, and set about building his New Monkees the same way — show and recording contract first, band members later. After settling on casting-call “winners” Jared Chandler, Marty Ross, Larry Saltis, and Dino Kovas, Blauner’s Straybert Productions started laying the groundwork for New Monkees madness.

The show. Oh God, the show. It was awful. Seriously, you don’t understand, we’re talking about the era of Small Wonder, Out of This World, and She’s the Sheriff, and New Monkees still couldn’t last longer than 13 episodes.

Relive the horror, thanks to YouTube:

Still, as painful as the show was, the New Monkees album wasn’t so bad — it’s even sort of charming, in an ultra-manufactured mid ’80s sort of way. This had very little to do with the New Monkees themselves, of course; the record was assembled by a crew of studio ringers, including Dean Parks, Mike Slamer, Joe Chemay, Dann Huff, the Tower of Power horns, and — somewhat inexplicably — Little Feat’s Fred Tackett. The songs, similarly, were commissioned by outside writers, including Tom Cochrane, John Parr, and (if I’m remembering right) the Elvis Brothers.

I’m not saying it’s good. But if your tastes run toward ’80s West Coast pop, and you haven’t heard New Monkees before, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by at least a few of these songs:

“What I Want”
“Do It Again”
“I Don’t Know”
“The Way She Moves”
“Boy Inside the Man”
“Burnin’ Desire”
“Whatever It Takes”
“Affection”
“Carlene”
“Corner of My Eye”
“Turn It Up”

Of all the New Monkees, guitarist/vocalist Larry Saltis seems to have had the most honest musical aspirations; after the band “broke up,” he went on to found Tower City, a highly regarded West Coast pop group. Marty Ross did some other acting work (and may have even commented on the Jefitoblog New Monkees post), and…well, I’m not looking up what the other guys have done. According to YouTube, there was a New Monkees convention last year — the older I get, the more normal Trekkies seem — so maybe a few of the attendees will pop up here, and in between telling me what an asshole I am, fill us in on what Jared Chandler and Dino Kovas have been up to all these years. Hey, maybe the New Archies or the New 1910 Fruitgum Company are looking for members…