Former Monkee Michael Nesmith closed out the ’70s in a better position than when the decade began.  After the Monkees disbanded, Nez knocked around a bit on RCA Records, scoring a sole Top 40 hit with “Joanne” in 1970, then a few lower charting country-rock singles as the years wound on, until he parted ways with the label.  It was probably the best move of his career, outside of auditioning for the Pre-fab Four.  Free of a major label contract, Nez founded Pacific Arts, a multi-media company specializing in commercials, filmwork, music, and most prescient, music video.

One of Pacific Arts’ first projects was a music video show for the kids’ network Nickelodeon called “Pop Clips,” which was one of, if not the first all-music video program.  The big bosses at Nickelodeon liked the show and concept so much, they used it as a template to create the world’s first all-video channel, MTV.  Ah, those were the days…

Nesmith began filming videos for his songs in 1977 with a clip for “Rio,” a single that became a minor hit overseas.  Two years later, he released Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma, a definite step away from the light, country-rock flavor for which he was best known.  Infinite Rider had plenty of rock, a bit of soul, and even some near-rap infused funk, as evidenced on the single, “Cruisin’.” (download) probably better known as the “Lucy And Ramona” song.  While “Cruisin'” failed to chart, it must have been somewhat of a regional hit, since I remember the local Top 40 station in Cleveland playing the hell out of it.  It didn’t hurt that the video clip Nes created for the single got plenty of exposure on HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax, in those glorious days when the channels filled time between movies with music videos.

“Cruisin'” got some belated exposure a couple years later when Nesmith produced the full-length home video “Elephant Parts,” which featured several music videos interspersed with short comedy sketches and clips.  The cable movie channels picked up on “Elephant Parts,” giving it plenty of plays, eventually resulting in NBC ordering up a short-lived spinoff series called Television Parts.  Here’s my favorite moment from “Elephant Parts”:

Nes has continued his visionary ways as a movie producer, think tank organizer, and occasional Monkee, shortly touring with the band in 1997 and writing and producing their ’97 ABC special “Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees.”  All of Nesmith’s Pacific Arts and RCA recordings are now available on iTunes, which is kind of cool considering many have been out of print for so long.

“Cruisin'” did not chart.

Get Michael Nesmith music at Amazon or on Michael Nesmith