The book opens in the late 1980’s with Nesmith having lunch with Timothy Leary. During lunch they talked about priorities and motivation. Nesmith asked Leary how old he’d been when he started thinking about the order of life’s big questions. Early high school, Leary said. Next question: What was the hierarchy? What was your quest, the most important thing to you? Leary’s response: The same thing that is most important to everyone in their teens – “what do you think of me.”
That was the top of Leary’s list. Number two was basically ‘How do I Look? In other words, Vanity - thy name is teenager and how worry defined interest and how widespread and idiotic was the dynamic that set so many of life’s agendas.
Nesmith began his life long pursuit of his love for music. He started out learning simple folk songs like “Wreck of the Old 97” and the “Banks of the Ohio.”
But in February 1964, Nesmith and his girlfriend Phyllis watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Nesmith claims it was a shattering and indescribable experience. The first appearance had an audience of 73 million. It helped define a generation and the change it wrought was profound. Other forces were at work including Ken Kesey and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassidy to name a few.
It all came together with television as the catalyst for the right forces to create The Monkees. Nesmith was hip to the paradox, that The Monkees were not just a television property. It was a more like trying to create Pinocchio. The show and all its parts and characters would come to life and begin to breathe and move and sing and play and write and think on their own. What started as a copy of the sixties became a fact of the sixties. Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson were the producers of The Monkees. The show was based loosely on the Beatles “A Hard Days Night.”
Nesmith is a great writer and storyteller who can lean on a riff. He calls it diegesis. I call it a narrative. Early on Nesmith had a nickname – Nishwash. But it didn’t penetrate the dharma. Nesmith notes that in 1967, The Monkees sold 36 million records with their self-produced Headquarters album. It was an incredible triumph, the album that knocked The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band off the top-spot on the Billboard charts; and it was the only Monkees’ album that was self-produced.
Jack Nicholson once told Nesmith: ‘Theatre is Life. Cinema is Art. Television is furniture. It took effort from the viewer. Beware of it!
Along the narrative path Nesmith got to know Bo Diddley, who taught Nesmith a thing or two about roots music. Nesmith’s masterpiece may have been the Country fired First National Band (the Second National Band was also a masterstroke).
Nesmith helped create MTV through his clever use of music videos in his own music. He developed a show and named it Elephant Parts and Television Parts. He was also involved with the movie Repo Man. He developed PopClips and MTV.
Nesmith was an only child and he was very close to his mother Bette. She developed a typewriter correction fluid, later known as Liquid Paper. She built the Liquid Paper Corporation into a multi-million-dollar international company, which she sold to Gillette for 48 million dollars. She died in 1980 at the age of 56. It was a devastating loss for Nesmith. As he grieved, he supported his mother’s staff and he made sure they all received recompense for their services and help. At the same time Nesmith was awarded the bulk of his mother’s estate. He became a multi-millionaire!
As he aged, Nesmith became more in tune with his health and energy. At one point he became blind. yet miraculously recovered. He has loved and lost, married and divorced, but still looks back in fondness.
Nesmith is a stone storyteller who can tell a yarn and riff about the good times and bad times with a knowing that can only come from living a life fully without regret, bitterness or anger.
Nesmith knows full well that aging is an internal clock, which will not stand still. All things must pass.
Infinite Tuesday is now available @ Barnes & Noble. U.S. $28.00. 302 pages.