The Monkees & The Polyphonic Spree – The Moseley Folk Festival

Our fave US ’60s TV pop stars two men down and people in white robes stun folkies and hipsters alike

Moseley Folk Festival, Moseley Park, Birmingham, 06/09/2015


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The final day of the tenth Moseley Folk Festival saw glorious, late summer weather and a spectacle of equally dazzling music – some of it definitely folk, some stretching the definition to the limit.

At the less folky end of the spectrum was that jubilant troupe of Dallas pop rockers, The Polyphonic Spree, whose numerous members filled the stage in white choir robes to share their joyous symphonic rock. This helped the sun-drenched, well-chilled crowds prepare their ears for the headlining act … The Monkees.

Now, I suppose you could argue that The Monkees’ music is so much a part of popular culture that it has become a kind of folk music. Hits like ‘Last Train to Clarkesville’, ‘Steppin’ Stone’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ and ‘I’m a Believer’ had the enraptured audience joining in. Footage from the original The Monkees TV series was projected at the back of the stage while Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork impressed us with their exuberance (not bad for a couple of septuagenarians) and their musicianship (not bad for artists who were famously said not to have played their own instruments.) Micky sang in his distinctive and still powerful voice and played some rhythm guitar, his drumming duties taken care of by Peter’s son, while Peter sang and switched between guitar and keyboards.

A kettledrum was provided for Micky to play on his ‘Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title)’ while Peter’s songwriting and guitar skills were showcased on several numbers including his ‘For Pete’s Sake’ (which some will remember as the old end credits music from the TV show) with its message of love, peace and freedom.

Perhaps The Monkees’ songbook has passed into folk memory. A rerun of the series in the ’80s might account for some of it, as not everyone enjoying the performance in Moseley was old enough to remember the original airings but, regardless of age, everyone seemed to know all the lyrics. Micky joked, “You may know this one, but please don’t join in … it puts me off,” before launching into ‘Daydream Believer’. Of course, everybody joined in.

In an unexpected climax to the evening the numerous members of The Polyphonic Spree were invited back on stage to join in a rendition of the theme from The Monkees’ 1968 psychedelic film Head, ‘The Porpoise Song,’ with its fitting if bizarre refrain: “but the porpoise is laughing, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye …”

Tony Gillam

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