The 1960s spawned more than one band of lovable mop-tops. The Monkees were a made-for-American-TV group of actor-musicians, namely Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Englishman Davy Jones.
Despite their squeaky-clean, prime time family viewing image, the Monkees managed to deliver some surprisingly subversive songs.
‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ was a poke at rampant consumerism and people living in the ‘status-symbol land’ of suburbia.
Then there was ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ with its distinctive jangly riff. The plot involves a phone call from a soldier to his sweetheart. He asks her to “take the last train to Clarksville” for one final night together before he leaves on the morning train for his deployment.
The clue is the geography: Clarksville Tennessee is the closest stop to Fort Campbell – home base for the 101st Airborne Division which served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. So essentially, ‘Last Train to Clarksville’ is a protest song and a potent one at that.
Those zany guys in US Army Recruiting quickly spotted an opportunity and used the song in a film for inductees. It played over a scene showing new recruits arriving and getting off the train.
Apparently it always got a big laugh from the men watching…
Tim will be performing his show ‘Songs of 1965-75: Scenes from a Well-spent Youth’ (including Last Train to Clarksville) in rural venues around the Scottish Borders in late October:
Hermitage Hall, Friday 21st October.
Carlops Village Hall, Saturday 22nd October.
Oxton War Memorial Hall, Friday 28th October.
Chirnside Community Centre, Saturday 29 October.