Before Michael Nesmith tells the story of his eclectic life in his upcoming autobiography from Crown Archetype — Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff, which arrives in stores on April 18 — Rhino will release a similarly titled audio companion that showcases 14 of Nez’s best tracks from his days with The Monkees, The First National Band, and his quite storied solo career 4 days earlier. To wit: Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs will be available on CD and digitally in hi-res on April 14.
The set flows in mostly chronological order, beginning in 1965 when Nesmith recorded “The New Recruit” using the pseudonym Michael Blessing. Monkeemania took over a year later, and Nesmith spent the next 4 years making history and music with the quartet. Two songs by The Monkees included here neatly bookend Nesmith’s tenure in the group: “Papa Gene’s Blues” (from the band’s 1966 self-titled debut) and “Listen to the Band” (from 1970’s The Monkees Present, Nesmith’s last album with group for more than 20 years).
I sat down with Nesmith last May 18 in New York City to discuss The Monkees 50th anniversary in 2016, and, naturally, I asked him about his thoughts regarding hi-res, seeing as 13 of the 14 Monkees albums available on HDtracks have concurrent download options of 192/24 and 96/24. (The 14th album, Good Times, which was released in 2016 about a month after our interview took place, is available at 48/24 only.)
“You have to figure it’s a step up,” Nesmith admits about hi-res, “and I also think Blu-ray is the proper standard, but I know how these albums sounded. They were mixed on Altec Lansings, the old [Super Duplex] 604E’s. That’s as good as it’s going to get. The best way to hear these albums is to get a set of 604E’s in your living room, add a nice McIntosh amp and preamp and a really good stylus and turntable, and then you’ll get it as close to that original tape as you can.” (I can’t entirely disagree with Nez there, but I can say the balance of The Monkees’ catalog sounds pretty damn sweet at 192/24.)
I also asked Nesmith about two of my favorite Nez-penned Monkees tracks: the aforementioned “Papa Gene’s Blues” (“I would have been surprised if they hadn’t included it on the album [i.e., The Monkees], because it made sense to do so”), and “Tapioca Tundra,” from 1968’s The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. “Tapioca” is, in fact, quite the folksy, Byrdslike track. “It was always kind of an odd piece to me, and I was surprised that it was as accepted as it was,” Nesmith recalls. “I thought it would be too offbeat, but actually, people seem to think of it as right in the center of the lexicon, so that’s fine with me.” (As noted above, “Papa” made the cut for inclusion on Autobiographical Riffs, while “Tapioca” did not.)
The track listing for Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs focuses mainly on the numerous solo albums Nesmith recorded during the ’70s. Nez started in 1970 with Magnetic South and Loose Salute, country-rock albums that featured the man and The First National Band, a group he collaborated with for several years. Autobiographical Riffs features a song from each album: “Silver Moon,” from Loose Salute, and “Joanne,” from Magnetic South, Nesmith’s first Top 40 hit as a solo artist.
Nesmith embraced an early multimedia approach to making music in 1975 to create The Prison, an album that was to be played as the “soundtrack” to a novella that came with the music. Represented on this set by “Opening Theme – Life, the Unsuspecting Captive,” The Prison was also the first album to be released on Nesmith’s own record label, Pacific Arts.
Then, in 1979, Nesmith created PopClips, the first-ever music-video program, which aired a few years before the dawn of MTV. That same year, Nesmith also recorded Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma, which featured “Cruisin'” and “Light,” which also appear on this set. Nesmith made videos for those songs and a few others, and released them in 1981 as Elephant Parts. A mix of comedy sketches and music videos, this “video album” won the very first Grammy Award for Music Video.
Autobiographical Riffs ends with a pair of tracks from albums released after Nesmith returned from an extended recording hiatus: “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” from 1992’s …Tropical Campfires…, and “Rays,” the title song from his 2005 effort.
As for the autobiography itself, Nesmith retraces his journey from his childhood in Dallas — where his single mother Bette invented Liquid Paper — to the set of The Monkees TV show in Los Angeles, as well as his pioneering work in music video and virtual reality. All hail the mighty Nez!
MICHAEL NESMITH: INFINITE TUESDAY — AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL RIFFS
1. “The New Recruit” – Michael Blessing
2. “Papa Gene’s Blues” – The Monkees
3. “Different Drum”
4. “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” – First Recorded Version/Stereo Remix
5. “Listen to the Band” – Single Version
7. “Silver Moon”
8. “Some of Shelly’s Blues”
9. “Opening Theme – Life, the Unsuspecting Captive”
13. “Laugh Kills Lonesome”