There he goes, no longer walking down the street… The history of pop music could have been very different if “the one who isn’t Crosby, Nash or Young”, Stephen Stills, had passed his audition for The Monkees in 1966. However, casting agents thought the future Buffalo Springfield frontman was too ugly to join a boyband, and Stills instead recommend his friend and folk musician Peter Tork should audition instead.
The Monkees’ reign at the top of the charts was dominant but short-lived. Hitting the airwaves (of both radio and TV) just after The Beatles released “Eleanor Rigby”, the path was cleared for a new bunch of teen idols who weren’t trying to be too weird, and Tork was the designated “cute doofus” of the band. The most talented musically of the group (the other three were more actors than musicians), unsurprisingly Tork was the first to grow disenchanted with the project. After the group’s experimental, Jack Nicholson-scripted film Head bombed at the box office, Tork left The Monkees in 1968, buying out the remainder of his contract.
A series of folk- and blues-influenced recordings followed in the 1970s, but none saw anything in the way of significant sales. This, combined with Tork’s increasing reliance on drugs and alcohol, saw his mental state collapse nearly as fast as his bank account. By the mid-70s, his Monkees money gone, he was reduced to teaching high school baseball and working as a singing waiter in local diners.
The Monkees saw heavy rotation on TV throughout the 70s and 80s (especially on MTV, a new channel set up by former bandmate Mike Nesmith), leading to a reunion in the mid-1980s and Tork finally coming to terms with his teen idol past. He was diagnosed with a rare form of tongue cancer in 2009, and rumours of its return were swirling around deadpoolers in late 2018. Those turned out to be true, and among the many teams taking that last train to Clarkesville are The Living End, who climb to the top of the DDP standings for the first time in years.