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Beth Underwood: The death of The Monkees’ Peter Tork revives many mixed childhood memories


I was having lunch with Mom and one of my brothers a couple of weeks ago when Mom kicked off the conversation on a rather low note.

“Did you hear that Peter Tork from The Monkees died?”

I hadn’t heard.

The Monkees provided an undeniable and lasting influence on my musical tastes and education and played no small part in my lifetime love of music. Needless to say, the news brought to mind a host of memories.

For old time’s sake, I decided to share a couple of them, starting with my memories of their first album, which came out when I was three.

The front of that particular album donned a close-up photo of the four men. If you were ever a fan, I’m sure you can see the cover in your mind’s eye. The back cover had an individual shot of each guy and included important stats like height, hair color, and eye color. Things we all need to know.

For reasons that escape me, I didn’t like Peter at that time and decided to display my animosity by defacing his photo.

My graffiti tool of choice was a black ink pen, which I used to draw circles around Peter’s nose. Over and over and over. In my defense, I was five at the time. It was my one and only act of vandalism.

As I finished the story, my brother responded with shock that I’d single-handedly destroyed both the album’s value and civilization as he’d known it. Mom chastised me for being so heartless.

I believe her exact words were, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

They can really over-react, can’t they? In response, I moved along to other memories.

As much as I disdained poor Peter Tork, I was crazy about Davy Jones, along with every other young girl on the planet. After he showed up on an episode of The Brady Bunch, I wrote him a letter. If he could take Marcia to her junior prom, surely he could come to Cynthiana, for Eastside Elementary’s Fall Festival. Suffice it to say, Peter need not accompany him.

Except that Davy never showed up.

He did leave me a note, though. Well, Dad left me a note from Davy. That is to say, Dad wrote the note, pretending to be Davy. If memory serves, it read something like this:

Dear Beth,

I think you are the grooviest 8-year-old in America. Thank you for buying all the albums and singing along. Michael, Micky, Peter and I sure appreciate you being our No. 1 fan.

Love,
Davy Jones

I ask you: who should be ashamed, now?

Anywho, somewhere along the line, I forgave Peter for whatever infraction he’d unwittingly committed. And you and I both know he must have done something. Otherwise, why would I have circled his nose in black ink? But I digress.

Perhaps it was nostalgia that found me stopping by a local vinyl records store later that day. Most certainly, it was divine intervention that had placed The Monkees’ first album front and center as I walked through the door. Honestly, I expected as much.

In fact, maybe it was a couple of nods from the other side. One to say all was forgiven for the black ink pen incident. Another to apologize for missing Eastside Elementary’s fall festival.

And one more nod for old time’s sake.

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.


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