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The Monkees’ humble beginnings — in Arizona?

Posted by on August 5, 2013 – 7:49 pm

The Monkees are coming to the Mesa Arts Center this Friday, in a tour that celebrates a nearly 50-year span of music that may have its roots right here in Arizona.

A cartoon from the British fanzine, "Monkees Monthly."

A cartoon from the British fanzine, “Monkees Monthly.”

Or didn’t you know that the Monkees’ first hit, “The Last Train to Clarksville,” was actually inspired by the little town of Clarkdale, just 90 miles outside of Phoenix on your way to Jerome?

“Clarksville” was written by Bobby Hart (half of the famous Boyce & Hart), who describes the origin of the song in this quote from Song Facts:

“We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There’s a little town in Northern Arizona I used to go through in the summer on the way to Oak Creek Canyon called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn’t know it at the time, [but] there is an Air Force base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee – which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn’t be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn’t really make a protest song out of it – we kind of snuck it in.”

So, a ’60s pop song with the subtext of military sacrifice was actually about a sleepy mining town here in Arizona, that just happens to have a train station. When the Monkees croon this tune on Friday night, the song will finally be home.

Stay tuned for more Monkees trivia this week, including the Monkees’ connection to — Batman?