Music Homage: Loose Salute — Monkeemania is Alive and Well in Boston

Loose Salute uses its genuine love for the too-little-heard Michael Nesmith and too-little-respected Monkees songbooks as a springboard for inventive arrangements that are true to the unique character of the music.


Loose Salute is not one of those cover bands that seeks to replicate the original in either appearance or sound.

By Jason M. Rubin

More than forty-six years after The Monkees TV series went off the air, Monkeemania is back and the Boston/New England region is emerging as a hotspot of Faux Four activity. In the last twelve months, this area has hosted two shows by the reunited group (minus the late Davy Jones) – last July at Boston’s Citi Performing Arts Center and this coming May 22 at New Hampshire’s Hampton Beach Casino; three shows by Chief Executive Monkee Michael Nesmith (April 13, 2013, at Somerville Theatre on the first leg of his rare solo tour, followed by November dates in Shirley and Fall River, Massachusetts, on the second leg); a small but very delightful show by “cowboy jazz” vocalist Circe Link and her life and musical partner Christian Nesmith (Michael’s oldest son) at Cambridge’s Atwoods Tavern on March 23, 2014; and last April 12, Worcester’s Loose Salute, a Michael Nesmith/Monkees tribute act, played a long-awaited Boston gig at the Midway Café in Jamaica Plain.

Formed by guitarist/lead vocalist Mick Lawless in 2004, Loose Salute is not one of those cover bands that seeks to replicate the original in either appearance or sound. Rather, the group uses its genuine love for the too-little-heard Nesmith and too-little-respected Monkees songbooks as a springboard for inventive arrangements that are true to the unique character of the music but have appeal to listeners on a wide spectrum, from 60s pop to country to hard rock to white-boy soul.

“This project gets misunderstood at times,” says Lawless. “Our purpose is to pay homage to a great composer who wrote what Rolling Stone magazine once called ‘the greatest music never heard.’ We hope to enlighten as well as entertain our audiences.”

(With song titles like “Grand Ennui” and “Propinquity” it’s not surprising that radio programmers have turned away from nearly all Nesmith solo releases since his first, “Joanne”, hit the Top 40 in 1970. As a video pioneer, however, Nesmith made waves by winning the first Grammy for Video of the Year in 1982.)


At its Midway Café gig, Loose Salute emphasized songs that Nesmith wrote and/or sang lead on for the Monkees, yet also performed other Monkees songs such as “I Wanna Be Free” (in memory of Davy, but the original mid-tempo Byrds-like version, not the more popular – and sappy – ballad version) and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”, in which the inherent R&B flavor of the tune was turbo-charged into a Maximum R&B soul smoker. Performing an important curatorial function, the group also delved into Nesmith’s criminally underappreciated solo catalog, including “Different Drum,” which he composed pre-Monkees and which put food on his table when Linda Ronstadt made it a hit with the Stone Poneys.

There were at least two prime examples of how Loose Salute’s vision goes well beyond that of other cover bands. The first was “You Told Me” from the acclaimed 1967 album Headquarters (the first on which the Monkees played their own instruments, though Nesmith had contributed songs on the previous albums as well). The tune is a musical homage to the Beatles, one of the most British-sounding songs the three-quarters-American group ever did; Loose Salute accentuated this connection by affixing the opening of the Beatles’ “Get Back” to the intro and inserting the acoustic guitar riff from the Who’s “Pinball Wizard” in the middle.


The second musical pun, as it were, was on “Sweet Young Thing,” a Nesmith composition from the Monkees’ eponymous debut album (which topped the Billboard album chart for thirteen weeks until it was knocked off by More of the Monkees). Lawless introduced the song by noting that Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees for six ill-advised dates in 1967; in light of that, the band rearranged the song by imagining what it would sound like had it been recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. While retaining the essential charm of the original, the band let loose with some heavy riffing and nimble soloing from lead guitarist Tom Yates, psychedelic feedback and muscular fingering by bassist Pete Zolli, and manic thrashing from drummer Keith Prescott.

Though the band’s set started around 11:30 p.m., they gamely carried on for two hours in the strangely sweltering club. While no other shows in the Boston area have yet been booked, the group will have a CD release party at Vincent’s in Worcester on Saturday, June 7. The debut offering, titled Pisces, Cancer, Leo & Yates Ltd., is a tribute both in title and graphically to the Monkees’ album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. It features a mix of songs from the Monkees and from Nesmith’s career, many of which they played at the Midway Café gig; as they’re doing three sets at Vincent’s, it’s clear they have already mastered enough material for subsequent volumes.

This writer has long been of the opinion that the Monkees belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It could well be that a Monkees-friendly zeitgeist is finally upon us; if so, Loose Salute will hopefully soon be appreciated as a stalwart foot soldier in the battle to gain legitimacy for music that has stood the test of time.

Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer since 1985. He is an award-winning copywriter and a novelist whose first book, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. He lives in the Boston area and also writes features and CD reviews for Progression magazine.

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