Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff
INFINITE TUESDAY is a fun read—but also a bittersweet read. Growing up in the ‘60’s in Los Angeles, I loved listening to the Monkees’ fun tunes, as well as watching their show on TV. To us kids, it never occurred to us that someone else might actually be performing the songs. We just liked the Monkees.
Several chapters in INFINITE TUESDAY describe the author’s mixed experience with the band. The show was produced at the “corner of Sunset and Gower, on a soundstage built in the 1930s. Part of the time we were filming, Cary Grant was next door making one of his last films. Sally Field was doing The Flying Nun on another stage.”
Michael wanted the four to make a more genuine artistic contribution to the band and to the show. He was happy with his modest (by today’s standards) paycheck, but as an artist, he knew he could do more: “I started to think that maybe there would be some further progress in recording an album of us playing and singing our own songs.” He especially disliked being associated with a fake album, which “crossed a line somewhere.”
Michael’s urging that the team actually perform as real musicians did not go over well: “Making our own record was the only idea I ever had for the TV show, and it would prove to be fatal to the whole enterprise.” Headquarters was “the only album the four of us ever made as the Monkees.” Eventually, of course, the four would indeed learn to sing and perform well enough to go on tour. Michael is the first to admit they weren’t really that good—but the live tours were still a fun experience.
Besides the fun look behind the scenes at the TV show, INFINITE TUESDAY tells us some interesting tidbits about the life of Michael Nesmith apart from the Monkees. I had no idea, for example, that the author was really in the U.S. Air Force! (Until everyone figured out he should just leave. He exited with a “General Discharge.”)
Of course, after the Monkees, the author achieved success as both an artist as well as a video producer. The outcomes were mixed. I was sad, for example, to read about the bitter lawsuit with PBS in a dispute over video distribution: “They sued me personally, so I had to sue them back in defense, and we were off to court. It took five years to get there, and it was a fight.” The jury eventually a huge amount to Nesmith--$47.5 million in direct and punitive damages.
I found the latter part of the book to be mostly sad. The author tells of being devastated by his long-time girlfriend leaving him, as well as financial disasters. Furthermore, Michael struggled with severe medical problems—loss of vision from cataracts, as well as a mysterious condition that left him largely crippled.
The author explains the practice of Christian Science, and how he could use a doctor to treat his medical issues:
“One rule that Christian Scientist practitioners are taught is not to treat a medical condition that a doctor is treating. . . In agreeing to take the medicine, I had to agree with myself to abandon my practice of the Science for healing and lean on the good intentions of the doctor and his immune-system reboot.”
Fortunately, the treatment worked, and he regained mobility. After he regained his health, Michael turned his focus to “More prayer and meditation. More mathematics, more research and development. More performing. More playing.”
The book ends on an upbeat note. Michael was awarded a patent “For the embedding of real time video into a virtual environment.” He was deliriously happy—“so happy that the strength of my reaction surprised me.” He donated the patent to charity: “It was a way to give the patent the wings of the infinite and a way to give the patent to the artists who used it as a performance medium. The whole process, I came to realize, had been a gift.”
The patent was granted on December 25, 2012. It was a Tuesday, or an “Infinite Tuesday.”
Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.