Lovable mop-tops turn fervent anti-Vietnam War campaigners

The 1960s spawned more than one band of lovable mop-tops. The Monkees were a made-for-American-TV group of actor-musicians, namely Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Englishman Davy Jones.

Despite their squeaky-clean, prime time family viewing image, the Monkees managed to deliver some surprisingly subversive songs.

Pleasant Valley Sunday was a poke at rampant consumerism and people living in the ‘status-symbol land’ of suburbia.

Then there was Last Train to Clarksville with its distinctive jangly riff. The plot involves a phone call from a soldier to his sweetheart. He asks her to “take the last train to Clarksville” for one final night together before he leaves on the morning train for his deployment.

The clue is the geography: Clarksville Tennessee is the closest stop to Fort Campbell – home base for the 101st Airborne Division which served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. So essentially, Last Train to Clarksville is a protest song and a potent one at that.

Those zany guys in US Army Recruiting quickly spotted an alternative opportunity however and used the song in a film for inductees. It played over a scene showing new recruits arriving and getting off the train.

Apparently it always got a big laugh from the men watching…

Tim Benton 


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