Robert Michael Nesmith (born December 30, 1942) is an American Singer Songwriter, producer, and actor. Perhaps best remembered as a wool hat-wearing Texan Monkee, "Papa Nez" has had quite the storied and innovative career. From helping codify early country rock to basically inventing MTV and music videos with his Grammy award-winning "visual album" Elephant Parts, Nesmith's influence cannot be underestimated. Oh, and his mom invented liquid paper.As a Monkee, Nesmith had always brought a country sensibility to his vocal spots, and composed a fair few songs that juxtaposed country music with other genres in hitherto unheard ways. Once The Monkees dissolved, in 1970 Nesmith formed The First National Band, one of the first country rock groups, continuing his odyssey of off-kilter country musings, with a trilogy of albums. Nesmith began edging towards pop and rock as the decade progressed, with social commentary becoming an increasingly bigger factor in his works.In the late '70s, Nesmith began creating small musical segments for Saturday Night Live. This eventually led to the creation of a larger-scale project in Elephant Parts, and... the rest, as they say, is history. His subsequent career has seen him release the odd album and a few books, create a virtual online concert stage, partake in several Monkees reunions, and continually speculate about possible future technologies, many of which have not only seen the light of day, but have also become household items.
Magnetic South (1970)
Loose Salute (1970)
Nevada Fighter (1971)
Tantamount to Treason, Vol. 1 (1972)
And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' (1972)
Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash (1973)
The Prison (1975)
From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing (1976)
Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma (1978)
...Tropical Campfires... (1992)
The Garden (1994)
Tropes associated with Michael Nesmith:
Aborted Arc: You'll notice there is no Tantamount to Treason, Vol. 2 in the discography listing.
Badass Beard: Sported a notable one from around the late '70s to the early '00s, featured lovingly throughout Elephant Parts. His Monkees days also saw him with legendary, dense sideburns.
Berserk Button: Don freakin' Kirshner. His releasing More of The Monkees without even consulting the band got Nesmith so pissed off he punched a hole through a hotel wall, letting him know "that could have been [his] face." Tellingly, Nesmith got to produce sessions himself not long after.
Breakup Breakout: The only Monkee to achieve anything close to commercial success after the group's demise.
Cloudcuckoolander: Yeah, no other mind could birth the insanity that is Elephant Parts. Also, his Facebook profile regularly features messages ostensibly written by his dog, Dale. In fact, he eventually deletes most of his Facebook postings, including Dale's, because why the hell not? Dedicated friends of Nez usually copy his posts for posterity.
Concept Album: The Prison, released with a book intended to be read while listening to the record. Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma is also full of commentary on popular culture of the '70s.
Concept Video: Ah, Mr. Nesmith, what would the anatomy of music video tropes be like today without your guiding hand? Elephant Parts, for one, has got a trunkfull of 'em.
Cool Horse: The Beauty from "Horserace", beats the Magnum Force by a mile.
Appears as a race official in Timerider The Adventure Of Lyle Swann, and his song "Dance" is briefly heard when someone's messing around with Swann's bike... this serves as a plot point as it alerts the bandits to the presence of Swann's "riding machine".
Makes an appearance as a "Water man" in Tapeheads, for which he served as producer.
Credits Gag: Tantamount to Treason: Volume One splits up the musician credits and sprinkles them throughout the liner notes. In a classic Cloudcuckoolander moment, the liner notes are a recipe for (apparently quite potent) homemade beer.
Greatest Hits Album: A few, but most famously a two-parter which split his discography up to 1989 into The Newer Stuff and The Older Stuff.
I Am Not Spock: Doesn't seem to like people assuming that he and his Monkees character are one and the same. He is credited with playing "Mike Nesmith" rather than himself in Head, after all.
Idiosyncratic Cover Art: His trilogy with the First National Band. Each features some sort of picture motif in a circular frame, surrounded by one of the colors of the United States flag: Magnetic (blue) features the American bald eagle; Salute (red) features a war veteran (and a rat) making a salute; and Fighter (white) another bald eagle (in profile this time).
Instrumentals: He recorded an album of instrumentals, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, while still a Monkee. Subsequently, his solo career had a few here and there.
"Well, I feel pretty sure that you'll find a man / who'll take a lot more than I ever could or can / And you'll settle down with him, and I know / that you'll be happy"
Kaiju: The pleasantly understated opening of Elephant Parts features a seemingly innocuous performance of his 1970 hit single with the First National Band... umm, "Rodan"? Uh oh, there goes Nezilla destroying Tokyo again...
Large Ham: A kind of understated, restrained kind, but when he goes all out... oh boy! Live at the Palais, in particular, features gloriously hammy performances of "Roll with the Flow", "Grand Ennui", and "Nadine (Is It You)".
Live Album: Live at the Palais and Live at the Britt Festival.
Long Title: The albums And the Hits Just Keep on Comin', Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash, From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing, and Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma, alongside a few songs.
Lounge Lizard: A running gag in Elephant Parts is one who interprets song lyrics rather literally.
New Sound Album: The 1976 release of From a Radio Engine to a Photon Wing (in case the name didn't clue you in) marked a transition to a new style of unconventional pop with some minimal country influences. Reached full flower with Infinite Rider, with sort of a proto-sophistipop sound throughout and focus on themes such as consumer culture and... well... factions.
Nice Hat: His infamous wool cap, of course, but also his array of cowboy hats.
Non-Appearing Title: More often than not, the name of the game as far as his songs are concerned.
Nonindicative Name: And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'. Ironically, one of the songs on the album — his own version of "Different Drum" — was a hit... for Linda Ronstadt, that is.
One-Hit Wonder: The First National Band had two hit singles, but only "Rio" made any sort of impact as far as Nesmith's solo career is concerned.
Rearrange the Song: His '70s albums included re-recordings of several songs originally recorded as Monkees tracks (though most had not been previously released as such)...
"Calico Girlfriend", "Nine Times Blue", "Little Red Rider", "The Crippled Lion", and "Hollywood" on Magnetic South
"Conversations" (aka "Carlisle Wheeling") and "Listen to the Band" on Loose Salute
"Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)" on Nevada Fighter
"Some of Shelly's Blues" on Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash
"Circle Sky" was remade for The Monkees' lamentable 1996 reunion album, Justus. Nez also did his own version of "Different Drum" on And the Hits...
Record Producer: Notably, one of the first instances of The Monkees' wresting control from their "puppet master" Don Kirschner was Nesmith becoming producer. This, of course, was under the stipulation that he would not be performing in any sessions he produced.
"Has anybody here seen GEE-SUSS? / He is gone from where I laid him down..."
Refrain from Assuming: Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma appears to parody this somewhat with the parenthesized titles on the album cover. Most of them fit, anyway.
Royalties Heir: As noted previously, his mother patented the ever-so-slightly ubiquitous invention Liquid Paper (correction fluid), qualifying Nesmith for official "filthy rich" status. He could've probably lived the easy life, but it was not to be. A Self-Made Man—or Monkee, if you will—would be his fate.
Rule of Three: His album trilogy, natch. What's more, each album cover bears one of the three colors of the American flag, and each includes one classic country cover.
Running Gag: Elephant Parts is made of 'em. The pirate alphabet, the aforementioned Lounge Lizard, fake home shopping commercials...
"We [performed outlandish experiment X]... Just to prove a point!"
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Oh hell yes. Where others would write "While thinking stuff over", Nez would come up with stuff like "While lightly perusing my state of affairs."
"I was once criticized for writing a song with the word 'impelled' in it. C'mon, man! What he didn't know was that I have written songs with words like 'bereft', 'preclude' and 'prism'." note He's actually written two songs with "prism" ("Daily Nightly" and "Joanne").
Siamese Triplet Songs: The first three songs on Magnetic South ("Calico Girlfriend", "Nine Times Blue", "Little Red Rider") segue into one another.
Space Western: Could be used to describe Nesmith's particular flavour of country rock at its most trippy, but Radio Engine particularly gives off this vibe, what with the back cover depicting Nez as a cross between a cowboy, an astronaut, and one of those robot street performers.
"And then I cabled my folks / I said call my boss / And you can tell him / Where I left thee truck / And then I went out and stocked up / On enchiladas and beer"
Three Chords and the Truth: And the Hits... consists of precious little else than Nez and his guitar, longtime compatriot Red Rhodes on pedal steel, standard country chords and the truth. Except that one song, of course.
Time Capsule: The song "Capsule" is one in audio form. Intended to be opened "a hundred years from now" ("now" being 1978), it paints a rather bleak picture of late '70s consumer society.
"...We all kept pluggin' like a salmon up thee stream... some of us were dancing, but some us were screaming, but we tried; oh, how we tried."
Trope Codifier: As touched upon in the intro there, Nesmith pretty much invented modern music video, expanding on the concept of "promotional videos" that had been around for decades.