A lot of believers back then

Mike Nesmith of the Monkees apparently used to distrust the press, and not just the musical press. He illustrates with this tale from 1977:

“As we sat down for the interview, before he asked the first question, I told him that I was going to lie to him. He was taken aback, then seemed a little nonplussed and asked why. I said it was because I didn’t trust the press, that I didn’t expect him to tell the truth, so neither would I …

“I said that some of the things I would say would be true and some false, and it was up to him to figure out which was which, according to the normal standards of journalistic responsibility. He asked how he would tell the difference between when I was lying and telling the truth, and I said, “You won’t. That is the point of the lie …

“Then came a point where he asked me about the sales of the Monkees records, and I saw the chance. It isn’t too well known, I said flatly, that we sold over thirty-five million records in 1967. More than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined … he diligently wrote all this down, and I wondered for a moment if I had chosen too outrageous a lie to tell, but it turned out it had been just right.

“The next day in the paper, there it was, printed as fact.”

To this day, this totally bogus number — “class-A mendacity,” said Nez — is being quoted by people who don’t know any better, which is most of them.

(From the Nesmith autobiography Infinite Tuesday, via American Digest.)





8 comments »

  1. fillyjonk »

    20 September 2017 · 2:33 pm

    Yes, indeed: I have seen that number quoted places. I was surprised, but then also accepted it because (a) I expect reporters to fact check stuff and (b) “no one went broke underestimating the taste of the American public”

    Not that the Monkees were so *awful* compared to some of what passes for pop today, but yeah, I guess I was wrong about a.

  2. nightfly »

    20 September 2017 · 3:51 pm

    So basically, for at least fifty years the press has been terrible at basic fact-checking.

  3. nightfly »

    20 September 2017 · 3:52 pm

    Gaaaah…. forty years. (The claim was about 1967 numbers, but was made in 1977. Shame on me.) #fakecomments

  4. McG »

    20 September 2017 · 4:04 pm

    Well, there had to be a history by the time Nesmith gave that interview. I don’t think the dearth of politicians tarred and feathered before 1977 was because they were more honest; there’s been a dearth since, as well.

  5. Tom Kilpatrick »

    20 September 2017 · 8:51 pm

    Too many people became “journalists” because they wanted to “make a difference,” instead of taking pride in accurately reporting the news. I don’t want to go back to muckraking, yellow journalism, but today’s news isn’t very appealing.

  6. CGHill »

    20 September 2017 · 9:02 pm

    There’s plenty of muck to rake, but the stuff is so unsettling I don’t even know if I want to hear the very last detail, especially if they’re making them up as they go along.

  7. Roger Green »

    21 September 2017 · 7:35 am

    And the trick is that it had to be a plausible lie. Because the Monkees DID dominate #1 on the album charts in 1967 more than the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, certainly more than the Stones.

  8. CGHill »

    21 September 2017 · 1:24 pm

    The Prefab Four did in fact have three #1 albums in 1967: More of the Monkees. Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

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