Michael Nesmith

POSTED: December 10, 2021

Michael Nesmith died earlier today. At one point in my life I had all his albums and, looking through my digital collection, I still have most of them.

I always liked the song Rio from the album From a Photon Wing to a Radio Engine which also came with an award-winning early music video, directed by Bill Dear. It has always seemed like a perfect example of a song about nothing, and all the better for it:

I saw Michael Nesmith live several times, beginning with the ZigZag concert at the Roundhouse, where he arrived onstage unrehearsed with Red Rhodes and proceeded to entrance everybody in the place.

I saw him at Essex University once, performing solo in a relatively small room where everyone sat on the floor to listen. He had a noisy group right at the front, presumably attracted by his former-Monkee status, and he dealt with them in a very interesting way.

He began by quietly asking them if they could keep quiet so we could all get into the music. This had no effect, so he just carried on singing and talking, but slowly pushing his chair further away from the microphone.

After about fifteen minutes he had become completely inaudible at which point he finished singing, put down his guitar, put it into its case, stood up and left.

The audience waited and then eventually got up in small groups and left. I left very impressed.

I saw him later in the same tour at a relatively large venue n London. He had a completely receptive audience there, and talked and song for a couple of hours. At the end he explained that he felt as though we had all shared something, and the usual artist/audience interactions felt inappropriate. He explained that he has done everything the evening required and calling for an encore would feel crass, and so he asked us not to clap, but to just get up, put our coats on, and leave quietly.

The audience did this, and it felt very strange. Nobody knew quite how to react. Again I left very impressed.

And, if anyone has any interest in this kind of stuff, the Guardian wrote a fuller obituary which you can find online here.