Peter Tork (1942-2019)

The bass player for The Monkees (whose full name was Peter Halsten Thorkelson) died today at the age of 77. I always liked The Monkees with their cheerful, upbeat songs. Because they were a band brought together by TV producers for a show, people tended to underestimate their musical abilities, even referring to them derisively as the ‘pre-fab four’. In addition to the bass, Tork could also play the keyboards, banjo, and harpsichord.

Here they are singing one of their big hits Last Train to Clarksville.


  1. Bot Fux says

    My favorite episodes are Monkees vs. Machine, with Stan Freeburg (👍👍👍) & Dance, Monkees, Dance! Luv their music 😎😎😎

  2. Roj Blake says

    I have been a Monkees fan from the beginning, and I am so disappointed with the way Peter Thorkelson’s death has been reported.

    I first heard the news on waking this morning, and the local radio station played “Daydream Believer” with the late Davy Jones on vocals. And now, Mano, you have “Last Train to Clarksville” with Micky Dolenz on vocals.

    Here’s one where Peter shared lead vocals with Micky.

    Then there was the lead in to “Pleasant Valley Sunday”

  3. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    The story of the Monkees is a bit more complex…
    In the beginning they were recruited as actors, whose role characters formed a band. They weren’t cast in their roles by their musical skills. Much of their soundtrack was performed by the legendary Wrecking Wrew (who is worth a book and documentary, both of which have been made).
    But eventually they learned to play their assigned instruments and even did live tours.
    And “Last Train to Clarksville” has some surprising connections with the anti-Vietnam War movement.

  4. says

    It’s interesting how we went from people deriding The Monkees to pre-fab singing groups to be normal and popular. I’ve never cared how a group came together or if they wrote their own music (a thing that never seemed to matter until the late 60s (nobody cared that Sinatra wasn’t a songwriter)), just if I enjoyed their music and growing up I’ve enjoyed The Monkees. Micky Dolenz’s voice was one I particularly loved.

  5. ridana says

    5) @ Lassi Hippeläinen

    But eventually they learned to play their assigned instruments

    Micky was the only one who had to learn to play his instrument. Michael Nesmith had been a singer/songwriter and guitarist before then, notably writing “Different Drum” for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys, and Peter had played gigs around NYC and LA. He was friends with Stephen Stills, who supposedly recommended him to the producers as someone who could play and who looked like Stephen but with better teeth. 🙂 It’s at least true that Stills told him to go audition. Not much to learn about playing tambourine, but Davy was a singer and actor in England. Mickey was a child actor in Circus Boy, among others. They weren’t chosen solely for their looks, even if the producers didn’t care if they could play and actively discouraged them. Even so, Michael and Peter played on the studio tracks for two songs on each of their first two albums.

    One of my favorites with Peter singing.
    a capella Ríu Ríu Chíu. Really beautiful harmonies. Plus Peter and Davy seem to really be enjoying themselves, while Michael is deep in his chill.

  6. DonDueed says

    As Lassi mentioned, Last Train to Clarksville is a subtle anti-war song. Clarksville, Tennessee, had an army base that was a major mustering area for troops about to be sent to Vietnam. Thus the song is about a young soldier trying to see his girlfriend one last time, since as he says, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home”.

    It was many years after the song came out that I learned that fact.

  7. DonDueed says

    @ridana: In “Shades of Gray” that you linked above, it sounds to me like Davy is singing the first verse, Peter the second. Right?

  8. ridana says

    @ DonDueed: Just saw this while looking for something else. Doubt if you’ll ever see it, but yes, Davy’s on the first verse, Peter on second plus the title lines. Mickey also chimes in on the harmonies.

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