Sometimes, I think I’m the only person on the REBEAT staff who isn’t ga-ga over the Monkees. I mean, I liked them and their music well enough, sure, but I find it oddly ironic that I’m probably the only regular contributor to this magazine who was actually alive when their records were on the Top 40 and their television show had its first run on the air, yet I seem to find the group far less appealing than my much younger co-writers.
Beyond their hits, I probably couldn’t name a single one of their songs. When the staff counted down the group’s 50 greatest hits last summer, I could only muster up a few entries on their Top 40 tracks, and other than “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” I couldn’t hum a single bar of any the other eight songs that made REBEAT’s Top 10.
I haven’t written about any episodes of the TV show, not because I’ve never seen it, but because it honestly didn’t make that much of an impression on me as a kid. It was funny and silly in a slapstick-y way, but I wasn’t glued to my set every week to watch it.
Despite the fact that all of these admissions will probably see me vilified here at REBEAT [Ed. note: Never!], I guess I’m just not a Monkeemaniac.
So what does all of that have to do with this piece? Over the last six months, I’ve felt more and more like a fish out of water here and maybe a little bit guilty because I’m not a big Monkees fan. Then something jarred a memory, and I recalled a piece MAD magazine did in the 1960s called Sik-Teen magazine.
Back in 1968, it appears MAD thought 16 magazine was going a little overboard with its unfettered adulation of the Monkees and similar teen-idol groups. If you don’t know what 16 magazine was, Allison has written about it for REBEAT before (and one of her RAVER pieces from 2014 actually mentions Sik-Teen).
Maybe the short answer is that it was a magazine whose target audience was preteen girls, and during the ’60s especially, it focused largely on male pop groups such as the Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and many other popular groups of the day.
It was really at its peak in the 1960s and early ’70s, though it was published for decades, and although I’m no expert (my sister read it, but I certainly didn’t), my guess is that grittier groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and Cream didn’t get a lot of coverage because Keith Richards, Ginger Baker, and Eric Burdon didn’t look, dress, sound, or act like Peter Noone, Mark Lindsay, or Davy Jones.
The style of the magazine’s covers (and I’ve included one here) are probably well-known to REBEAT readers, with cartoon-like bodies topped by your “Fave” idol’s heads, and snippets telling about your idols’ lives, loves, and so on.
I do know a lot about MAD magazine, however, because while my sister was reading 16, I was the troublemaking brat reading MAD. Oddly enough, just as 16 started in the 1950s but was most popular in the ’60s and early ’70s, the same is true of MAD. Though I haven’t done any research on it, I’d be willing to bet that their peak sales years pretty much coincide.
It’s pretty safe to say that MAD and 16 were the magazines of choice for preteen boys and girls of the era. MAD existed to make fun of anything and everything from movies, to television, to advertising, and so on — including other magazines.
In September 1968, MAD, too, apparently felt the world was being overrun with preteen 16 magazine fans and their ilk, and the front cover of issue #121 featured MAD icon Alfred E. Neuman dressed as a guru supported by Mia Farrow, the Beatles, and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
If you flipped the magazine over and upside down, however, you were treated to Sik-Teen magazine, looking every bit like the magazine it was making fun of. Although we read a lot about the “Chimps” on the cover (“The Chimps Tell All,” “The Chimps Tell Even More,” and “The Chimps Perform Fab Body Functions”), it’s not hard to figure out who they’re referring to, since their names are Mike, Peter, Davy, and Micky.
Of course, Sik-Teen makes fun of the typical teen advice columns (“Go Go’s Gossip” notes that, “Plans for the Chimps over the next year include three albums, 14 singles, a new TV show, eight films, a speech before the UN General Assembly, and completely reorganizing the Greek Orthodox church”), contests (“Create Your Own Singing Group!”), relentless fan obsession (“A Trip to Heavensville” boasts, “Win a pair of personally initialed adenoids from Davy Jonah’s throat”) and much more.
There are references to other teen idols real and imagined, but the bulk of MAD’s barbs are for the Monkees. That’s not surprising — they were one of the most popular groups in the world in 1968, and by this point, the Beatles were not quite as safe, wholesome, or clean-cut as the Monkees, so 16 and Sik-Teen concentrated on the more family-friendly Monkees/Chimps.
Maybe all this is to say that as a kid I was reading different magazines and was never really into all the unfettered adulation for the Monkees, and trust me, their faces were everywhere in the late ’60s. Sometimes, you see so much of something that you start to have a negative reaction to it, and so maybe that’s why, by not missing out on the Monkees in their hey-day, I’m kind of over them now. I guess that’s why my memory hearkened back to Sik-Teen in the midst of all this Monkeemania at REBEAT, because I realize that maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty after all.
So take a look at Mad’s Sik-Teen as you see it here in all its glory, and better yet, comment and let me know your feelings about it as long as you don’t go for the throat! It’s kinda lonely on this island.