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MONKEES ARE NO SORE SPOT, NESMITH SAYS

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Forget what you've heard about Michael Nesmith: He will not get mad if you ask him about the Monkees.

Despite persistent rumors that he has done everything he can to distance himself from that bubblegum haze, he actually seems to enjoy reminiscing about his days with Peter, Micky and Davy."It's not a sore spot at all," says Nesmith. "People have this odd notion that I have disowned the Monkees. I look back on it with great, fond memories. I liked the guys, I still like the guys, Micky's my favorite, and yes, the Monkees were a make-believe band."

Nesmith's post-Monkees career has been well-documented: several critically acclaimed country-rock albums; pioneering work in video that led to the creation of MTV; a successful run as a movie producer and distributor, and dabblings in CD-ROM technology.

But he can't seem to shake his reputation as the "Angree Mon-kee."

"I have watched as I have done interviews over the years as journalists tiptoe around the subject," says Nesmith, 51, his famous Texas drawl a bit tempered by life in Los Angeles (he was born in Houston and raised in Dallas). "I still don't understand where these things start up."

He admits that he was, and has continued to be, critical of some of the band's endeavors. "But there's nothing in there that says I didn't like it," he says. "To be critical of something is to make it better and work at it."

In that light, it shouldn't be surprising that Nesmith has said he would be willing to tour with his former bandmates to support the re-release of all nine Monkees albums by Rhino Records.

"They've already asked me if I would do it - if I would hold out August of '95," he says. "So I've got a big circle penciled around it. But it just depends on how interesting it would be artistically and creatively. I like a lot of that music, and so the idea of going out and playing it, I think, would be a gas."

And even though the Monkees did play their own instruments when they toured long ago, Nesmith says he would want a good, solid band on any upcoming tour so that he and the others could concentrate on the singing.

"It was a chore playing all those songs," he says. "We went out behind the television show, and we would stand up there and play 18 or 20 songs in a row. Then, each of us did a solo section with a backup band, and that kind of rehearsal and that kind of focus took a lot of work that we don't have time to do now. If we were going out with a really good band, I'd be on for that."

The deal is far from done, however, and it would take some heavy scheduling gymnastics for Nesmith to be able to hit the road.

He is working on a film version of Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and he has written the screenplay for another movie, "Time Rider," that he hopes to direct.

He's also just released "The Garden," the sequel to 1974's "The Prison." Both works are books he wrote accompanied by music he wrote. The idea is to listen to the music while you read the books.

"The Prison" was a critical and commercial bomb, and he doesn't expect "The Garden" to light up the cash registers, either.

Then again, he doesn't really care.

"I'm clearly not motivated by commercial success, and I'm not motivated by critical success," he says. "Opinions, conventions of the times, they don't enter into the creative process. By the same token, that doesn't mean you don't have a hope that those things come to pass.

"I believe that really great art provides insight; it gives you an extraordinary look at ordinary things. So when I work, I'm not trying to preach, teach or proselytize. These are not, by and large, polemics. These are just efforts to express beauty and to hold things up to see in a way that perhaps people haven't seen before."