The Monkees


The Monkees

This article is about the musical group.

The Monkees

The Monkees, left to right: Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Pop rock, bubblegum, psychedelic pop
Years active
1966–1971
1986–1989
1993–1997
2001–2002
2011-Present
Labels Colgems, RCA, Arista
Website monkees.net
Members
Davy Jones
Micky Dolenz
Peter Tork
Past members
Michael Nesmith

The Monkees are an American pop rock group. Assembled in Los Angeles in 1966 by Robert "Bob" Rafelson and Bert Schneider for the American television series The Monkees, which aired from 1966 to 1968, the musical acting quartet was composed of Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, and Englishman Davy Jones. The band's music was initially supervised by producer Don Kirshner.

At the time of the group's formation, its producers saw The Monkees as a Beatles-like band. At the start, the band members provided vocals, but were given only limited performing and production opportunities. They eventually fought for and earned the right to collectively supervise all musical output under the band's name. The group undertook several concert tours, allowing an opportunity to perform as a live band as well as on the TV series. Although the show was canceled in 1968, the band continued releasing records until 1971. The group reached the height of fame from 1966 to 1968, and influenced many future artists. In 1986, their 20th year, the television show and music experienced a revival, which led to a series of reunion tours, and new records featuring various incarnations of the band's lineup.

The Monkees had a number of international hits which are still heard on pop and oldies stations. These include "(Theme From) The Monkees", "I'm a Believer", "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone", "Daydream Believer", "Last Train to Clarksville", and "Pleasant Valley Sunday". Their albums and singles have sold over 65 million copies worldwide.[1]

Contents

Conception

Aspiring filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were inspired by the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night to devise a television series about a rock 'n' roll group.[2][3] As "Raybert Productions," they sold the show to Screen Gems television. Rafelson and Schneider's original idea was to cast an existing Los Angeles-based folk rock group, the Lovin' Spoonful. However, the Spoonful were already signed to a record company, which would have denied Screen Gems the right to market music from the show on record. So in September 1965, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ran an ad to cast the band. Matthew Peddlesden soon joined the rest of the band as drummer and lead singer, despite the fact that he had not yet learned to drum, and reportedly 'couldn't really sing to save his f***ing life' according to John Lennon, who had been sent a tape of the Monkees' earliest recordings.

Developing the music

During the casting process, Don Kirshner, the Screen Gems head of music, was contacted to secure music for the pilot that would become The Monkees. Not getting much interest from his usual stable of Brill Building writers, Kirshner assigned Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to the project.[4] The duo contributed four demo recordings to the pilot, featuring their own voices.[5] One of these recordings was "(Theme From)The Monkees" which helped get the series the green light.[6]

When The Monkees was picked up as a series, development of the musical side of the project accelerated. Columbia-Screen Gems and RCA Records entered into a joint venture called Colgems Records primarily to distribute Monkees records.[7] Raybert set up a rehearsal space and rented instruments for the group to practice playing,[7] but it quickly became apparent they would not be in shape in time for the series debut. The producers called upon Don Kirshner to recruit a producer for the Monkees sessions.[8]

Kirshner called on Snuff Garrett, composer of several hits by Gary Lewis & the Playboys, to produce the initial musical cuts for the show. Garrett, upon meeting the four Monkees in June 1966, decided that Jones would sing lead, a choice that was unpopular with the group. This cool reception led Kirshner to drop Garrett and buy out his contract.[9] Kirshner next allowed Nesmith to produce sessions, provided he did not play on any tracks he produced.[9] Nesmith did, however, start using the other Monkees on his sessions, particularly Tork as a guitarist. Kirshner came back to the enthusiastic Boyce and Hart to be the regular producers, but he brought in one of his top east coast men, Jack Keller, to lend some production experience to the sessions.[5] Boyce and Hart observed quickly that when brought in to the studio together, the four actors would try to crack each other up. Because of this, they would often bring in each singer individually.[10]

According to Nesmith, it was Dolenz's voice that made the Monkees's sound distinctive, and even during tension-filled times Nesmith and Tork voluntarily turned over lead vocal duties to Dolenz on their own compositions, such as Tork's "For Pete's Sake", which became the closing title theme for the second season of the TV show. Former Turtles bassist Chip Douglas was responsible for both music presentation—actually leading the band, engineering recordings, as well as playing bass on most of the TV-era recordings.

The Monkees' first single, "Last Train to Clarksville", was released in August 1966, just weeks prior to the broadcast debut. In conjunction with the first broadcast of the television show on September 12, 1966 on the NBC television network, NBC and Columbia had a major hit on their hands.[11] The first long-playing album, The Monkees, was released a month later and shot to the top of the charts.

From TV to stage

In assigning instruments for purposes of the television show, a dilemma arose as none of the four was a drummer. Both Nesmith, a skilled guitarist and bassist, and Tork, who could play several stringed and keyboard instruments, declined to give the drum set a try. Jones tested well initially as a novice drummer, but the camera could barely capture him behind the drums because of his short stature. Thus, Dolenz (who only knew how to play the guitar) was assigned to become the drummer. Tork taught Dolenz his first few beats on the drums, enough for him to fake his way through filming, but Micky was soon taught how to play properly.[12] Thus, the lineup for the TV show most frequently featured Nesmith on guitar, Tork on bass, Dolenz on drums, and Jones as a frontman/singer/percussionist.

Unlike most television shows of the time, the Monkees episodes were written with many "setups", requiring frequent breaks to prepare the set and cameras for short bursts of filming. Some of the "bursts" are considered proto-music videos, inasmuch as they were produced to sell the records. Eric Lefcowitz, in The Monkees Tale,[13] pointed out, and Nesmith concurred, that the Monkees were first and foremost a video group. The four actors would spend 12-hour days on the set, many of them waiting for the production crew to do their jobs. Noticing that their instruments were left on the set unplugged, the four decided to turn them on and start playing.[2]

After working on the set all day, the Monkees (usually Dolenz) would be called in to the recording studio to cut vocal tracks. As the Monkees were essential to the recording process, there were few limits on how long they could spend in the recording studio, and the result was an extensive catalogue of unreleased recordings.

On tour

Pleased with their initial efforts, Columbia (over Kirshner's objections) planned to send the Monkees out to play live concerts. The massive success of the series and its spin-off records created intense pressure to mount a touring version of the group. Against the initial wishes of the producers, Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Tork went out on the road and made their debut live performance in December 1966 in Hawaii.

The band had no time to rehearse a live performance except between takes on set. They worked on the TV series all day, recorded in the studio at night, and slept very little. The weekends were usually filled with special appearances or filming of special sequences.

These performances were sometimes used during the actual series. The episode "Too Many Girls (Fern and Davy)" opens with a live version of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" being performed as the scene was shot. One entire episode was filmed featuring live music. The last show of the premiere season, "Monkees on Tour", was shot in a documentary style by filming a concert in Phoenix, Arizona on January 21, 1967.[14] Bob Rafelson wrote and directed the episode.

In DVD commentary tracks included in the Season One release, Nesmith stated that Tork was better at playing guitar than bass. In Tork's commentary, he stated that Jones was a good drummer and had the live performance lineups been based solely on playing ability, it should have been Tork on guitar, Nesmith on bass, and Jones on drums, with Dolenz taking the fronting role. The four Monkees performed all the instruments and vocals for most of the live set. The most notable exceptions were during each member's solo sections where during the December 1966 – May 1967 tour, they were backed by the Candy Store Prophets. During the summer 1967 tour of the United States and the UK (from which the Live 1967 recordings are taken), they were backed by a band called the Sundowners. In 1968, the Monkees toured Australia and Japan.

The results were far better than expected. Wherever they went, the group was greeted by scenes of fan adulation reminiscent of Beatlemania. This gave the singers increased confidence in their fight for control over the musical material chosen for the series.[15]

With Jones sticking primarily to vocals and tambourine (except when filling in on the drums when Dolenz came forward to sing a lead vocal), the Monkees' live act constituted a classic power trio of electric guitar, electric bass, and drums (except when Tork passed the bass part to Jones or one of the Sundowners in order to take up the banjo or electric keyboards).

"Here, I'm going to make you a big star ... and you don't have to pay any dues. ... For that, you're going to get no respect from your contemporaries." ... To me, that was the cruelest thing. [11]

Phil Spector, 1968 Pop Chronicles interview.

Meeting the Beatles

Critics of the Monkees observed that they were simply the "Pre-Fab four", a made-for-TV knockoff of The Beatles; The Beatles, however, took it in their stride and hosted a party for the Monkees when they visited England. The party occurred during the time when the Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; as such, the party inspired the line in the Monkees' tune "Randy Scouse Git," written by Dolenz, which read, "the four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor." Nesmith attended the "A Day in the Life" sessions at Abbey Road Studios; he can be seen in the Beatles' home movies, including one scene where he is conversing with John Lennon. During the conversation, Nesmith had reportedly asked Lennon "Do you think we're a cheap imitation of the Beatles, your movies and your records?", to which Lennon assuredly replied, "I think you're the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. I've never missed one of your programs."[15] George Harrison praised their self-produced musical attempts, saying, "It's obvious what's happening, there's talent there. They're doing a TV show, it's a difficult chore and I wouldn't be in their shoes for the world. When they get it all sorted out, they might turn out to be the best."[15] (Tork was later one of the musicians on Harrison's Wonderwall Music, playing Paul McCartney's five-string banjo.)

Dolenz was also in the studio during a session, which he mentioned while broadcasting for WCBS-FM in New York (incidentally, he interviewed Ringo Starr on his program). Paul McCartney can be seen in the 2002 concert film Back in the U.S. singing "Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees", the theme from The Monkees show, while backstage.

Kirshner and More of the Monkees

The animosity between Kirshner and the Monkees began in the very early stages of the band. The Monkees' off-screen personalities at the time were much like what became their on-screen image (except for Peter). This included the playful, hyperactive antics that are often seen on screen. Apparently, during an early recording session, the four Monkees were clowning around in the studio. The antics escalated until Micky Dolenz poured a Pepsi on Kirshner's head; at the time, Dolenz did not know Kirshner by sight.[citation needed]

The Monkees had complained that the producers would not allow them to play their own instruments on their records, or to use their own material. These complaints intensified when Kirshner moved track recording from California to New York, leaving the Monkees out of the musical process until they were called upon to add their vocals to the completed tracks. This campaign eventually forced Don Kirshner to let the group have more participation in the recording process (against his strong objections). This included Nesmith producing his own songs, and band members making instrumental contributions.

Nesmith and Tork were particularly upset when they were on tour in January 1967 and discovered that a second album, More of The Monkees, had been released without their knowledge. The Monkees were annoyed at not having even been told of the release in advance, at having their opinions on the track selection ignored, at Don Kirshner's self-congratulatory liner notes, and also because of the amateurish-looking cover art, which was merely a composite of pictures of the four taken for a J.C. Penney clothing advertisement. Indeed, the Monkees had not even been given a copy of the album; they had to buy it from a record store.[16]

The climax of the rivalry was an intense argument between Nesmith, Kirshner, and Colgems lawyer Herb Moelis, which took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel in January 1967. Kirshner had presented the group with royalty checks and gold records. Nesmith had responded with an ultimatum, demanding a change in the way the Monkees' music was chosen and recorded. Moelis reminded Nesmith that he was under contract. The confrontation ended with Nesmith punching a hole in a wall and saying, "That could have been your face!" However, each of the members, including Nesmith, accepted the $250,000 royalty checks (equivalent to approximately $1,644,500 in today's funds[17]).[16]

Kirshner's dismissal came in early February 1967, when he violated an agreement between Colgems and the Monkees not to release material directly created by the group together with unrelated Kirshner-produced material. Kirshner violated this agreement when he released "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", composed and written by Neil Diamond, as a single with "She Hangs Out", a song recorded in New York with Davy Jones vocals, as the B-side.

Kirshner was reported to have been incensed by the group's unexpected rebellion, especially when he felt they lacked the musical talent, and were hired for their acting ability alone.[citation needed] This experience led directly to Kirshner's later venture, The Archies, which was an animated series – the "stars" existed only on animation cels, with music done by studio musicians, and obviously could not seize creative control over the records issued under their name.

Screen Gems held the publishing rights to a wealth of great material, with the Monkees given first crack at many new songs. Their choices were not unerring; the band—against the wishes of Don Kirschner—allegedly turned down "Sugar, Sugar" in 1967, which became one of the biggest hits of 1969 as by The Archies. However, producer and songwriter Jeff Barry, who cowrote "Sugar, Sugar" with Andy Kim, denied in the late 90s that the Monkees had been offered the tune, saying it had not even been written at the time.[citation needed]

Independence

Headquarters

After the end of their relationship with Kirshner, the Monkees went into Goldstar Studios in Hollywood determined to prove to the world that they were a bona fide group and could play their own instruments. What resulted was Headquarters, with all four Monkees in the studio, now together at the same time, with very few guest musicians. Produced by Chip Douglas and issued in May 1967, the four Monkees wrote and played on much of their own material. Nearly all vocals and instruments on Headquarters were performed by the four Monkees (the exceptions being few, usually by Chip Douglas on bass). The album shot to number one, but was quickly eclipsed the following week by a milestone cultural event when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Following Headquarters, they began what they referred to as "mix mode"[citation needed] where they played their own instruments but also continued to employ session musicians. The Monkees continued using additional musicians (including The Wrecking Crew, Louie Shelton, Glen Campbell, members of the Byrds and the Association, drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh, Lowell George, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles and Neil Young) throughout their recording career, especially when the group became temporarily estranged after Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. and recorded some of their songs separately.

The high of Headquarters was short-lived, however. Recording and producing as a group was Tork's major interest and he hoped that the four would continue working together as a band on future recordings. However, the four did not have enough in common regarding their musical interests. In commentary for the DVD release of the second season of the show, Tork said that Dolenz was "incapable of repeating a triumph". Having been a musician for one album, Dolenz no longer was interested in being a drummer, and largely gave up playing instruments on Monkees recordings. (Producer Chip Douglas also had identified Dolenz's drumming as the weak point in the collective musicianship of the quartet, having to splice together multiple takes of Dolenz's "shaky" drumming for final use.) Nesmith and Jones were also moving in different directions, with Nesmith following his country/folk instincts and Jones reaching for Broadway-style numbers.

The next three albums featured a diverse mixture of musical style influences, including country-rock, folk-rock, psychedelic rock, soul/R&B, guitar rock, Broadway, and English music hall sensibilities. Nesmith's song-writing was heavily influenced by country music, while Tork contributed the piano introduction to "Daydream Believer" and the banjo part on "You Told Me", as well as exploring occasional songwriting with the likes of "For Pete's Sake" (which was used as the closing theme music for the second season of the television series) and "Lady's Baby".

Studio recordings controversy

When the Monkees toured the U.K. in 1967, there was a major controversy over the revelation that the group did not always play all of their own instruments in the studio, although they did play them all while touring (except for the solo segments, which used backing band the Candy Store Prophets). The story made the front pages of several UK and international music papers, with the group derisively dubbed "The Pre-Fab Four". Nevertheless, they were generally welcomed by many British stars, who realized the group included talented musicians and sympathized with their wish to have more creative control over their music, and the Monkees frequently socialized with the likes of The Beatles, the Spencer Davis Group, and The Who.

Many Monkees fans argued that the controversy unfairly targeted the band, while conveniently ignoring the fact that a number of leading British and American groups (such as the Beach Boys) habitually used session players on their recordings, including many of the very same musicians who performed on records by the Monkees. This commonplace practice had previously passed without comment. However, the Beatles had led a wave of groups who provided most of their own instrumentation on their recordings and wrote most of their own songs. The comic book quality of the Monkees' television series (where they mimed song performances out of necessity) brought additional scrutiny of their recorded music. But both supporters and critics of the group agree that the producers and Kirshner had the good taste to use some of the best pop songwriters of the period. Neil Diamond, the Boyce-Hart partnership, Jack Keller, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and many other highly regarded writers had songs recorded by the Monkees.

In November 1967, the wave of anti-Monkee sentiment was reaching its peak while the Monkees released their fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. In liner notes for the 1995 re-release of this album, Nesmith was quoted as saying that after Headquarters, "The press went into a full-scale war against us, talking about how 'The Monkees are four guys who have no credits, no credibility whatsoever and have been trying to trick us into believing they are a rock band.' Number one, not only was this not the case; the reverse was true. Number two, for the press to report with genuine alarm that the Monkees were not a real rock band was looney tunes! It was one of the great goofball moments of the media, but it stuck."

The Monkees went back into the recording studio, largely separately, and produced a large volume of recordings, material that eventually turned up on several albums.

The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

In April 1968, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released. Being released after the final season of the television series (the series was canceled in February 1968, although new episodes continued to air each week through the spring & re-runs ran through september), this was the first Monkees album not to hit number one, but it still went gold. The album cover—a quaint collage of items looking like a display in a jumble shop or toy store—was chosen over the Monkees' objections.

Beyond television

During the filming of the second season, the band tired of scripts which they deemed monotonous and stale. They had already succeeded in eliminating the laugh track (a then-standard on American sitcoms), with the bulk of Season 2 episodes airing minus the canned chuckles. They proposed switching the format of the series to become more like a variety show, with musical guests and live performances. This desire was partially fulfilled within some second-season episodes, with guest stars like musicians Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley and Charlie Smalls (composer of The Wiz), performing on the show. However, NBC was not interested in eliminating the existing format, and the group (except for Peter) had little desire to continue for a third season. Tork said in DVD commentary that everyone had developed such difficult personalities that the big-name stars invited as guests on the show would invariably leave the experience "hating everybody".

Screen Gems and NBC went ahead with the existing format anyway, commissioning Monkees writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso to create a straight-comedy, no-music half-hour in the Monkees mold; a pilot episode was filmed with the then-popular nightclub act The Pickle Brothers. The pilot had the same energy and pace of The Monkees, but never became a series.

Head

After The Monkees was canceled in February 1968, Rafelson directed the four Monkees in a feature film, Head. Schneider was executive producer, and the project was co-written and co-produced by Rafelson with a then relatively unknown Jack Nicholson. Rumors abound that the title was chosen in case a sequel was made. The advertisements would supposedly have read: "From the producers who gave you HEAD."[18]

Nicholson also assembled the film's soundtrack album. The film, conceived and edited in a stream of consciousness style, featured oddball cameo appearances by movie stars Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, a young Teri Garr, boxer Sonny Liston, famous stripper Carol Doda, and musician Frank Zappa. It was filmed at Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems studios and on location in California, Utah, and The Bahamas between February 19 and May 17, 1968 and premiered in New York City on November 6 of that year (the film later debuted in Hollywood on November 20).

Head was not a commercial success, in part because it was the antithesis of The Monkees television show, intended to comprehensively demolish the group's carefully groomed public image. Rafelson and Nicholson's "Ditty Diego-War Chant" (recited at the start of the film by the Monkees), ruthlessly parodies Boyce and Hart's "Monkees Theme." A sparse advertising campaign (with no mention of the Monkees) squelched any chances of the film doing well, and it played only briefly. In commentary for the DVD release, Nesmith said that by this time, everyone associated with the Monkees "had gone crazy." They were each using the platform of the Monkees to push their own disparate career goals, to the detriment of the Monkees project. Indeed, Nesmith said, Head was Rafelson and Nicholson's intentional effort to "kill" the Monkees, so that they would no longer be bothered with the matter.

Over the intervening years Head has developed a cult following for its innovative style and anarchic humor, and the soundtrack album (long out of print, but re-released by Rhino in the 1980s and now available in an expanded CD version) is counted among their most adventurous recordings. Members of the Monkees, Nesmith in particular, cite Head (the only Monkees album during their initial run not to include any Boyce and Hart compositions) as one of the crowning achievements of the band. The highlights include Nesmith's "Circle Sky", an all-out rocker, Tork's psychedelic "Can You Dig It?" and the Goffin/King composition "Porpoise Song".

Early 1969: exit Tork

Tensions within the group were increasing. Peter Tork, citing exhaustion, quit by buying out the last 4 years of his Monkees contract at $150,000/year, equal to $898,634 per year today. This was shortly after the band's Far East tour in December 1968, after completing work on their 1969 NBC television special, 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, which rehashed many of the ideas from Head, only with the Monkees playing a strangely second-string role. In the DVD commentary for the television special, Dolenz noted that after filming was complete, Nesmith gave Tork a gold watch as a going-away present, engraved "From the guys down at work." (Tork kept the back, but replaced the watch several times in later years.)

The remaining Monkees decided to pursue their musical interests separately since Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd.; they were no longer in the studio together—and planned a future double album (eventually to be reduced to The Monkees Present) on which each Monkee would separately produce one side of a disc.

Reduced to a trio, the remaining members went on to record Instant Replay and The Monkees Present. Throughout 1969 the trio appeared as guests on television programs such as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Johnny Cash Show, Hollywood Squares, and Laugh-In. The Monkees also had a contractual obligation to appear in several television commercials with Bugs Bunny for Kool-Aid drink mix as well as Post cereal box singles.

In the summer of 1969 the three Monkees embarked on a tour with the backing of the soul band "Sam and the Good-timers". The concerts for this tour were longer sets than their earlier concert tours: many shows running over two hours. Unfortunately the 1969 Monkees' tour was not all that successful; some shows were canceled due to poor ticket sales.

March 1970: exit Nesmith

In March 1970, Nesmith left the group, leaving only Dolenz and Jones to record Changes as the Monkees. By this time, Colgems was hardly putting any effort into the project, and they sent Dolenz and Jones to New York for the Changes sessions, to be produced by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. In comments for the liner notes of the 1994 re-release of Changes, Jones said that he felt they had been tricked into recording an "Andy Kim album" under the Monkees name. Except for the two singers' vocal performances, Changes is the only album that fails to win any significant praise from critics looking back 40 years to the Monkees' recording output. The album spawned the single "Oh My My" which was accompanied by a music film promo (produced/directed by Micky).

After a final 1971 single ("Do It In The Name Of Love" b/w "Lady Jane"), the two remaining Monkees lost the rights to use the name; in several countries, the USA included, the single was not credited to the Monkees but to Dolenz and Jones. The duo continued to tour throughout most of the 1970s.

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart - mid 1970s

In part because of repeats of The Monkees on Saturday mornings and in syndication, The Monkees Greatest Hits charted in 1976. The LP, issued by Arista, who by this time had custody of the Monkees’ master tapes, courtesy of their corporate owner, Screen Gems, was actually a re-packaging of an earlier (1972) compilation LP called Refocus that had been issued by Arista's previous label imprint, Bell Records, also owned by Screen Gems. Dolenz and Jones took advantage of this, joining ex-Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to tour the United States. From 1975 to 1977, as the "Golden Hits of The Monkees" show ("The Guys who Wrote 'Em and the Guys who Sang 'Em!"), they successfully performed in smaller venues such as state fairs and amusement parks, as well as making stops in Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore. They also released an album of new material as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. Nesmith had not been interested in a reunion. Tork claimed later that he had not been asked, although a Christmas single (credited to Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork due to legal reasons) was produced by Chip Douglas and released on his own label in 1976. The single featured Douglas' and Howard Kaylan's "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" (originally recorded by a 1960s supergroup, Christmas Spirit), with a B-side of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (Douglas released a remixed version of the single, with additional overdubbed instruments, in 1986). This was the first (albeit unofficial) Monkees single since 1971. Tork also joined Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart on stage at Disneyland on July 4, 1976, and also joined Dolenz and Jones on stage at the Starwood in Hollywood, California in 1977.

Other semi-reunions occurred between 1970 and 1986. Peter Tork helped arrange a Micky Dolenz single, "Easy on You"/"Oh Someone" in 1971. Tork also recorded some unreleased tracks for Nesmith's Countryside label during the 1970s, and Dolenz (by then a successful television director in the United Kingdom) directed a segment of Nesmith's NBC-TV series Television Parts, although the segment in question was not included when the series' six episodes aired during the summer of 1985.

Revival

MTV and Nickelodeon re-ignite Monkee-Mania

Brushed off by critics during their heyday as manufactured and lacking talent, The Monkees experienced a critical and commercial rehabilitation two decades later. A Monkees TV show marathon ("Pleasant Valley Sunday") was broadcast on February 23, 1986, on the then 5 year old MTV video music channel. In February and March, Tork and Jones played together in Australia. Then in May, Dolenz, Jones, and Tork announced a "20th Anniversary Tour" produced by David Fishof and they began playing North America in June with Dolenz. Their original albums began selling again as Nickelodeon began to run their old series daily. MTV promotion also helped to resurrect a smaller version of Monkeemania, and tour dates grew from smaller to larger venues and became one of the biggest live acts of 1986 and 1987. A new greatest hits collection was issued reaching platinum status.

By now, Nesmith was amenable to a reunion, but forced to sit out most projects because of prior commitments to his bustling 'Pacific Arts' video production company. However, he did appear with the band in a 1986 Christmas medley music video for MTV, and appeared on stage with Dolenz, Jones, and Tork at the Greek Theatre, in Los Angeles, on September 7, 1986. In September 1988, the three rejoined to play Australia again, Europe and then North America, with that string of tours ending in September 1989. Mike again returned at the Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, show on July 10, 1989 and took part in a dedication ceremony at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, when the Monkees received a TV star there in 1989.

The sudden revival of the Monkees in 1986 helped move the first official Monkees single since 1971, "That Was Then, This Is Now", to the #20 position in Billboard Magazine. The success, however, was not without controversy. Davy Jones had declined to sing on the track, recorded along with two other new songs included in a compilation album, Then & Now... The Best of The Monkees. Some copies of the single and album credit the new songs to "the Monkees", others as "Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (of the Monkees)". Reportedly, these recordings were the source of some personal friction between Jones and the others during the 1986 tour; Jones would typically leave the stage when the new songs were performed.

Of note is that the 80s Reunion tours had been the most lucrative venture the three had ever seen in their days as a Monkee, far surpassing the monies they had made in the 1960s. Mike had little financial need to join in Monkees-related projects, mostly as his mother Bette Nesmith Graham was the inventor of Liquid Paper, leaving Nesmith over $25 million, upon her death in the late 70s.

A new album by the touring trio, Pool It! (the Monkees' 10th), appeared the following year and was a moderate success. From 1986 to 1989, the Monkees would conduct major concert tours in the United States, Australia, Japan and Europe.

New Monkees

In 1987, a new television series called New Monkees appeared. Four young musicians were placed in a similar series based on the original show, but "updated" for the 1980s. The show, its accompanying album and the New Monkees themselves all sank without a trace. (Neither Bob Rafelson nor Bert Schneider were involved in the development or production of the series, although it was produced by "Straybert Productions" headed by Steve Blauner, Rafelson and Schneider's partner in BBS Productions.)

1990s reunions

In the 1990s, the Monkees continued to record new material. In 1993, Dolenz and Jones worked together on a television commercial, and another reunion tour was launched with the two of them in 1994. Perhaps the greatest reunion of sorts was released by Rhino Records re-issuing all the original LPs on CD, each of which included between three-six bonus tracks of previously unreleased or alternate takes; the first editions came with collectible trading cards.

Their eleventh album Justus was released in 1996. It was the first since 1968 on which all four original members performed and produced. Justus was produced by the Monkees, all songs were written by one of the four Monkees, and it was recorded using only the four Monkees for all instruments and vocals, which was the inspiration for the album title and spelling (Justus = Just Us).

The trio of Dolenz, Jones, and Tork reunited again for a successful 30th anniversary tour of American amphitheaters in 1996, while Nesmith joined them onstage in Los Angeles to promote the new songs from Justus. For the first time since the brief 1986 reunion, Nesmith returned to the concert stage for a tour of the United Kingdom in 1997, highlighted by two sold-out concerts at Wembley Arena in London. The full quartet also appeared in an ABC television special titled Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees, which was written and directed by Nesmith and spoofed the original series that had made them famous. Nevertheless, following the UK tour, Nesmith declined to continue future performances with the Monkees, having faced harsh criticism from the British music press for his deteriorating musicianship. Tork noted in DVD commentary that "in 1966, Nesmith had learned a reasonably good version of the famous "Last Train to Clarksville" guitar lick, but in 1996, Mike was no longer able to play it" and so Tork took over the lead guitar parts.

Nesmith's departure from the tour was acrimonious. Jones was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as complaining that Nesmith "made a new album with us. He toured Great Britain with us. Then all of a sudden, he's not here. Later, I hear rumors he's writing a script for our next movie. Oh, really? That's bloody news to me. He's always been this aloof, inaccessible person...the fourth part of the jigsaw puzzle that never quite fit in."[19]

2000s reunions

Tork, Jones, and Dolenz toured the United States in 1997, after which the group took another hiatus until 2001 when they once again reunited to tour the United States. However, this tour was also accompanied by public sniping. Dolenz and Jones had announced that they had "fired" Tork for his constant complaining and threatening to quit. Tork was quoted as saying that, as well as the fact he wanted to tour with his band Shoe Suede Blues. Tork told WENN News he was troubled by the overindulging of alcohol by other members of the tour crew:

"Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones fired me just before the last two shows of our 35th anniversary tour. I'm both happy and sad over the whole thing. I always loved the work onstage—but I just couldn't handle the backstage problems. I'd given them 30 days notice that I was leaving so my position is that I resigned first and then they dropped me. Thank God I don't need the Monkees anymore...I'm a recovering alcoholic and haven't had a drink in several years. I'm not against people drinking—just when they get mean and abusive. I went on the anniversary tour with the agreement that I didn't have to put up with drinking and difficult behavior offstage. When things weren't getting better, I gave the guys notice that I was leaving in 30 days for good."[20]

Jones and Dolenz went on to tour the United Kingdom in 2002, but Tork declined to participate. Jones and Dolenz toured the United States one more time as a duo in 2002, and then split to concentrate on their own individual projects. With different Monkees citing different reasons, the group chose not to mark their 40th anniversary in 2006.

Over the years, the Monkees have expressed admiration for each others' talents and contributions. However, the love/hate relationship between the members continues to persist. In a March 2008 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Jones spoke bitterly about his fellow ex-Monkees. When asked about any future reunions, Jones was not optimistic:

"I wouldn't think so. With keeping myself clean and in good shape, I can't be responsible for Peter, Mike and Micky and their behavior. I'm not saying they have bad behavior, but it just takes one occasion where somebody has something to say and everybody gets blamed. I can't be responsible for Peter's mouth or Mike's mouth or Micky's mouth. They have to be able to feel the same way about me. So I'd rather do it myself."[21]

Nonetheless, that same month Jones spotted Tork in the audience at one of his shows in Connecticut and invited him onstage to perform Nesmith's "Papa Gene's Blues" together, with obvious playful affection between them. Jones admitted via DVD commentary that despite all their differences, for better or worse, the other Monkees are "...the brothers I never had."[22]

In October 2009, Jones again rejected the idea of any further reunions and, according to Digital Spy, "launched an attack on his former bandmates":

Jones slammed Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, accusing guitarist Nesmith of having his head "firmly up his ass".
Jones told the National Enquirer: "[Nesmith's] not an entertainer in the sense that Micky, Peter and I are. He has his back to the audience half the time. [He's] a brilliant businessman [but] as a person, I haven't got time for him. He's very aloof and separate."
The musician also criticised Tork for being too disagreeable to work with and said of Dolenz: "I couldn't imagine sharing a stage anymore with Micky Dolenz, who doesn't want to play the drums and wants to play the guitar at the front of the stage." [23]

2010-2012 reunions

A virtual reunion of all four Monkees came about in 2010, when Nick Vernier Band released "Mister Bob (featuring The Monkees)" (see: Legacy, 2010). Despite his earlier statements rejecting any future reunions, Jones stated in October 2010 that a 2011 reunion tour was a possibility, presumably to mark the band's 45th anniversary.[24] On January 29, 2011, at a Davy Jones Band concert at the Star Plaza Theatre, in Merrillville, Indiana, it was announced that a Monkees Reunion Tour would indeed be happening, commencing on May 12, 2011 at the Star Plaza Theatre. On February 21, a 45th Anniversary Tour was announced featuring Jones, Dolenz and Tork. It began in the United Kingdom in May before moving to North America in June and July.[25] Michael Nesmith did not take part in the reunion.

On August 8, 2011, the Monkees cancelled the remainder of the tour "due to internal group issues and conflicts".[26] While the original announced tour dates in June and July were honored, the ten August and September dates added once the North American tour was well underway were cancelled. This marked the third consecutive tour in which the Monkees as either a threesome or a quartet did not complete a tour without either losing members or cancelling advertised dates. The Monkees will continue their "Happy Together" tour into 2012 with rescheduled dates.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snub

In June 2007, Tork complained to the New York Post that Jann Wenner had blackballed the Monkees from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Tork asserted:

[Wenner] doesn't care what the rules are and just operates how he sees fit. It is an abuse of power. I don't know whether the Monkees belong in the Hall of Fame, but it's pretty clear that we're not in there because of a personal whim. Jann seems to have taken it harder than everyone else, and now, 40 years later, everybody says, 'What's the big deal? Everybody else does it.'[does not play their own instruments] Nobody cares now except him. He feels his moral judgment in 1967 and 1968 is supposed to serve in 2007.

Band members

  • Davy Jones – vocals, guitars, tambourine, maracas (1966–1971; 1986–1989; 1993–1997; 2001–2002; 2011-Present)
  • Micky Dolenz – drums, vocals (1966–1971; 1986–1989; 1993–1997; 2001–2002; 2011-Present)
  • Michael Nesmith – guitars, vocals (1966–1970; 1996–1997)
  • Peter Tork – bass, banjo, vocals, keyboards (1966–1969; 1986–1989; 1995–1997; 2001; 2011-Present)

Impact and legacy

The Monkees, selected specifically to appeal to the youth market, as American Television's response to the Beatles [27], with their manufactured personae and carefully produced singles, are seen as an original precursor to the modern proliferation of studio and corporation-created bands. But this critical reputation has softened somewhat, with the recognition that the Monkees were neither the first manufactured group nor unusual in this respect. The Monkees also frequently contributed their own songwriting efforts on their albums and saw their musical skills improve. They ultimately became a self-directed group, playing their own instruments and writing many of their own songs.

The Monkees found unlikely fans among musicians of the punk rock period of the mid-1970s. Many of these punk performers had grown up on TV reruns of the series, and sympathized with the anti-industry, anti-Establishment trend of their career. Sex Pistols and Minor Threat both recorded versions of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and it was often played live by Toy Love. The Japanese new wave pop group The Plastics recorded a synthesizer and drum-machine version of "Last Train to Clarksville" for their 1979 album Welcome Plastics.

Glenn A. Baker, author of Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees, described the Monkees as "rock's first great embarrassment" in 1986:

Like an illegitimate child in a respectable family, the Monkees are destined to be regarded forever as rock's first great embarrassment; misunderstood and maligned like a mongrel at a ritzy dog show, or a test tube baby at the Vatican. The rise of the pre-fab four coincided with rock's desperate desire to cloak itself with the trappings of respectability, credibility and irreproachable heritage. The fact was ignored that session players were being heavily employed by The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds and other titans of the age. However, what could not be ignored, as rock disdained its pubescent past, was a group of middle-aged Hollywood businessmen had actually assembled their concept of a profitable rock group and foisted it upon the world. What mattered was that the Monkees had success handed to them on a silver plate. Indeed, it was not so much righteous indignation but thinly disguised jealousy which motivated the scornful dismissal of what must, in retrospect, be seen as entertaining, imaginative and highly memorable exercise in pop culture.[15]

In 1988 Run-D.M.C. recorded "Mary, Mary" on their album Tougher Than Leather. Australian indie-rock bands of the 1980s such as Grooveyard ("All The King's Horses"), Prince Vlad & the Gargoyle Impalers ("Mary, Mary", "For Pete's Sake", and "Circle Sky") and The Upbeat and The Mexican Spitfires ("Mary, Mary") performed Monkees cover versions. Cassandra Wilson had an indie hit with "Last Train to Clarksville" in 1995. The alternative rock group Smash Mouth had a hit with "I'm a Believer" in 2001, and their version was featured in the blockbuster computer-animated movie Shrek. Japanese indie rock band Shonen Knife recorded "Daydream Believer". Indie group Carter USM recorded "Randy Scouse Git", which is also called "Alternate Title". The 1980s psychedelic rock band Bongwater, featuring Ann Magnuson and Mark Kramer, recorded "You Just May Be The One" and "The Porpoise Song". The Monkees also had a big influence on Paul Westerberg, lead singer/songwriter for The Replacements. "Daydream Believer" and "You Just May Be The One" are staples at his live shows. The British alternative rock band The Wedding Present recorded "Pleasant Valley Sunday" in the early 1990s.

The band's legacy was strengthened by Rhino Entertainment's acquisition of the Monkees' franchise from Columbia Pictures in the early 1990s. The label has released several Monkees-related projects, including remastered editions of both the original television series and their complete music library, as well as their motion picture Head.

In the 1990s, three of the Monkees had minor roles in the family sitcom Boy Meets World. Tork played Topanga's father Jedidiah; Jones played Reginald, an old friend from Europe; Dolenz played Gordy, Mr. Matthews' best friend. In the one episode that the three were in together, they performed "My Girl".

In 1991, a feature film called Daydream Believer (known as The Girl Who Came Late in some markets) was released in Australia.

In 1995, Jones, Tork & Dolenz appeared in a Pizza Hut Commercial with Beatle Ringo Starr, and Ringo referred to them as "WRONG LADS!"

Jones, Tork and Dolenz also feature memorably as themselves in The Brady Bunch Movie. Jones is invited by Marcia to appear as the surprise star guest at the high school prom. After a difficult start, he proves a surprise hit with the modern-day audience, especially the adult chaperones when they realize their girlhood idol is on-stage. Later, the Bradys themselves perform "Keep On Dancing", a 1960s-style "groovy" song, in the evening's "Search For A Star" talent contest. Everyone is surprised when they win the award until it is revealed that the judging panel consists of Jones, Tork and Dolenz.

In 2005, eBay used "Daydream Believer" as the theme for a promotional campaign.

In 2006, Evergreen used "Daydream Believer" in their adverts; the lyrics were adapted for the product.

In 2009, Britain's Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle recorded "Daydream Believer."

In 2010, Nick Vernier Band created a digital "Monkees reunion" through the release of "Mister Bob (featuring The Monkees)",[28] a new song produced under license from Rhino Entertainment, containing vocal samples from the band’s recording "Zilch". In 2011, ”Mister Bob” was released as a single to coincide with The Monkees’ 45th Anniversary Tour.

Notable achievements

  • Had the top-charting American single of 1967 ("I'm a Believer"). (Billboard number-one for seven weeks) with "Daydream Believer" tied for third.
  • Gave the Jimi Hendrix Experience their first US concert appearances as an opening act in July 1967.[29] Jimi Hendrix's heavy psychedelic guitar and sexual overtones did not go over well with the teenage girl audience. During one of the shows, Hendrix gave the audience the finger and quit the tour.
  • Gene Roddenberry was inspired to introduce the character of Chekov in his Star Trek TV series in response to the popularity of Davy Jones, complete with hairstyle and appearance mimicking that of Jones.[30][31]
  • Introduced Tim Buckley to a national audience, via his appearance in the series finale, "The Frodis Caper" (aka "Mijacogeo").
  • Last music artist to win the MTV Friday Night Video Fights by defeating Bon Jovi 51% to 49%.
  • First music artist to win two Emmy Awards.
  • Had seven albums on the Billboard top 200 chart at the same time (six were re-issues during 1986/87).
  • The Monkees are one of the first artists achieving number-one hits in the United States and United Kingdom simultaneously.
  • More of The Monkees spent 70 weeks on the Billboard charts, becoming the 12th biggest selling album of all time.[32]
  • Four number-one albums in a one-year span.[33]
  • Held the number one spot on the Billboard album chart for 31 consecutive weeks, 37 weeks total.[34]
  • Held the record for the longest stay at number one for a debut record album until 1982 when Men At Work's debut record album Business As Usual broke that record.
  • In 2008, The Monkees were inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
  • Between 1966 and 1970, The Monkees released 121 songs on 9 albums and 8 non-LP singles. The final song they recorded was "It's Got To Be Love".

Discography

Tours

  • North American Tour (1966–67)
  • British Tour (1967)
  • Pacific Rim Tour (1968)
  • North American Tour (1969) (Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith)
  • The Golden Hits of The Monkees (1975–77) (Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart)
  • Sounds of The Monkees (1986; 1987) (Jones, Tork)
  • 20th Anniversary World Tour (1986) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • Here We Come Again Tour (1987–88) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • The Monkees Live (1989) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • The Monkees Summer Tour (1989) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • Micky and Davy: Together Again (1994–95) (Dolenz, Jones)
  • Monkees: The 30th Anniversary Tour (1996) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • Justus Tour (1997)
  • North American Tour (1997) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • Monkeemania Returns Tour (2001–2002) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)
  • An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour (2011) (Dolenz, Jones, Tork)

Comics

There was also "The Monkees" comic published in the United States by Dell Comics, which ran for seventeen issues from 1967 to 1969. In the United Kingdom, a Daily Mirror "Crazy Cartoon Book" featured four comic stories as well as four photos of The Monkees, all in black and white; it was published in 1967.

Biopic

In 2000, VH-1 produced the television biopic Daydream Believers: The Monkees' Story.[35] In 2002, the movie was released on DVD, and featured both commentaries and interviews with Dolenz, Jones and Tork. The aired version did differ from the DVD release as the TV version had an extended scene with all four Beatles but with a shortened Cleveland concert segment. It was also available on VHS.

Bibliography

See also

References

  1. ^ Micky Dolenz at corporateartists.com
  2. ^ a b Lefcowitz, Eric (1990). Monkees Tale. Berkeley, CA: Last Gasp. pp. 4, 7–8, 10, 26, 66, 76. ISBN 0-867-19378-6. 
  3. ^ Lefcowitz (1985), pp. 6–7.
  4. ^ Sandoval (2005), p. 27.
  5. ^ a b Sandoval (2005), p. 40.
  6. ^ No Monkee Business: A Candid Interview with Micky Dolenz
  7. ^ a b Sandoval (2005), p. 36.
  8. ^ Sandoval (2005), p. 37.
  9. ^ a b Sandoval (2005), p. 39.
  10. ^ Sandoval (2005), p. 46.
  11. ^ a b Gilliland 1969, show 44,track 2.
  12. ^ Micky Dolenz Related Items at www.angelfire.com
  13. ^ Eric Lefcowitz book (Last Gasp Press) ISBN 0-86719-338-7
  14. ^ Sandoval (2005), p. 84.
  15. ^ a b c d Baker, Glenn A.; Tom Czarnota, Peter Hoga (1986). Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees. New York, New York: Plexus Publishing. pp. 5, 49, 43. ISBN 0-312-00003-0. 
  16. ^ a b Sandoval (2005), p. 80.
  17. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  18. ^ Head facts from the Internet Movie database.
  19. ^ imdb.com.
  20. ^ "Monkees Split In Bitter Battle". WENN News. January 3, 2002. http://www.imdb.com/news/ni0068658/. Retrieved July 29, 2008. 
  21. ^ [1][dead link]}}
  22. ^ DVD commenatary, The Monkees, Season One
  23. ^ Davy Jones 'attacks Monkees bandmates'
  24. ^ "Monkees in talks for 2011 reunion". Jam!. Quebecor. 7 October 2011. http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/2010/10/07/15612111-wenn-story.html. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  25. ^ "Monkees announce 10-date concert tour". United Press International. 21 February 2011. http://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/Music/2011/02/21/Monkees-announce-10-date-concert-tour/UPI-30601298316685/. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  26. ^ "The Monkees cancel Palace show, tour". timesunion.com. August 9, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/The-Monkees-cancel-Palace-show-tour-1786733.php. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  27. ^ http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/49253?q=the+monkees&search=quick&source=omo_gmo&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit
  28. ^ New Monkees Release - Mister Bob
  29. ^ Lawrence, Sharon (2005). Jimi Hendrix: The Intimate Story of a Betrayed Musical Legend. New York: Harper. p. 84. ISBN 006056301X. 
  30. ^ Source: The Making of Star Trek, by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, (c) 1968 Ballantine Books, pp. 249–250.
  31. ^ Source: TV Guide, September 4–10, 1993 p. 20.
  32. ^ Billboard.com
  33. ^ Conradt, Stacy. "The Quick 10: 10 Billboard Milestones". Mental Floss. http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/24901. Retrieved June 8, 2010. 
  34. ^ Whitburn, Joel. "Billboard Chart Records". Beatlelinks.net. http://www.beatlelinks.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3008. Retrieved June 8, 2010. 
  35. ^ imdb.com

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