This is the tenth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary
On September 16, 2016, a New Monkees fan (me!) made the two hour trek to witness the event of a lifetime, The Monkees’ concert at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. The show had been previously announced as the final performance by Michael Nesmith with the group, on a tour that quite possibly could be their last.
So just what was I, a New Monkees fan, doing there, you might ask? I will answer that, but first, a little background. The New Monkees, for those of you unfamiliar with the group, were Marty Ross, Larry Saltis, Dino Kovas, and Jared Chandler. The New Monkees television series was the brainchild of Steve Blauner, a former partner of Monkees producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, and worked the same way as the original Monkees: the four members were hired to star in a TV series and release music in conjunction with the show. Every member of The New Monkees was an accomplished musician with the exception of Jared, who was a professional actor. The series premiered in syndication in the fall of 1987 (while the reunited Monkees were still riding the wave of their massive 1986 revival). Despite the show lasting only 13 episodes before it was cancelled, the group managed to release an eponymous LP.
Decades later, The New Monkees reunited in 2007 for a small meet and greet with their fans to celebrate the group's 20th Anniversary. I was lucky enough to attend this event, and as a result, a friendship with the four members flourished. I am currently writing their biography.
Now then, what was I doing at a Monkees concert? Well, I found that in writing a book on The New Monkees I needed to better understand the group that in a sense gave birth to them. I was curious to see what The Monkees, and their fans, were all about.
I got my answer as soon as I walked into L.A.’s sold-out Pantages Theatre. It was like crashing a huge family reunion. There were so many people that already knew each other, whether from various Monkees conventions through the years or through social media. The lobby was filled with folks running around hugging each other and taking pictures.
The concert was amazing. I didn't have the best seat in the house as I was way up in the mezzanine. However, I had a great view of the entire audience. The fans were just as entertaining as The Monkees themselves, and their excitement was palpable! Many fans remained standing throughout the entire concert, leaning on the stage, mere inches away from their favorite teen idols.
I watched as Micky Dolenz leaned down and handed the microphone to one of the fans, letting her finish a verse of "Goin’ Down" for him. Elated, she grabbed her friend in a tight embrace. I looked around and saw the audience filled with couples. Many of them, while hearing their favorite songs, would put their arms around each other and sing. One couple was even dressed as "Monkee Men"!
And then, of course, was the memory of Davy Jones and hearing his voice over the loudspeaker during the performances of both "Shades of Gray" and "Daydream Believer." There were tears from fans as they listened to his recorded vocals. As this was my first time attending a Monkees concert, I never had the pleasure of seeing Davy live in person. His voice was haunting as it rang throughout the theatre. It was almost as if Davy was simply behind the scenes and could walk on stage at any moment. During "Daydream Believer," everyone activated the flashlight features on their phones and waved them like lighters.
There were a lot of songs that got me out of my seat and cheering along with everyone else. The famous standards I was familiar with like "Last Train to Clarksville," "Daydream Believer," and "I'm a Believer," but there were two songs that stood out to me that night that I'd never heard before, and both were sung by Michael Nesmith: "You Just May Be the One" and "Tapioca Tundra," which brought tears to my eyes. Both of these songs, while seeming to highlight the relationship between The Monkees and their fans, spoke to me as well and brought to mind my friendship with The New Monkees.
I was so impressed, simply because I could relate to this type of closeness between fan and performer. Some folks were even crying, perhaps realizing that one moment in their lives was over, and now, what was next? I had those feelings, too, after I met The New Monkees, and I believe that planted the seed to start writing about them in 2013.
And speaking of The New Monkees, there was one New Monkee in the audience that night, Marty Ross. Marty and his wife Doreen had near front row seats, right in the center. He too, wanted to witness the historic moment of Nesmith's last performance with The Monkees. Marty was welcomed with open arms by fans who recognized him. All the negative publicity that The New Monkees had received over the years was not apparent at the Pantages.
Seeing The Monkees live in Los Angeles this past September was a great night for me. I loved it. The Monkees and their fans are such a neat group of people. And that is coming from a New Monkees fan! I hope all of you who were lucky enough to see The Monkees in concert this year had a great night, too!
After producing Five Easy Pieces in 1969, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the team who created The Monkees television series, took on a third partner, Stephen Blauner, changing the name of their company from Raybert Productions to BBS Productions (for Bert, Bob, and Steve). Blauner, a Columbia Pictures executive who green lighted The Monkees' TV show (even getting a name-check in one episode, as a gangster), moved on to films like The Last Picture Show; Drive, He Said; and The King Of Marvin Gardens. In the mid-1980s, Blauner produced The New Monkees under the name Straybert Productions.
Lots of talk about The New Monkees as of late, what with the Zilch podcast team interviewing Marty Ross and a retrospective piece by Fred Velez. Here are some scans of my copy of their one and only album, originally released on vinyl, cassette, and compact disc in 1987. In reality, most of the songs are good '80s pop.
For whatever reason, my scanner was not cooperating while copying the lyric booklet. You might notice a few lines of lyrics missing here and there...
Marty, Jared, Larry, and Dino have gathered together a couple of times over the last several years. Here they are singing a song from their eponymous album in 2011:
In 2006, internet radio host Dave White celebrated The Monkees' 40 Anniversary on his Talking Television show. Along with Monkees fan, writer and publisher Bill Groves, they welcomed guests Steve Blauner, former partner of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider; Monkees expert and collector Gary Strobl; and former New Monkees Marty Ross and Dino Kovas.
Fast forward to 30:40 for the formal start of the Monkees portion of the program (although there are other smaller Monkees bits before that point).
A big thanks to Bill Groves himself who tracked down the archive of this program, edited it and converted it, as well as Dave White for allowing it to be streamed here on the Live Almanac. A couple of Bill's articles from his Television Chronicles magazine are also available on the site, including a look back at the television show, an interview with Henry Diltz, and a piece on The New Monkees.
New Monkees member Marty Ross was interviewed by Bill Groves in the July 1995 issue of Television Chronicles, which also included an extensive article about the short-lived group.
For easier reading, click on each image and then click on it again.
And now for something completely different. Here's a blast from the past.
The New Monkees television series was the brainchild of Steve Blauner, a former partner of original Monkees producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. Inspired by the The Monkees' 1986 revival, auditions for the series were held at the height of the 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour. The reaction from Monkees fans (as well as Micky, Davy and Peter) along with the general public was swift and largely unflattering.
The group consisted of Jared Chandler (bass and vocals), Dino Kovas (drums and vocals), Marty Ross (guitar and vocals), and Larry Saltis (lead guitar and vocals). The series premiered in syndication in the fall of 1987 (while Micky, Davy and Peter were in the middle of their tour that year). Twenty two episodes were originally ordered, but due to low ratings, only thirteen were ultimately produced. An accompanying eponymous album also sank quickly as The New Monkees failed to make any dent in pop culture at the time. The series has not found its way to DVD and the album is long out of print.
From all accounts it appears Kovas had been a Monkees fan from the beginning. In this interview he speaks of collecting Monkees records as a kid, and moving on to the Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart LP as well as the works of The First National Band. And this YouTube video seems to show a pre-New Monkees Kovas doing his best karaoke to a sped up version of "Oh My My."
The New Monkees celebrated their 20th Anniversary in 2007 in Los Angeles, an event that sparked their first live performance. Below is the most extensive piece I've seen written about the group, and it includes a complete filmography that lists each episode along with a brief description. This article originally appeared in the July 1995 issue of Television Chronicles.
Today, the New Monkees project seems to be nothing more than a rarely discussed curio. The video below the article comes from the Live Almanac's YouTube Channel and features coverage of the auditions. A future blog post will include an interview from this same issue with Marty Ross.
(For easier reading, click on each image and then click on it again.)
Interview with Wayne Avers