Here's what I believe to be a fairly rare item that comes from my personal collection, and one that I've never previously seen online - a 1969 Monkees Christmas card that was sent to members of the group's fan club. The card features the signatures of Michael Nesmith, David Jones, and Micky Dolenz on the front, along with their manager at the time, Brendan Cahill. A big thanks to Monkees collector and expert Ed Reilly for confirming the details of this piece of memorabilia.
The card opens to reveal a color picture of The Monkees in holiday-themed attire while having "snow" poured on them by Ric Klein (left) and David Pearl (right), two friends of the group who also acted as stand-ins on The Monkees television series and traveled with the band while on tour. Pearl co-managed The Monkees with Brendan Cahill throughout 1969. The message reads, "Let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me."
A black and white copy of this photo appeared in the December 2000 issue of Monkee Business Fanzine.
Another picture from this Christmas-themed shoot was published in the December 27, 1969 issue of the music industry trade magazine Cash Box:
Micky, Mike, and Davy filmed a Kool-Aid commercial in February 1970 at a San Diego amusement park. Photos of Micky and Davy driving bumper cars will later appear on the back cover of Changes.
A big thanks to Jeremy Maine who shared on Facebook this article from the Sydney Morning Herald as published on September 22, 1968. Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith are interviewed, along with Monkees confidant Bill Chadwick, while the group is on tour in Australia in 1968. Thank you, Jeremy!
Monkees...and the science of noise!
Bill Chadwick, a young American who sports hippy gear and a Chico Marx hairdo, studied electronic technology at University.
Now, he says, what they taught him he has largely forgotten.
"That knowledge is pretty useless to me now," he said this week. "Mostly they taught me that what I'm doing now is impossible."
His impossible task: To make the Monkees heard in concert.
You couldn't really hear the Beatles when they were out here. Nor the Rolling Stones or even Bill Haley and the Comets. After the first two bars the audience screams would drown out the music.
But, for better or worse, you can hear the Monkees. The sound equipment pumps out about 150 per cent more power than any used in pop concerts here before.
"The other night in a concert back in the States," Bill said, "I measured the audience screams just before the Monkees went on stage.
"It was 110 decibels, scientifically recognized as being just a fraction below the threshold of pain. We amplified the Monkees over the top of that.
"At one concert recently with audience noises and the Monkees we hit 140 decibels."
He smiled contentedly and added: "You could still hear the Monkees. I wonder we didn't all go off our heads."
The Monkees normally carry about four tons of equipment with them. They imported 1455 lb on this tour and have hired more.
This scientific approach, however, does have its problems. Monkee Mike Nesmith, for instance, found last year that concert noise had destroyed the upper 10 per cent of his hearing.
"It wasn't really important," he said. "It just means I can't hear a few very high notes any more. But I don't want it to get any worse.
"We all wear ear plugs on stage now. It means we can't hear the audience, but we can hear each other. That means we play better."
The Monkee management takes the same commendably efficient approach to audience control as it does to noise. That way nobody gets hurt.
In a show of strength just before the Melbourne concerts this week 34 assorted white-coated attendants and policemen lined up in front of the stage before the Monkees went on.
And the audience was warned that anybody who left his seat would be ejected forthwith.
Vertical movement was condoned. Horizontal movement was out. It worked like a charm.
Meanwhile, back at the Pesident Motel, where the Monkees were kept more or less in a state of siege during their Melbourne stay, the Monkees talked more about the Monkees set-up.
"We're happy to let other people organize the concerts," said Mike Nesmith.
"But the one area we insist on keeping for ourselves is the actual show. We conceived the the whole thing ourselves because we think we know what the kids like."
The one thing the tour is proving is that the Monkees, individually and collectively, have talent. For years they've been plagued with rumors that they don't actually sing and play their own songs; they used stand-ins.
Well, they don't use stand-ins on stage. And they each do individual numbers which show off their talents.
Davy Jones sings a spiritual, Peter Tork performs with his banjo, Mike Nesmith does a rock 'n' roll send-up of Chuck Berry, and Micky Dolenz does a show-stopping impression of James Brown, the wildest of the soul singers.
The satire of Micky's number is largely lost on young Australian audiences who aren't yet switched on to James Brown, but it works as a performance in its own right.
Davy Jones, the one the kids scream for the most, displays the least stage talent.
Their audiences are barely pubescent, but certainly less scruffy than the usual pop crowds.
"We seem to be catering to a completely new audience," Micky Dolenz said. "They're between nine and 12 years old and they're suddently aware.
"They are often more aware than their parents because through television and things they've been exposed to so much, they know what's going on.
"But they're still too young to go to groovy clubs and things like that and they want something they can scream at.
"They scream at us."
Scream they do in Australia. Several hundred congregated outside the motel in Melbourne every day, jamming the switchboard, sending in presents, flashing mirrors and generally carrying on.
In Melbourne it was nothing compared with the Beatles debacle. But in Sydney on Friday the crowd of kids outside the Sheraton Motel was as large as one the Beatles attracted.
The Beatles, incidentally, are people the Monkees don't want to know about. They know and admire them, but they are fed up to the eye teeth of being compared to them, usually unfavourably.
"The Beatles are like gods," said Micky. "They started the whole thing. We started out simply as a television comedy team and we sort of just drifted into being a pop group which makes records and goes out on tour.
"We're simply entertainers. An act."
There is, however, rather more to the Monkees than that, and their outside activities show it.
Micky, for instance, is deeply interested in primitive societies and hopes to sneak a couple of days in the Outback so he can observe some Aboriginals.
His ultimate professional aim is to be a director of science fiction films.
Peter Tork, now sporting a nine-weeks-old beard, is involved in a complicated record venture. The record, an LP, is slowly being accumulated and he and the musicians he wants are available.
And Mike Nesmith recently wrote and produced a pop LP with 57 musicians. "It took me a couple of years to do," he said. "I'd hum all the instrument parts into a tape recorder and send them to Shorty Rogers to arrange.
"We used 14 violinists, seven of them came from symphony orchestras. One of them is regarded as the best violinist in the world and I can't even remember his name. He has to do studio work to make a living."
The record was only moderately successful.
"The trouble was that no one takes the Monkees seriously," he said bitterly.
In an August 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Peter Tork spoke about his composition "Can You Dig It," a highlight from the soundtrack of The Monkees' 1968 feature film, Head:
"This started as a set of changes I wrote in college and didn't know what to do with. Then one afternoon on the set of The Monkees we were making the TV show and I had my guitar in my dressing room. The basic lyrics came to me and these changes I had stored in the back of my brain spring forth and dictated that kind of vaguely Spanish/North African harmonic sense. I was writing about the great unknown source of all. It was perfect for the Head soundtrack."
Here's "Can You Dig It" as it appeared in Head:
Micky Dolenz sang the officially released version of the song, but Peter also recorded a vocal for it that finally saw the light of day in 1994 on Rhino's CD release of the Head soundtrack:
Peter demoed the song, without vocals, during sesssions for The Monkees' third LP, Headquarters:
"Can You Dig It" made its first live appearance in a Monkees concert during the group's 1987 summer tour with Peter handling lead vocals. Here, Peter, Micky, and Michael perform "Can You Dig It?" at the State Theatre Regional Arts Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey on November 30, 2012:
Thanks a lot to Tom B. for reminding the Live Almanac about this live footage from a stop on The Monkees' 20th Anniversary Tour!
The latest release from 7a Records, Micky Dolenz & The Metropole Orchestra: Out of Nowhere, is now available on both compact disc and as a limited edition 180 gram vinyl picture disc. 7a co-founders Iain Lee and Glenn Gretlund recently posted audio samples on SoundCloud.
On April 15, 2017, Micky performed with the American Metropole Orchestra at Rice Auditorium in Salem, Oregon, as part of the Smith Fine Arts Series. The orchestra was led by conductor Keller Coker, and he was assisted by Wayne Avers (Monkees/Dolenz musical director and guitarist). The show was recorded by 7a in order to preserve this unique performance and commemorate it with a special live album release.
And now, thanks (as always) to Ben Belmares, you can take a look at the LP version of Out of Nowhere below. Thanks, Ben!
Last evening, Micky Dolenz headlined the 18th Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square in Manhattan. Joining him onstage were Coco Dolenz, Wayne Avers, Dave Alexander, John Billings, and Rich Dart. Thanks to Fred Velez for sharing this video with the Live Almanac!
Michael Nesmith previously announced that a revamped First National Band would return to the concert stage this January, and now three more shows have been added to the itinerary. Click each poster below for more information and to purchase tickets.