The December 1997 issue of Guitar World magazine featured an extensive piece on The Monkees entitled "Monkees in the Middle." This is a rarely discussed article that I don't believe has been previously available online.
Published in the aftermath of the 1997 UK tour which saw Michael Nesmith depart the group, the article features comments from a clearly disgruntled Davy Jones, who doesn't hold back his feelings at the time about Michael, the UK tour, the Justus recording sessions and more.
A wide variety of other topics are also covered: the auditions; Raybert; Boyce & Hart; Jimi Hendrix; The Monkees and the counterculture; Frank Zappa; Head; Don Kirshner; Peter's friendships with Roger McGuinn, Cass Elliott, Stephen Stills and Jim Morrison; the television series; the group's recording career and more.
Personal thought: It seems wholly unimpressive on the author's part that he misspells Micky's name in this piece (over and over!). You'll probably note a few other small details that are off the mark as well. And his total misfire when assessing the albums Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. and Head tends to leave one's head spinning. Despite these nit-pickings, parts of the article document a seemingly tumultuous time in Monkees history in the late 1990s and is presented for that purpose.
(Click on each image and then click on it again to enlarge.)
Below is the missing part of the article that should be between
pages 208 and 209. Thanks to Maggie McManus, former editor of Monkee Business Fanzine, who contacted Guitar World back in 1997 to retrieve for fans the missing section from the magazine.
. . . counterculture chic. They just couldn't.
The Monkees' reaction to psychedelia was, typically, a mixed one. Jones, for the most part, wasn't very impressed: "I never went to Woodstock or to the Monterey Pop Festival especially. Because I thought it would be all stoned out hippies, smoking dope and free love. And I didn't want to be showing my willie in the middle of a field."
Tork was the Monkee who got the deepest into hippiedom, embracing pacifism, spirituality and other standard hippie belief systems. His early friendship with the members of the Buffalo Springfield put him in good standing with the hip Sunset Strip social scene. He was friendly with Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas (someone else he knew from the old Greenwich Village folk scene) and with Janis Joplin. "I have fond memories of jamming with [Byrds leader] Jim [Roger] McGuinn," he says, "and just hanging out with Crosby and Stills. Jim Morrison came to my house drunk as a lord one night and was leering at all the women through the kitchen window outside. 'Hey, baybee.’"
Ambivalent and internally divided as ever, the Monkees began work on their first (and only) feature film, Head, in 1968. It has since become something of a cult classic. A true curio of cinematic history, the obliquely plotted movie occupies a genre niche all its own: a queasy mixture of Sixties art film, Beatles-eque romp and "acidploitation" freak out a la Peter Fonda's The Trip. Rafelson and Schneider were at the helm once again. But their co-producer/co-writer on Head was none other than Jack Nicholson, Rafelson's friend, who was then just at the start of his stellar film career. "We all went up to Ojai [a small, arty town an hour out of L.A.] and sat around for a weekend just talking into a tape recorder for hours and hours," Dolenz recalls: "Just rapping and going off into strange places. Jack took the tapes away and out of that, basically came the movie Head, which I'm very proud of."
Head is basically the Monkees' attempt to make a heavy Sixties statement, their opportunity to delve into all the controversial themes they'd been forbidden to touch on their TV show: the Vietnam War, the vicious cycles of corporate media and capitalist society in generally--all that lovely hippie shit. The film is also laced with a self-mocking sense of humor. Although they attribute much of this vein to Rafelson's dark sensibility, Head is essentially the Monkees attempting to join the counterculture by denouncing themselves as "plastic." In what is arguably the film's best cameo, Frank Zappa leads a cow across a soundstage while advising Davy Jones to work on his singing. To this day, Jones seems to harbor a certain resentment about the scene: "That was completely Bob Rafelson--Mr. Cynic--and Bert Schneider--Mr. Whacko. They have me do this little song and dance and then, in a sense, dampen my flame by having Frank Zappa standing there saying. 'Well, that was very white, man. Mooooooo. Not very good, was it?' But Frank was okay. We had him on another program. Frank was full of the fun of the fair. He knew what it was all about. It wasn't a personal putdown. He understood what we did."
The way Tork and Dolenz remember it, The Monkees weren't snubbed by their fellow musicians. That was more of a media pursuit. Like Tork, Dolenz socialized with the hippest rock stars of the day, including the Beatles and Hendrix. "The Beatles never had a harsh word to say," Tork recalls. "Janis Joplin never bad-mouthed us. When Jimi Hendrix was asked directly about all that, he said, 'Well, Peter and Mickey are sweet guys.' The people who bad-mouthed us were people who were not sure if they had careers of their own." "And the press," adds Dolenz. "Rolling Stone still hates us, to this day."
By 1968, the Monkees were feeling the musical consequences of starting out as a fictitious garage band, rather than a real one. There was no common vision. They hadn't originally banded together out of a shared love for a particular style of music, the way most...
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