Alan Williams and Al Bigley talk to Michael Nesmith about the upcoming concerts with the reconstituted First National Band in this interview on the Texas Prairie Chicken Home Companion podcast. Christian Nesmith and Circe Link join in on the fun, too. And on that note, Christian confirmed that he produced a Spanish version of "Me & Magdalena," sung by both Michael and Micky Dolenz, which currently sits in Rhino's vault. Enjoy!
Quote taken from Rolling Stone: Michael Nesmith Remembers Davy Jones
Famed actress Rose Marie, best known for her starring role in The Dick Van Dyke Show, guested on two episodes of The Monkees during its first season: "Monkees in a Ghost Town" and "Monkee Mother." She passed away today at age 94.
Rose Marie in "Monkees in a Ghost Town"
Rose Marie in "Monkee Mother"
Michael A. Ventrella is the co-author of Long Title: Looking for the Good Times; Examining the Monkees Songs, One By One. The Monkees Live Almanac would like to thank Michael for taking the time to talk about his new book, which is now available online and in book stores.
How did you first become interested in The Monkees?
When other kids wanted to be astronauts or firemen, I wanted to be a Monkee. I was around 8 when the show first appeared, and that’s a very influential time for a kid.
The TV show made me interested in music, and I dreamed of being in a band and having wacky adventures. I taught myself to play guitar and piano, and as I grew, I started various bands (playing bass). When in college, I had a band where we rented a house near campus and practiced in the basement, so that was as close to being a Monkee as I will ever be. Sadly, we never had any wacky adventures.
I later got into lots of other music (I’m a huge Beatles fan) but I never stopped loving the Monkees' music.
I was always more into the music than the TV show, though – I’m not one of those fans who has seen every episode a hundred times.
What years have you seen The Monkees in concert? Was there a particular tour that you call your favorite?
I sadly never saw them when I was younger. I saw Peter at a small club in Boston in the '80s. Micky and Davy did a free concert at the World Trade Center in the '90s (on my birthday so that was special!), and then I saw and met Micky at a Beatles convention about ten years ago. The reunion concert with Mike was wonderful because it emphasized the music, and then I saw Micky on his concert tour last year.
How did the book come about?
My co-author Mark Arnold writes about popular culture. I was interested in his work and had interviewed him for my blog a while ago. (The blog is at www.MichaelAVentrella.com.)
Mark had written a book where he went through every single Beatles song (including from various bootlegs) and gave a short personal comment about each song. I said to him, “We should write one about the Monkees!” and he agreed.
Then we paused. There already was a book like that about the Monkees – Andrew Hickey’s Monkee Music. And there was also Andrew Sandoval’s excellent Day-By-Day that had meticulous details about each song. So we decided against it.
Then I thought about it. I have half a dozen books where people go through the Beatles’ catalog and analyze their songs, so surely the Monkees could use another one.
We decided to do a book with a bit of both: We’d go through the songs and give some background information (the writer, which Monkees performed on the song, where it was first found, how well it did on the Billboard charts, interesting cover versions, etc.) as well as our personal comments about each song. A few people have complained that we didn’t give more trivia and details on every single song, but we didn’t want to copy Sandoval’s book or just cut-and-paste from Wikipedia.
By the way, Mark and I have never met – we live on opposite coasts. We did this book over Google Docs, talked about it through emails, and only spoke by phone a few weeks ago when we did a joint blog interview. Huzzah for the internet!
How does your approach differ from your co-writer’s?
Mark is more interested in the details – he likes noting where the song first was found on record and commenting on the Monkees’ history and so on. He wanted every single song listed, including the jams that only appear on the special extended version collections like Headquarters Sessions.
I come at it from a musician/songwriter angle. I insisted that the book be organized by recording dates instead of by album, because I wanted to analyze how the music progressed and changed over time. So my comments are often more about how the song was written and performed – what worked, what didn’t.
We were both determined to give our opinions and not sugar-coat anything. Some Monkees music is amazing and wonderful and deserving of every compliment we can give it, and some just sucks and should never have seen the light of day.
What kinds of things are in the book?
We had a lot of fun putting this together. We started by interviewing some prominent musicians to give their comments about the Monkees, and highlights of those interviews are included in the book. I got to interview Tommy James, Gene Cornish, Dean Friedman, and talked Howard Kaylan into writing the introduction. Mark spoke to Ron Dante, Peter Noone, Butch Patrick, and others.
Mark then wrote a short bio of the group. I wrote an essay about the music in general. Mark then compiled a list of every performance the Monkees had done as well as a list of every TV appearance (other than the original show) and we included those. We both did essays about how we became interested in the Monkees and what they mean to us which helps explain the views we later give about the songs.
I then went through every Billboard chart and made a listing of where every song and album performed on the chart week by week as well as a countdown of how well each had done.
Pop culture historian Jerry Beck (a big Monkees fan who worked on the Criterion DVD release of Head) then wrote the forward.
On our web page (https://monkees.wordpress.com), we asked for comments about the songs, and we picked a few we liked and included them in the book as well.
We then tackled the songs, one by one, giving details and our opinions. We also discuss each of the albums in turn (except the various greatest hits collections).
And the whole thing is illustrated on almost every other page with album covers, concert pictures, and more.
How did you come up with the title?
Originally, we were calling it “Long Title: Good Clean Fun; An Examination of the Monkees’ Songs, One by One” which I really liked because it flowed better. Then we discovered someone had self-published a Monkees book called “Good Clean Fun.”
So we had to come up with a new name. We almost considered “Writing Wrongs” but then we chose “Looking for the Good Times” because it references not only that particular song but also the album Good Times! as well as the songs “Good Times” and “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time)."
And, of course, “Long Title” is from Peter’s Head song “Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?” I’ve had to explain that to a few non-Monkees people who asked me why we stuck that on there.
In doing your research, did you come to appreciate a particular Monkees song more than what you might have in the past? And, on the other hand, did you realize you liked any particular song a little less after closer examination?
I listened to “When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)” with a bit more of an appreciation of how well written it is. It’s not one of their greatest, but there is a real talent behind it. I analyzed it a bit more than some of the other songs just to show how a songwriter approaches writing a song, and I hope readers can appreciate that.
I think some of the big hits became less impressive to me after listening in more detail for this book. “She” and “Mary, Mary” for instance really aren’t that good (especially compared to other Monkees hits). I think the fact that you always see these two on greatest hits collections probably says more about how often they were played on the show than anything else.
I think I started appreciating Mike’s songwriting ability more as I went through the catalog. I’m not much of a fan of his country stuff but I can’t deny it’s well-written.
A few readers have complained because they don’t like our opinions on one song or another. Well, of course -- Mark and I don’t agree on everything, so there’s no way readers will agree with us all the time! I think seeing us argue over certain songs makes the book a better read than if it had just been one person’s opinion.
Talk a little bit about the details in getting the book published. Was the publisher receptive from the start?
BearManor Media specializes in books about TV shows and old movies and such. They publish a lot of movie star bios and they’ve put out Mark’s books about Disney and Cracked magazine and cartoon studios and so on. He approached them and asked if they’d be willing to do a book about the Monkees but about their music instead of the TV show, and they were very enthusiastic, being Monkees fans. I think this is the first book they’ve done just about music.
They were wonderful, and more than patient with my many demands to make the book perfect. We went through quite a few edits and re-writes and redesigns.
And then there’s that great cover, drawn by Monkees fan and Emmy-Award winning artist Scott Shaw! He had worked with Rhino Records and had designed and drawn their Rhino mascot for years. In fact, he helped design two Monkees album covers for them!
So on his own, he decided to do a huge cover with characters from the TV show and Head and with references to the songs, too. (You can see Don Kirshner on the front cover holding up a contract while chewing bubble gum.) Part of the fun of the book for me is going through the cover and figuring out all the references. (There’s a list of them all in the back of the book if you want to cheat.)
Where can we get the book?
It’s available anywhere. You can order it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or ask your local bookseller to order it for you. However, BearManor Media usually has it at a discount, so you might try there first. It’s available in hard cover, paperback, or as an eBook.
Any plans for a sequel?
Our dream is that the Monkees do a follow-up to the excellent Good Times! album so we can do a new version!
The super deluxe edition of The Monkees' sophomore album, More Of The Monkees, is now available! Limited to 4,500 numbered copies and boasting 91 tracks (55 of them previously unreleased), including the original mono and stereo mixes, alternate takes, backing tracks, and remixes, the set also contains highlights from The Monkees' January 21, 1967 concert at Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona.
Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval, who produced the box for Rhino Records, was enthused about its release when speaking to Monkees.com last month. "This is the most exciting archival dig through The Monkees' vault since 2009's The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees deluxe edition. Every track is newly mastered for this set; the live material is the most historically significant of their career."
A special 7" vinyl single with accompanying picture sleeve, "I'm A Believer" (remix) / "(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (vocals only), is also a part of the package and is shrink-wrapped inside the box.
Below you can see the front and back cover of the expansive booklet, featuring a newly written essay by Andrew Sandoval. You can order the More Of The Monkees super deluxe edition from Monkees.com.
As you can see, I received box #788:
I would like to take a moment to extend my best wishes to everyone for a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.
In the event you haven't heard or maybe missed the email from The Monkees Webstore, the More Of The Monkees super deluxe edition is now shipping, despite a previously announced setback in the release date. Keep an eye out for a special delivery!
And as always, thank you for supporting The Monkees Live Almanac.
UPDATE 1/25/2018: This exclusive limited edition comic is now sold out.
Monkeemania: The True Story of The Monkees was authored by Glenn A. Baker, Tom Czarnota, and Peter Hogan. Published in 1986 at the height of The Monkees' 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour, many fans (like me) who discovered the group on MTV that year inevitably purchased the first edition of the book:
Baker also produced and compiled the legendary 1979 compilation Monkeemania: 40 Timeless Hits.
The third edition of Monkeemania, pictured below, was published in 1997 with alternate front and rear covers:
Michael "Jakko" Jakszyk (born Michael Lee Curran) is an English musician, record producer, and actor. He has released solo albums as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist and has been the lead singer for King Crimson since 2013. In 1986, Jakko released the single "Judy Get Down"/"This Old Man." The A-side featured an uncredited performance by Davy Jones on backing vocals. Davy was listed as "Mystery Guest Star" in the musician notes on the rear side of the single's picture sleeve. Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics collaborated with Jakko in the '80s, and he also contributed to "Judy Get Down."
I first heard this song in 1987 on a mixtape that I received from Jodi who was the co-president of the Monkees/Boyce & Hart Photo Fan Club, of which I was a member from 1986 to 1991 or so. You can see the track listing below. I thought I was swimming in riches with the material included on this tape! I recall "Judy Get Down" being a particular favorite.
Side A featured the songs from the bootleg Davy & His Band: Ninth Album, while Side B included solo material from Micky, Davy, and Peter in the '80s. I still have that tape!
"Judy Get Down" is available for download on iTunes, but the audio file above is an MP3 of the song that I received from a fellow fan some years ago. The 12" single version featured an extended mix with Davy's vocals playing a prominent role:
Best known to fans of The Monkees' TV series as "Junior Pinter" from the first season episode, "Captain Crocodile," actor Joey Baio also appeared in television shows such as The Edge of Night, The Doctors, and The Hero in the 1960s. The cousin of Scott Baio (Happy Days, Charles in Charge), he had worked with Davy Jones before The Monkees as a cast member of Oliver!, eventually taking the role of The Artful Dodger, the character that Davy played and had been nominated for a Tony Award in 1963.
In this 1989 interview with Paris Stachtiaris and John Di Maio on the Headquarters radio program, Baio discusses his early career jobs, working with Davy during his Oliver! days, appearing on The Monkees, and more.
(Note: You will hear gaps between each track while listening to this particular episode of 'Headquarters.' For reasons unbeknownst to me, I'm unable to get the "Join CD Tracks" option in iTunes to work this time around, which allows me to upload as one continuous file without gaps. This feature has always worked in past uploads. Anyone have any tips?)
The First National Band was Michael Nesmith's initial post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware. The group released three acclaimed albums between 1970 and 1971, featuring the Nesmith classics "Joanne," "Silver Moon," "Nevada Fighter," and more.
The brand new Live Almanac poll is asking fans to choose their favorite First National Band LP, so be sure to vote below or in the blog sidebar to the right. You can also click each album cover above for more information about these stellar works.
And, don't forget that Nez is bringing a 21st century version of the First National Band to the concert stage in January 2018. Happy voting!
In an email this evening, Rhino Customer Service alerted fans about the new release date for the More Of The Monkees super deluxe edition. The set was originally scheduled for December 15 but was later moved back a week, and it will now ship on December 29.
UPDATE 12/22/2017: Despite the previously announced setback in the release date, emails from The Monkees Webstore are now providing shipping notification and a tracking number for the More Of The Monkees super deluxe edition.
Ben Gibbard, lead vocalist and guitarist of Death Cab For Cutie, is a longtime Monkees fan who contributed "Me & Magdalena" to The Monkees' 2016 album, Good Times! Ben will be joining Michael Nesmith onstage as a special guest when the First National Band performs at The Chapel in San Francisco on January 28, 2018.
Ben also appeared with Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork during The Monkees' 50th Anniversary Tour when it stopped in Seattle, Washington last year.
Nez talked about teaming with Ben on Facebook:
Thanks a lot to Jennifer Winkle who submitted these photographs from The Monkees' 2014 tour stop at the Borgata Music Box in Atlantic City, New Jersey on May 23, 2014.
Between October 3 and 4, 1968, The Monkees performed three shows at the famed Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan. The photo below was originally published in Andrew Sandoval's book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation.
Here's a color photo from one of the shows at the Budokan:
An Evening With The Monkees 2020