Recently I asked longtime Monkees fan Fred Velez to recall his experiences with Peter Tork in the early 1980s, a time when Peter started to reemerge on the scene after laying low throughout most of the 1970s. Fred was gracious enough to document his memories in this essay for The Monkees Live Almanac.
In the early 1980s it seemed highly unlikely that a revival of The Monkees was possible. There had been some spikes in interest during the 1970s with the solo recordings of Michael Nesmith and the joint activities of Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, both with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart and their own tour with Micky’s sister, Coco, backed by The Laughing Dogs. But as Nez moved into the blossoming music video industry, and Davy and Micky branched out on their own, The Monkees seemed to become a distant memory.
Conspicuously missing in action was Peter Tork. After his resignation from The Monkees in December 1968, Peter attempted to launch a fresh chapter of his career with a new band, Release. Peter's time with Release left almost nothing behind. "I didn't know how to stick to it," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. "I ran out of money and told the band members, 'I can't support us as a crew any more, you'll just have to find your own way.'"
His Monkees money having dried up, Peter faced financial challenges and suffered from drug abuse in the early '70s. “I gave a lot of money away to friends, on the theory that it would come back to me in the long run," Peter told People. In the subsequent years, he maintained a low profile, eventually landing a job as a teacher at Pacific Hills, a private secondary school in Santa Monica, California, where he taught English, Math, Drama, Eastern Philosophy, and "Rock Band Class" in the mid-1970s. In 1976, Peter made a surprise appearance with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart at their Disneyland show on July 4, and again a year later at the launch of Micky and Davy's appearances at the Starwood Club in Hollywood. He even contributed to a Monkees holiday single in 1976 under the helm of Chip Douglas. Peter then performed in New York City for the first time since the 1960s at the birthplace of punk rock, CBGB’s, drawing both Monkees fans and curiosity seekers. With these combined appearances it seemed like he was testing the waters in an effort to launch a full-time comeback. Fanzines like Monkee Business and the Peter Tork Fan Club meticulously kept fans up-to-date on Peter’s activities.
By late 1979/early 1980, Peter began playing gigs at small clubs, including the Speakeasy in New York’s Greenwich Village, where he began his career as a folk singer. It's at the Speakeasy that I first had the opportunity to finally see Peter live in concert. He performed a mix of folk and rock music, and sprinkled in Monkees tunes like "Take a Giant Step" and "Steppin' Stone." Peter was funny and charming and showed his chops as a musician, bouncing from guitar, piano, and banjo effortlessly. After the shows he would hang out and talk with fans, and was very friendly and engaging. As a result of these interactions at the Speakeasy I was able to get acquainted with Peter and ultimately established a friendship with him that continues to this day. I found that Peter was very humbled by the fans that supported him during the early years of his reemergence. Peter then toured with a newly formed group, Cottonmouth, including performances at New York City's Lone Star Cafe and Bottom Line. At the Lone Star show I sat in the front row of the balcony where I had a great view of Peter and the band. Peter's tenure with Cottonmouth was short-lived and I was so glad to have been able to see him during this time.
Peter also started to make appearances on public-access TV programs like The Uncle Floyd Show, a parody of 1950s/1960s children's shows. The Uncle Floyd Show developed a cult following and began featuring musical acts. Among the big names that appeared included The Ramones, Squeeze, Jan & Dean, Cyndi Lauper, and local New Jersey band Bon Jovi. I was quite the fan of the Floyd show and became friends with Floyd and the cast. One day in July 1980 I received a phone call telling me that Peter Tork would be making an appearance on Floyd’s show. Needless to say, I was dutifully parked in front of my television set on the day of the broadcast as Floyd introduced Peter, who lip-synced to the songs "Good Looker" and "Hi Hi Babe." In between numbers Floyd interviewed Peter, who was just as funny and charming as he was on The Monkees TV series. During their discussion, Peter mentioned that The Monkees would be appearing together at the  Emmy Awards to present an award. Sadly, this reunion never took place. The book, The Monkees: A Manufactured Image, notes that the Emmys appearance was nixed when The Monkees decided to honor an ongoing actors' union strike that resulted in an wide-scale boycott of the ceremony. Peter’s first appearance on The Uncle Floyd Show, however, was so well-received that he returned several more times.
When Peter was scheduled to make his second guest spot, I got another phone call from one of the Floyd cast members informing me that Peter was returning while also asking if I would like to come to the studio in-person. Without hesitation I said 'Yes!' and with my friend and fellow Floyd fan, Derek Tague, showed up at the West Orange, New Jersey studios. The 1980 Monkees Convention, organized by Monkee Business Fanzine editor Maggie McManus, had taken place in Trenton, New Jersey just about a month previous, and I was wearing the convention T-shirt. I brought along a couple of things from my collection, including a Monkees talking hand puppet and the Monkeemania 2-LP vinyl album from Australia, which was brand new product at the time. Peter performed his first song, and then Floyd brought me on camera to say hello to Peter! I was very nervous but managed to get through the appearance as Peter commented and joked about the memorabilia I was holding. After the taping, Peter graciously posed for pictures outside the studios with Floyd and cast members of the show (as seen above). My friend, Derek, who was behind the camera, caught one of me and Peter laughing and sharing a fun moment together.
Peter went on to make even more appearances on Uncle Floyd. During one guest stint he premiered his very first solo single, recorded with his latest band the New Monks, a tongue-in-cheek reference to his old group. The single featured Peter’s versions of "Steppin' Stone" and "Higher and Higher." In August 1981, Peter toured with the New Monks in Japan, which was going through its own resurgence of Monkeemania that would carry over to America several years later. One of the concerts was broadcast on Japanese television. Peter and the band were greeted by screaming fans, echoing the wild days when The Monkees toured there in 1968. Around this time, Peter and The New Monks also performed at the Rockages Convention in New York City, a show I was fortunate enough to attend. I was able to shoot some Super 8mm film of the concert (seen below starting at 9:25), capturing the band as they performed "Werewolves of London," "Don’t Be Cruel," and "Higher and Higher." Afterwards I visited with Peter and the New Monks backstage, and told Peter how much I enjoyed the show. The New Monks lasted until March 1982 before disbanding. A short while later in July, Peter was the focus of a comedy sketch on Late Night With David Letterman.
In the summer of 1983 Peter would hit the road with a new band, The Peter Tork Project. Among the members was the late Jerry Renino, who would later play bass with The Monkees in the late '80s into the early '00s, while also backing Davy Jones in Breakaway, of which future Monkees guitarist Wayne Avers was also a member. The Project played several shows that I caught in New York City, including Irving Plaza, and a return visit to the Bottom Line. The gig at the Bottom Line was particularly memorable as it was followed by a screening of The Monkees’ movie Head, with Peter sitting in the audience watching the film.
The Peter Tork Project's sound featured a more aggressive approach than what I had been used to at previous Tork concerts, and it suited songs like "Steppin’ Stone," with their version almost resembling the Sex Pistols' cover. Another highlight of the Project's set was "Vagabond John," a cautionary song about a friend's abuse of drugs, which became a favorite of mine whenever Peter performed it. Someone took a very bad, shaky picture of me and Peter together, but it's the only one of us at the Bottom Line.
In the winter of 1983 I saw Peter and The Project once again at a club on a very cold night in Staten Island. MTV was becoming popular around this time and the club had a big screen that showed music videos (one that stood out was "Undercover of the Night" by The Rolling Stones). Peter and the band took the stage and blasted through a high-powered set which included their blistering version of "Steppin' Stone." After the show I went to see Peter as he chatted with folks backstage. The bouncer kept us at a distance, but Peter spied us and excused himself to say 'thanks' for braving the night freeze. Unable to secure a recording deal, The Peter Tork Project dissolved in February 1984. Shortly after, Peter spoke about The Monkees in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
I would see Peter several more times during the mid-'80s in group and solo shows, many times at his favorite haunt, New York City's Speakeasy. By 1986 with Monkees reruns being aired on MTV, the buzz surrounding The Monkees' 20th Anniversary Tour was at a fever pitch. During the lead-up to the '86 reunion tour, Peter made yet another appearance at the Speakeasy. Unlike previous outings when the audience was more subdued, the vibe was much different as the club was electrified with excitement. When Peter took the stage, the Speakeasy exploded with screams and Peter was momentarily taken aback and remarked, "Wow, you guys must have been watching MTV!," which elicited even more wild shouts. The reaction to this particular Speakeasy show in contrast to Peter's early '80s appearances at the club was like night and day. While I was very happy for Peter’s current success, I couldn’t help but miss the more intimate Speakeasy performances of yesteryear.
Seeing Peter Tork in the early 1980s prior to the Monkees reunions that followed was a very special time for me and a select group of fans like Maggie McManus, Jerry Beck, Helen Pantuso (who later spearheaded a campaign for The Monkees' star on Hollywood Boulevard), and a few others. We were part of a little club that Peter would point out and acknowledge from the stage and take the time to meet with us after each show. It was a memorable era which I will always cherish. Nowadays when I see Peter, it's nice to smile and reminisce about the 'old times.'
Fred Velez is the author of the book A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective. A previous essay, '1975/77 – The Early Monkees Reunion Years,' was published on The Monkees Live Almanac in 2016.
This is the twelfth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary in 2016.
Aged ten living in the suburbs of London I was aware of The Beatles’ music from listening to the radio but was too young to connect with their personalities. Television was the favored medium for the creation and exposure of teen idols and for several years I shared my dedication to David McCallum from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with my best friend.
When the Monkees show first aired on British television at the end of 1966, I was thirteen, but the youngest in my class and my schoolmates had already moved on from pop music to folk rock and bands like Fairport Convention. My best friend preferred Elvis and like many others thought The Monkees were a phony group. I soon learned to keep quiet about this new interest.
As I watched The Monkees with my younger sister I realized that this was something different from anything that the BBC had produced for children. Was there a script? Some dialogue seemed improvised. "Breaking the fourth wall" (not that I knew the term at the time) was done but with a light touch and not too often.
And then there were the interviews at the end of some of the shows giving more insight into their personalities. The pace and energy of each episode was infections, thanks to clever editing and tricks. The lack of both excessive sentimentality and cynicism. The silly plots but the occasional episode that was so good that we could not wait for the next one. Perhaps unusually, I never had a favorite Monkee. I was just intent on watching all of them.
By the time the show came to an end I was in my O-level year. A diary entry records that Davy Jones appeared on a chat show called Dee Time in June 1968 and talked a little about their film, Head, and said, without a reason, that there would be no more TV shows. Apparently he came across as unaffected and sincere, but upbeat, and I don't think I was too concerned about The Monkees' television series coming to an end. However, if British fans did not subscribe to the fan magazine Monkees Monthly, they didn't get much information about the group’s activities after 1967. The trade papers such as Disc and Record Mirror, which had been full of articles about the group for the last year, were no longer interested in The Monkees as presumably they were no longer good for sales.
Oddly enough, I don't remember The Monkees receiving too much coverage in Britain. I recall that their singles were not played on radio as much as would be expected. Even then they were not hip enough for the pirate radio stations, and BBC Radio One, the main pop music station, did not seem to like them. At least that is my recollection.
I had started to build up a small record collection beginning with the first Monkees LP which cost 38s 6d, about £2 today, but quite a lot of pocket money at the time. My dad had some 78 records and an old gramophone but this was soon replaced by a basic record player. He was quite musical and played the banjo ukele and sang in the church choir. My brother was the only one to inherit musical ability, unfortunately.
I missed The Monkees' next two albums and the Wembley concerts passed me by, which was possibly a good thing as my parents would not have allowed me to go alone. My interest in the music increased with the release of the single "Randy Scouse Git" (or "Alternate Title," as it was called in Britain), which I thought was extraordinary (and still do). I listened to other groups as well and even at the time realized how lucky we were that year with the quantity and quality of music from both Britain and America. That is how I remember the Summer of Love.
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. came out in the winter of 1967 and I played it as often as possible. I couldn't believe that no one else seemed to appreciate these songs with their interesting lyrics that were not just about love, and were even a bit rebellious, in a safe way. Luckily for my parents’ sanity, real life intervened and for the next eight years A-levels and University took over, but I kept alert for news on The Monkees.
As mentioned previously, the trade papers eventually stopped covering the group, but after 1968 this may have been partly due to lack of news as the publicity machine in America had ground to a halt after Head and Peter's subsequent departure. I didn't know anything about the 1969 concerts and television appearances in America until much later. Latter albums like The Monkees Present and Changes were not released in the UK. Sitcoms such as The Partridge Family seemingly replaced The Monkees in the USA, and other teen idols such as David Cassidy and Donny Osmond replaced our four boys who were by now older and starting to feel the effects of the previous few years. I did hold on to the feeling that something good must come from all that promise and something did, which was as accessible to British fans as those in the USA.
Many in the music industry had flagged Michael Nesmith as the most musically talented member of The Monkees. In 1970 he released the first of three albums which led some Monkees fans, including myself, in a new direction into a long-lasting interest in country music, and specifically what became country rock. The British press were quite complimentary about the Nesmith solo albums, and his live performances in Britain in 1974 and 1975 were well attended. I was in my last year at University in 1975 studying Veterinary Science. Needless to say I kept my trip to Theatre Royal, Drury Lane a secret as there seemed no interest in alternative country music among my friends.
The concert was a slightly strange experience for me as I was not familiar with The Prison, and apparently the band was made-up of British musicians. Michael seemed more relaxed in the second half which he performed solo. What impressed me as much as the music was the telling of the story of The Prison which showed Michael’s skill as a great storyteller.
The latter Nesmith solo albums were all acquired but the blue, red, and white trilogy have pride of place and even on release their quality was realized by some music journalists.
In the 1970s, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were busy with various live performances, mainly in America, but there must have been something in the press to alert fans to their appearance in Harry Nilsson’s The Point at the Mermaid Theatre in London in December 1977. A part was written for Micky at Davy’s insistence. Davy played the main character, Oblio, and the mixture of song and dance with special effects and a bit of ad-libbing from Micky (when a stage hand dropped something backstage, Micky said, "There are people trying to sleep out here!") was ingenious. The show was successful and the run was extended.
After performances of The Point, Davy and Micky came out to meet fans who had waited around in hope of an autograph. Things were not too happy for them personally towards the end of the run of The Point but there was no obvious sign of that when they came out to sign books and album covers. Head had just received its first showing in the UK and Davy explained that while it was not the movie he would have chosen to make, it was being shown to college students during lessons in filmmaking techniques. He also said that Michael and Micky had contributed to the script, and that his immediate plan was to go back to performing cabaret-type shows. I was impressed by how polite and straightforward he seemed.
Micky stayed in England for a number of years and after directing a short drama titled Story Without a Hero for the BBC, he produced and directed numerous other shows including Metal Mickey, Luna, and From the Top. Later, in 1982, Micky (now known as Michael Dolenz) wrote and directed the stage version of Bugsy Malone which featured a young Catherine Zeta-Jones, premiering in front of the Queen Mother at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
And then, in early 1997, the brand new Monkees album Justus arrived in the UK. This release surprised both fans and music critics and there was a mixed response from both, but I loved this album from the first listen and still believe it to be their best. From the opening track, the revised "Circle Sky," to the finale "It's Not Too Late," here were four individuals who were able and willing to bring their life experiences together and perform at the top of their game.
The "Justus" tour of the UK in March 1997 seemed more bumpy as it was marred by some "mean spirited," to use Michael’s words, press coverage and by the seemingly underlying tension within the group during this run of shows. All of these things didn't effect our response to The Monkees' performances and certainly the twice sold-out Wembley concerts were deemed very successful. Unfortunately I had read the Evening Standard review first in which the previous show was compared to a train or car crash with the audience watching in disbelief. While I disagreed wholeheartedly with their assessment after seeing the show for myself, I think one problem might have been due to the large venues they played while in the UK. The Monkees seemed distant and they stood apart from each other on the stage with little interaction between them. The large video screens inside the arenas did help, though, and everyone was able to get a close-up look at the group at some point.
The first act with just The Monkees playing was effective and the songs from Justus were not out of place. The highlight for many was "Listen to the Band" that segued into "Porpoise Song" and then back again. These performances later became historical as British fans were lucky to see all four together live in concert for what turned out to be the final time in the group's history. This was The Monkees as a rock band and while they succeeded in this endeavor, the performance was just a touch too intense.
In 1998 the ABC Special and the Disney documentary were finally shown on UK television. By now the individual Monkees were mainly working in the USA after touring there as a trio (sans Michael) in 1997.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s the British fan clubs kept fans up to date with Monkees news and releases in the UK. Band 6, which had expanded its membership after the 1997 UK tour, organized annual conventions where like-minded Monkees enthusiasts could gather to watch videos and listen to tribute bands.
In 2001, a British Monkees tour was announced for October, but Michael was not going to be taking part this time around. The attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11 understandably resulted in these shows being postponed until March 2002. By that time, Peter had left the tour so we were treated to Davy and Micky at Wembley. The duo turned in an energetic and good-humored concert with more interaction than in 1997. The London Times reviewed the Wembley show:
"The group billed as The Monkees now contains only two original members...What Wembley got was singer Davy Jones, looking as boyish as any graying fifty-something in black leather strides has a right to, and Micky Dolenz, drummer/singer - similarly trousered. Accompanying them was a highly efficient eight-piece band...The Monkees possess some of the most innocently thrilling tunes in pop."
In 2003 Band 6 ceased production, though they continued to have an online presence.
The UK concerts in 2011 were a pleasant and unexpected surprise, especially as I had younger relatives who were quite interested in going as they had watched the reruns of The Monkees' television series. As we walked across Hyde Park to the Albert Hall in the evening sun the sight of the Monkeemobile was slightly surreal. Media coverage of the tour had been much more sympathetic than in 1997. In fact, some television interviewers "came out" as old fans of the group and seemed almost overwhelmed by meeting them in person!
The Albert Hall has a warmer ambiance than Wembley with better acoustics, and there was a more relaxed feel to the performance. The excellent visuals on the big screen behind them complimented the music and while both Micky and Peter did play throughout the show, they were supported by a great band. This was the concert in which the Head soundtrack featured heavily, and it seemed to work nicely in this context. The audience was very enthusiastic and were even familiar with the more obscure songs. Davy seemed full of energy; no one could have believed that this was the last time we would see him perform in England. I did think, however, that this might be my last ever Monkees’ concert.
And then, on February 29, 2012, came the news through the internet and national television that Davy Jones had died suddenly of a heart attack just after riding his beloved Gray Arabian horse. British fans were able to share their grief through websites and by the kindness of people filming the memorial concert given in New York City by friends and family.
Now that we had lost the sole British member of the group it looked as though the 50th Anniversary in 2016 would not be something that British fans would be celebrating. It seemed unlikely that there would be any further activities by the group. We should have known better! Thanks once again to American fans posting clips on YouTube, and of course to websites like The Monkees Live Almanac, we were able to follow the events of the next four years starting with the 45th Anniversary of Headquarters and a new round of concerts with Micky, Peter, and Michael. At last they had a manager in Andrew Sandoval who appeared to have both their interests and those of the fans at heart. It was also great to see members of The Monkees' families in the recording of Good Times! and at the shows.
In 2015 Peter and Micky came to the UK for two concerts in the autumn which included one at the Mosely Folk Festival. I was hoping for Glastonbury in 2016 as I was not able to attend any of the shows in 2015. That was not to be but 2016 seemed to be an almost perfect conclusion (?) to The Monkees' story, perhaps encapsulated by watching video of Michael's final bow at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood last September.
And here we are in 2017. If any of The Monkees should visit the UK as individuals or as a group, we will be ready to support them. But for now, thanks to everyone involved in making 2016 such a worthy 50th Anniversary of "our" group, to their families, and finally to Micky, Michael, Peter, and Davy for allowing us to share part of the last 50 years with you.
This is the eleventh in a series of guest articles (and in this instance, a podcast) that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
Earlier this year, the host of the Where's That Sound Coming From? podcast, Brian Marchese, contacted me after I had solicited contributions from guest authors to celebrate The Monkees' 50th Anniversary. Brian was knocking around a few ideas, and after several starts and re-starts, he settled on a podcast presentation that proposes an "alternate" history of The Monkees, largely centered around the group's fifth LP, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. Here's Brian's description of the podcast:
Truth is at least as strange as fiction. Fact intertwines with my flights of fancy in this episode. At its core is an analysis of the fifth album The Monkees SHOULD have released. I was asked to contribute something to the excellent blog, Monkees Live Almanac, back in May of this year to help celebrate the band's 50th Anniversary. I thought about it intermittently for two months, wrote it sporadically over the course of the next two months, and recorded/produced it in fits and starts over the last two months. And here it is.
Monkees fans are really going to enjoy this podcast, and the Live Almanac would like to say a big thank you to Brian for all of his hard work and dedication in presenting this project!
Be sure to visit the Where's That Sound Coming From? podcast on Facebook, too!
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!
This is the ninth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
I first began to watch The Monkees when the show went into syndication in the fall of 1969. Earlier that year, my father brought home The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees album to me and my brother. I remember viewing 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee on NBC and then shortly thereafter reading in both 16 and Tiger Beat that Peter Tork had left the group. We (my brother especially, being born five years before me) were aware of The Monkees, but early 1969 was when we really "tuned in" to the whole phenomenon. Believe it or not, Instant Replay was the second Monkees LP that we had in our collection, even before owning the first four.
Talk about a bumpy ride into Monkees fandom! Peter quits, The Monkees Present is released, and then very shortly after that, Michael Nesmith makes his exit. Changes arrived in the summer of 1970, followed by The First National Band and Davy’s solo album for Bell Records. What a year and a half! Somewhere in our collection, we have the 1969 fan club postcard with the black and white photo of Davy, Micky, and Mike that was sent to us sometime in 1970. But with the arrival of Davy’s album, even as kids, we knew it was all over. In short order, it was taboo to even mention The Monkees. After 1973, I began to think that I had to hide my adoration for The Monkees.
Neither my brother or I were "fan fiction" writers, but all the way through the mid-1970’s, we would frequently script what a Monkees reunion show might look like. It was all such an unbelievable, far away dream. Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart was a close call, but ultimately missed the mark. We held on with Nesmith’s wonderful albums through all of those years, telling anybody we could about his music and accomplishments. Still, there were no Monkees-related concerts to speak of, not in our area anyway. Outside of reading about some shows Davy and Micky performed following the breakup of DJB&H, it was all becoming even more out of reach. Michael wasn't really performing domestically on a wide scale. And in those days before the internet, as far as we knew, Peter had walked off the face of the planet in 1969.
Little by little, the world at large seemed to come around to my ever present interest in The Monkees. In 1980 there were a few retail outlets in our area that made a concerted effort to carry Monkees albums that had just been pressed in Japan. This was an exciting time, especially if your copy of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. had a few miles on it. By 1982, Rhino Records and Arista Records were producing Monkees compilation albums. And in 1985, Rhino undertook a domestic reissue program of the entire Monkees catalog. This included the latter-day Monkees albums, which were hard enough to find upon their initial release! The chances of tracking down these particular LPs used, in good condition, and at a fair price, was next to impossible during the early '80s.
Looking back now, 1985 was the year when everything began to change for Monkees fans. Their records started to appear in the shops again, and that in and of itself was a remarkable event. Once 1986 rolled around, well, we all know how that story goes. Unbeknownst to many fans (again, pre-internet), Davy Jones and Peter Tork toured Australia early in the year, receiving a rapturous welcome from the fans Down Under. And on February 23, 1986, MTV aired a Monkees Marathon known as "Pleasant Valley Sunday," which got the entertainment industry buzzing about them again. Reunion rumors were rampant, but there was nothing official. Confirmation didn’t come for me personally until a friend of mine in Ohio sent me an ad from her local newspaper advertising The Monkees' appearance there at an outdoor arena in the summer of '86. I flipped! But a Monkees reunion still seemed to be an impossibility. Was it really going to happen?
And then, suddenly, the tour was on!! When official word came down, I wasn’t surprised so much by the absence of Michael Nesmith, but more by the inclusion of Peter Tork. It had been a guessing game as to Peter's whereabouts in the '70s and early '80s. Accounts of his activities since the heyday of The Monkees were scarce and didn’t really offer much information other than he’d been a teacher and played in several esoteric groups. The 20th Anniversary reunion of 1986, and all the media publicity that surrounded it, happily allowed me and many other fans to get reacquainted with Peter.
The rest of 1986 went by in a heavenly flash. Even my brother and I couldn’t have scripted a more perfect reunion. And then finally it came. The night of Monday, July 14, 1986. It was my turn to finally see The Monkees in concert – a night I’d been waiting to happen for 18 years!! I was truly beside myself, still thinking it might all be a dream.
The anxiety of the evening was prolonged by the opening acts. One thing I noticed almost immediately is just how much I liked Herman’s Hermits without Peter Noone. Singer Geoff Foot was entertaining, and a great bassist to boot. Original members Derek Leckenby and Barry Whitwam were competent musicians and fun to watch.
The Grass Roots was another matter. Frontman Rob Grill seemed to be painfully aware that most people, if not everybody, were only there to see The Monkees.
And then it was time. The word was spreading around the Finger Lakes Center in Lake Canandaigua, New York that this show had broken the venue’s attendance record which had been set by Eric Clapton the previous year. With one "big voice" announcement over the speakers, and a flash and a boom – out came Davy, Micky, and Peter, along with an eight-piece band! Needless to say, the show was more than worth the long wait.
It was at my first Monkees concert that I learned a lot about Peter Tork. When he was a member of The Monkees, he was often absent as a lead singer on the actual records. The showmanship of Davy and Micky could never be in question, as they had been performers since their pre-teens. Peter, to my delight, was no less of a showcase during the 1986 reunion shows. He proved his worth as a "utility" musician, switching back and forth between guitar, bass, and keyboards with effortless grace. And his comedic antics kept right up with Davy and Micky. I left my first Monkees concert with a newfound respect for Peter.
So that’s what it was, and what it became. The realization of a boyhood dream, which still goes on today.
Guest Author Daniel Eckert: "'The Monkees Present' is the most personal, flawed, and honest album The Monkees made"
This is the eighth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
Daniel is a Monkees fan in his early 20s and was introduced to the band by his dad when he was in elementary school. Much to his father's surprise, Daniel became an avid Monkees follower and collector. "I would love to write a piece about my favorite Monkees album, The Monkees Present, and elaborate on what that album means to me," Daniel said in an email to The Monkees Live Almanac. "I have always found it to be the most personal, flawed, and honest album The Monkees made."
By the end of 1969 The Monkees were almost finished. A prolonged stint of television guest appearances, middling singles, and a troubled North American tour could not restore the group to their previous heights, nor could it save their career as an entertainment unit. Despite the challenges the year provided, Monkees fans were gifted one last great recording.
The Monkees Present should not be as good as it really is, being released in October 1969 just months before Michael Nesmith departed the group. Its ad hoc approach during a period that included occasional infighting within the trio, and after months of commercial disappointments, it would be easy to assume that the results led to a disastrous swan-song. Regarded highly by many Monkees fans, the countrified, stripped down, and punkish album shows a group that was still convinced they could deliver a quality listening experience and carve a niche for themselves within the adult contemporary market. The Monkees Present flows with more certainty than its predecessor (Instant Replay) takes more musical chances than any of their recorded output since Head, and is perhaps their most honest album since Headquarters. And it's also an album that offers a glimpse into what could have been had The Monkees remained a three-piece group into 1970.
To me, The Monkees Present represents the marvels and the missteps that are nearly synonymous with the Monkees brand. The release of the 3-disc deluxe version of the album in 2013 only highlights what many already realized from historical context: Present is good, but it could have been great. In true Monkees fashion excellent songs were sidelined for safe affairs that studio executives were certain would sell more to the kiddies. For example, the roaring "Steam Engine" becomes a victim of finance, and the beautiful "How Can I Tell You" is held back in favor of the groan-inducing 1966 leftover "Ladies Aid Society." What is a Monkees fan to do?
On the other hand, The Monkees Present delivers some of the group's finest. Nesmith's "Listen to the Band" is one of The Monkees' signature sonic moments. "Looking for the Good Times" imparts a Headquarters-esque harmony between Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz that to this day remains a pleasure to hear. "Mommy & Daddy" (in both versions) is a daring and relevant example of the maturation members of The Monkees were experiencing, this particular track having been written, produced, and delivered with confidence by Dolenz. Imagine for a moment if The Monkees would have produced another album in this vein. We can fast forward a bit and see that Michael's second single as a solo artist was the Billboard Hot 100 hit "Joanne." Davy's initial post-Monkees production, "Rainy Jane," experienced success at AM radio. And Micky offered (despite being ignored by the record buying public) a double-sided punch with both "Easy on You" and "Oh Someone." Don't forget the recordings by Nesmith and the First National Band, and clearly an argument could be made that worthy, high quality material was yet to come. A chart-topping hit in 1969 would have restored The Monkees' commercial fortunes and allowed them to leap into the next chapter of their career.
But another Monkees album would not follow Present, and the group would soon dissolve. 1970's Changes would be a Monkees album in name only, and shortly thereafter the curtain dropped as Micky and Davy parted ways in 1971. Despite the complicated history, the music of The Monkees endures all these years later. And The Monkees Present sounds better with every listen. Granted, it doesn't quite reach its potential and in spots is marred by poor song selections. But isn't that The Monkees in a nutshell? And isn’t it precisely The Monkees' tragic flaws that keep us diehard fans returning year after year? How many of us have made playlists for fantasy Monkees albums, dropping cuts like "Ladies Aid Society" for something like "Someday Man"? How many of us will fiercely debate how good a Monkees album could have been, or actually is, depending on our circumstances and musical tastes? The Monkees Present was my first brush with "adult sounds" from The Monkees, and it is the album I play more frequently than any other to this day. When my friends want to know what The Monkees are about, Present graces my turntable and I watch their mouths, slightly agape, as the banjo tears through "Good Clean Fun."
This is the seventh in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
When the Missing Links albums appeared in the late 1980s and 1990s, showcasing songs The Monkees recorded during their original incarnation but were never issued, it baffled me how many great tracks were left in the Monkee vaults in the 1960s. And although we've now heard all of those songs thanks to subsequent archival releases through the years, I was still inspired to take another look at the 1969-1971 era of The Monkees' recorded history and put my own spin on it.
Having been pleased with Instant Replay (the first post-Peter Tork Monkees album), I constructed a new version of The Monkees Present (the second LP issued after Peter's departure) in Part 1 of this series. In doing so, I created a track listing that combined songs which appeared on the album in its original form in 1969, but then substituted some of what I considered to be weaker tracks with those that were available at the time, but remained unreleased. With a revamped Present LP now complete, I proceeded to tackle Changes in Part 2 of this series.
And now, I will submit the third and final edition of this "fantasy album" examination. Perhaps it is the most unique of the bunch because the album profiled below never actually existed. Let me explain.
By all accounts Davy Jones strongly disliked the experience of recording the real Changes LP in New York City in early 1970, and was critical of its producer, Jeff Barry. "That was not an album," Davy said about Changes to Andrew Sandoval in 1994. "It was just Jeff Barry and Andy Kim doing an Andy Kim album. Andy Kim couldn't get it sold, so they took his voice off it, and they put us on it. That's how that came about. That was such a con. That was a way of keeping Micky Dolenz and me out of the studio so they could sell Partridge Family albums. I have very bad memories about that trip to New York." Micky expressed a different point of view to Sandoval. "By that time it was pretty obvious that The Monkees were over. Davy and I were still getting along, but we were mainly fulfilling a contractual obligation to the record company – that's what Changes is all about. I was quite happy to do it as long as somebody wanted to record me."
Before the end of 1970, Micky and Davy conducted one more recording session in September with Jeff Barry. The bubblegum-esque single "Do It In The Name of Love" (backed with "Lady Jane") would be credited to Dolenz & Jones and not to The Monkees. Issued in April 1971 on Bell Records (which had absorbed Colgems, The Monkees' now defunct record label), the single failed to make a dent in the charts.
So, in keeping with my fantasy Changes LP and its track list, what if Barry used both sides of the one-off Dolenz/Jones '71 single, picked through "leftovers" from the Changes sessions, utilized his unfinished Davy Jones productions recorded pre-Headquarters, and turned it into the last original Monkees album sometime in 1971? Throw in a couple of Boyce & Hart goodies and boom! I call this LP Do It In The Name Of Love. It's mostly pure Scooby Doo bubblegum (but I'm not saying that's a bad thing). And here goes:
Side 1: Do It In The Name Of Love
1. Do It In The Name Of Love
(Written by Bobby Bloom & Neil Goldberg / Produced by Jeff Barry)
2. It's Got To Be Love
(Written by Neil Goldberg / Produced by Jeff Barry)
3. You Can't Tie a Mustang Down
(Written and Produced by Jeff Barry)
4. Acapulco Sun
(Written by Steven Soles & Ned Albright / Produced by Jeff Barry)
5. 99 Pounds
(Written and Produced by Jeff Barry)
6. Shake 'Em Up
(Written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller / Produced by Lester Sill)
In the same vein of my fantasy albums presented in this series, Michelle_66 created her very own picture sleeve for "Do It In The Name Of Love" (since it was not issued with a picture sleeve in the United States upon its release in 1971).
Side 2: Do It In The Name Of Love
7. Lady Jane
(Written by Bobby Bloom & Neil Goldberg / Produced by Jeff Barry)
8. Love To Love
(Written by Neil Diamond / Produced by Jeff Barry)
9. Ticket On A Ferry Ride
(Written by Jeff Barry & Bobby Bloom / Produced by Jeff Barry)
10. Looking For The Good Times
(Written and Produced by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart)
11. All Alone in the Dark
(Written by Steven Soles & Ned Albright / Produced by Jeff Barry)
12. Storybook of You
(Written and Produced by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart)
This is the sixth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
In Part 1 of this series, I constructed a new version of The Monkees Present, the second LP released after the departure of Peter Tork. In doing so, I created a track listing that combined songs which appeared on the album in its original form in 1969, but then substituted some of what I considered to be weaker tracks with those that were available at the time, but remained unreleased.
When the Missing Links albums appeared in the late 1980s and 1990s, showcasing songs The Monkees recorded during their original incarnation but were never issued, it baffled me how many great tracks were left in the Monkee vaults in the 1960s. And although we've now heard all of those songs thanks to subsequent archival releases through the years, I was still inspired to take another look at the 1969-1971 era of The Monkees' recorded history and put my own spin on it. Having been pleased with Instant Replay, (the first post-Tork Monkees album), and with a revamped Present LP now complete, next up is Changes, released by Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones in 1970. The sessions for Changes also marked the return of Jeff Barry, the producer of "I'm a Believer" and most of More of the Monkees.
When reimagining Changes today, let's say Michael Nesmith decided to soldier on as a Monkees instead of leaving the group as he did in early 1970. Let's also allow the songwriting partnership between Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick to play out, too. (Their songs "If I Knew" and "French Song" appeared on The Monkees Present, and "You and I" on Instant Replay.) Unlike my version of The Monkees Present, the newly retooled Changes is meant to be more rollicking and less serious.
Perhaps this mock cover of Changes with Nez included (created by Michelle_66 in her series of Alternate Reality Monkees albums) will help you get ready for a fresh look at an old album.
Side 1: Changes (Reimagined)
1. Oh My My
(Written by Jeff Barry & Andy Kim / Produced by Jeff Barry)
2. You're So Good To Me
(Written by Jeff Barry & Bobby Bloom / Produced by Jeff Barry)
3. Little Red Rider
(Written & Produced by Michael Nesmith)
4. If You Have the Time
(Written & Produced by Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick)
5. Down the Highway
(Written by Carole King & Toni Stern / Produced by Michael Nesmith)
("Down the Highway" was mislabeled upon its release on Missing Links Volume 2 in 1990 as "Michigan Blackhawk.")
6. Tell Me Love
(Written & Produced by Jeff Barry)
In the same vein of my fantasy track listings, Michelle_66 created her very own picture sleeve for "Oh My My" (the first and only single from Changes), with Nez still a part of the group at that time:
Side 2: Changes (Reimagined)
7. I Love You Better
(Written by Jeff Barry & Andy Kim / Produced by Jeff Barry)
8. Do You Feel It Too?
(Written by Jeff Barry & Andy Kim / Produced by Jeff Barry)
9. Good Clean Fun
(Written & Produced by Michael Nesmith)
10. Midnight Train
(Written & Produced by Micky Dolenz)
11. Oklahoma Backroom Dancer
(Written by Michael Martin Murphey / Produced by Michael Nesmith)
12. Time and Time Again
(Written & Produced by Davy Jones and Bill Chadwick)
Stay tuned for Part 3 which imagines an album that never existed: a final Jeff Barry-produced Monkees LP featuring Dolenz & Jones that was released in 1971.
This is the fifth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
Like many, my Monkees obsession began with the group's revival in 1986 during their 20th Anniversary. On my 13th birthday, I watched the MTV marathon and was immediately hooked. I began grabbing everything I could find of The Monkees' recorded work. My first purchase came in March 1986 when I picked up the Arista Greatest Hits (the hasty reissue of Refocus from the '70s), quickly followed by a Spanish version of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. on LP, causing my father to nearly evict me when I paid $30 for it at a flea market!
What puzzled me most as a teenager in the '80s was the fact that Peter, and later Mike, weren't involved in certain albums, until I discovered more information after reading The Monkees Tale by Eric Lefcowitz. I loved Instant Replay but found The Monkees Present to be a bit dismal. Changes was fun, but a few tracks drove me nuts, particularly "I Never Thought It Peculiar." And thus, my inspiration for this article.
As I grew older and the Missing Links series was released, it baffled me how many great songs were left in the Monkee vaults in the 1960s. Despite this sort of exercise having been attempted countless times before by other fans like me, I have created three "fantasy" albums of The Monkees' recorded work between 1969 and 1971.
Let's start with The Monkees Present, my least favorite album in its original format.
You can check out the LP's track listing as issued in October 1969 below:
Today I envision it as a more sophisticated collection featuring the following line-up:
Side 1: The Monkees Present (Reimagined)
1. Someday Man
A fantastic song co-written by Paul Williams, it should have become the second "Daydream Believer."
2. If I Ever Get To Saginaw Again
Nez does Glen Campbell! This song was intended for single release at one point but was shelved, perhaps because of its subject matter of unwed pregnancy.
3. Steam Engine
Famous for its ultra expensive production by its author and producer, Chip Douglas, this brassy-bluesy number also features Red Rhodes on pedal steel. Micky Dolenz at his wailing best!
4. If I Knew
A gorgeous Davy Jones ballad, it was co-written with Bill Chadwick.
5. Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye
A unique Dolenz original (co-written with his longtime friend and stand-in Ric Klein), it also featured Davy on backing vocals.
6. Nine Times Blue
Advertised by Micky during an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show as a song "off our new album," the inclusion of this Nesmith classic on The Monkees Present would have made that statement true.
Side 2: The Monkees Present (Reimagined)
7. Listen To The Band
No explanation needed! It was also performed by the original quartet on their 1969 NBC television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.
This is another lovely ballad composed by Davy, and it features guitar work by Neil Young.
I'm going with the Missing Links version - it's funky Dolenz and very underrated.
10. St. Matthew
Like "Rosemarie," there are various mixes of this song, but the Missing Links Volume 2 version without the fuzz vocal is superior. Nez does Dylan - a fantastic anthem!
11. French Song
An atmospheric Davy ballad - always loved this one!
12. Pillow Time
I'll end my reimagined Present LP with this one - a lullaby composed by Micky's mom, Janelle.
Some great songs from The Monkees Present (like "Good Clean Fun") were omitted in my reworked version of the album, but don't worry, Parts 2 & 3 of this article will shed more light. Stay tuned for my fantasy take on Changes, where Davy completes his songwriting partnership with Bill Chadwick and Nez hangs around, along with my alternate universe final Monkees album (featuring Dolenz & Jones), a 1971 Jeff Barry-produced affair entitled Do It In the Name of Love.
This is the fourth in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
1986 was an incredible year for Monkees fans with the record breaking 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour featuring Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork, fueled by a major promotion by MTV and the single "That Was Then, This Is Now," and topped off by Michael Nesmith appearing with the group at the Greek Theatre and in that year's MTV Christmas video. For many fans that had discovered The Monkees through MTV or oldies radio, and the original fans that followed the group from the beginning, it was a momentous time. But for some fans like me, the 1986 reunion on a grander scale felt like déjà vu, going back to the years 1975 to 1977 when the "first" Monkees reunion took place.
Things didn't look so rosy after 1970 for Monkees fans, with both Peter Tork and later Michael Nesmith quitting the group, leaving Micky and Davy to carry on as The Monkees with a contractually obligated final album, Changes, which never charted during its original release. A very brief promotional tour that included a video for the single "Oh My My" (which barely made a chart dent), and a final single, "Do It In The Name Of Love/Lady Jane," wrapped up all things Monkees as Micky and Davy called it a day. Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones were the two most visible Monkees during the immediate post-Monkees period. Davy made the rounds on TV shows like The Brady Bunch and released an album and some singles through Bell Records. Nesmith found some solo success with the First National Band and the singles "Joanne" and "Silver Moon," along with some critically acclaimed albums. Micky Dolenz returned to acting, appearing in films like Night Of The Strangler and Keep Off My Grass and recording some singles for MGM, which never charted. Peter Tork largely fell off the radar, briefly working with his post-Monkees band Release. In the meantime, The Monkees TV series was given a new lease on life with Saturday morning reruns. By the time the Saturday reruns ended in 1972, The Monkees were pretty much considered a spent force.
Or so it appeared. While there was little news on The Monkees' activities being covered in the teen magazines that used to feature them prominently on their front covers, active Monkees fan clubs did their best to keep a small but still loyal fan base up to date. One bit of news that alerted fans was a report that Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones appeared together at a celebrity tennis match in Japan in which thousands of fans flocked to see them in person. Micky and Davy were so thrilled and overwhelmed by the reaction that they both concluded that there was still some life in The Monkees.
On their return to the United States they held a meeting at Micky’s house with Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork about the possibility of a Monkees reunion. Nesmith, who was still very busy with his solo career, declined to participate, as did Tork. Micky and Davy proceeded with Plan B and contacted the songwriting team of Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart (who were responsible for a plethora of Monkees hits, including "Last Train to Clarksville," "Steppin' Stone," and "Valleri") about conducting a joint tour as The Guys Who Wrote 'Em and The Guys Who Sang 'Em. Tommy and Bobby were the perfect choice since they produced the earliest Monkees recording sessions and were instrumental in developing the group's sound. For legal reasons they couldn't call themselves "The Monkees" so they decided to go the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young route and named their new group Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. A band was formed with ex-Raider Keith Allison on lead guitar, who also acted as musical director. In 1975, their debut concert at Six Flags Old Glory Amphitheater drew an excited crowd of 20,000 fans. Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart toured, playing to enthusiastic crowds that consisted of not only original fans from the 1960s but also newer fans who had discovered them through the syndicated reruns of The Monkees television show. On top of that, Arista Records, which had inherited The Monkees' recordings from Colgems and later Bell Records, had reissued the 1972 Bell Re-Focus album as The Monkees Greatest Hits in 1976. As the original Monkees albums were long discontinued, this album helped to introduce many newer fans to The Monkees' music. (The Monkees Greatest Hits became a best-seller, certified gold in 1986 and platinum in 1991, and remained available through the 1990s with cassette and compact disc editions also appearing.)
Thanks to the success of their live concerts, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart were able to negotiate a contract with Capitol Records and recorded a new single called "I Remember The Feeling" (written by Boyce & Hart), backed with the Dolenz & Jones composition "You and I" (their first collaboration together). Though it received little airplay the single did help to spark excitement in the group, who soon recorded a full album that was released to coincide with the 1976 leg of their tour.
The tour finally brought them to New York City where they played a residency at the old Riverboat night club at the foot of the Empire State Building. Because of the demand from many younger fans who were unable to attend the evening shows, special matinees were scheduled to accommodate those fans. It was at the matinee shows that I first got to see two members of The Monkees in concert. This excerpt from my book, A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective, captures a little of the fan craziness at the Riverboat:
"The Riverboat Club had a General Admission policy and my sister Cookie was definitely determined that we get a good seat. On the day of the show we left extra early so we could get to the Riverboat Club before everyone else. When we arrived there were just a couple of fans on line so we quickly got into place behind them and waited. Soon, more fans arrived and lined up behind us. It wasn't too long before the line started to wrap around the block. In order to alleviate some of the street congestion the line was causing, the Riverboat management allowed some of us to move up into the club. We lined up at the top of the winding staircase that you had to walk down to get to the stage area which was below street level. My sister Cookie made sure that she was one of the first in line, and she turned to me and said 'You stay close, I’ll make sure we get good seats!' With Cookie's determination, I wasn’t going to argue!"
"It was getting closer to show time and there was quite a long line snaking out the Riverboat door into the street at the foot of the Empire State Building. The management allowed those towards the front of the line to go down to the bottom of the staircase where a velvet rope kept us in place. Finally, a gentleman came forward and started to remove the rope and told us not to rush for the seats that were waiting for us at the front of the stage. As soon as the rope was removed, my sister and I along with some of the fans who were waiting with us made a dash for the seats. It was in the rush that Cookie fell, twisting her ankle. I suddenly had a tough choice to make, continue to the front seats or help my sister. I struggled with that decision for just a few seconds, but then I opted for the latter, Cookie would clobber me otherwise! I reached down, took her hand and lifted her up off the floor and assisted her as she hobbled towards the stage. We didn’t get the front row like we wanted, but we did get seats in the second row, which were just as good. My sister sat in her seat, and kept shifting her foot to ease the pain a little, and although we were both a little disappointed we didn't get the front row, we were happy that we at least got as close to the stage as we could."
Seeing Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones in concert for the first time, performing alongside Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart with Keith Allison, was an incredible experience for me as a Monkees fan. After the Riverboat show Micky signed my "Oh My My" picture sleeve.
The highlight of the 1976 tour took place on July 4th at Disneyland in California when Peter Tork joined Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart onstage, playing bass guitar on "Last Train to Clarksville" and (Theme from) The Monkees."
After Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart disbanded, Micky and Davy toured together in 1977 along with Micky’s sister, Coco, backed by the Laughing Dogs. Peter eventually joined Micky, Davy, and Coco in Hollywood for an acoustic set that included the Dolenz and Jones composition "You and I." Davy Jones even commented during this moment that "We need Mike Nesmith up here," to the full agreement of the cheering fans in attendance. After the duo's 1977 tour ended, Micky and Davy traveled to England to perform in the stage version of Harry Nilsson's The Point before once again going their separate ways. Micky stayed in England to begin a new career as a television director and Davy dabbled in theater.
The parallels between the 1975-77 DJB&H/Micky & Davy tours with the 1986 Monkees 20th Anniversary Tour are quite interesting. In both cases, the reruns of the TV series and advance fan anticipation were major factors. Fans were well-informed about the reunion tours through fan magazines like Monkee Business and The Purple Flower Gang. MTV's airing of The Monkees series in 1986 helped to steep the fan's interest and introduce a brand new generation to the group. To add to the growing excitement Micky and Peter recorded several new tracks to be included on a new compilation entitled Then & Now...The Best of The Monkees. The first single, "That Was Then, This Is Now," received extensive radio airplay and the video was placed in heavy rotation on MTV, allowing the song to hit the Top 20, the first time The Monkees made the upper echelons of the singles charts since the 1960s. Numerous dates on the tour instantly sold out to the surprise of many in the entertainment industry who had written off The Monkees as "old news." The Monkees' reunion became the hottest tour of 1986.
The highlight of The Monkees' 20th Anniversary took place at the Greek Theatre in September when Micky, Davy, and Peter were joined onstage by Michael Nesmith, who sang and performed "Listen To The Band" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday." This event marked the first time all four Monkees had performed live together since 1968. It was an emotional night for the band and the lucky fans in attendance. Nesmith would appear again with the other three Monkees in a surprise appearance as Santa Claus in the 1986 MTV Christmas video. It was the perfect ending for '86, The Monkees' most successful year since 1967.
While many fans are in agreement on the specialness of the 1986 revival, the seeds were really planted back between 1975 and 1977, years which are still considered unique for fans that experienced the "first" Monkees reunion.
Fred Velez is a blog writer for Monkees.net and the author of the book A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective. He has also released a Monkees-themed holiday CD called 'A Little Bit Christmas.'
This is the third in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
In the spring of 1967, The Monkees, ostensibly a make-believe band vilified as the antithesis of rock 'n' roll, turned around and committed one of the most rock 'n' roll acts in history—an astonishing act of mutiny against the manufacturing machine that gave them life. The monster had turned on its creator and stumbled out of the lab.
"Once The Monkees took control of their recording career it got steadily worse," said Lester Sill, Don Kirshner's replacement as music supervisor, on the Headquarters radio show in 1988. "Mike [Nesmith] was the catalyst in destroying the group." On the surface, yes; sales figures do support this. Nothing after More of the Monkees (Nesmith's candidate for Worst Album Ever) met its dizzying total of 5 million records sold. Nor did any single match the astonishing success of "I'm a Believer." "That ain't no hit," Nesmith is alleged to have said prior to its recording.
But can this be attributed directly to the group taking charge of their own destiny? It can be argued that the phenomenon had already peaked by the time Nesmith's fist met drywall, and a steady decline was inevitable no matter who was behind the wheel of the Monkeemobile.
With a few exceptions, pop stardom generally has a short half-life; chart and radio success even shorter. The notion of "One Hit Wonder" is a snarky and unfair condemnation, as most artists who even manage to have one hit usually fade after the follow-up doesn't catch on. The Monkees achieved astonishing success in a very short time because all the stars were aligned. They were the right guys at the right time; they had TV exposure, the best writers, the best producers, and the Man with the (usually) Golden Ear.
But putting money on the the group hitting anywhere near those More of the Monkees/"I'm a Believer" sales figures again, under continued supervision by Kirshner or on their own, wouldn't be tempting to even the most adventurous gambler.
"We can play 'Happy Birthday' with a beat and it would sell a million records," Nesmith claims to have told Kirshner during the palace revolt. And in January 1967 this was absolutely true. Kirshner's chosen follow-up to the "I'm a Believer"/"Steppin' Stone" knockout punch was "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You"/"She Hangs Out." While the former is a decent song it is nowhere near the quality of its predecessor. Even Kirshner himself described the song as "ordinary." However, he had promised Diamond the follow-up to "I'm a Believer" without hearing it first, a case of loyalty clouding judgment. Despite its relative flatness, the single shot to number two well after Kirshner was escorted out of his office in the company of security guards, somewhat proving Nesmith's "Happy Birthday with a beat" declaration. In stark contrast, Nesmith's own "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," which replaced "She Hangs Out" on the B-side, proved that the group was capable of producing an excellent pop record on their own. It was more catchy, organic, and energetic than Diamond's offering. Though the playing was nowhere near as accomplished as that of the Wrecking Crew, the overall feel is one of the sheer joy of a group of boys creating something that is truly their own. One would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks that first rendering of "She Hangs Out" was a superior cut. Kirshner's last gasp of control came in a series of tracks cut only with Davy Jones in New York, and these are largely the epitome of what Mike (as Frank Zappa) would dismiss as "banal and insipid" in the legendary TV show bit.
As if to ram the point home, The Monkees' later rearrangement of "She Hangs Out" also blew away Jeff Barry's original flat production. Barry may have had a chuckle at Nesmith's prediction regarding "I'm a Believer," but he himself was the one who produced those lifeless last Kirshner sessions, the worst tracks on More of The Monkees, and nearly all of the barely noteworthy Changes album in 1970. He infamously (and rather ridiculously) likened The Monkees' taking control as "a guy playing Superman thinking he could fly." But his own later Monkee productions never soared anywhere near the heights of "I'm a Believer."
If there were any true mistakes in the history of The Monkees' recording legacy, they lie in who was in the producer's seat. Kirshner took the initial production duties away from Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart after one album, robbing the "fake group" of their original sound. This was ironically echoed later by The Monkees parting ways with Chip Douglas, which destroyed the somewhat cohesive sound of the now "real" group. That said, by 1969, with the TV show gone and their utter rejection by both their early fans and the "serious" rock enthusiasts they were trying to court, no decision good or bad was going to matter. The excellent likes of "Porpoise Song," "Listen to the Band," "As We Go Along," and "Someday Man" had little chance on the charts or the airwaves when you checked the 45 and saw the name of the band. And returning to the original sound and formula wasn’t likely to provide a miraculous resurgence of any kind ("Tear Drop City").
Nesmith's primary interest was having a group he could lead and control with the country-rock sound that he loved. And if rumors that he was actually verbally promised this by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson after they saw him perform are true, his frustration was justified. Peter Tork was less concerned about autonomy and more about he and his bandmates actually being the musicians in the chairs. Jones and Micky Dolenz, the two that were happy with the status quo, joined in solidarity and rose to the occasion. The differing agendas of Nesmith and Tork really blended only twice, on Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. — ironically, the two albums that most fans and critics would point to as their best work. The album sales combined didn't reach the heights of More of the Monkees at the time. But 50 years later, they're the primary reason we're here talking about a group that was supposed to only be characters on a TV show. It's doubtful that Nesmith, Tork, or Dolenz had any notion at the time of preserving a long-term legacy, but as they prepare to come together on record once more with Good Times!, I'd like to think they know it now.
This is the second in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary.
The efforts of songwriters/producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart played a critical role in defining the sound of The Monkees. From the first beats of "(Theme From) The Monkees," their mark would forever be on the project. In addition to the theme song, the series pilot featured Davy Jones taking lead on the classic "I Wanna Be Free," while "Let's Dance On" featured Micky Dolenz, and both numbers were included on The Monkees' debut album. It was a California sound, appropriately reflecting on the characters of four young musicians living in a beach house.
The story behind the early Monkees music, however, was much more complicated. Musical supervisor Don Kirshner had attempted to lure a big name producer to helm the project, and had successfully recruited Snuff Garrett into the studio, which by all accounts, was a disaster. Sessions with Carole King also flamed out, and with a full television season on the horizon, options were growing slim.
Fifty years after the fact, the complications are revealed to be enormous. Andrew Sandoval, archivist, historian, and manager of The Monkees, spoke with Michael Nesmith in an interview for Rhino’s Handmade Edition re-issue of the debut album, The Monkees. "They asked if I would do some things. I said, 'Well, I can do some things, but if I was going to put together a rock 'n' roll band, I don’t know that I would put together a band with David, Micky, and Peter. You know, these are good guys to work with, but we all have very different musical tastes and sensibilities. I'm not that prolific or prodigious.' [They said] ‘Well maybe Tommy and Bobby and you can do it.'"
Time was running short, and by the beginning of July 1966, Boyce & Hart were in charge. Along with Jack Keller, the duo cranked out an enormous amount of material in a short time. Meanwhile, Nesmith produced additional Monkees tracks at a studio nearby. Between them, the entire debut album was recorded in that month's time frame.
Boyce and Hart’s "Last Train to Clarksville" became the choice for the first single. Its power propelled it up the charts in advance of the show, but once the series hit the air on NBC in September of 1966, its success skyrocketed. "Last Train to Clarksville" would eventually hit number one in November, knocking "96 Tears" by Question Mark and the Mysterians off the top.
The album proved to be even more of a triumph. The Monkees reached number one on Billboard's Top LPs chart, staying entrenched for a remarkable thirteen weeks, at the time a record for any debut.
Following such monumental success, it could be asked, why would musical supervisor Kirshner deviate from the formula of the first album? One of the answers is financial. The guaranteed sales of the follow-up would make landing a spot on a Monkees record a nice payday. Kirshner no doubt would feed the writers on his staff, at the expense of Boyce & Hart. Another reason was that he considered the duo as inferior writers and producers. Now that The Monkees' proverbial train had left the station and picked up speed, Kirshner intended to take another shot at steering. And one significant day in particular allowed Kirshner not only to press his case, but practically remove Boyce & Hart from their role as producers of the Monkees project.
August 23, 1966 was exactly one week after the release of "Last Train to Clarksville" as a single. The Monkees themselves were on a television sound stage shooting the season one episode, "Monkees at the Movies." Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart entered RCA Studio B that evening, working from 7pm until the wee hours of the morning on two novelty songs, "Kicking Stones" and "Ladies Aid Society." Following the well-liked "Gonna Buy Me a Dog" on The Monkees, one could see the appeal of more humor on the next disc. However, trying to reconcile that either of these songs would fit on the second album seems practically unimaginable.
"'Kicking Stones' was originally just a poem by Boyce & Hart's buddy and sometimes hairdresser Lynne Castle," wrote Andrew Sandoval in his book The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation. "The team's regular studio guitarist Wayne Erwin then set her words to music - and out came a fairytale-like creation." Andrew Hickey, author of Monkee Music, an in-depth look at every song The Monkees released, offers a critical assessment of "Kicking Stones." "To be fair to Boyce & Hart, they were producing a lot of material at this time," Hickey opines. "But there was clearly no way tracks like this could have ever been considered remotely releasable, and they must have known it." In his book Sandoval quotes a memo written by Bert Schneider, one half of Raybert Productions with Bob Rafelson that created The Monkees television series, who complains that both "Kicking Stones" and "Ladies Aid Society" were "of dubious value."
Mistakenly listed as "Teeny Tiny Gnome," "Kicking Stones" was eventually released in 1987 on the first edition of Rhino's Missing Links series of Monkees rarities. It can also be found on Rhino's deluxe edition of More of The Monkees.
"Ladies Aid Society," complete with off-key falsetto lyrics, pretends to be a protest song of sorts, with the sound of a brass band and would-be elderly women. The Monkees did choose to include the track on 1969's The Monkees Present.
Ironically, in the days just before and after these disasters, three Boyce & Hart classics would be laid to tape: "She," "Words," and "Valleri." Each would be featured prominently during the first season of The Monkees' television series. "She" eventually opened More of the Monkees. Although viewers would become familiar with the others, their releases would be significantly delayed. "Words," re-recorded under producer Chip Douglas and featuring a Monkees backing track, was chosen as the B-side to "Pleasant Valley Sunday" nearly one year later, and would climb to #11 on the charts. "Valleri" was also revamped and issued as a single in 1968, the band's last Top Ten hit.
Viewers of the TV show were also introduced to "I'll Be Back Up on My Feet." Composed by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, it was nowhere to be found on More of the Monkees, but was ultimately re-recorded for the band's fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. The song was brought out of mothballs by Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, showing up frequently on set lists during a series of concerts conducted by the duo in 2015.
Don Kirshner used Bert Schneider's skepticism of Boyce & Hart's latest productions to his full advantage. The competition for the second album heated up in October of 1966. While Boyce & Hart, and Michael Nesmith, toiled in Los Angeles, Don Kirshner's newest handpicked producer, Jeff Barry, worked out of New York, tackling tracks by Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, as well as Neil Sedaka & Carole Bayer. "I was very friendly with Boyce & Hart," Kirshner told Andrew Sandoval years later when explaining the move away from the pair in the recording studio. "But my fiduciary obligation to Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems is to get the best record, okay? My objective was one thing: not to show favoritism. I had a competitive environment, no different than, say, American Idol. The four finalists are there, you can only have one, and each of them could be a hit record star. And that's what I strive for."
Barry's productions included both "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and "Sometime in the Morning," while Sedaka and Bayer were at the helm for "When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)." All were fast tracked to the new album. The novelty song "Your Auntie Grizelda," featuring Peter Tork on vocals, "Laugh," and the sappy spoken word "The Day We Fall in Love," were soon added to the mix, and ultimately, the LP. Boyce & Hart's take on "Hold On Girl" (heard below) would later be substituted for a version produced by Barry and Jack Keller. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who produced ten songs on the debut album, were left with two on the follow-up, the same number as Michael Nesmith. The Don Kirshner takeover was complete.
More of the Monkees, as released on January 9, 1967, held the top spot on Billboard's album chart for an incredible eighteen weeks. The LP has been certified platinum five times over by the RIAA, a success that would never again be matched by the group. "I'm a Believer" would remain at #1 for seven weeks, the band's top selling single. For all its perceived weaknesses in its released form, it arguably furthered the Monkees project to dizzying levels of success.
But it still begs the question, what would a Boyce & Hart-produced second album have sounded like? We can take a pretty good guess.
The Monkees' second single, Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer," would be a given, as would the flip side, Boyce & Hart's "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," which peaked at #20 on the Billboard singles chart in its own right.
Sandoval’s book revealed an interview with Tommy Boyce, who spoke highly of "Tear Drop City," "Through the Looking Glass," and "Don’t Listen to Linda." "I always liked that song ['Through the Looking Glass']," Boyce told Andrew Sandoval. "I knew it was a fabulous song and we always thought it should have been a single, but it never was, of course. I think it was an imaginary song we wrote about a couple of girls we knew. Sort of like an Alice in Wonderland type of thing: you walk through the mirror, 'Through the Looking Glass'...and go through this glass into a different world." One can presume, had Boyce & Hart still been in charge, that these already completed songs would have found a place on More of the Monkees. Instead, they were shelved for roughly two and a half years, before finally being released on Instant Replay, the band's seventh album.
Michael Nesmith, who received two slots on both The Monkees and More of the Monkees, had several tracks to choose from for the LP. "Mary, Mary" and "The Kind of Girl I Could Love" were the ultimate choices, but "You Just May Be The One" (first recorded version) was featured several times on the television show, and could have been chosen just as easily. "Of You," written by John and Bill Chadwick, had also been tracked by this point. "All The King's Horses" and "I Don't Think You Know Me" were other options.
Considering both Boyce & Hart as well as Kirshner's team took a crack at "Hold On Girl," it stands to reason this song would also be given heavy consideration.
Here's my educated guess - the track listing for the unreleased Boyce & Hart-produced
More of the Monkees album:
The ultimate quality of this collection can only be judged by the ear of the beholder. It is heavy on tracks sung by Micky Dolenz, and includes only three leads by Davy Jones and one by Nesmith. It does stand to reason, however, that it would have also propelled the Monkees project in a significantly positive way. The lows in this collection seemingly don't sink to the levels exhibited by "Laugh" and "The Day We Fall In Love" that appeared on the actual released version of More of the Monkees. In a theoretically perfect world, several of these songs were deserving of a place on the album, and would have mixed well with some of Kirshner's preferred tracks.
But one critical lesson from The Monkees is that nothing was as simple as it seemed.
This is the first in a series of guest articles that have been submitted to The Monkees Live Almanac in celebration of the group's 50th Anniversary this year.
"I think all the fellow musicians that were in L.A. at the time, like Love, the Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield, all loved The Monkees and thought they were great. Everybody loved their TV show and loved them as singers. I think it was mostly the people who weren't making it as successful musicians who were more critical of them, and it was the press. They had a lot of friends in the Los Angeles music scene, I remember."
-Chip Douglas, musician, songwriter, and producer
Consider for a moment the greatest era of pop/rock music, the 1960s, and delve further into the distinct periods within this time frame and you will survey a landscape fertile with pure musical genius and originality. The folk movement of the early part of the decade in New York City. The British Invasion. The Motown sound. The San Francisco psychedelic ballroom blitz. The Stax/Memphis soul records. But of all these and others, nothing tops the Los Angeles/Sunset Strip excitement of 1965-67. The Doors, Love, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds...and among this grouping, a musical entity known as The Monkees, were part of this whole that helped create the greatest envelope of pop beauty.
The Monkees released four albums and various singles in a mere fourteen months. Staggering by today's standards, and a lot even for that period. The number was necessitated by the demand for new music to be showcased in the group's weekly NBC television series. The Monkees (September 1966), More of the Monkees (January 1967), Headquarters (May 1967), and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (November 1967) represent the peak of The Monkees as a band. How these songs measure up against the other major trends and bands of the era will be discussed here, with one caveat. The music must stand on its own merits, without the added boost that the weekly TV show gave the band. Minus the musical romps and the personalities of The Monkees that really made the music so much more appealing, I will attempt to examine how their music sounded in context with the rest of the Los Angeles scene of 1965-67.
Of all the Los Angeles rock ‘n’ roll happenings of this time, perhaps the most pervasive was "garage punk." Gritty and tough, this do-it-yourself sound was best exemplified by snarling vocals and raucous, fuzzed-out guitars. The Count Five, Music Machine, Seeds, and Standells were exemplars of this. Of The Monkees’ first two albums, the debut in particular had a garage feel. This was no accident since the bulk of the songs were written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and recorded by Hart's band, The Candy Store Prophets. There is no doubt that the duo absorbed the garage sounds from the various clubs the Prophets played and the duo would attend. That they were able to synthesize it to fit the needs of a TV show aimed at the sub-teen crowd doesn't detract from their output. "(I’m Not Your) Steppin' Stone" (from More of the Monkees) is arguably one of the greatest punk songs of the era, performed best by The Monkees/Candy Store Prophets. Also note that it is no coincidence that one of the loudest bands of this period, The Sons Of Adam, did their own version of "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" in 1965, which was later recorded by The Monkees in the summer of 1966.
Furthermore, give Michael Nesmith's "Sweet Young Thing," "Valleri" (version one), and "Your Auntie Grizelda" a close listen and you can't escape one of my favorite flourishes particular to the era, namely the fuzz box guitar. Even the absurd "Grizelda" takes on new life if you plug in and follow the fuzzed out groove. It is almost hypnotic. As a result, when you consider the garage rock output of Los Angeles, you can't pass over The Monkees. Granted they had their own unique slant, but their first two albums in particular were part of and contributed to this wonderfully anarchic sound. If you need any further convincing, listen to the Summer 1967 tour recordings. Almost exclusively drums, bass, and guitar as performed by The Monkees, if you strip away the audience screaming and in-between numbers clowning you get extremely loud, raw renditions of their radio hits and they are as wonderfully vibrant as any group of this time period.
Another sound made notable during this span would be a styling termed as "folk-rock." The most famous group that played this genre of music was The Byrds. By taking multiple Bob Dylan songs and setting them to jangly guitars and lush harmonies, The Byrds hit the big time. Offshoot groups from Los Angeles who might also fall under this umbrella include The Association and The Mamas and The Papas. But The Monkees utilized the folk-rock genre on their albums, too. Consider "I Wanna Be Free" (fast take, also known as the Dylan version of the song); "Last Train To Clarksville" and its guitars ringing throughout; "You Told Me" with Peter Tork's banjo; and "Mr. Webster," featuring Nesmith's steel pedal twangings. An argument could also be made that "Salesman" fits nicely into the folk-rock category. Again, it should be noted that while there are aspects of this idiom on Monkees recordings, they were amended and fitted to their specific needs. The results were unique and fun at the same time.
Even more intriguing about The Monkees and their place in the Los Angeles music scene is that The Monkees contributed to and were part of the cross-pollination that a lot of the groups had with each other at the time. While The Monkees didn't play any club gigs and were more involved with production of their TV show than hanging out with various other groups, inevitably they mixed and mingled with a lot of Los Angeles musicians. Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Bryan MacLean of Love were two of the multitude of unsuccessful auditionees for The Monkees television series. Stills and Neil Young would later perform on Monkees records, as would Dewey Martin, drummer for Buffalo Springfield. In a unique setting, Micky Dolenz jammed with Buffalo Springfield on an Indian reservation in Wisconsin in the summer of 1967.
"Jimi [Hendrix] is on the road with us in Chicago, when we cross paths with Buffalo Springfield. Stephen Stills and Jimi Hendrix are sitting on a couple of hotel beds, jamming together. Micky was dallying with a woman over in the corner. He left her and picked up an empty guitar, put it in his lap, and started to wack a rhythm. And then he stopped. Jimi reacted as if he'd been running and somebody belted him on the knees with a lead pipe. "What did you stop for?!" and Micky said, "I didn't know anybody was listening."
Additional evidence of The Monkees' connection to the L.A. scene comes with their utilization of Los Angeles's famed session players, The Wrecking Crew, something many prominent L.A. groups relied upon. Review what Brian Wilson was doing for Pet Sounds and the comparison to The Monkees' first two LPs is unmistakably similar. Even the era's greatest album, Love's Forever Changes, in one furtive session used session musicians that had been playing on Monkees discs. Consider, too, the involvement of Chip Douglas with another local group, The Turtles, Nesmith's partnership with Penny Arkade, and Tork hanging out with Buffalo Springfield, and it's easy to see that The Monkees were mingling with the best of the times. And when you recall that Frank Zappa was a Monkees fan (as shown by his hilarious segment on the penultimate episode of the TV series, and later by his offer to Dolenz to join the Mothers of Invention), or that folk artist Tim Buckley was the last individual seen on an original Monkees episode (introduced by Dolenz and playing "Song to the Siren"), you can't help but conclude that The Monkees' records in certain ways reflected, absorbed, and benefited greatly from their connection to the Los Angeles music scene.
A final commonality between The Monkees and other L.A. groups is something I will call the Growth Factor, and perhaps this is the key element of their long lasting legacy. If their first two albums were largely outside creations, then The Monkees, by winning the right to and actually pulling off the feat of creating their own album (Headquarters), demonstrated exponential growth. They topped this immediately with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., which put them sound-wise and lyrically in the upper echelons of Los Angeles groups. If you compare The Monkees to Love, whose three albums each grew in leaps and bounds and are arguably the best representatives of the period, or The Doors, who burgeoned from a surf cover band to almost overnight the greatest band from L.A., you can see how much in common (in this aspect) The Monkees had with the area's groups. Again, the push was driven by the TV show's demand for new product, but somehow this hyper growth fit well with the go-go, jet-age era in which The Monkees was conceived. I theorize that had they more time to reflect before recording Headquarters and Pisces, the results wouldn't have been as good. The window for this type of creativity was unfortunately brief, but thanks to the needs of their environment the Monkees project was able to squeeze out as much as it could.
To summarize The Monkees in the mid-1960s Los Angeles era, you can first list what they weren't: not surf, not Tijuana/Latino, not heavy-hitting lyrically. But taken for what they were, namely garage, some country/western, light psychedelic, and a whole lot of fun, you can combine all of this with the rest of the period's sounds and bands and find a cornucopia that makes Los Angeles of 1965-67 the greatest era ever for pop/rock music. Unfortunately by the end of '67 the vibrancy and unity of both the overall L.A. scene and The Monkees was gone. Brian Wilson was unable to recapture the greatness of Pet Sounds. Love and Buffalo Springfield, in their original line-ups, were finished by 1968. The Byrds had already experienced lineup changes prior to the end of 1966. And The Monkees were no longer recording together, barely even in tandem. They were opting to produce individual recordings, and while the records were still of quality, they never reached the heights of their 1966-67 productions.
The Monkees’ music shouldn't be taken too seriously. But it also should not be cast off as secondhand pop tunes when compared to the giants of the era. The Monkees didn't produce anything like "Eight Miles High," "The End," "You Set The Scene," "Good Vibrations," or "Mr. Soul." But no other group can lay claim to "Last Train to Clarksville," "Mary, Mary," "For Pete's Sake," or "Daily Nightly." The Monkees' music was influenced by and influenced the times. It came at just the right moment and contributed to the tapestry that defined a generation.
Thank you to The Monkees - your music is perfect just how it is, and has my admiration and respect alongside my appreciation for other L.A. bands of the mid-1960s.
"Daily Nightly," appearing on The Monkees' fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.," was composed by Michael Nesmith and lyrically touched on the November 1966 Sunset Strip riots. The song was one of the first to utilize a Moog synthesizer, played by Micky Dolenz, who had purchased the instrument at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967.
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