After reuniting in 1986 and undertaking worldwide tours through 1987, The Monkees were relatively out of the limelight in 1988. Peter Tork reemerged late that year with a short solo tour that included multiple shows at The Speakeasy in New York City. I vividly recall these concerts being advertised in fan club newsletters like The Monkees/Boyce & Hart Photo Fan Club and Monkee Business Fanzine, and later seeing Michael G. Bush's photos from the Speakeasy.
Beginning in the late 1970s and right up to The Monkees' phenomenal 1986 comeback, Peter had played numerous club dates in and around New York City as a solo artist and with his bands The New Monks and The Peter Tork Project, as documented in an essay on this blog by Fred Velez in 2017. Looking back, it's interesting to see how Peter seamlessly transitioned from playing stadiums, arenas, and amphitheaters in 1986 and 1987 while returning to the more intimate setting of New York City clubs in 1988. During these shows, he was backed by Jerry Renino (who was a member of The Peter Tork Project as well as The Monkees' backing band from 1989-2002), Michael Levine (electric fiddle), and Mal Stein (drums).
The March 1989 issue of Monkee Business Fanzine covered Peter's late 1988 concerts, which also included stops at The Town Crier in Pawling, New York and The Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts:
As mentioned in the above article from Monkee Business Fanzine, Peter's shows at the Speakeasy were recorded for a live album that ultimately was never released. However, thanks to Scott Erickson, select samples of those live recordings were heard for the very first time in a recent post on the Live Almanac's blog.
Heather Sciacca recently uploaded her photos from one of Peter's shows at The Speakeasy in New York City on the Torkees Discussion Group on Facebook. Thanks, Heather!
Finally, here is video footage of Peter's appearance at The Speakeasy in New York City (which is now a comedy club) on November 26, 1988, courtesy of Jennifer Winkle:
In January 1988, Davy Jones released Incredible!, an album featuring new material, a cover of the late 1950s song "Hippy Hippy Shake," and a re-recording of The Monkees' 1968 hit, "Valleri." The tracks were completed between February 1986 and July 1987 in Memphis, Sydney, Las Vegas, and New York City.
Fans were treated to an early reveal of the sessions when "After Your Heart" appeared as a single (with "Hippy Hippy Shake" as the B-side) in Australia in 1987. Both songs were performed live during Davy and Peter Tork's tour of Australia early that year.
Along with Davy himself, a host of individuals played on Incredible!, including members of The Grass Roots and The Monkees' 1986-1987 touring band, as well as the Staton Brothers, a group of songwriters and musicians that Davy had always admired. Co-produced by Davy, Mark Clarke (The Monkees' touring bassist in '86 and '87 who also worked with Billy Squier and Uriah Heep), Joe Hardy and Robert Merrill, the set featured contributions from "Daydream Believer" songwriter John Stewart ("She Believes"), the Staton Brothers ("Look Inside Yourself"), and Wreckless Eric ("You're Only Dreaming). Wreckless Eric, aka Eric Goulden, wrote "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World," which appeared on The Monkees' 1987 LP, Pool It! Davy contributed his own "I'll Love You Forever," another song previously heard on Pool It! in a different version. "I'll Love You Forever" had also been consistently performed live on the 1986 and 1987 Monkees tours.
Davy issued Incredible! via Dome Press, which was responsible for his popular 1987 autobiography, They Made a Monkee Out of Me. It was only made available on cassette. The restrained roll-out of the album remains a mystery to this day, especially since at the time of its release The Monkees had just experienced an extremely successful comeback while celebrating their 20th Anniversary. "I just plain didn’t care to put that much energy into promoting Incredible," Davy later said. "Perhaps I should have. I just saw it as something to do for personal enjoyment and for the fans. Lord knows I spent enough money producing it." Incredible had the potential to reach a larger audience, but Davy himself seemed unmoved about the idea. "The '80s were so busy for us [The Monkees]. A lot of good things were set aside. My mind was on performing in 41,000 seat stadiums and having Monkees records all over the Top 40."
Incredible! was released on CD in a very limited fashion in the late 2000s, and it can be streamed and purchased (with bonus tracks) at Davy Jones Bandcamp. Apparently the master tapes have been lost as the downloads appear to be taken from the original cassette.
A while after Incredible!, a cassette single comprised of "Don't Go" and "Hanging By A Thread" was released in late 1989. Recorded in 1987, "Hanging By A Thread" was written by Jerry Goldsmith, who enjoyed a career as a noted film composer. Davy performed the song live in concert during the 1989 North American/Japanese Monkees tour, and in solo appearances in the early 1990s.
A big thanks to Perry Corvese for scanning his program from the 1988 Chicago Monkees Convention!
Peter, Micky, and Davy gather backstage at the Vic Theatre in Chicago where Peter was performing a solo show on August 20, 1988.
Peter performed a solo show at the Vic Theatre on August 20, 1988.
This picture was taken at one of Davy's book signings in Los Angeles in 1988. (Davy is holding the audio version of his book, They Made a Monkee Out Of Me.
After reuniting in 1986 and undertaking two mammoth tours tours through 1987, The Monkees were relatively out of the limelight in 1988. The excitement and enthusiasm generated by the initial revival of the group in 1986 had made Monkee business big business, again. The 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour was a box office blowout, fueled largely by MTV airing the television series daily and in marathon showings. By 1988, however, Monkeemania Part II had cooled considerably. Because of a falling out with MTV in 1987, the trio lost a huge promotional venue for their first album of all new material since 1970, Pool It! As a result, the LP and its singles ("Heart and Soul" and "Every Step of the Way") did not experience the chart heights of their 1986 reunion single, "That Was Then, This Is Now" (a Top 20 hit with a music video that MTV played relentlessly), or the accompanying retrospective album (which went platinum during the 1986 tour).
As if all that wasn't enough, The Monkees became involved in a lawsuit with their manager David Fishof in 1988. Until those legal issues could be rectified (which were ultimately settled in the group's favor), Micky, Davy, and Peter pursued individual endeavors and placed The Monkees on sabbatical.
Micky returned to directing, the field that occupied his time in the years leading up to the 1986 Monkees reunion, while also enjoying his favorite pastime, polo. Davy found his way back to the stage in Oliver!, this time playing the role of Fagin at the Kansas City Starlight Theatre. He also released an album of all new material, Incredible, and conducted a successful book signing tour for his autobiography, They Made a Monkee Out Of Me. Peter was on the road playing clubs, including the Speakeasy in New York City. And Michael was busy promoting his new movie, Tapeheads, starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins.
By mid-year and with no Monkees projects in sight, enthusiasm remained strong among the faithful, and fans gathered in Los Angeles for a Monkees convention in the summer of 1988.
After finally resolving the legal issues with their former manager, The Monkees started to discuss plans for fresh endeavors. There were murmurs of recording new material, and talks of a Christmas album in time for the 1988 holiday season never came to fruition. Instead, the trio left for Australia in September and played a series of concerts, their first in that country since 1968.
The only other public appearance by the group in 1988 came in August at a Monkees convention in Chicago, Illinois. Peter played a solo show at the Vic Theatre in conjunction with the gathering, and Micky and Davy joined him onstage for the encore performances of "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer."
The Monkees returned in full force in 1989, and were greeted warmly in Europe for their first performances there since 1967, and in Japan, where they had last visited in 1968. A North American tour followed, playing to less fanfare and smaller audiences than the 1986 and 1987 tours had received. However, a lot of attention was generated when The Monkees were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the summer of 1989, an event that was capped by a sold out show in Los Angeles with Michael Nesmith.
The 3rd Annual Los Angeles Monkees Convention took place in Universal City, California on July 9 and 10, 1988. Among the guests were longtime Monkees associates, friends, and family members.
Below are a few pictures from the event that come from my collection. You'll see Chip Douglas, who produced what are widely regarded as The Monkees' two best albums, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.; Coco Dolenz (Micky's sister) and Janelle Scott (Micky's mother); David Pearl (Peter's stand-in on the TV show and a friend and associate of the group); Julie Newmar (actress and guest star on The Monkees); longtime Monkees collector Gary Strobl and Monkees screenwriter Dave Evans; and finally, famous character actor Vito Scotti, who appeared in an episode of The Monkees and in the band's feature film, Head. (Click all photos to enlarge.)
The convention was dedicated to the late Gene Ashman, wardrobe designer on The Monkees television series and the man responsible for creating the 8-button shirts worn by the group.
In 1988, after two frenzied years on the road and in the studio, The Monkees maintained a relatively low profile. Micky, Davy, and Peter eventually toured Australia late that year, but beyond the trek down under, the only other group public appearance in '88 was at a Monkees convention in Chicago, Illinois in August. The trio were guests at the gathering, and Peter played a solo show at the Vic Theatre on August 20 to coincide with it. Micky and Davy joined Peter during the encore for both "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer."
Peter played for about 90 minutes that evening, mixing Monkees songs, solo material, and covers (including Elvis and The Beatles) throughout the set. The show was billed as "Peter Tork...And Friends." The late Jerry Renino, a member of the Peter Tork Project in the early '80s who also toured with The Monkees throughout the years, played bass. A bootleg recording of the Vic concert has long floated among collectors.
During the show, Peter introduced a few friends who were in the audience that night, including Monte Landis, a frequent guest star on The Monkees television series (perhaps most notably in the second season episode "The Devil and Peter Tork"). Longtime Monkees associate Bill Chadwick, Monkees producer Chip Douglas, Monkees photographer and musician Henry Diltz, and Micky's sister, Coco, sang a rendition of "Higher and Higher" with Peter as well.
Here's a partial setlist from the concert at the Vic:
Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again/For Pete's Sake/Milkshake/Don't Be Cruel/All Shook Up/Cripple Creek/Since You Went Away/Vagabond John/Higher and Higher/Miracle/Daydream Believer/I'm a Believer