In 1977 Michael Nesmith enjoyed a moderate worldwide hit with "Rio," the lead-off track from his eighth post-Monkees album, From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing. During this period, Nez produced a promotional video for the song with director William Dear. That experience helped spur Michael's creation of the first music video television program, PopClips, which originally aired on the Nickelodeon cable network. In 1980, PopClips was sold to Warner/Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, who ultimately developed PopClips into MTV.
After leaving The Monkees in 1970, Michael's interest in production later resulted in the formation of his own corporation in 1974, Pacific Arts, to manage and develop various media projects. In the post-PopClips era, Nez released Elephant Parts on VHS and Betamax, a collection of comedy skits and music videos that won the first-ever Grammy Award for Music Video in 1981. Later in 1985, Television Parts, a comedy-variety series featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg, Gary Shandling, and many others debuted on NBC. Both productions were hosted and produced by Nesmith. Pacific Arts continued to flourish and by the late 1980s had become a leader in the burgeoning home video market.
As MTV celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, take a look back at the history of the channel and Michael's influence:
Thanks a lot to the fantastic Written In Our Hearts Facebook page for allowing the Live Almanac to share this rare photo of Peter, Davy, and Micky rehearsing for their appearance on the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. If you haven't stopped by Written In Our Hearts, be sure to follow their page!
The trio performed "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer" on the September 5, 1986 telecast while The Monkees were experiencing a newfound success during their 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour:
In early 1986, Arista Records, who owned the Monkees catalog at the time, started planning a greatest hits package that would mark the group’s 20th Anniversary. When Micky, Davy, and Peter hit the road in late May and surprised everyone by becoming that summer’s hottest concert ticket, Arista pared down their original 2-LP package to a single album that ended up including a couple of brand new Monkees recordings.
However, the three new songs that ultimately appeared on Then and Now...The Best of The Monkees ("That Was Then, This Is Now," "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere," and "Kicks"), included participation from just Micky and Peter. (Michael Nesmith, as we all know, remained on the sidelines for most of the group's 20th Anniversary activities.) A little backstory: Davy was signed to Bell Records in the early 1970s, and the label eventually morphed into Arista Records, led by music mogul Clive Davis. For years, Davy vocalized his disdain for the Bell experience, claiming his talents were misused and that he was never given the opportunity to grow as an artist while under their auspices.
Once the offer came around from Arista in 1986 regarding new recordings for the reunited Monkees, Davy balked, saying it was a bad deal while also expressing frustration that The Monkees would just be singing over pre-recorded backing tracks. Things became complicated when “That Was Then, This Is Now" took off at radio and on MTV. Davy would leave the stage when the song was performed live, and the music video, filmed in concert, led to questions of “Where’s Davy?”
Despite the tension behind the genesis of the Arista Monkees recordings, the Then & Now album went platinum during the group's blockbuster 1986 reunion tour. “That Was Then, This Is Now” became the band's new single that summer and a music video for it was filmed at Great Arena in Jackson, New Jersey on July 25. The video received heavy airplay on MTV, making the song a Billboard Top 20 hit in the summer of 1986.
An alternate version of the video appears below:
Thanks a lot to Ed Reilly for sharing this comic that was syndicated nationwide in late 1987!
This episode of Headquarters is centered around Davy Jones and his 1987 autobiography, They Made a Monkee Out of Me. The special, hosted by Paris Stachtiaris and John Di Maio, begins with a multi-part interview with Alan Green, who assisted Davy in the publication of the book (as well as 1992's Mutant Monkees Meet The Masters of the Multimedia Manipulation Machine!). Green was also a member of Toast, the late '70s/early '80s group that backed Davy on the road during that period. Green talks about his relationship with Davy and the genesis of their partnership, Basil Foster, and recalls Toast on tour. From there Paris and John speak with Davy about the book, his experiences on Broadway, The Monkees' fallout with MTV, Pool It!, the making of the "Every Step of the Way" video, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, his 1988 solo album Incredible, Don Kirshner, Colpix Records, Head, and much, much more.
Please note that I've misplaced the opening of this episode of Headquarters which is why the program begins right away with Alan Green's interview. And, sprinkled throughout you'll hear two tracks from Incredible, "After Your Heart" and "Hippy Hippy Shake," along with "Rainbows" (written and recorded with Chip Douglas), as well as audio from Davy's late 1965 appearance on Ben Casey.
MTV played a pivotal role in the rebirth of The Monkees in 1986, just in time for the group's 20th Anniversary. On February 23 of that year, MTV aired a weekend marathon of The Monkees television series. The reaction was overwhelming and it helped to create a second wave of Monkeemania just as the group was set to reunite. After the initial success of the "Pleasant Valley Sunday" marathon in February, MTV started to air the series twice a day, seven days a week. By April, the show was being screened three times a day.
Throughout this period, MTV also produced a series of weekday segments called "I Was a Teenage Monkee." The clips lasted about two minutes each and featured interviews with Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Jim Frawley, Tommy Boyce, Monte Landis, Jeff Barry, David Winters, Eric Lefcowitz, and others. After Micky and Peter acted as guest VJs on May 3 and 4, 1986, a one-hour special aired (hosted by original VJ Alan Hunter) that collected the previous segments.
Recap: Monkees Farewell Tour
Dolenz sings Nesmith