In an intriguing conversation with Andy Greene from Rolling Stone published today on the magazine's website, Andrew Sandoval discusses his upcoming book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story, how is understanding of the group, particularly their struggles with Don Kirshner, changed after extensive new research, the likelihood that Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith's fall tour could act as a "farewell," and more:
For years, Micky Dolenz has spoken about his admiration for Michael Nesmith, including his song catalog stretching from the Monkees era all the way through Nez's varied solo output. And their well-known camaraderie was on full display during the recent "Mike & Micky Show" tours. "Way back in the day when we were in the recording studio, Nez and I fell into this wonderful harmonic vocal blend I called 'The Everly Monkees,' as exemplified by the beautiful song 'Me & Magdalena,'" Micky wrote in the liner notes of the The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show. "On the set of The Monkees TV show, we would fall into some ad-lib riff and totally crack each other up. We often joked about one day having 'The Mike & Micky Show'!"
Those 2018-2019 dates were a critical and commercial success, performing to audiences in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Although Micky and Michael's most recently scheduled tour has twice been postponed due to COVID-19, Rolling Stone delivered some welcome news today that Micky Dolenz will record an album covering the works of his longtime friend and musical partner Michael Nesmith. "I've always been a huge fan of his songs,” Micky told Rolling Stone. "He's just so prolific."
According to Rolling Stone, recording has not commenced for Dolenz Sings Nesmith and there's no firm track listing, but Christian Nesmith, Michael's oldest son, will be producing the project while Monkees manager and historian Andrew Sandoval will be handling A&R duties. 7a Records, the British-based label fronted by Glenn Gretlund and well-known to fans for its Monkees-related releases over the last several years, will issue the album.
Read more from Rolling Stone: Dolenz Sings Nesmith will be packed with songs Nez wrote throughout his long career, including Monkees classics
UPDATE 11/23/2020: Micky is currently recording the album in Los Angeles, and 7a's Glenn Gretlund has informed the Live Almanac that a tentative release date is set for March 2021.
UPDATE 2/13/2021: Christian Nesmith posted the following on his Facebook page regarding the latest update about Dolenz Sings Nesmith:
Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith's upcoming summer tour has received a high recommendation in the April 2020 issue of Rolling Stone in a section titled "Rolling Stone Recommends," featuring their top pop culture picks, including films, music, podcasts, and documentaries:
Micky and Michael's latest concert tour, "An Evening With The Monkees," originally set for April 2020, has been rescheduled for this coming July and September as a result of the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus.
"To create their 50th-anniversary LP Good Times!, the Monkees turned creative control over to lifelong fans of the group, like producer Adam Schlesinger and songwriters like Rivers Cuomo, Paul Weller, and Noel Gallagher. The result is, improbably enough, the greatest album of the 2010s by a Sixties band, highlighted by the achingly gorgeous love ballad 'Me & Magdalena,' by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. The voices of Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz blend together as perfectly as they did in the Sixties. And now with decades of wisdom and tough loss underneath their glossy exterior (beloved members Peter Tork and Davy Jones are no longer with us), they somehow mean more than ever." —Andy Greene
UPDATE 12/24/2019: Rolling Stone contributing editor Rob Sheffield placed "Me & Magdalena" on his personal "Best Songs of the 2010s" list:
"The Monkees had a beautiful resurgence with Good Times — their first record written and produced by actual Monkees fans, which must be why it was their best since the Sixties. 'Me and Magdalena' is a country-roads ballad, written for them by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard: Mike Nesmith flexes his weathered Texas twang, in Magnetic South mode, while Micky Dolenz hits the high harmonies. They sound like they’ve waited years for this moment — and they’re not the only ones."
Earlier this afternoon, Rolling Stone magazine's website published an interview with Michael Nesmith conducted by Andy Greene. In it, Nez speaks openly about a wide array of topics and people, including the post-Monkees days with Red Rhodes, his relationships with Peter Tork and Davy Jones, touring with Micky Dolenz in early 2020, the scope of The Monkees' legacy today, the recently issued Cosmic Partners live album from 7a Records, and much more:
UPDATE: Rolling Stone followed-up their interview with Nez by putting the spotlight on the opening track of his 1972 album, And the Hits Just Keep on Comin':
"It Was Fifty Years Ago Today," a tribute to The Beatles' White Album and co-starring Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross, and Todd Rundgren, will be on tour this September and October. Tickets in most markets go on sale Friday, June 7! Rolling Stone covered the announcement of the tour:
September 21: Golden Nugget / Atlantic City, New Jersey
September 24: Ruth Eckerd Hall / Clearwater, Florida
September 25: Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center / Fort Lauderdale, Florida
September 26: MSU Riley Center / Meridian, Mississippi
September 28: Akron Civic Theatre / Akron, Ohio
September 29: Norton Center/ Danville, Kentucky
October 1: Arcada Theatre / St. Charles, Illinois
October 2: Pabst Theater / Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 3: Muriel Kauffman Theatre / Kansas City, Missouri
October 5: The Cabot / Beverly, Massachusetts
October 6: Capitol Center for the Arts / Concord, New Hampshire
October 7: Collins Center for the Arts / Orono, Maine
October 8: Ridgefield Playhouse / Ridgefield, Connecticut
October 10: St. George Theatre / Staten Island, New York
October 11: Berklee PAC / Boston, Massachusetts
October 12: NYCB Theatre at Westbury / Westbury, New York
October 13: Mayo PAC / Morristown, New Jersey
October 15: Keswick Theatre / Glenside, Pennsylvania
October 17: Count Basie Center for the Arts / Red Bank, New Jersey
October 18: Garde Arts Center / New London, Connecticut
October 19: Wind Creek Event Center / Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
October 20: Warner Theatre / Washington, D.C.
UPDATE: A second leg of the tour has been added!
November 30: Palace Theatre / Greensburg, Pennsylvania
December 1: Aronoff Center / Cincinnati, Ohio
December 2: Arcada Theatre / St. Charles, Illinois
December 4: Verizon Wireless Theatre / Grand Prairie, Texas
December 5: Paramount Theatre / Denver, Colorado
December 6: Celebrity Theatre / Phoenix, Arizona
December 7: Westgate Las Vegas Casino & Resort / Las Vegas, Nevada
December 8: Magnolia Performing Arts Center / El Cajon, California
December 11: The Wiltern / Los Angeles, California
December 15: Jackson Rancheria / Jackson, California
The latest episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast celebrates the life and music of Peter Tork, with previously unheard interview audio and more. Andy Greene and Rob Sheffield join host Brian Hiatt to discuss Tork’s place in music history, while also tracing the Monkees’ broader story and making a case for their greatness.
Flashback: The Monkees’ Peter Tork Sings a Gleeful ‘Your Auntie Grizelda’ in 2015 by Angie Martoccio
"The Christmas Song," the classic holiday standard performed by Michael Nesmith on The Monkees' new album Christmas Party, debuted in music video form today on RollingStone.com. Produced, directed, and animated by Jonathan Nesmith and Susan Holloway, the clip features newly recorded dialogue by both Nesmith and Micky Dolenz.
A new Rolling Stone article examining this season's holiday albums finds The Monkees' Christmas Party clocking in at #8:
Video for "Unwrap You At Christmas" debuts (UPDATED with vinyl release date for "Christmas Party" album and more)
The holiday season continues to deliver for Monkees fans as the brand new lyric video for "Unwrap You At Christmas," the debut single from the group's first-ever holiday album, Christmas Party, has premiered on the official Monkees YouTube channel, and in a brand new single mix to boot! Join the Watch Party in real time now (on the right side of the video).
UPDATE: The chat revealed that the vinyl release for Christmas Party is currently slated for September 2019.
UPDATE #2: Rolling Stone - Watch the Monkees’ New Cartoon Video ‘Unwrap You at Christmas’
UPDATE #3: "Unwrap You At Christmas" (Single Mix) now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and YouTube
(Video credits: Art by Michael Allred / Colors by Laura Allred / Directed by John Hughes)
Micky Dolenz speaks to Rolling Stone about "Christmas Party," Michael Nesmith’s heart surgery, touring, and Peter Tork
Rolling Stone makes it official: The Monkees to release first holiday album, "Christmas Party," on October 12 (UPDATED X2)
Two years after the triumph of Good Times!, The Monkees are set to release Christmas Party, their first-ever collection of holiday music. The album, produced by Adam Schlesinger (who also oversaw Good Times!), will feature newly recorded versions of classic Christmas songs including "Silver Bells," "The Christmas Song," and "Wonderful Christmastime" along with brand new songs written for the group by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo ("What Would Santa Do"), Andy Partridge of XTC ("Unwrap You At Christmas"), R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5 ("Christmas Party"), and Schlesinger with novelist Michael Chabon ("House of Broken Gingerbread"). Covers of Wizzard's yuletide classic "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" and Big Star's "Jesus Christ" will also be heard on the album.
Christmas Party includes new vocals by Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, plus the late Davy Jones’ voice - taken from vintage recordings - also appears on two songs. It will be available for purchase on compact disc and as a digital download on October 12. A vinyl edition is in the works but will not be issued until early 2019. The first single, set for an October release, will be Andy Partridge's "Unwrap You At Christmas," and a lyric video will be produced to promote the track.
Along with producer Schlesinger, Cuomo and Partridge are returning to the Monkees fold as they were the songwriters responsible for the two lead singles from Good Times!, "She Makes Me Laugh" and "You Bring the Summer." Two of Michael Nesmith's sons also acted as co-producers (Christian on "The Christmas Song" and Jonathan on "Snowfall").
Davy's tracks on Christmas Party were originally recorded in 1991 with former Monkees producer Chip Douglas. Schlesinger worked with the master tapes as given to him by Douglas, creating new instrumentation around Davy's vocals.
Target will carry an exclusive bonus tracks edition of Christmas Party on October 19 (a week after the release of the standard edition), featuring two additional songs:
1) "Ríu Chíu" (group version as heard on the 1967 "Christmas Show" episode with improved audio from its previous CD appearance on the 2007 deluxe edition of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.)
2) "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" (the one-off 1976 Christmas single recorded by Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork and produced by Chip Douglas - this will mark its first official appearance on a Monkees album)
Here is the official track listing of Christmas Party, and you can listen to the LP's executive producer John Hughes (of Rhino Records) and Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval breakdown each song on the latest episode of Zilch.
"Unwrap You At Christmas" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"What Would Santa Do" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"Mele Kalikimaka" (Lead vocal: Davy)
"House Of Broken Gingerbread" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"The Christmas Song" (Lead vocal: Michael)
"Christmas Party" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"Jesus Christ" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"Silver Bells" (Lead vocal: Davy)
"Wonderful Christmastime" (Lead vocal: Micky)
"Snowfall" (Lead vocal: Michael)
"Angels We Have Heard On High" (Lead vocal: Peter)
"Merry Christmas, Baby" (Lead vocal: Micky)
Stay tuned to The Monkees Live Almanac for all the latest news and information surrounding Christmas Party and more!
When I received the news about Michael Nesmith's quadruple bypass surgery a couple of weeks ago, I was taken aback and concerned about his well-being. I'm relieved and happy to hear, as everyone will be, that Nez is on the mend! Check out Andy Greene's new Rolling Stone interview with Michael by following the link below:
UPDATE @ 3pm EST: Christian Nesmith has clarified the Rolling Stone piece linked above in a post on Facebook:
UPDATE #2 on 7/27/2018: The mainstream press is covering the news of Michael's surgery:
Los Angeles Times: Monkees' Michael Nesmith recuperating after heart surgery; plans to resume touring in September
People: The Monkees' Mike Nesmith Reveals Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery Following Tour Cancellation
UPDATE #3 on 7/28/2019: Michael shared a description of his current workout routine on Facebook:
In an August 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Micky Dolenz spoke about The Monkees' first single and #1 hit, "Last Train to Clarksville":
"It's about a guy going off to war. Frankly, it's an anti-war song. It's about a guy going to Clarksville, Tennessee, which is an army base if I'm not mistaken. He's obviously been drafted and he says to his girlfriend, 'I don't know if I'm ever coming home.' Considering that it was a Monkees song and the first one, I was always surprised that the record company even released it unless it just went right over their head.
"I don't recall recording it because there was just so much going on at that time. I was recording two or three songs a night after filming the TV show all day. [Co-writer] Bobby Hart tells me I went in to sing one night. He says that I'd learned the song and routined it. We'd done the keys and all that stuff. There was a bridge part of that song. You know the bit where I go 'di da di di da di da?' Well, there were words to that. I said, 'Bobby, I just can't sing that.' I just couldn't learn it in time. He said okay. 'Well, we need to get it done so just go, 'di da di di da di da.'
"I have a very fond memory of hearing it on the radio for the first time on KHJ, a big station out here at the time. Davy [Jones] and I were renting a house up in the Hollywood Hills. We were pulling up to this big, beautiful rented house in Beverly Hills when they went, 'Here they are, the Monkees' 'Last Train to Clarksville.' We pulled over and just had the biggest grins on our faces."
By Andy Greene
From the earliest days of the Monkees, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith had a special bond. Their harmony blend was a crucial part of the group's signature sound, and on the group's television show they shared impeccable comic timing and loved nothing more than to go off script and improv with one another. "We even had this odd idea about doing the Mike and Micky Show because we enjoyed playing together and singing together so much," says Nesmith. "We just never had the big money support for it because it was all about the Monkees, so we'd just set up on some of the set furniture and sing songs while the crew set up lights."
It has taken over 50 years, but their dream of the Mike and Micky Show is finally coming true in June when the "The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show" kicks off a month-long run of dates in Chandler, Arizona. It's going to be a very different show than anything any incarnation of the Monkees has ever presented since there won't be screens displaying vintage clips of the group and they're dipping deep into the catalog to resurrect songs that have never been played live. "It's been a lot of work because Nez is quite the perfectionist," says Dolenz. "But it's so exciting to hear these songs done in their original context and harmonies. It's so great to recapture all these moments."
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the tour is that Nesmith agreed to it in the first place. Less than two years ago, he retired "Monkee Mike" after an emotional farewell show at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. The group was in the middle of a huge 50th-anniversary tour, but Nez sat out nearly every date, leaving Dolenz and Peter Tork to carry the Monkee banner as a duo. But once those dates wrapped in December 2016, Tork told Dolenz that he wouldn't be available for any shows in the foreseeable future. "I realized if there was going to be any more Monkees music played live that Micky and I were going to have to do it," says Nesmith. "From the old Mike and Micky stuff I felt there may be some creative fun to be had here."
Rehearsals began at Nesmith's home in Carmel, California, a couple of months ago. At first, it was just the two of them and Nesmith's son Christian poring through the 12 Monkees studio albums, picking tunes they felt like singing and trying them out vocally without any band. "We did a version of [the 1967 Headquarters song] 'You Told Me,' the vocal part, that was really electrifying," says Nesmith. "I was like, 'Wow, this song does well under a little rock & roll power when you get away from the pop shampoo commercial stuff.'"
Special attention was paid to latter-day Monkees LPs The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees, Instant Replay and The Monkees Present. These came out after the peak of Monkee-mania and are packed with Nesmith originals he wrote while beginning to plant the seeds for his groundbreaking country rock group the First National Band. "One of the first songs we dusted off was 'St. Matthew' and 'Some of Shelly's Blues' [from the sessions for 1969's Instant Replay]," says Nesmith. "Mick asked if I wanted to sing 'Joanne' [a minor hit for the First National Band in 1970], but I felt it was way too much off into my own corner and not associated with the Monkees at all. But we are doing 'Different Drum' since that fell into the Monkee stew because Coco [Dolenz] started singing it in the live shows."
The show will also feature all of the band's biggest hits, including "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," "Daydream Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Stepping Stone." They call these the "can't cannot play" songs. "Those will always be about half to one third of any Monkees show," says Dolenz. "Nez likes some of the early Monkees hits more than others and I do too, but it goes without saying that we're doing all of them. I've learned over the years that once the audience knows they are getting those hits they will listen to just about anything else."
Once they had a working list of songs they wanted to do, Dolenz and Nesmith went into a rehearsal space with a band that includes Wayne Avers on guitar, Christian Nesmith on guitar and vocals, Alex Jules on keyboards, John Billings on bass, Rich Dart on drums, Coco Dolenz and Circe Link on background vocals, Pete Finney on pedal steel, and Paul Kramer on banjo, fiddle and guitar. The latter two will help them flesh out Nez's country rock tunes. "It's an astoundingly good band," says Nesmith. "This band and this iteration of the Monkees music is the best I've ever heard. It's the most fun to play, too."
They're going to rehearse all the way up to opening night on June 1st, and they have yet to settle on a final set list. "Good Clean Fun" from 1969's The Monkees Present is provisionally slated as the opening tune and "Me & Magdalena," "Circle Sky," "Porpoise Song" and "Birth of an Accidental Hipster" are near certainties. Dolenz is pushing very hard to get Nesmith to sign off on a version of the First National Band's "Grand Ennui" the ensemble has worked up. "I have been begging him to do that," says Dolenz. "Wait unit you hear it. It friggin' rocks!" Nez isn't quite convinced. "I told him it couldn't be any further from a Monkees thing, from subject matter to the way it's performed," he says. "When we started doing it, it jumped up to its full bright, sprightly self and we realized this would be a great song to sing. But so would, you know, the Beatles catalog and we have to stop at some point and say, 'This is a Monkees show.'"
One thing they aren't doing is any song originally performed by the late Davy Jones beyond "Daydream Believer." "Nobody can sing what David sang," says Nesmith. "He was so sweet and generous and the songs need this voice there when we play them. We made a decision to not do them."
Lingering over the whole tour is the absence of Peter Tork. The singer-guitarist successfully battled a rare form of oral cancer in 2009 and was an eager participant on every Monkees tour between 2011 and 2016, though he kept an extremely low profile in 2017. Earlier this year, he said he wasn't going to be involved in the tour because he was focused on his Lead Belly tribute LP Relax Your Mind. But the disc came out in January and he hasn't announced any tour plans behind it. "I've always had a certain distance from Peter," says Nesmith. "I don't really know what he's doing or what he's thinking."
Dolenz is slightly more willing to talk about the situation. "Last year when we talked about reconnecting he said, 'I'm not available,'" he says. "He told me a couple of years ago that he wanted to pursue his dream project, which is the Lead Belly album. He worked on it for a long time and he's going to tour with [his band] Shoe Suede Blues. My understanding was that Peter was just not available for this tour. That's his business and you'd have to ask him for more about it."
Tork's absence is a big reason Dolenz and Nesmith aren't touring as the Monkees, though when you ask them whether or not the band on the stage will be the Monkees you get a very long and philosophical answers about what the group was in the first place. "The Monkees is a television show," says Nesmith. "It was a group we played on television. Once it steps outside that show, people have to nourish it and make it something on their own. When you play the songs in your car or in headphones at your office it starts to integrate itself into your life like a real band. But that doesn't mean the television show is coming to life. You, however, might see it as a band. There's a real bifurcation in the way it exists in my mind. In some ways, it's a creative extension of the job I get called up to do every once in a while and really enjoy."
Dolenz looks at it from a bit of a different angle. "There's no short answer to this," he says. "It's like saying, 'What is Star Trek?' How many casts have been in Star Trek? But it's all Star Trek. You can't reduce these things in any scientific sense. We've never controlled the brand name and we have to pay [Rhino] every time we tour and use it, which we're happy to do."
Whatever you call the band, they have no plans beyond the end of the tour in Red Bank, New Jersey, on June 25th. Michael Nesmith already has a First National Band tour booked that will take him to the southern United States and up the East Coast in the fall. Dolenz is booking solo shows and is in talks with producers about returning to the stage on Broadway or the West End of London. But they both say they are very open to resuming the Mike and Micky Show at some point in the future when their schedules permit. "You just don't say no to anything right now," says Nesmith. "Who knows what's going to happen?
The Monkees Tour Facebook page posted videos of Micky, Michael, and the band rehearsing "Sunny Girlfriend," "Auntie's Municipal Court" (!), and "Different Drum" today at Videoranch:
Andrew Sandoval shared a photo from today's rehearsals on Instagram:
And courtesy of Videoranch on Facebook, here's a look at Michael's guitars at rehearsals:
Were there any particular records or films that inspired the album?
Sean Lennon: Les got a telepathic communication from Buzz Aldrin.
Les Claypool: A big inspiration was us sitting down and watching the Monkees' Head.
Sean Lennon: Head is, like, my bible. Any project or important thought I've ever had was inspired by Head. We were talking about the amazing revelation that Buzz [Aldrin] revealed on C-SPAN. He said, "There's a monolith on Phobos with a tiny, potato-shaped moon that's revolving around Mars." It's the most mind-blowing thing I've ever seen on television. We were just hanging out watching that video, and Les came back the next day with a full song about it.
Last Updated: 2/23/2018 @ 5:30am EST
Numerous articles have appeared online covering the announcement of the tour. Most of them are fairly similar with quotes from the official press release and the Rolling Stone feature. Below are some highlights:
Citi Presents Little Steven’s Underground Garage at the Basie – The Monkees Present: The Mike Nesmith & Micky Dolenz Show*
*Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees will visit the Count Basie Theatre June 25th for their first-ever national tour as a duo, with E-Street Band guitarist, Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer and Disciples Of Soul leader Steven Van Zandt on board as host.
Monkees Farewell Tour
Dolenz sings Nesmith
Pre-Order Sandoval Book
Monkee Mania Radio on Live365