A big thanks to Jeremy Maine who shared on Facebook this article from the Sydney Morning Herald as published on September 22, 1968. Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith are interviewed, along with Monkees confidant Bill Chadwick, while the group is on tour in Australia in 1968. Thank you, Jeremy!
Monkees...and the science of noise!
Bill Chadwick, a young American who sports hippy gear and a Chico Marx hairdo, studied electronic technology at University.
Now, he says, what they taught him he has largely forgotten.
"That knowledge is pretty useless to me now," he said this week. "Mostly they taught me that what I'm doing now is impossible."
His impossible task: To make the Monkees heard in concert.
You couldn't really hear the Beatles when they were out here. Nor the Rolling Stones or even Bill Haley and the Comets. After the first two bars the audience screams would drown out the music.
But, for better or worse, you can hear the Monkees. The sound equipment pumps out about 150 per cent more power than any used in pop concerts here before.
"The other night in a concert back in the States," Bill said, "I measured the audience screams just before the Monkees went on stage.
"It was 110 decibels, scientifically recognized as being just a fraction below the threshold of pain. We amplified the Monkees over the top of that.
"At one concert recently with audience noises and the Monkees we hit 140 decibels."
He smiled contentedly and added: "You could still hear the Monkees. I wonder we didn't all go off our heads."
The Monkees normally carry about four tons of equipment with them. They imported 1455 lb on this tour and have hired more.
This scientific approach, however, does have its problems. Monkee Mike Nesmith, for instance, found last year that concert noise had destroyed the upper 10 per cent of his hearing.
"It wasn't really important," he said. "It just means I can't hear a few very high notes any more. But I don't want it to get any worse.
"We all wear ear plugs on stage now. It means we can't hear the audience, but we can hear each other. That means we play better."
The Monkee management takes the same commendably efficient approach to audience control as it does to noise. That way nobody gets hurt.
In a show of strength just before the Melbourne concerts this week 34 assorted white-coated attendants and policemen lined up in front of the stage before the Monkees went on.
And the audience was warned that anybody who left his seat would be ejected forthwith.
Vertical movement was condoned. Horizontal movement was out. It worked like a charm.
Meanwhile, back at the Pesident Motel, where the Monkees were kept more or less in a state of siege during their Melbourne stay, the Monkees talked more about the Monkees set-up.
"We're happy to let other people organize the concerts," said Mike Nesmith.
"But the one area we insist on keeping for ourselves is the actual show. We conceived the the whole thing ourselves because we think we know what the kids like."
The one thing the tour is proving is that the Monkees, individually and collectively, have talent. For years they've been plagued with rumors that they don't actually sing and play their own songs; they used stand-ins.
Well, they don't use stand-ins on stage. And they each do individual numbers which show off their talents.
Davy Jones sings a spiritual, Peter Tork performs with his banjo, Mike Nesmith does a rock 'n' roll send-up of Chuck Berry, and Micky Dolenz does a show-stopping impression of James Brown, the wildest of the soul singers.
The satire of Micky's number is largely lost on young Australian audiences who aren't yet switched on to James Brown, but it works as a performance in its own right.
Davy Jones, the one the kids scream for the most, displays the least stage talent.
Their audiences are barely pubescent, but certainly less scruffy than the usual pop crowds.
"We seem to be catering to a completely new audience," Micky Dolenz said. "They're between nine and 12 years old and they're suddently aware.
"They are often more aware than their parents because through television and things they've been exposed to so much, they know what's going on.
"But they're still too young to go to groovy clubs and things like that and they want something they can scream at.
"They scream at us."
Scream they do in Australia. Several hundred congregated outside the motel in Melbourne every day, jamming the switchboard, sending in presents, flashing mirrors and generally carrying on.
In Melbourne it was nothing compared with the Beatles debacle. But in Sydney on Friday the crowd of kids outside the Sheraton Motel was as large as one the Beatles attracted.
The Beatles, incidentally, are people the Monkees don't want to know about. They know and admire them, but they are fed up to the eye teeth of being compared to them, usually unfavourably.
"The Beatles are like gods," said Micky. "They started the whole thing. We started out simply as a television comedy team and we sort of just drifted into being a pop group which makes records and goes out on tour.
"We're simply entertainers. An act."
There is, however, rather more to the Monkees than that, and their outside activities show it.
Micky, for instance, is deeply interested in primitive societies and hopes to sneak a couple of days in the Outback so he can observe some Aboriginals.
His ultimate professional aim is to be a director of science fiction films.
Peter Tork, now sporting a nine-weeks-old beard, is involved in a complicated record venture. The record, an LP, is slowly being accumulated and he and the musicians he wants are available.
And Mike Nesmith recently wrote and produced a pop LP with 57 musicians. "It took me a couple of years to do," he said. "I'd hum all the instrument parts into a tape recorder and send them to Shorty Rogers to arrange.
"We used 14 violinists, seven of them came from symphony orchestras. One of them is regarded as the best violinist in the world and I can't even remember his name. He has to do studio work to make a living."
The record was only moderately successful.
"The trouble was that no one takes the Monkees seriously," he said bitterly.
Live in 2021