A quick note about this post below: I had been working on a couple of different blog entries about various topics, but they weren't coming together to my satisfaction. I decided to combine everything into a single post titled 'Random Monkees Musings.' I'm hoping it doesn't read like a rant, nor do I want it to seem like my personal wish list of Monkees projects. I receive a lot of emails and comments from Monkees fans and I'd like to think I'm sharing some of those thoughts, while adding my personal opinions on top of it all. Feedback welcomed!
Rhino Records / Monkees Merchandise / And More
Rhino Records owns the rights to almost everything Monkees. Gone, of course, are the days when longtime Monkees champion Harold Bronson fronted Rhino. But in the years since his departure, Rhino has continued to be kind to Monkees fans. Thanks to stalwarts like Andrew Sandoval, we've been treated to multiple deluxe editions and box sets of the group’s recorded output, along with complete season collections of The Monkees television series. Followers of other groups are rightfully envious of the reverence Rhino has afforded the Monkees catalog. And I think I can speak for most fans in saying how grateful we have been for these releases. With all due respect, however, I can't help but to feel that Rhino is underutilizing their investment.
When Monkees.com opened in 2006, the site was fairly rudimentary (not as much as its current, barebones incarnation), but rare photos were made available, and Andrew Sandoval hosted a number of Monkees podcasts that were exclusive to the site, including a multiple part interview with Michael Nesmith. There was talk of fans being able to download rare tracks from the vault, but that never came to fruition. Sandoval's departure from Rhino most likely stifled the promise of a true, official Monkees website.
I'm still interested in downloading rare tracks from the vault via the official Monkees website. Here's my first request. How about the mono soundtrack mix of "As We Go Along" (a personal favorite) that didn’t make the Rhino Handmade Head box set? Don't forget about backing tracks and alternate mixes that remain unissued or were passed over on the recent deluxe sets. Hopefully this material will see release on future Rhino projects, but if not...
Rhino should also consider offering a fresh line of Monkees merchandise:
Gene Ashman 8-button Monkees T-shirts: I can’t count the number of emails I have received inquiring about where these shirts can be purchased. Last year, I published a blog post about the origins of the design, and that post continues to be one that brings a lot of visitors to this website (who then follow-up with me asking about its availability). I would imagine if the Ashman shirt had been sold at the merchandise booth during the recent tours, it would have been a runaway hit, just like the Nez wool hats.
Official Line of Monkees T-shirts: If you are like me and have been fairly underwhelmed when it comes to the T-shirts produced for the last couple of Monkees tours, you are not alone. But Rhino did hit a home run with the Head T-shirt that was offered on the 2012 tour (I still get emails about that one, too). Imagine a Monkees T-shirt with an Instant Replay cover-like design. Gary Strobl offered some nice shirts in the ‘80s (including the 8-button style!). Rhino should take notice. (And maybe produce shirts that aren't as cartoonish in style?) It just seems like Rhino could be making some money here, doesn't it?
Monkees Posters: Head-themed posters, live shots of the band onstage, vintage Monkees in their heyday. Great for dorm rooms. New generations of fans are still discovering The Monkees.
Monkees Maracas: How many stories have we read over the years about musicians who were inspired by watching The Monkees television show? Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ve received emails from musicians asking for information about what kind of maracas were used by Davy Jones during The Monkees’ heyday (particularly this style to the left), right down to the nitty gritty of model numbers and more. I mustn't forget the questions about where to find a Monkees Gretsch guitar from the 1960s, too!
The Monkees tambourines that were for sale on the recent tours seemed to be a popular selection, so why not add a line of maracas? Better yet, portions of the proceeds could go to Davy's Equine Memorial Foundation.
Monkees on your iPad: Why not? Paul McCartney just did it, configuring several of his most popular solo LPs as downloadable apps for your iPad, all of which contain premium content such as remastered audio tracks, archival video footage, interviews, rare photos, and more. The Monkees have always been a multimedia entity. This sort of product would be a great way to mine that entity. Imagine...Monkees TV show outtakes, lost interviews, unseen photos, unheard backing tracks and alternate mixes, and maybe even outtakes from Head, if Bob Rafelson finally gives the OK. Remember the Monkees CD-ROM you bought back in the '90s and how cool you thought it was? It's time to bring The Monkees into the 21st century!
Perhaps these sort of products are not being produced because Rhino's bottom line shows that there simply isn't a demand to justify the production costs. And that very well could be true. Something tells me, however, that couldn't be absolutely correct. Think about the lines (and how deep they were) for merchandise on the recent Monkees tours (merchandise that wasn't cheap by any means). AND, expanded deluxe editions of Monkees albums that didn't sell much in the 1960s to begin with (Head, Instant Replay, and The Monkees Present) have all been afforded special treatment in the form of 3-CD box sets priced at $60 a pop. Obviously, somebody is buying this stuff!)
New Monkees Music for Another Monkees Tour
This website recently conducted a poll asking fans if they were interested in a new Monkees album. The response was very positive. If the thought of producing a full blown album is too daunting for Micky, Michael, and Peter, then they should consider recording an EP, perhaps starting with four or five songs and gauging the response from there. I'm also a full supporter of re-recording a few of the classics in their newer, live concert arrangements (think "Sweet Young Thing"). A strong producer is needed for this project.
A few new songs would serve a great purpose for any potential future Monkees tour, too. There were several allusions made in interviews this past spring that there could be concerts this fall. If that's so, it would be the group's fourth tour in two years. The shows have been great, but a revamped set list (perhaps with an acoustic portion that Nez teased last summer) is a must. And wouldn't it be icing on the cake if the trio had two or three new songs to perform on top of the classics?
The 50th Anniversary in 2016
Believe it or not, in a couple of years The Monkees will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary. (Becoming a fan during the 20th Anniversary as I did, does this mean I’m getting old?) Micky joked about what The Monkees would be like at their 50th anniversary during the 1996 shows, and it’s almost here. If they were willing, you would think a round of concerts would be a no brainer. But there are so many other potential ways to celebrate The Monkees’ 50th Anniversary.
Gary Strobl’s book: Gary has been talking about his book since the 1980s! I have a handwritten response from Strobelight Productions saying that the book should be published shortly, and that response is postmarked 1987. Last year, Gary announced that he had signed a contract with a publisher, so let’s hope all of his hard work and dedication in attaining interviews, gathering photographs, and more is on the market by the time the 50th rolls around.
A Henry Diltz Monkees Photo Book: Wouldn’t a collection of rare and unpublished photographs of The Monkees by Henry Diltz be an immediate purchase? Henry has thousands of images of The Monkees. (Think about a section dedicated to the lean years of 1969 and 1970 alone.) It’s time these photos see the light of day! C’mon, Henry!
A Monkees Documentary: I'm not saying it has to be on the level of The Beatles Anthology, but imagine a three hour series dedicated to the entire career span of The Monkees. The 1997 Rhino-produced Hey, Hey We're The Monkees was a nice start, but it's time for an updated production. I wonder what Andrew Sandoval and Rachel Lichtman are doing after their Boyce and Hart documentary is completed?
Second Edition of Andrew Sandoval's book: Late last year, the Live Almanac reported that Andrew was working on an update of his definitive 2005 book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation. Needless to say, this would be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of Monkees fans in time for the group's 50th Anniversary!