Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beatle People: The Monkees

The Monkees were a pop singing quartet assembled in Los Angeles in 1966 for the American television series The Monkees, which aired from 1966 to 1968. The primary members were Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, who were the public face of a music production system under the supervision of Don Kirshner. At the start, the band members provided vocals, and were given some performing and production opportunities, but they eventually fought for and earned the right to collectively supervise all musical output under the band's name. The group undertook several concert tours, allowing an opportunity to perform as a live band as well as on the TV series. When the show was canceled in 1968, the band continued releasing records until 1970. In the 1980s, the television show and music experienced a revival, which led to a series of reunion tours, and new records featuring various incarnations of the band's lineup.


Aspiring filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were inspired by the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night to develop a television series about a fictional rock 'n' roll group.

Developing a live act

In assigning instruments for purposes of the television show, a dilemma arose as none of the four was an actual drummer. Both Nesmith, a guitarist, and Tork, who could play several stringed and keyboard instruments, declined to give the drum set a try. Jones tested well initially as a novice drummer, but the camera could barely capture him behind the drums due to his short stature. Thus, Dolenz was assigned to become the drummer. Tork taught Dolenz his first few beats on the drums and the producers hired him a teacher.

Unlike most television shows at the time, the Monkees episodes were written with many "setups," requiring frequent breaks to prepare the set and cameras for short bursts of filming. Some of the "bursts" are considered proto-music videos, inasmuch as they were produced to sell the records. The four actors would spend 12-hour days on the set, many of them waiting for the production crew to do their jobs. Noticing that their instruments were left on the set unplugged, the four decided to turn them on and start playing.

After working on the set all day, the Monkees (usually Dolenz) would be called in to the recording studio to cut vocal tracks. As the Monkees were essentially the creation of the recording studio, there were few limits on how long they could spend in the recording studio, and the result was an extensive catalogue of unreleased recordings.

Pleased with their initial efforts, Columbia, over Kirshner's objections, planned to send the Monkees out to play live concerts. The massive success of the series and its spin-off records created intense pressure to mount a touring version of the group. Against the initial wishes of the producers, Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Tork went out on the road and made their debut live performance in December 1966 in Hawaii.

The band had no time to rehearse a live performance except between takes on set. They worked on the TV series all day, recorded in the studio at night, and slept very little. The weekends were usually filled with special appearances or filming of special sequences.

These performances were sometimes used during the actual series. The episode "Too Many Girls (Fern and Davy)" opens with a live version of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" being performed as the scene was shot. One entire episode was filmed featuring live music. The last show of the premiere season, "Monkees on Tour", was shot in a documentary style by filming a concert in Phoenix, Arizona.

On tour

In commentary tracks included in the DVD release of the first season of the show, Nesmith stated that Tork was better at playing guitar than bass. In Tork's commentary, he stated that Jones was a good drummer and had the live performance lineups been based solely on playing ability, it should have been Tork on guitar, Nesmith on bass, and Jones on drums, with Dolenz taking the fronting role, rather than as it was done with Nesmith on guitar, Tork on bass, and Dolenz on drums. (Jones mostly played maracas and tambourine, filling in briefly for Dolenz on drums on a song and for Tork on bass when he played keyboards.) The four Monkees performed all the instruments and vocals for most of the live set. The most notable exceptions being during each member's solo sections where during the December 1966-May 1967 tour, they were backed by the Candy Store Prophets. During the summer 1967 tour of the United States and Great Britain (from which the Live 1967 recordings are taken), they were backed by a band called the Sundowners. In 1968, the Monkees toured Australia and Japan.

The results were far better than expected. Wherever they went they were greeted by scenes of fan adulation. This gave the singers increased confidence in their fight for control over the musical material chosen for the series.

With Jones sticking primarily to vocals and tambourine (except when filling in on the drums when Dolenz came forward to sing a lead vocal), the Monkees' live act constituted a classic power trio of electric guitar, electric bass, and drums (except when Tork passed the bass part to Jones or one of the Sundowners in order to take up the banjo or electric keyboards).

Meet the Beatles

Critics of the Monkees observed that they were simply the "prefab four", a made-for-TV knockoff of the Beatles, but the Beatles took it in stride, and made the Monkees welcome when they visited England. John Lennon publicly compared the Monkees' humor to The Marx Brothers. George Harrison praised their self-produced musical attempts, saying "When they get it all sorted out, they might turn out to be the best" (Peter Tork was later one of the musicians on Harrison's Wonderwall Music, playing Paul McCartney's five-string banjo).

During the time when the Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Monkees were in England and met the Beatles at a party and Nesmith attended the "A Day in the Life" sessions at Abbey Road Studios; he can be seen in the Beatles' home movies, including one scene where he is conversing with Lennon (who called him Monkee Man). Dolenz was also in the studio during a session, which he mentioned while broadcasting for WCBS-FM in New York (incidentally, he interviewed Starr on his program). McCartney can be seen in the 2002 concert film Back in the U.S. singing the "(Theme from) The Monkees" while backstage.

End of the Kirshner Hit Factory

The Monkees had complained that the producers would not allow them to play their own instruments on their records. This campaign eventually forced the series' musical coordinator Don Kirshner to let the group have more participation in the recording process (against his strong objections). This included Nesmith producing his own songs, and band members making instrumental contributions. The Monkees were capable of playing their own instruments on the recordings and they had written some material, but, except for the few songs forced through by the Monkees' campaigning, they were not allowed by Kirshner to play or use their own material. Led by Nesmith, the band eventually rebelled against Kirshner, who was later fired.

The animosity between Kirshner and the Monkees began in the very early stages of the band. The Monkees' off-screen personalities at the time were much like what became their on screen image (except for Peter). This included the playful, hyper-active antics that are often seen on screen. Apparently, during an early recording session, the four Monkees were clowning around in the studio. The antics escalated until Micky Dolenz poured a Pepsi on Kirshner's head (Micky at the time not knowing Kirshner by sight).

Nesmith and Tork were particularly upset when they were on tour in January 1967 and discovered that a second album—More of The Monkees—had been released without their knowledge. The Monkees were annoyed at not having even been told of the release in advance, at having their opinions on the track selection ignored, and also because of the amateurish-looking cover art, which was merely a composite of pictures of the four taken for a J.C. Penney clothing advertisement. Indeed, the Monkees had not even been given a copy of the album; they had to buy it from a record store.

The climax of the rivalry was a rather intense argument between Nesmith and Kirshner Colgems lawyer Herb Moelis, in January 1967, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Kirshner had presented the group with royalty checks and Nesmith presented an ultimatum, demanding a change in the way the Monkees' music is chosen and recorded. Moelis reminded Nesmith that he was under contract. The confrontation ended with Nesmith punching a hole in a wall and saying, "That could have been your face, m_____! (All of the band members, including Nesmith, took the royalty checks, however.) "

Kirshner's firing came in early February 1967 when an agreement was reached between Colgems and the Monkees to release material directly created by the group in addition to Kirshner-produced material. Kirshner broke this agreement when he released "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," a Neil Diamond composition, as a single with "She Hangs Out," a song recorded in New York with Davy Jones vocals, as the flipside. When the single was discovered, Kirshner was immediately fired.

Kirshner was reported to have been incensed by the group's unexpected rebellion, especially when he felt they lacked the musical talent, and were hired specifically for their acting ability, alone. This experience led directly to Kirshner's later venture the Archies, which was an animated series – the "stars" existed only on animation cels, with music done by studio singers, and obviously could not seize creative control over the records issued under their name.

Screen Gems held the publishing rights to a wealth of great material, with the Monkees given first crack at many new songs. Their choices were not unerring; the band turned down "Sugar, Sugar," which became one of the biggest hits of 1969 when Kirshner recorded it with studio musicians and released it under the name of the Archies. A rumor circulated that "Sugar Sugar" was actually recorded with session musicians and Davy Jones providing all the vocals that was never released. However, when asked Jones confirmed that Kirshner had offered it to them, but stated he never recorded it. The Monkees never had to record a song they truly disliked, as Dolenz affirmed on The Larry King Show in 1987 (they would sometimes lampoon songs during takes, though; their lighthearted version of "Gonna Buy Me a Dog" ended up being picked for the group's first album).

Monkees controlled music

On their third album, Headquarters (produced by Chip Douglas and issued in May 1967), the four Monkees wrote and played on much of their own material. Nearly all vocals and instruments on Headquarters were performed by the four Monkees (the exceptions being only a few small parts usually filled by producer Chip Douglas). The album shot to No. 1, but was quickly eclipsed the following month by a milestone cultural event when the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Following Headquarters, they began what they referred to as "mix mode" where they played their own instruments but also continued to employ session musicians. The Monkees continued using additional musicians (including The Wrecking Crew, Louie Shelton, members of the Byrds and the Association, drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh, and Neil Young) throughout their recording career, especially when the group became temporarily estranged after Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. and recorded some of their songs separately.

The high of Headquarters was short-lived, however. Recording and producing as a group was Tork's major interest and he hoped that the four would continue working together as a band on future recordings. However, the four did not have enough in common regarding their musical interests. In commentary for the DVD release of the second season of the show, Tork said that Dolenz was "incapable of repeating a triumph." Having been a musician for one album, Dolenz no longer was interested in being a drummer, and largely gave up playing instruments on Monkees recordings. (Producer Chip Douglas also had identified Dolenz's drumming as the weak point in the collective musicianship of the quartet, having to splice together multiple takes of Dolenz's "shaky" drumming for final use.) Nesmith and Jones were also moving in different directions, with Nesmith following his country/folk instincts and Jones reaching for Broadway-style numbers.

While the first two albums, produced under Kirshner's direction, constituted prime examples of the traditional American pop music industry, with its Brill Building composers and its skilled studio session players, the next three albums, while not shining as brightly in terms of polished commerciality, constituted high class, original examples of the individual Monkees' country-rock, folk-rock, psychedelic rock, soul/R&B, guitar rock, Broadway, and English music hall sensibilities. Tork, free from Kirshner's restrictions, contributed some of the most memorable and catchy instrumental flourishes, such as the piano introduction to "Daydream Believer" and the banjo part on "You Told Me." Nesmith dove into his country sensibilities, producing a roots sound for popular consumption and contributed his idiosyncratic poetry as lyrics to several pieces. Jones and Dolenz's vocals continued to shine, even after Head, when the project was clearly falling apart.

When the Monkees toured Britain in 1967, there was a major controversy over the revelation that the group did not always play all of their own instruments in the studio, although they did play them all while touring (except for the solo segments, which used backing band the Candy Store Prophets). The story made the front pages of several UK and international music papers, with the group derisively dubbed "The Pre-Fab Four." Nevertheless, they were generally welcomed by many British stars, who realized the group included talented musicians and sympathized with their wish to have more creative control over their music.

Many Monkees fans argued that the controversy unfairly targeted the band, while conveniently ignoring the fact that a number of leading British and American groups (including critical favorites such as the Byrds and the Beach Boys) habitually used session players on their recordings. This commonplace practice had previously passed without comment. However, the Beatles had led a wave of groups who provided most of their own instrumentation on their recordings (although they at times used additional musicians such as Eric Clapton and Billy Preston to augment the Beatles' own instrumentation) and wrote most of their own songs. The comic book quality of their television series (where they mimed song performances out of necessity) brought additional scrutiny of the Monkees' recorded music. But both supporters and critics of the group agree that the producers and Kirshner had the good taste to use some of the best pop songwriters of the period. Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and many other highly regarded writers had songs recorded by the Monkees.

In November 1967, the wave of anti-Monkee sentiment was reaching its peak while the Monkees released their fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. In liner notes for the 1995 re-release of this album, Nesmith was quoted as saying that after Headquarters, "The press went into a full-scale war against us, talking about how 'The Monkees are four guys who have no credits, no credibility whatsoever and have been trying to trick us into believing they are a rock band.' Number one, not only was this not the case, the reverse was true. Number two, for the press to report with genuine alarm that the Monkees were not a real rock band was looney tunes. It was one of the great goofball moments of the media, but it stuck."

The Monkees went back into the recording studio, largely separately, and produced a large volume of recordings, material that eventually turned up on several albums. In April 1968, 'The Birds, the Bees, and the Monkees' was released. Being released after the final season of the television series (the series was cancelled in February 1968), this was the first Monkees album not to hit No. 1, but it still went gold. The album cover—a quaint collage of items looking like a display in a jumble shop or toy store—was chosen over the Monkees' objections.

Beyond television

During the filming of the second season, the band tired of scripts which they deemed monotonous and stale. They had already succeeded in eliminating the laugh track (a then-standard on American sitcoms), with the bulk of Season 2 episodes sans the canned chuckles. They proposed switching the format of the series to become more like a variety show, with musical guests and live performances. This desire was partially fulfilled within some second season episodes, with guest stars like musicians Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley and Charlie Smalls (composer of The Wiz), performing on the show. However, NBC was not interested in eliminating the existing format, and the group had little desire to continue for a third season.

After the television show was canceled in February 1968, Rafelson directed the four Monkees in a feature film, Head, originally titled "Untitled." The film was executive-produced by Schneider and co-written and co-produced by Rafelson with a then relatively unknown Jack Nicholson. Rumors abound that the title was chosen in case a sequel was made. The advertisements would supposedly have read: "From the Producers who gave you HEAD."

Nicholson also assembled the film's soundtrack album. The film, conceived and edited in a stream of consciousness style, featured oddball cameo appearances by movie stars Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, a young Teri Garr, boxer Sonny Liston, famous stripper Carol Doda, and musician Frank Zappa. It was filmed in Screen Gems Studios and on location in California, Utah, and The Bahamas between February 19 and May 17, 1968 and premiered in New York City on November 6 of that year (the film later debuted in Hollywood on November 20).

Head was not a commercial success, in part because it was the antithesis of The Monkees television show, intended to comprehensively demolish the group's carefully-groomed public image. Rafelson and Nicholson's "Ditty Diego-War Chant" (recited at the start of the film by the Monkees), ruthlessly parodies Boyce and Hart's "Monkees Theme." A sparse advertising campaign (with no mention of the Monkees) squelched any chances of the film doing well, and it played only briefly in nearly-empty cinemas. In commentary for the DVD release, Nesmith said that by this time, everyone associated with the Monkees, including the four Monkees, "had gone crazy." They were each using the platform of the Monkees to push their own disparate career goals, to the detriment of the Monkees project. Indeed, Nesmith said, Head was Rafelson and Nicholson's intentional effort to "kill" the Monkees, so that they would no longer be bothered with having to deal with the matter. Tork said in DVD commentary that everyone had developed such difficult personalities that the big-name stars invited as guests on the show would invariably leave the experience "hating everybody."

Over the intervening years Head has developed a cult following for its innovative style and anarchic humor, and the soundtrack album (long out of print, but re-released by Rhino in the '80s and now available in an expanded CD version) is counted among their most adventurous recordings. Members of the Monkees, Nesmith in particular, cite Head (the first Monkees album not to include any Boyce and Hart compositions) as one of the crowning achievements of the band. The highlights include Nesmith's "Circle Sky," an all-out rocker, Tork's psychedelic "Can You Dig It?," "Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" and the Goffin/King composition "Porpoise Song."

The Monkees had several international hits which are still heard on pop and oldies stations. These include "I'm a Believer," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "Daydream Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday." Despite their seemingly permanent reputation as a made-for-TV act, their hits and many lesser recordings present an enduring quality that has earned respect over the years.

Six albums were produced with the original Monkees lineup, four of which went to Number 1 on the Billboard chart. This success was supplemented by a series of successful world concert tours. But tensions within the group were increasing, and Peter Tork quit shortly after the band's Far East tour in December 1968, after completing work on their 1969 NBC television special, 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, which rehashed many of the ideas from Head, only with the Monkees playing a strangely second-string role. In DVD commentary for the television special, Dolenz noted that after filming was complete, Nesmith gave Tork a gold watch as a going-away present, engraved "From the guys down at work."

The remaining Monkees had decided to pursue their musical interests separately since Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd. they were no longer in the studio together -- and planned a future double album (eventually to be reduced to The Monkees Present) on which each Monkee would separately produce one side of a disc. No longer getting the group dynamic he wanted, and pleading "exhaustion" from the grueling schedule, Tork bought out his remaining contract.

Reduced to a trio, the remaining members went on to record Instant Replay and The Monkees Present. Throughout 1969, the trio would appear as guests on various television programs such as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Johnny Cash Show, Hollywood Squares, and Laugh-In. The Monkees also had a contractual obligation to appear in several television commercials with Bugs Bunny for Kool-Aid drink mix as well as Post cereal box singles.

In the summer of 1969 the three Monkees embarked on a tour with the backing soul band Sam and the Goodtimers. The concerts for this tour were longer sets than their earlier concert tours: many shows running over two hours. Unfortunately the 1969 Monkees' tour was not all that successful; some shows were cancelled due to poor ticket sales. In March 1970, Nesmith left the group, leaving only Dolenz and Jones to record Changes as the Monkees. By this time, Colgems was hardly putting any effort into the project, and they sent Dolenz and Jones to New York for the Changes sessions, to be produced by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. In comments for the liner notes of the 1994 re-release of Changes, Dolenz and Jones said that they felt they had been tricked into recording an "Andy Kim album" under the Monkees name. Except for the two singers' vocal performances, Changes is the only album that fails to win any significant praise from critics looking back 40 years to the Monkees' recording output. This would also mark the last official Monkees single 'Oh My My' which also became the last Monkees music film promo (produced by Micky).

After a 1971 single ("Do It In The Name Of Love" b/w "Lady Jane"), the Monkees lost the rights to use the name; in several countries, the USA included, the single was not credited to the Monkees but to Dolenz and Jones. The duo continued to tour throughout most of the 1970s but were unable to use the "Monkees" name.

Due in part to repeats of The Monkees on Saturday mornings and in syndication, The Monkees Greatest Hits charted in 1976. The LP, issued by Arista, who by this time had custody of the Monkees’ master tapes, courtesy of their corporate owner, Screen Gems, was actually a re-packaging of an earlier (1972) compilation LP called Refocus that had been issued by Arista's previous label imprint, Bell Records, also owned by Screen Gems. Dolenz and Jones took advantage of this, joining ex-Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to tour the United States. From 1975 to 1977, as the "Golden Hits of The Monkees" show ("The Guys who Wrote 'Em and the Guys who Sang 'Em!"), they successfully performed in smaller venues such as state fairs and amusement parks, as well as making stops in Japan, Thailand and Singapore. They also released an album of new material as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart (they could not use the Monkees name due to legal reasons). Nesmith had not been interested in a reunion. Tork claimed later that he had not been asked, although a Christmas single (credited to Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork) was produced by Chip Douglas and released on his own label in 1976. The single featured Douglas' and Howard Kaylan's "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" (originally recorded by a 1960s supergroup, Christmas Spirit), with a B-side of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (Douglas released a remixed version of the single, with additional overdubbed instruments, in 1986). Tork also joined Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart on stage at Disneyland on July 4, 1976, and also joined Dolenz and Jones on stage at the Starwood in Hollywood, California in 1977.

Other semi-reunions occurred between 1970 and 1986. Peter Tork helped arrange a Micky Dolenz single, "Easy On You"/"Oh Someone" in 1971. Tork also recorded some unreleased tracks for Nesmith's Countryside label during the 1970s, and Dolenz (by then a successful television director in the United Kingdom) directed a segment of Nesmith's NBC-TV series Television Parts, although the segment in question was not included when the series' six episodes aired during the summer of 1985.

1980s reunions

Brushed off by critics during their heyday as manufactured and lacking talent, The Monkees experienced a critical and commercial rehabilitation two decades later. A Monkees TV show marathon ("Pleasant Valley Sunday") was broadcast on 23 February 1986 on the video music channel MTV. In February and March, Tork and Jones played together in Australia. Then, starting in May, Dolenz, Jones, and Tork made a "20th Anniversary Tour." MTV promotion resurrected a smaller version of Monkeemania, and tour dates grew from smaller to larger venues.
Album cover for Then & Now... The Best of The Monkees, released at the height of the Monkees' 1986 revival. (l to r: Jones, Tork, Nesmith, Dolenz)

Producer David Fishof reunited the trio which became one of the biggest live acts of 1986 and 1987, with their original albums selling again, and a new greatest hits collection reaching platinum status. Mike Nesmith appeared onstage with Dolenz, Jones, and Tork twice, both times in Los Angeles: at the Greek Theatre on September 7, 1986, and at the Universal Amphitheatre on July 10, 1989. By now, Nesmith was amenable to a reunion, but forced to sit out most projects because of prior commitments to his bustling Pacific Arts video production company. However, he did appear with the band in a 1986 Christmas medley music video for MTV, and took part in a dedication ceremony at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, when the Monkees received a star there in 1989. Because his mother Bette Nesmith Graham was the inventor of Liquid Paper, Nesmith was wealthy and had little financial need to join in Monkees-related projects.

The sudden revival of the Monkees in 1986 helped move the first official Monkees single since 1971, "That Was Then, This Is Now," to the #19 position in Billboard. The success, however, was not without controversy. Davy Jones had declined to sing on the track, recorded along with two other new songs included in a compilation album, Then & Now... The Best of The Monkees. Some copies of the single and album credit the new songs to "the Monkees," others as "Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (of the Monkees)." Reportedly, these recordings were the source of some personal friction between Jones and the others during the 1986 tour. A new album by the touring trio, Pool It! (the Monkees' 10th), appeared the following year and was a moderate success. From 1986 to 1989, the Monkees would conduct major concert tours in the United States, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and Europe.

In 1986, a new television series called The New Monkees appeared. Four young musicians were placed in a similar series based on the original show, but "updated" for the 1980s. The show, its accompanying album and the New Monkees themselves all sank without a trace. (Neither Bob Rafelson nor Bert Schneider were involved in the development or production of the series, although it was produced by "Straybert Productions" headed by Steve Blauner, Rafelson and Schneider's partner in BBS Productions.)

Beginning in February 1987, Tork and Jones played in Australia together. When they began playing North America in June, they were joined by Dolenz and in September 1988, the three rejoined to play Australia again and then Europe and then North America, with that string of tours ending in September 1989. On July 9, 1989, the three were joined in Los Angeles by Nesmith, the first time all four played together since 1986.

1990s reunions

In 1993, Dolenz and Jones worked together on a television commercial, and another reunion tour was launched with the two of them in 1994.

In the 1990s, the Monkees continued to record new material, Their 11th album, Justus, was released in 1996. It was the first since 1968 on which all four original members performed and produced. Justus was produced by the Monkees, all songs were written by one of the four Monkees, and it was recorded using only the four Monkees for all instruments and vocals, which was the inspiration for the album title and spelling (Justus = Just Us).

The trio of Dolenz, Jones, and Tork reunited again for a successful 30th anniversary tour of American amphitheaters in 1996, while Nesmith joined them onstage in Los Angeles to promote the new songs from Justus. For the first time since the brief 1986 reunion, Nesmith returned to the concert stage for a tour of the United Kingdom in 1997, highlighted by two sold-out concerts at Wembley Arena in London. The full quartet also appeared in an ABC television special — Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees, written and directed by Nesmith — spoofing the original series that had made them famous. Nevertheless, following the UK tour, Nesmith declined to continue future performances with the Monkees, having faced harsh criticism from the British music press for his deteriorating musicianship. Tork noted in DVD commentary that while in 1966, Nesmith had learned a reasonably good version of the famous "Last Train to Clarksville" guitar lick, that in 1996, Nesmith was no longer able to play it, and Tork had to take over the lead guitar parts.

Nesmith's departure from the tour came with acrimony in the press. Jones was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as complaining that "He made a new album with us, he toured Great Britain with us ... Then all of a sudden, he's not here. Later, I hear rumors he's writing a script for our next movie. Oh, really? That's bloody news to me ... He's always been this aloof, inaccessible person ... the fourth part of the jigsaw puzzle that never quite fit in."

2000s reunions

Tork, Jones, and Dolenz toured the United States in 1997, after which the group took another hiatus, until the three regrouped again in 2001. Dolenz, Jones, and Tork toured the United States from March through September 2001. However, this tour was also accompanied by public sniping. Dolenz and Jones had announced that they had "fired" Tork for his constant complaining and threatening to quit. Tork himself was quoted as saying that, besides wanting to go on tour with his own band, Shoe Suede Blues, he was also troubled by the overuse of alcohol by others on tour. WENN News quoted Tork as saying:

"Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones fired me just before the last two shows of our 35th anniversary tour. I'm both happy and sad over the whole thing. I always loved the work onstage - but I just couldn't handle the backstage problems. I'd given them 30 days notice that I was leaving so my position is that I resigned first and then they dropped me. Thank God I don't need the Monkees anymore. ... I'm a recovering alcoholic and haven't had a drink in several years. I'm not against people drinking - just when they get mean and abusive. I went on the anniversary tour with the agreement that I didn't have to put up with drinking and difficult behavior offstage. When things weren't getting better, I gave the guys notice that I was leaving in 30 days for good."

Jones and Dolenz went on to tour the United Kingdom in 2002, but Tork declined to participate. Jones and Dolenz toured the United States one more time as a duo in 2002, and then split to concentrate on their own individual projects.

With different Monkees citing different reasons, the group chose not to mark their 40th anniversary in 2006, and it seems doubtful that the Monkees will be sighted again.

In June 2007, Tork complained to the New York Post that Jann Wenner had blackballed the Monkees from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Tork claimed:

Wenner "doesn't care what the rules are and just operates how he sees fit. It is an abuse of power. I don't know whether the Monkees belong in the Hall of Fame, but it's pretty clear that we're not in there because of a personal whim." Tork believes Wenner doesn't like the fact that the Monkees, who were originally cast as actors for a TV sitcom, didn't play their own instruments on their first two records. "Jann seems to have taken it harder than everyone else, and now, 40 years later, everybody says, 'What's the big deal? Everybody else does it.' Nobody cares now except him. He feels his moral judgment in 1967 and 1968 is supposed to serve in 2007."

Over the years, the Monkees, in interviews and commentary have at times expressed admiration for each other's talents and contributions. However, by 2008, it seemed that their relationships had soured again. In a March 2008 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Jones spoke bitterly about his fellow ex-Monkees, their failure to get into the Hall of Fame, and the unlikelihood that there would be another reunion.. The Sun's Rob Hiaasen quoted Jones:

Hiaasen: Any chance of a Monkees reunion?

Jones: I wouldn't think so.

With keeping myself clean and in good shape, I can't be responsible for Peter, Mike and Micky and their behavior. I'm not saying they have bad behavior, but it just takes one occasion where somebody has something to say and everybody gets blamed. I can't be responsible for Peter's mouth or Mike's mouth or Micky's mouth. They have to be able to feel the same way about me. So I'd rather do it myself.


The Monkees, selected specifically to appeal to the youth market with their manufactured personae and carefully produced singles, are seen as an original precursor to the modern proliferation of studio and corporation-created bands. But this critical reputation has softened somewhat, with the recognition that the Monkees were neither the first manufactured group nor unusual in this respect. The Monkees also frequently contributed their own songwriting efforts on their albums and saw their musical skills improve. They ultimately became a self-directed group, playing their own instruments and writing many of their own songs.

The Monkees found unlikely fans among musicians of the punk rock period of the mid-1970s. Many of these punk performers had grown up on TV reruns of the series, and sympathized with the anti-industry, anti-Establishment trend of their career. Sex Pistols and Minor Threat both recorded versions of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and it was played live by Toy Love. The Japanese new wave pop group The Plastics recorded a synthesizer and drum-machine version of "Last Train to Clarksville" for their 1979 album "Welcome Plastics."

In 1985, Monte Landis, who had appeared in almost every episode of the television series, had a cameo in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, a feature film comedy in the style of the Monkees' television show, and his appearance suggests the producers wanted Pee-wee's Big Adventure to have a connection to it.

In 1988 Run DMC recorded "Mary, Mary" on their album Tougher Than Leather. Australian indie-rock bands of the 1980s such as Grooveyard ("All The King's Horses"), Prince Vlad & the Gargoyle Impalers ("Mary Mary", "For Pete's Sake" and "Circle Sky") and The Upbeat and The Mexican Spitfires ("Mary Mary") performed Monkees cover versions. Cassandra Wilson had an indie hit with "Last Train to Clarksville" in 1995. The alternative rock group Smash Mouth had a hit with "I'm a Believer" in 2001 (and featured in the blockbuster computer-animated movie Shrek). Japanese popsters Shonen Knife recorded "Daydream Believer". Indie group Carter USM recorded "Randy Scouse Git" (a.k.a. Alternate Title). 1980s psychedelic rock band Bongwater, featuring Ann Magnuson and Mark Kramer, recorded "You Just May Be The One" and "The Porpoise Song". The Monkees also had a big influence on Paul Westerberg, lead singer/songwriter for The Replacements. "Daydream Believer" and "You Just May Be The One" are staples at his live shows. Also, the doom metal band from Chicago, Trouble, had recorded a cover of "The Porpoise Song" on their 1996 album, Plastic Green Head. Lid, a psychedelic metal band, including Eric Wagner, the vocalist from Trouble, and Danny Cavanaugh, guitar player from the UK band Anathema, recorded a cover of "Randy Scouse Git" on their album, In The Mushroom.

The band's legacy was strengthened by Rhino Entertainment's acquisition of the Monkees' franchise from Columbia Pictures in the early 1990s. The label has released several Monkees-related projects, including remastered editions of both the original television series and their complete music library, as well as their motion picture Head.

In the 1990s, three of the Monkees had minor roles in the family sitcom Boy Meets World. Tork played Topanga's father Jedidiah; Jones played Reginald, an old friend from Europe; Dolenz played Gordy, Mr. Matthews' best friend. In the one episode that the three were in together, they performed "My Girl."

In 1991, a feature film called Daydream Believer (known as The Girl Who Came Late in some markets) was released in Australia.

Jones, Tork and Dolenz also feature memorably as themselves in The Brady Bunch Movie. Jones is invited by Marcia to appear as the surprise star guest at the High School prom. After a difficult start, he proves a surprise hit with the modern-day audience. Later, the Bradys themselves perform "Keep On Dancing", a 1960s-style 'groovy' song, in the evening's "Search for a Star" talent contest. Everyone is surprised when they win the award, until it is revealed that the judging panel consists of Jones, Tork and Dolenz.

David Bowie, already under contract to record his debut album, was forced to adopt the stage name of "Bowie" in order to have any chance of having his music released in the U.S.; his legal name being David Robert Jones. During the early 1960s, Bowie was performing either under his own name or the stage name "Davie Jones", and briefly even as "Davy Jones", creating confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. To avoid this, in 1966 he chose "Bowie" for his stage name, after the Alamo hero Jim Bowie and his famous Bowie knife.

In 2005, eBay used "Daydream Believer" as the theme for a promotional campaign

In 2006, Evergreen used "Daydream Believer" in their adverts, however the lyrics were adapted for the product.

Report of Cancer

On March 3, 2009, Peter Tork reported on his Web site that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, a slow-growing form of head and neck cancer. Tork underwent extensive surgery March 4 in New York City. A preliminary biopsy discovered that the cancer had not spread beyond the initial site.

"It's a bad news, good news situation," explains Tork, "It's so rare a combination(on the tongue) that there isn't a lot of experience among the medical community about this particular combination. On the other hand, the type of cancer it is, never mind the location, is somewhat well known, and the prognosis, I'm told, is good."

Notable achievements

* Had the top-charting American single of 1967 ("I'm a Believer"). (Billboard No 1 for 7 Weeks) with "Daydream Believer" tied for third.
* First band to use a Moog Synthesizer in a top-10 album (used on "Star Collector", "Daily Nightly" and "Love Is Only Sleeping" from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., released in November of 1967).
* Gave the Jimi Hendrix Experience their first US concert appearances. It should be noted that Hendrix's heavy psychedelic guitar and sexual overtones did not go overly well with the teenage girl audience.
* Compelled another David Jones to change his surname to Bowie to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees.
* The Monkees reunion tour was the largest grossing tour of 1986.
* Introduced Tim Buckley to a national audience, via his appearance in the series finale, "The Frodis Caper."
* The Monkees outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined in 1967.
* Last music artist to win the MTV Friday Night Video Fights by defeating Bon Jovi 51% to 49%.
* First music artist to win two Emmy awards.
* First actual live concert footage to be featured in a motion picture (Head, 1968).
* Had 7 albums on the Billboard top 200 chart at the same time (6 were re-issues during 1986/87).
* The Monkees are one of only nine artists achieving number-one hits in the United States and United Kingdom simultaneously
* More of The Monkees spent an amazing 70 weeks on the Billboard charts becoming the 12th biggest selling album of all time (Billboard.com).
* Four number one albums in a year span. The only act to have their first four albums go to number 1 on the Billboard charts.
* Held the number one spot on the Billboard album chart for 31 consecutive weeks.
* Held the record for the longest stay at number one for a debut record until 1982 when Men At Work's debut record Business As Usual broke that record.


* The Monkees (1966) #1
* More of The Monkees (1967) #1
* Headquarters (1967) #1
* Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967) #1
* The Birds, The Bees & the Monkees (1968) #3
* Head (1968) #45
* Instant Replay (1969) #32
* The Monkees Present (1969) #100
* Changes (1970) (Originally did not chart, but the Rhino reissue in 1986 reached #152)
* Pool It! (1987) #72
* Justus (1996) #200


There was also "The Monkees" comic published by Dell which ran from 1-17 (1967-1969) as well as a Daily Mirror "Crazy Cartoon Book" (2/6, now 12.5p) which had four comic stories as well as 4 photos of The Monkees, all in black and white. Published 1967.



CatherineB said...

This was a truly fantastic post. I'm a die-hard Monkees fan and there was some stuff in there even I didn't know so thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

This post appears to be a verbatim copy of the Monkees' Wikipedia article...