To download this box set via iTunes, click here:
To buy this box set from Amazon.com, click here: Music Box
The True Story of The Monkees
by Andrew Sandoval
For the last 35 years The Monkees have been an inescapable part of popular culture. Their television show is a rerun classic. Their music is played on the radio and used in advertisements. Their legendary “rags to riches” story has been the subject of a television movie. Why do The Monkees endure, when so many of their contemporaries have faded from our collective consciousness? The answer is in this box set: a collection of timeless songs produced and performed by a unique group of talents.
The Monkees’ story itself is not so easy to pin down. The project was the creation of two “New Hollywood” producers, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. Rafelson was a drifting intellectual, who claimed to have hosted a radio show, written for a Japanese newspaper, and traveled with a band through Mexico before The Monkees story line came to him. “I got the idea for the series in 1962, before Dick Lester’s A Hard Days Night,” Rafelson explained to Alan Smith in 1967. He also cited his own work in advertising – “a lot of the technique I picked up there.” Nevertheless, Rafelson’s “technique” meant little to Hollywood executives until Lester’s film with The Beatles was a success. “I had a hard time selling it until The Beatles came along,” Rafelson later told Monkees biographer Eric Lefcowitz. “The Beatles made it all happen, that’s the reality,” agreed Bert Schneider, who helped Rafelson sell the premise of an out-of-work rock band to his father, Columbia Pictures president Abe Schneider. On April 16, 1965, Screen Gems, the television division of Columbia Pictures, bought the Rafelson and Schneider concept, giving the go-ahead to cast and shoot a pilot.
In early September 1965 the two producers, under the banner of Raybert Productions, placed ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter seeking “folk & roll musicians.” The open cattle call drew as many as 400 applicants – a sundry group of musicians, actors, and Los Angeles scenesters. “When we started to do interviews for prospective Monkees, we were literally seeing people hour by hour,” Rafelson remembered. “It was a lot of fun, and we used to do nutty things to see what sort of reaction we got from the applicants. We ended up having musical jam sessions in the office.” By October they’d weeded through the mass of hipsters and hopefuls, selecting the final four.
Twenty-year-old Micky Dolenz was a former child actor best known for his starring role in the late-‘50s television series Circus Boy. As a teenager, Dolenz sang folk music with his sister Coco, later turning to rock ‘n’ roll with such ad hoc outfits as The Missing Links and Micky & The One Nighters. Though Dolenz was still getting sporadic acting work in 1965, he was covering his bases by taking a drafting course at the local city college.
Davy Jones was a 20-year-old amateur jockey-turned-Broadway musical actor. Picking up roles at an early age in BBC radio plays and the British television institution Coronation Street, Jones had actually gained the most recognition for his turn as the Artful Dodger in the stage version of Oliver! A later stage part as Sam Weller in Pickwick brought Davy to Los Angeles, where he cut a number of sides for Columbia Pictures’ Colpix record label. One of these tracks, the ultratwee “What Are We Going To Do?” slipped into the bottom of the Billboard Pop chart for three weeks in August ‘65. A slight feat, indeed, but with it came a national fan club, full-page spreads in several teen magazines, and appearances on Shindig! and Where The Action Is. Jones was under exclusive contract to Columbia Pictures, and the studio was anxious to find a vehicle for their rising star. “Davy is the one I had most doubts about,” Rafelson later confessed.
“Davy had less contact with rock ‘n’ roll than any of the others, and although he had acting experience, I wasn’t sure if he would be able to get into the spirit of the thing.”
Conversely, Rafelson’s last two choices had the genuine “folk & roll” credentials called for in his original ad. “There was one guy, Steve Stills, whom I liked enormously,” Rafelson said. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite right. When he realized he wasn’t going to make it, he suggested I get in touch with someone he knew, Peter Thorkelson. I found him working as a dishwasher – not even a musician. But when I heard him, I was knocked out.” Twenty-four-year-old Peter Thorkelson (soon renamed Peter Tork) had made an abortive attempt at a group with Stills called The Buffalo Fish. With Tork now cast in the show, Stills formed a band that became a seminal folk/country-rock outfit, The Buffalo Springfield.
It was The Buffalo Springfield’s first manager, Barry Friedman, who suggested that Michael Nesmith audition for a part in the series. At age 23, Nesmith was a transplanted Texan and newlywed father living hand-to-mouth in Hollywood. Undoubtedly a gifted songwriter, during the early ‘60s Nesmith toured as a folk singer and released one-off singles for the Highness and Omnibus labels. Later, under the auspices of Bob Krasnow, Nesmith adopted the name Michael Blessing and began recording for the Colpix label.
“They came out to my house to do two arrangements,” remembered the late, great jazzman Shorty Rogers, who worked on Michael’s Colpix sides. “They said they’d come in separate cars, Krasnow and Michael. Each day the phone would ring, and Michael would say, ‘I’m tied up, I can’t come today, I’ll call you tomorrow and come.’ Finally, Friday they showed up, and I said, ‘What was going on?’ Michael said, ‘Oh, gee, my wife and I were living in a car, and we didn’t have any gas.’ Coincidentally, Michael had left my number with his wife, and while we were having our first get-together the phone rang. He talked to her, and when he hung up the phone he said, ‘I got the job with The Monkees!’ It was right in my room that he got the message.”
With casting complete, the pilot for The Monkees was shot around Los Angeles and San Diego in late November 1965. Monkees television director James Frawley says the actors were all well cast: “Their personalities are pretty much what you see. Michael was intuitively the leader – very smart, very dry in his attitude and sense of humor. Micky was the comic – did a lot of the slapstick. Peter was the quiet, sensitive guy. Davy was the ladies man. Each one of them was one quarter of the perfect man.”
Personality could only take the four so far; now they needed music. Songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were contracted not only to supply the pilot’s music but also to conceive a stylistic approach for the mythical group. “The producers didn’t give us any lyrical direction or philosophy,” Hart says. “We knew that this was going to be the ‘American Beatles’ visually, and we assumed it made the most sense to do a Beatles-influenced sound – not a rip-off – musically.
The pilot show was sold with Tommy and I singing the songs.”
Boyce & Hart’s music propelled Raybert’s visuals to new heights. As a result, NBC, confident about the show’s potential for success, purchased it from Screen Gems/Columbia on January 17, 1966. Moreover, once Raybert grasped how successful The Monkees would be with an outstanding and memorable soundtrack, the producers decided a steady flow of high-quality music was mandatory.
“They suddenly realized, ‘Well, we got more than we bargained for; we really gotta pay more attention to the music. This is important content,’” says Nesmith. “So they cast about. They asked if I would do some things. I said, ‘Well I can do some things, but if I was going to put together a rock ‘n’ roll band, I don’t know that I would put together a band with David, Micky and Peter. These are good guys to work with, but we all have very different musical tastes.’”
For the next six months Raybert agonized over what to do with the show’s music. They really liked the idea of The Monkees themselves actually performing the songs. “I remember having rehearsals before the show started filming,” Peter Tork says. “In March or April of ‘66 we had a rehearsal room and were starting to play together. Ward Sylvester – executive producer of The Monkees series – tells me that Capitol Records would have signed us even if we hadn’t had a TV show.” That notwithstanding, the musical progress was slow. “They did rehearse, but there was a time element involved,” remembered the late Lester Sill, who was The Monkees’ music coordinator. “They had to get the show on the air, they had to prerecord the song.”
The producers realized they needed a large volume of musical material. Don Kirshner, who was the head of Screen Gems Music Publishing, the production entity for The Monkees, was brought in to help. Kirshner, in turn, rounded up the best songwriters and selected about 20 songs to be recorded in Los Angeles by various production teams in June and July.
Nesmith was allowed to produce his own sessions and did his best to include the other Monkees in his work. This was significant because under Kirshner’s reign they were strictly forbidden from participating in recordings for anything other than lead-vocal purposes. “I was going to let the boys do their own thing, but my standards were #1 records and hits,” Kirshner would later tell Eric Lefcowitz. “In all due respect to Peter Tork, if he came up with a song that was less than a pop hit, I had to say, ‘Yea’ or ‘nay.’ I had the creative power to do so.”
“One of the things that Don Kirshner did is send a memo that said: ‘Absolutely no one is to submit any songs for The Monkees or to play songs to anyone in The Monkees until it’s been cleared through me,’” recalls Nesmith. “So Peter said, ‘Well, does that mean if I write a song, I can’t play it for myself until I play it for you?’”
All this and The Monkees had yet to release a record or be seen outside the confines of an audience-testing booth. As Kirshner explained, he had greater concerns than merely pleasing Nesmith and Tork: “I told people I would outsell The Beatles.”
On May 30, 1966, The Beatles released a new single called “Paperback Writer.” Bobby Hart remembers hearing it for the first time: “I was pulling into my carport, and I was punching the radio stations, and I heard the tail end – and all I heard was the fade-out part. I thought they were saying, ‘Take the last train to…somethin’.’ A couple of days later I heard the whole song, and I realized it wasn’t about a train or anything. So I said, ‘Well since they didn’t use it, it’s the great start of something else.’” Hart’s instincts were rewarded when his “Last Train To Clarksville,” The Monkees first single, hit #1 on November 5, 1966.
Kirshner felt both vindicated and empowered by the record’s success. He quickly switched into overdrive, creating more product than The Monkees could ever hope to release. Sessions for backing tracks would now be held on the East Coast, where Kirshner lived (he suffered an intense fear of flying), and the finished product would be shipped out to Los Angeles for The Monkees to overdub vocals.
The band members had very little input in the tracks now coming from New York, and Nesmith recalls his reaction upon seeing the finished product: “The first album shows up, and I look at it with horror because it makes it appear as if we are a rock ‘n’ roll band. There’s no credit for the other musicians.” After expressing his outrage to the producers, they agreed not to do it again, he says.
Just seven short weeks after “Clarksville” topped the charts, The Monkees once again held he #1 position on December 31, 1966, with “I’m A Believer.” “When Neil Diamond walked in and played it for me, I knew it was a major, major giant song,” Kirshner told Eric Lefcowitz. Kirshner’s judgment could not be faulted. The record, ultimately The Monkees’ biggest hit of all time, charted in more than a dozen countries.
As public demand for The Monkees grew steadily, offers for live concert appearances rolled in. Finally, in December 1966 The Monkees got their first taste of what it was like to be a real band when they mounted a short concert tour. The experience of playing together and doing it themselves changed everything. The four hired hands soon learned that they were not only capable musicians – they were also quite good.
By early January they were still on the road, gaining confidence with every date. They also picked up something else on the road: More Of The Monkees – their second album.
“Don Kirshner came out all proud and pleased to show us the album,” remembers Davy Jones. “Now these songs that were on the album, we were originally told we were recording for the TV show only because they were going to put new songs in every show. After a couple of shows, the company got the idea of putting ‘I’m A Believer’ or ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ in this next episode – and every episode for the next six or eight weeks – because it sold records. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.”
“So when Donnie Kirshner showed up all pleased and said, ‘Look guys, here’s your second album,’ we all went bloody mad. Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork especially – ‘What do you mean, this is our second album?’ They had told us we were going to be doing our own album. That’s when it got all funky.”
“At which point I quit,” says Nesmith. “I made a decision to say, ‘I’m not going to sit still for this. . .’ Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson instantly got it. They said, ‘You know, you’re right. What do you think about you guys playing together as a band?’”
Meanwhile, a promise Kirshner had made to Neil Diamond a few months before came back to haunt him. Donnie had vowed that if “I’m A Believer” made #1 he would automatically make a Diamond song the follow-up single. It was when Diamond presented “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” to Kirshner that he sensed the error. This was not a #1 single in his opinion.
Complicating the matter, Jeff Barry, the producer of “I’m A Believer,” also wanted payback for his good work, requesting that “She Hangs Out,” his own composition, be the flip side. If all that wasn’t enough, his “employees,” The Monkees, were demanding that a Michael Nesmith song they’d recorded on their own, “The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” be released as the next single or various members would quit. Despite Kirshner’s control tactics, he had truly lost his grip on the situation.
Raybert intervened and quietly insisted that Kirshner at least issue “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” as one side of the single in fairness to The Monkees and to save the project from collapsing. “Well, Kirshner set his heels,” recalls Nesmith. “He said, ‘I’m not gonna do it.’ Which ultimately cost Kirshner his job. They fired him.” In the aftermath, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (with “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” on the flip side) just missed the top of the charts as Kirshner had predicted (it made #2 in April 1967), by which time The Monkees had already completed an album of their own, Headquarters.
“Headquarters was by far the best album, in the sense that it was us,” says Micky Dolenz. “It was honest, it was pure.” Musically, the album is impressive in a beautifully naive way. It benefited from a sympathetic production by former Turtle Chip Douglas and the skilled engineering of Hank Cicalo. The songs The Monkees contributed may not have been “hits” as such, but they were just as good, if not better than, the tracks Kirshner had selected for More Of The Monkees.
“I listen to it now, and it sounds like a pretty good kids’ garage album,” says Peter Tork, the Monkee whom Headquarters meant the most. “Nobody was a slouch. You don’t hear good sophisticated musicians at every post, but that’s not the point of a bunch of kids getting together and playing music. The whole point of a band is that you get something that comes out of who’s there. That’s the difference.”
Within two weeks of release, on June 24, 1967, Headquarters hit #1. Kirshner was all but a memory for the band who had won their musical independence. Still, they could never surmount the press and public’s belief that they were incapable of generating their own music. Nor would they ever be truly forgiven for their past inadequacies. As pop historian Lillian Roxon noted in her definitive 1969 Rock Encyclopedia: “Nobody really minded that the Monkees were manufactured entirely in cold blood and for bluntly commercial reasons. But when, never having played together before, their records hit the top of the charts on the strength of what seemed like nothing more than TV exposure and a good sound financial push, the bitterness was overwhelming.”
Nesmith says that at the very time the press was labeling them as somehow illegitimate and false, he was in fact working to maintain the integrity of the group. “The press went into a full-scale war against us, (saying), ‘The Monkees are four guys who have no credits, no credibility whatsoever, who have been trying to trick us into believing that they are a rock band.’”
After Kirshner had been purged and Headquarters released, the band decided to change course. Despite the album’s commercial success, Nesmith says they wanted to return to the songwriting strategy of the earlier albums, but this time clearly indicating how those song would come to be.
The result was Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., The Monkees’ finest album and, truth be told, one of the best records of the ‘60s. “I thought Pisces, Aquarius was the one that caught it all,” Nesmith says. “We went back to the basics of making music for the television shows and trying to make good pop records, and I think we did a good job at it.”
Nevertheless, the album was a signpost of the group’s growing fragmentation.
Without the common enemy of Kirshner to unite the members, the group splintered. “They didn’t want to have to go through a central interpreter like me,” recalls producer Chip Douglas. “Peter kind of drifted away first, and then everybody did. Everyone wanted to do their own songs and produce them the way they wanted to hear them. I was ready to do that Boyce & Hart song ‘P.O. Box 9847’ – it sort of had that ‘Paperback Writer’ feel on the demo. We passed on it for Pisces, and I began to think, ‘Well, we should do that one now.’ Then somebody said, ‘Chip, we’re not working with you anymore; we’re gonna do our own thing.’”
During late 1967 The Monkees began holding quasi-solo sessions, presaging the White Album-era Beatles. “By that time we had all decided that we were gong to do our own brand of music – three tracks each on the album,” remembers Dolenz. “We got our own songs, our own arrangers and produced our own sessions.”
A coterie of friends and admirers sprang up around The Monkees, each of whom decided to work with “their group” on their individual tracks. The outcome was that on any given day during the making of their next album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, each member of the group could be holding a session in up to four different studios around Los Angeles – four times the product at only a fraction of the quality.
The selections on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees were questionable in many respects. Most obviously, the group members had difficulty in selecting their best material; more superior outtakes exist from this album than any of the group’s others. Moreover, the lack of group interaction gives a cold feeling to the tracks, especially after the triumphs of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd and Headquarters. Excluding “Daydream Believer,” which was recorded at earlier sessions, Nesmith’s “Aunties Municipal Court” is the only song on the entire album to feature the participation of more than one Monkee. Nevertheless, when released in April ‘68, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees went gold, peaking at #3 (their first album to miss the top spot).
But the success mattered little to the band, who were by this time embroiled in the production of their first feature film – at first called Untitled, later Changes, and eventually released as Head - and its accompanying soundtrack consumed most of 1968. A lot was riding on this project for the group, who had by now abandoned their television series for dreams of the big screen. However, with the second season of their series still in reruns on NBC and chart records still in quantity, there was no reason the film shouldn’t have catapulted The Monkees to even greater heights of fame.
No reason, that is, except that the filmmakers, who also happened to be the creators of The Monkees – Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson (aided and abetted by an up-and-coming Jack Nicholson) – had no intention of making a film that would appeal to The Monkees’ audience.
“We wanted to do something special,” says Peter Tork. “Something a little extraordinary. Something not quite normal. We really didn’t want to make another episode of the television show. The four of us, Bert Schneider, Bob, and Jack Nicholson all went to Ojai and talked about what we did and didn’t want. We sort of found a common ground. What exactly that was, we wound up leaving to Bob and Jack – the exact script of the movie was basically their idea.”
Although over the years Head has taken on a cult-classic status, it was a box-office disaster when released in November 1968. Part of the problem was Raybert’s subliminally based marketing “Plan A,” which made little or no mention of The Monkees. “I think Bert and Bob had given up on The Monkees at that point,” says Peter Tork. “It was their publicity decision to have those two-minute commercials for Head that are so avant-garde as to be positively repulsive. I think that those things were very conscious decisions to deep-six the movie and the entire project. Bert said to me the point was to destroy The Monkees.” Charitably, one could say that this point was to get past The Monkees’ bubblegum image, but less charitably one could conclude that he wanted to be done with the project, according to Tork.
The accompanying soundtrack to this film, like its parent feature, was an avant-garde release. The packaging – a heavy Mylar sleeve designed to reflect the buyer’s own head – bent the presses at RCA’s manufacturing plant and caused the album’s release to be delayed by several weeks. The record inside the jacket featured just six songs cut by Jack Nicholson into a collage of dialogue and sounds.
For Tork, Head ranks second only to Headquarters as his favorite Monkees album: “It’s the most diverse and the trippiest. It was really all about trips – going someplace. You know, we used the word in those days very specifically, meaning, not just spacey, but actually involved in some kind of adventure, as opposed to plodding along, one song after another. Head – that was something special. Nicholson coordinated the soundtrack, and he made it different from the movie. It was a different artistic experience.”
In late 1968 The Monkees toured Australia and Japan, turning in their tightest shows ever. “We were playing (‘Sunny Girlfriend’) in Osaka and the guitar line – the sort of boogie woogie guitar line that just up and down the chord – I played on the bass. Basically, we were just a trio for the most part playing live, since Davy didn’t play much. But we hit the pocket on that song. We really just looked into something; it was remarkable. Davy came jumping over to me, banging his tambourine. Screaming above the din of the crowd, he said, ‘We’re going to form a group.’ Because it was really good; it was like what you live for as a musician.”
Despite the ultimate moment of group unity, the foursome was on its last legs as a unit only weeks later. Their next project was to tape a new television special for NBC. The program, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, was written and produced by Jack Good, a veteran of Shindig! and other revolutionary music programs. Nevertheless, the special (completed in mid- December ‘68) was surprisingly shoddy despite some stellar musical moments.
Nesmith remembers the production as “…a little hysterical. I think in the early stages everybody was working together ‘cause it was a very interesting idea. In the later stages a lot of people were just coming around because they felt like they could get up next to The Monkees. It was such a huge hit that they thought that they could somehow make their career or fortune on it. So I think this guy Jack Good had some of that going on. He was supposed to be kind of a quirky and interesting television director. It started to careen and get more and more out of control and have less and less to say. He was, I think, in some way trying to grind the same ax that Head did so beautifully. He did it clumsily. Sort of the television version of Head in a way.”
When taping wrapped on the special, Peter Tork announced his intention to leave the band. “I’d always had deep doubts ever since the sessions for ‘Clarksville,’” he recalls. “I walked in there with my guitar, and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart looked at me with derision and scorn, like, ‘Guitar in your hand, you fool!’ I didn’t feel like there was any reason for me to be there anymore. I wanted to be in a group.”
For Nesmith, Tork’s exit meant that he could finally achieve the musical autonomy he’d sought since the group’s inception. “I could understand why he wanted to go, ‘cause I did too,” he says. “But I felt like we hadn’t quite finished up. I felt like there were some things that The Monkees were and represented that hadn’t been said or done.”
Now a trio, The Monkees released their seventh album, Instant Replay, in February 1969. Like The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the record is a musical hodge-podge of tracks recorded at various times with musically disparate units. Although Instant Replay reached a respectable #32 on the charts, The Monkees’ star wasn’t rising. Acting out of either complete perversity or sheer desperation, Dolenz, Jones, and Nesmith mounted a concert tour with a seven-piece band known as Sam & The Goodtimers. “It was surreal, because Sam & The Goodtimers were a hard-core black lounge, R&B band, and there they were backing us up,” Nesmith remembers.
The Monkees’ return to television would be even tougher. Guest shots on variety and talk shows did little to bolster the public’s support for the group, who openly fought on screen. In February on The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, Mike yelled at Davy during a comedy sketch and later in the same segment argued with Micky over whose lines were on the cue card. When the band made a June appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show things turned from bad to worse. The Monkees’ panel segment featured Micky rambling on about holograms, polygraph testing, and the TV Guide. “The Johnny Carson show was pretty strange,” admits Dolenz. “I was a big fan, and I got up there and I gave him a hologram. Also I had a copy of something that had been in the TV Guide about how to steal a talk show. I started reading that on the air.”
An argument between band members after the broadcast placed a further rift into their already strained relations. The end drew nearer when a few days later their concert at the Forest Hills Music Festival was canceled due to low ticket sales. Only two years before they had performed three record-setting concerts at the same venue; now they couldn’t attract enough fans to play one. Morale was at an all-time low when their final long-player as a trio, The Monkees Present, was issued in October 1969.
The Monkees Present was originally conceived as a double album of music spotlighting the group members’ individual studio efforts. However, by the time this ambitious project reached fruition, Screen Gems scaled back the package. “By that time we were, you know, as cold as yesterday’s soup. Nobody would spend any money,” Nesmith explains.
As concert audiences dwindled, and recording budgets disappeared, Nesmith saw his future – without The Monkees. He left the band in March 1970. “It was just an orderly end to a business deal that had finally come to a close,” he says. “I was ready to move. I was a hired writer, a hired actor, and while I had put all of my good-faith creative energies into it, it was not something that grew up around me organically, so I didn’t feel like it was the end of anything.” Meanwhile, Dolenz and Jones stuck around for their last waltz as a recording act when producer Jeff Barry returned to serve up some funky bubblegum on the album Changes.
“By that time it was pretty obvious that The Monkees were over,” says Dolenz. Davy and I were still getting along, but we were mainly fulfilling a contractual obligation to the record company. At the time we were thinking that we could go on and have our own careers.” After some negotiation, Dolenz and Jones were released from their contracts and absolved of any further Monkees responsibilities.
During the early ‘70s fans saw some interesting and occasionally astounding post-Monkee solo records from Nesmith, Jones, and Dolenz. Ironically, Peter Tork, the first to leave the band and the Monkee most eager for a career centered in music, would remain dormant recordwise until 1981. In 1975 the original foursome reconvened to discuss working together again as a group. “We met up at my house in the Hollywood Hills,” recalls Dolenz. “I think it was the William Morris Agency who had expressed an interest in putting the act back together. Everybody was very enthusiastic about it on the surface – you know, ‘Oh great, great idea.’ But when it got down to the nitty gritty, there were way too many conflicting feelings and attitudes. We only had the one meeting, and I don’t think anything else happened after that. There wasn’t any animosity. Actually, I remember it being really exciting. Being all together for the first time in quite a few years in the same room. There was a hell of a buzz. Because, we do have – always did and always will – an incredible chemistry between the four of us.”
The upshot of the meeting was that, although they couldn’t decide on what to do as The Monkees, or even how to do it, they were not totally averse to working together. Jones and Dolenz were especially amenable to teaming up again. By July 1975 they were back on tour with fellow Monkees veterans Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. “I think it must have been Tommy or Bobby that put it together,” recalls Dolenz. “They knew of an gent who had said, ‘I can get you guys some gigs.’ That’s when we came up with the ‘Guys Who Wrote ‘Em and Guys Who Sang ‘Em.’ It sounded like a good idea.” The foursome’s Great Golden Hits Of The Monkees tour played amusement parks around the country for a full year. The well-received reunion eventually spun off into an album for Capitol Records (released as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart) and a syndicated television special.
By 1977 Micky and Davy had ventured off on their own. “Davy and I got a job doing a play,” says Dolenz. “A musical (version of) Tom Sawyer. Then an agent came to us and said, ‘Do you and Davy want to go out with a show?’ We had to make a decision whether to go out with Tommy and Bobby or just go out by ourselves. I think it was just an economic decision. We could make more money going out just ourselves. We went out and did a couple of summers just as Dolenz and Jones, doing a lot of The Monkees hits and a lot of new material too. After that we went to England to do (Harry Nilsson’s musical) The Point. That’s when Davy and I split up, and I stayed in England.”
It wasn’t until 1985 that all the group members would consider working together again. The catalyst for this particular reunion was Tork, who, along with concert promoter David Fishof, floated the idea of a 20th anniversary tour the following year. With Dolenz, Jones, Tork, and Nesmith all on board for the event, plans were made, and venues were booked. Concurrently, show cocreator Bert Schneider managed to persuade MTV to run the original Monkees series as a marathon, setting off an unexpected resurgence in popularity. All parties were rewarded for their efforts when a brand-new single featuring Dolenz and Tork, “That Was Then, This Is Now,” reached the Top 20, and seven different Monkees albums charted simultaneously. Soon the group had one of the biggest tours of the year. The one setback to this incredible turn of events was that now that the reunion tour looked set to run indefinitely, Nesmith could no longer participate.
Few could fault Nesmith, who was now consumed with running his Pacific Arts home-video production company, producing the major motion pictures Square Dance and Tape Heads, and managing the multi-million dollar estate of his late mother, Bette Nesmith (the inventor of Liquid Paper). Proving his good faith toward the reunion, Nesmith did eventually join Tork, Dolenz , and Jones for an MTV Christmas video, as well as encore performances of “Listen To The Band” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater on September 7, 1986.
Micky, Davy, and Peter’s reunion of 1986 spilled into 1987 with another tour and an all-new album called Pool It! The first single from it was the catchy “Heart And Soul,” a song discovered by British producer Roger Bechirian. A first-class music video was produced to accompany the single, yet mysteriously it would never appear on MTV. After several months of frustration it was discovered that The Monkees, unbeknownst to their manager or record label, had been blacklisted by the station’s executives after a misunderstanding over a guest appearance. Even after restricted documents reflecting the video’s unquestionable popularity with MTV’s audience were made public via industry trade papers, the network still refused to grant airtime. Two tours followed Pool It!, but each drew lower attendance figures than the previous one. No longer able to get the kind of quality booking they formerly enjoyed, Dolenz, Jones, and Tork let The Monkees’ legacy rest, roadwise, for seven years.
With time to recover and reflect, the individual Monkees approached their 30th anniversary in 1996 with varying degrees of expectation. An incredible peak to an already extraordinary career had been reached in 1986, and it was believed that 1996 could be even bigger, if strategically planned. To facilitate a close working relationship within the group, Monkees veteran Ward Sylvester was appointed to manage all four band members. Aside from the obligatory tour, it was hoped that the group would once again collaborate in the studio.
Slowly and secretively, Michael, Micky, and Peter began hashing out tunes at a rehearsal room in Hollywood, soon to be joined by Davy. In no time they were back together recording with far-reaching plans to perform and produce a new album. It would not be easy. Group meetings were a constant necessity, and although the record was fully funded by Rhino Records, the band demanded that there be no outside interference until it was complete. The result was Justus, a highly ambitious offering.
The following year all four band members toured England, sat for interviews for the first-ever Monkees documentary, and produced and starred in a reprise of their TV show for the ABC network, which became the group’s first prime-time special in 27 years. The Monkees toured that summer, but Nesmith elected not to join them.
It seems that The Monkees will continue to tour from time to time, and, on occasion, participate in worthwhile projects, while Rhino will continue to seek out more of the group’s missing tapes and produce new releases of the highest quality, such as The Headquarters Sessions.
Despite all the personal and personnel shake-ups The Monkees have experienced through the years, the bond that the bandmates forged remains eternal. “The four of us had such a good thing going,” says a wistful Jones. “We all had egos, but we had one thing in mind at the end of the day – that we all ended up together, bowing at the same time.”
These notes in part previously appeared in The Monkees’ Anthology (Rhino).
Box Set Produced by ANDREW SANDOVAL & BILL INGLOT
Executive Producers: HAROLD BRONSON & GARY STEWART
Project Supervision: PATRICK MILLIGAN
Sound Produced by BILL INGLOT
Remastering: DAN HERSCH & BILL INGLOT at DIGIPREP
Discographical Annotation: ANDREW SANDOVAL & GARY PETERSON
Editorial Supervision: VANESSA ATKINS
A&R Editorial Coordination: SHAWN AMOS
Art Direction: RACHEL GUTEK & LISA SUTTON
Design: LISA SUTTON, Sunshine Day Design
Box Cover Photo: MICHAELOCHSARCHIVES.COM
Other Photos: RHINO ARCHIVES, except as indicated next to individual photos
Memorabilia Courtesy of MARTY ECK, Author of The Monkees Collectibles Price Guide
Vintage Records and Additional Memorabilia: BILL INGLOT, LISA SUTTON,
ANDREW SANDOVAL & GARY STROBL
Licensing: WENDI CARTWRIGHT
Project Assistance: ARLENE SHAPIRO, RANDY PERRY & SHERYL FARBER
The author wishes to thank all those who gave generously of their time for interviews:
MICKY DOLENZ, DAVID JONES, MICHAEL NESMITH, PETER TORK, KEITH ALLISON, TOMMY BOYCE, BRENDAN CAHILL, FRANK CAPP, BILL CHADWICK, HANK CICALO, NEIL DIAMOND, CHIP DOUGLAS, SNUFF GARRETT, DAVID GATES, BOBBY HART, RON HICKLIN, JACK KELLER, RIC KLEIN, BILLY LEWIS, BILL MARTIN, SHORTY ROGERS, NEIL SEDAKA, LESTER SILL & STEVE SOLES;
those who lent items from their extensive collections: BRENDAN CAHILL, MAGGIE McMANUS, ED RILEY, SHORTY ROGERS, KEVIN SCHMID, GARY STROBL, PAT SMITH, WARD SYLVESTER, RICHARD WEIZE, MARTY ECK, LISA SUTTON, BILL INGLOT & DUANE ZZYMOCK; and also MARK EASTER, WENDY HOROWITZ, ERIC LEFCOWITZ & STEVEN HOROWITZ
Monkee Business Fanzine
2770 South Broad Street
Trenton, NJ 08610
Recommended Web Sites:
The complete Monkees catalog is available on Rhino on compact disc.
All selections (P)1976, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996 & 2001 Rhino Entertainment Company.
This compilation (P) & © 2001 Rhino Entertainment Company, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025-4900.
Remastered in RHINOPHONIC “Authentic Sound”