Roxanne Tellier: MonkeeMania! Part Deux

january roxanneCritics called them “The Pre-Fab Four,” but a generation of little girls understood. Those of us coming into puberty, who had been just a little too young to have had fantasies about The Beatles, now had our very own super group. The Monkees were cute! They were funny! And really – could this quartet be more non-threatening? The worse that could happen would be that Davy might not get the girl … but he always did.

My best friends and I would loll around for hours, listening to their latest record, buying every copy of 16 Magazine and TIGER beat with a picture of one of the boys on the cover, and of course, watching the show every Sunday night. We’d squeal on the phone about their rumoured escapades, and dream of some day meeting a real live Monkee.


But the reality of the massive success of the series, and the sudden onslaught of fame, was taking a toll on Micky, Mike, Peter and Davy. During the week, they filmed the TV series in the day, and spent most evenings in the studio, recording. Weekends were for special appearances and events to create even more excitement about the show and the albums being released. As Micky Dolenz would later say, “The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.”

And yet, despite the protests of then Music Coordinator Don Kirschner, The Monkees made their live debut in December of 1966, in Hawaii. And the fans went wild.

“The four Monkees performed all the instruments and vocals for most of the live set. The most notable exceptions were 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 the UK (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 Monkees live on tour – part one and two of the final episode in 1968.

The fans’ gaping maws demanded more, more, more. Album sales skyrocketed. Everyone wanted a piece of the Monkees.

Michael Nesmith recently put this link to some recently discovered, rare Monkees photos on his Facebook page.

Inevitably the four actors, now become a touring band adored by screaming fans, decided to play hardball. In January of 1967, Kirshner released More of the Monkees, a second album of songs played by session musicians. At the time, The Monkees were on tour, and were not told about the release. In fact, they were not even given copies of the album, and had to buy their own.

moreOfTheMonkeesMore of the Monkees became the biggest selling LP of their career, spending 70 weeks on the Billboard charts, staying No. 1 for 18 weeks, and becoming the 3rd biggest selling album of the 1960s.

The Monkees had been working on recording sessions as a fully functioning, self-contained band from as early as January 1967. Kirshner’s presumptive release angered the boys, but especially Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, who wanted more control of the songs. Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were probably more angered by the cover art, featuring stills from a J.C. Penney clothing advertisement, but they went along with Tork and Nesmith, presenting a solid front to the show’s producers.  The producers, not about to upset their golden geese, took the actors’ side, and drew up a new agreement, favouring original Monkees tunes.

Kirshner was furious. He thought the boys were not very talented, and certainly should not be favoured over  the ‘real’ musicians and songwriters on his team. With astonishing hubris, he violated an agreement between Colgems and the Monkees in early February of 1967, after expressly being told not to release material directly created by the group together with unrelated Kirshner-produced material. He was dismissed when he released “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” composed and written by Neil Diamond, as a single with an early version of “She Hangs Out”, a song recorded in New York with Davy Jones’ vocals, as the B-side.

JimiMonkeesWith Kirshner out of the picture, the boys were finally able to make their own music. Their third album, “Headquarters,” also went to #1 on the charts. They were on a roll, and the summer of ’67 saw The Monkees on the road again, with some gigs featuring a talented newcomer, Jimi Hendrix, as their opening act. The pairing of the two acts must have been mindboggling to both the musicians and the fans, and didn’t last long.

monkees-pisces-aquarius-capricorn-jones-ltdThe television series won two Emmys in 1967, and “Daydream Believer” was released, becoming their third –but sadly last – #1 hit single, and their fourth album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones” their last album to reach #1.

Whether attributable to the times or the music, the Monkees star had ceased to climb, and their fifth album, “The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees” peaked at #3 in April 1968, one month after their series ended. Monkees HEADUndeterred, they began work on their first and only feature film, Head,” written and produced by Bob Rafelson and newcomer Jack Nicholson. (Monkee money also financed Rafelson and Schneider’s Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, making Nicholson a star in the process.) The film did not do well at the time, being deemed too weird by its core teenybopper audience, but became a cult classic as years went by.

By the end of 1968, MonkeeMania had well and truly fizzled, and Peter Tork decided to leave the group. MonkeesChangesDolenz, Jones and Nesmith continued to tour until March of 1970, releasing two more albums to diminishing returns. When Nesmith left, Dolenz and Jones recorded a final album, “Changes,” which also failed. At that point, Davy Jones simply gave up on the project, and the Monkees were no more.

Until 1975, when the William Morris Agency wanted to see if the quartet might be interested in reforming. Tork and Nesmith nixed the idea, but when 1976 live concert davy jones micky dolenza promoter offered Jones and Dolenz a chance to team up with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, a deal was struck, and the new foursome toured the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart debuted the new act on July 4, 1975 at Six Flags Over Mid-America in St. Louis in front of an audience of 12,500 adoring fans.

jones dolenz boyce hart JapanIn May 1976, Capitol released Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart, but didn’t promote the album, or commit to a second. The July 20, 1976 Yubin Chokin Hall concert in Tokyo was recorded and released as a live album, Concert In Japan, in 1981.

In the winter of ’76, Dolenz, Jones and Tork got together in Micky’s home studio with producer Chip Douglas to record and releaseChristmas Is My Time Of Year backed with “White Christmas.”

Despite Boyce and Hart abandoning the project, Micky and Davy continued touring together, with Micky’s sister, and a backing group called The Laughing Dogs, from March to August of 1977, before beginning rehearsals for Harry Nilsson’s “The Point,” which played at the Mermaid Theatre in London.

They must have taken another swing around the dinner clubs of North America in October of 1977, as that is where I saw them, in Toronto’s West End. One of the girls with whom I’d spent hours giggling and swooning over the Monkees as a teen came in from Montreal, and we went to the show. We screamed and swooned and giggled and even tried to find out where they were staying, before coming to our senses. But those few hours were wonderful, as we returned to a carefree, teenybopper state of mind.

Years passed before I thought of the Monkees again. In 1986, MTV launched a Monkees marathon and created a new generation of fans, including my daughter Cara, now 12. And just like her mother before her, she fell hard. Davy, Micky and Peter took the show on the road, playing for 1.5 million people over three successful tours.

davy love eyesThat July, the Monkees came to Toronto’s Ontario Place as part of a tour of pop bands of the sixties. Of course I brought Cara to the show! 11,000 people jammed the Forum that sunny afternoon, screaming and singing along as Micky, Peter and Davy trotted out a solid hour of classic pop. “Last Train To Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer,” “I’m A Believer, ” “Valerie, ” “Steppin’ Stone, ” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” … all of the hits. And in my daughter’s eyes, I saw the same adoration I know was in mine at her age.

Rob Salem’s write up of the 1986 Ontario Place gig:

DavyJones1997In the early 90’s I was temping at The Financial Post, which was in the same building as the Toronto Sun. The usual quiet was broken by the sound of female voices, high pitched and giggly, drifting up from the Atrium. Davy Jones was in the building! Realizing that he would be passing through a nearby hallway, I dashed on some fresh lipstick and headed over. Sure enough – there he was. As I remember, he hadn’t really changed at all from the days when he created the persona of what would become the modern teen idol. I was bold enough to approach him and ask for an autograph for my daughter, but too shy to do much more than smile and let his lovely accent and friendly chatter flow over my ears. He seemed very at ease with himself, and was a wonderful conversationalist, sharing stories about his own daughters. I walked on air for days after the encounter.

monkees justusIn 1996  Davy reunited with Micky, Peter and Michael Nesmith to record and release a new album, Justus,” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band. It was the last time all four Monkees performed together.

Despite years of bad feelings and interpersonal squabbles, Davy, Micky and Peter put aside their personal issues to reunite one more time.  “An Evening with the Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour began on May 12, 2011 in Liverpool, England, before moving to North America in June and July for a total of 43 performances. Sandoval noted, “Their mixed feelings on the music business and their monkees+45th+tourlong and winding relationship weighed heavily, but once they hit the stage, the old magic was apparent. For the next three months…[they brought] the music and memories to fans in the band’s grandest stage show in decades. Images from their series and films flashed on a huge screen behind them; even Rolling Stone, whose owner, Jann Wenner, has vowed to keep them out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, gushed.” Nesmith did not take part in the tour, which grossed approximately $4 million.” (Wikipedia)

Sadly, Davy Jones died on February 29, 2012, of a heart attack. On August 8, 2012, the surviving trio of Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith announced a series of U.S. shows for November and December, the first time Nesmith performed with the Monkees since 1997.

nesmith 2013At 71, Michael Nesmith continues to record and release his own music, and tours with his band, “Movies of the Mind.” He has also decided to finally appear at a Monkees Convention in March 2014 at the Meadowlands Hilton in New Jersey. tork 2013

Despite a bout with a rare cancer, now in remission, Peter Tork, 71, tours with “Shoe Suede Blues,” The band performs original blues music, Monkees covers (blues versions of some), and covers of classic blues hits.

dolenz 2013Sadly, Micky Dolenz’s first wife, Samantha Juste, passed away on February 5, 2014.   Dolenz, 68, continues to perform, and can be seen in the Teen Idols revue featuring Peter Noone, Micky Dolenz & Mark Lindsay on January 30, 2014 at the Palace Theater, Stamford, CT. He also has a business with his daughter “Dolenz & Daughter’s Fine Furniture.”

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

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