Fifty Years Of The Monkees

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The Monkees in 1966 from left: Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith (Photo courtesy of Rhino Entertainment)
The Monkees in 1966 from left: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith (Photo courtesy of Rhino Entertainment)

The year may be 2016, but somehow The Monkees have managed to become relevant again. While the Pre-Fab Four may now be a trio due to the unfortunate passing of founding member Davy Jones back on Feb. 29, 2012, the surviving members have released Good Times!. Produced by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), these 13 songs include four cuts based on late 1960s demos with the rest of the project featuring contributions from a who’s who of alt-rock icons. With the band commemorating its 50th anniversary this year, here are a handful of major highlights cherry-picked from the history of these pop culture icons.

1  Casting For The Monkees

Inspired by the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night, show creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider wanted to use an existing rock group (in this instance, The Lovin’ Spoonful), as the centerpiece of a new television show. Because the Spoonful were already signed to a contract, Raybert Productions went forward with Broadway actor Davy Jones as the centerpiece for a fictional band that was rounded out through auditions. While the likes of Stephen Stills, Paul Williams and Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton didn’t make the cut, the Monkees were rounded out by Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith.

Jimi Hendrix hanging out backstage with The Monkees
Jimi Hendrix hanging out backstage with The Monkees

2  Jimi Hendrix And The Monkees

While the Monkees were originally conceived as a video group, Nesmith and Tork being actual musicians meant creative control struggles would evolve despite the fact that Screen Gems (the show’s production company) head of music Don Kirshner wound up using songs penned by Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin, Carole King and the duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. When the group finally toured, Jimi Hendrix was asked to open for them after impressing the band at the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix only lasted seven dates before dropping out.

MonkeesSidebar_093016.Head Going To The Head Of The Class

While The Monkees series was canceled in February 1968 after only two seasons, the quartet was still under contract. Schneider and Rafelson decided to shoot Head, a film directed by a then-unknown Jack Nicholson. Even though it was initially a commercial bomb, the stream-of-consciousness flow of Head, along with bizarre cameo appearances by the likes of Frank Zappa, Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, boxer Sonny Liston, stripper Carol Doda and Green Bay Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke made it a beloved cult classic.

MTV Rediscovers The Monkees

The Monkees at L.A.’s Greek Theater in 1986
The Monkees at L.A.’s Greek Theater in 1986

The fledgling MTV network was only five years old when it broadcast a Monkees marathon that kicked off on Feb. 23, 1986. Nickelodeon picked up the ball shortly after and started running the series on a daily basis, exposing the group to a new generation. Before long, old albums were recharting and the Monkees became one of the biggest live acts in 1986 and 1987. A new compilation, Then & Now…The Best of The Monkees, not only was a commercial smash but yielded a new hit song, “That Was Then, This Is Now,” a Top 20 smash that was the band’s first single since 1971.

5  The Monkees Have Good Times! In 2016

With Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork on board, Rhino Records commemorated the group’s 50th anniversary with a project propelled by contributions written specifically for the band. Among the contributors were Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Andy Patridge (XTC), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and the duo of Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Paul Weller (The Jam). Also included are four fleshed-out, late 1960s demos penned by Diamond, Jeff Barry/Joey Levine, Boyce and Hart and a Harry Nilsson title cut, where Dolenz duets with the late singer-songwriter.

The Monkees will be appearing on Oct. 7 at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, 720 Northern Blvd., Greenvale. For more information, visit www.tillescenter.org or call 516-299-3100.


To read a full feature on The Monkees, see ‘Good Times!’ With The Monkees Again.

https://liweekly.wpengine.com/good-times-monkees/

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