Monkees get high and dry on sixties nostalgia

July 17, 2011


We all live in the past to an extent but some groups like the 1960s TV band sensation the Monkees take it to the extreme.

Their recent gig at the Chumash Casino proved that baby boomer nostalgia is alive and well, but we kind of knew that already. The Monkees were in fact created as an American equivalent to the British Invasion and the Beatles.

However, there’s an important difference between them and the Fab Four: the Beatles wrote their own songs and played their own instruments – quite well I might add.

The Monkees were basically the first boy band long before Marky Mark and Justin Timberlake were a gleam in anyone’s eye.

None of this really seemed to matter to the nearly sold-out crowd of mostly yuppie boomers, who came to relive their carefree, innocent and idealistic youth for a few hours.  And they weren’t disappointed as the band busted out all of their big hits while scenes from their TV show illuminated a big screen behind them.

Nothing wrong with that except this “reunion” show seemed totally contrived and forced from the start. As Hal Holbrooks’s character in “Wall Street” says to Charlie Sheen: “that’s the thing about money son, it makes you do things you don’t wanna do.”

Billed as “An Evening with the Monkees, 45th Anniversary Tour” — Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones pranced around the stage, took turns singing and played an occasional instrument. They didn’t have to worry too much about the latter since there were eight other musicians to back them up. It was like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey had a bad acid trip and found themselves in 2011 playing sixties bubble gum pop. Strange.

And they actually had three drummers on stage, including Dolenz. Really?

Other than a bass/drum heavy mix that thumped interminably drowning out guitars, keyboards and the periodic sax/trombone, overall the music overall sounded crisp and in tune. The lead guitarist looked like your dentist but played like Eddie Van Halen.

The problem wasn’t the music, it was the passion, soul and emotion behind it. Or lack thereof.

In all fairness, how do you find that deep feeling in a song you didn’t even write and mimicked on television a generation ago?  But the three lads did their level best to recapture that spirit of 66.

Tork seems to have the most personality of the trio — often making fun of himself and playfully interacting with the crowd. But he was also clueless when suggesting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame come calling and that unlike some other bands already inducted, the Monkees actually play their own instruments.

If that’s the case, why do you need an 11-piece band on your tour?  Plus, I can think of 20 groups without even trying who deserve a Hall of Fame spot before the Monkees.


Next up for debate:

The Partridge Family!

And of course no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be complete without a wing devoted to the absolutely unique and unprecedented band The Banana Splits.

Rock on, Dude!


*Sigh* Where do you even begin to respond to such drivel? It’s the same hackneyed, biased, and totally unmerited slander the Monkees have had to endure since they were first written off as the “pre-fab” four.

The fact is Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, were and are four amazingly talented performers. They were hired as actors to portray a band on TV. Micky had been a child star on the TV show “Circus Boy.” Davy Jones was fresh from the Broadway stage. Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork were already respected musicians at the time they were cast. All of them could sing, act, dance, and pull off slap-stick comedy like nobody’s business. You, dear sir, have not done your homework.

You state “there’s an important difference between them and the Fab Four: the Beatles wrote their own songs and played their own instruments.”

Yes, The Monkees began as a TV show and they weren’t allowed (for the most part) to play instruments on their first couple of albums. However, it’s not as if they were slacking—they were producing weekly sitcoms and recording the vocals for songs featured on the show, and making appearances and touring during the off-season. And by 1967 with the release of their third album, Headquarters, (and every subsequent album of the last 40+ years) they were able to write some of their music and perform nearly all the instrumentals.

Of the set list The Monkees have been playing on this tour, the following songs were written or co-written by at least one of the Monkees:

Mary, Mary (Michael Nesmith)

The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Michael Nesmith)

Randy Scouse Git (Micky Dolenz)

Papa Gene’s Blues (Michael Nesmith)

Circle Sky (Michael Nesmith)

Can You Dig It (Peter Tork)

Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again? (Peter Tork)

For Pete’s Sake (Peter Tork)

Words (Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork)

Goin’ Down (Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork)

You state: “They didn’t have to worry too much about the latter since there were eight other musicians to back them up.”

You say this as if it’s unheard of for performers to utilize a back-up band while on tour. People and fans come to a concert like this expecting the BIG sounds. You should also know that the members of the back-up band weren’t just pulled together for this tour…most (if not all?) tour regularly with individual Monkees in their solo gigs.

You state: “The problem wasn’t the music, it was the passion, soul and emotion behind it. Or lack thereof.”

Okay, I’ll admit I wasn’t at the show you’re “reviewing” but I did attend two other concerts on this tour. I had only planned to attend one show, but after having such a good time thanks to their energetic, emotional, and yes, passionate performance, I quickly grabbed up tickets to the next venue three hours away. You must have been under a rock or sleeping during the show.

You state: “In all fairness, how do you find that deep feeling in a song you didn’t even write and mimicked on television a generation ago?”

We’ve already covered the writing of the songs…as for the songs they perform written by othes, I’d venture to guess it’s pretty easy to get that “deep feeling” when you have songs penned by talents like Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Paul Williams, Harry Nilsson, etc. And what do you mean by “mimic?” The Monkees recorded, with their own voices, the vocals to the songs featured on the television show.

Regarding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you fail to grasp the influence The Monkees have had on pop culture and yes, even rock music, in the last half-century. A critic (Rob Sheffield) for Rolling Stone even “got it” when he reviewed an earlier stop on the tour, stating “The point is, the Monkees have never been far from the heart of American culture. People are always glad when they show up. Their hits have never left the radio.” Sheffield went on to say “It’s hard to imagine anybody disappointed by this show unless they just plain hate life.”

So my question for you, Mr. Jones, is “do you just plain hate life?”


Wow, you Monkee fans are sensitive.

“The fact is Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, were and are four amazingly talented performers”

EEKK, sorry that one made me spit my soda through my nose, it was painful. There were mediocre slap stick actors. As I said, during their run on their TV show they played NO instruments. It’s not common to have session musicians play ALL of the instruments for a BAND. Trust me, the Beatles didn’t have studio musicians play over them or for them, they played with them. Linda McCartny sang like a wounded dog but they managed to keep parts of her vocals in. You brag about their singing, but they even dubbed in a lot of the vocals on their show with session vocalist. They played not 1, ONE, uno instrument for I’m A Believer. The only one that needed to be in the studio was Micky D. I grasp the role they had in pop culture just as I realize the role Barbara Eden played in pop culture when she starred in I Dream Of Jennie but she’s not being inducted into the Music Hall of Fame.

You guys are entitled to like whatever you like but if you were to approach an accomplished musician ie Paul McCartney, Donald Fagen, Roger Walters, Stevie Wonder and call the Monkees accomplished and talented musicians they’d laugh in your face.

Calm down though. It’s just my take on it, I’m entitled to that just as you are entitled to yours.

@kellogs, I’ve read about the Monkees and I used to watched their show. I know the history of those actors and they seem like nice guys. As with many musicians and actors I’ve read bios and info about them. I’m using energy on this because I love music and have the right voice my opinion,,,although much of what I said is not opinion it’s factual. That being said, I didn’t come here to burst your bubble. Enjoy your actors, go to the concerts, it’s no skin off of my back. I didn’t come here to fight I was having what seemed to be light hearted debate with WiseGuy. When I want to fight I go the political articles not the musical reviews. I’m outta hear, Monkee fans are too rough for me.


Typoqueen, you do know that the Monkees had other songs besides “I’m A Believer,” don’t you? If you had done YOUR homework you’d find that Paul McCartney is a fan…I recently heard an interview with him in ’67 defending the Monkees to some of his fans trying to get him to bad mouth them and he wouldn’t do it. There are lots of photos on-line of the Beatles hanging out with the Monkees, had you bothered to look. You want to remain ignorant on the issue…you can believe the “facts” you think you know, but you have been sorely misinformed.


I saw the Beatles when I was 10 years old. Just because they were friends doesn’t meant that McCartney thought that they were talented musicians. Did any of them ever play with McCartney? Of course not but many other talented musicians have. When I saw Paul McCartney Stevie Wonder sat in with him. Why would McCartney bad mouth them, that would be tacky and rude and what would be the point. I can make the best fudge in the world. I have a friend that thinks that she makes killer fudge but everyone knows it sucks. I’m not going to tell her that her fudge sucks, what’s the point of hurting her feelings. As I said, Linda couldn’t hold a tune, but like the Monkees that’s he’s not going to hold it against her. You’re saying that because they have pictures together that it qualifies the Monkees as being talented musicians.


Listen for yourself, item 072:

In it, Paul says, “I like the show fellas. I dig what you’re doin’.”

Apparently, because you’ve seen Paul McCartney perform live he’s given to you the right to speak on his behalf about which musicians he does and does not admire.

More quotes from the Beatles about the Monkees:

And you’re wrong about the Monkees never performing with the Beatles. George Harrison asked Peter Tork to play 5-string banjo on his Wonderwall album; he used Paul’s banjo. I think if George didn’t like Peter’s “fudge” he wouldn’t have asked him.

I could go on and list other performers who’d meet your high standard of “musician” that have admired the Monkees talents “on the record.” I fear I’d be wasting my breath, however, as you only choose to hear what you want to hear.


You don’t get it, Typo. Whether any of The Monkees could play instruments is irrelevant to their place in rock history. The Monkees are an undeniable FACT. Never mine how they got there, The Monkees are part of the pantheon of Rock N Roll no matter what any particular person may think of the talent of the members.

The Monkees was a entertainment CONCEPT. So what? A concept that people have been talking about, debating and enjoying for more than four decades and it doesn’t look to end any time soon.

Part of the concept of the Monkees was to take other people’s songs, “Monkee-ize” them, and make them bigger hits than the folks who wrote them could or did. And this was accomplished.

The Monkees TV show was about the lives of members of a popular long-haired happy-go-lucky “rock” band. The whole thing was a mix of comedy, music and B.S.. To a large extent it was a PARODY of what was commonly being sold as “rock” at the time it aired.

And the fact reimains that if Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix had joined The Monkees, or even watched more episodes of the TV show, they might still be alive and with us today.

Janis, Jim and Jimi are DEAD, but The Monkees live on!

So, can Typo or anyone else tell us exactly how much drugs and sex a musician has to indulge in, or how prematurely he must die, before he can be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?


Stephen Stills has always maintained that Peter Tork was the better musician between the two of them. REM & U2 were both influenced by the Monkees. Of course, morons out there will always exist. Who cares?


A nice article about the Wrecking Crew–the studio musicians who played on the Monkees first couple of albums:

Among those listed as using the Wrecking Crew for their recordings: Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, The Ronettes, Dean Martin, The Mamas and the Papas, The Righteous Brothers, The Beach Boys, The Association, Sonny & Cher, The Carpenters, The Byrds…what a bunch of no-talents (note the sarcasm).


Hall of Fame for sure!

Davey Jones of The Monkees must go down in history as one of the most prominent rock tambourine prancers of all time, opening the way for the career of that other legendary bouncy pretty boy rock and roll tambo whackers like MIckey Finn of T-Rex.

We’re talking “hall of fame” tambourine in both cases, baby. Face it, who these days even comes close in that category?


You don’t have to worry about disrespect, this is a civil conversation and we are both entitled to different opinions. I don’t take offence to what you’re saying and I hope you don’t to what I’m saying. I hope that I don’t come off to harsh, that’s not my intention. Music is my first love even over politics so sometimes I get a bit too passionate about it.

Now back to my corner. An astronaut is not just a guy that steps up to a devise and then lets others completely control everything around them. They are trained, educated and work many years to get to that point in their careers, they couldn’t just send Pamela Anderson up and say fly this thing into space but she could have been a Monkee. I don’t agree that they are or were accomplished musicians, Nesmith,,,okay, he has some talent. They learned the basics but none of the instrumental work that you hear on their show was them, most of the instrumental work on their albums was over dubbed by studio musicians but they did add a bit but only a little bit. They were hired as actors not musicians. They were hired knowing that greats like Carol King would write all of thier music. Neil Diamond wrote I’m a believer and none of them played any of the instrumentals on that song, but Micky D did sing.

As far as the tambourine according to everything I’ve read,,sorry to say this,,close your eyes if you want. Even that was dubbed over on the TV show. I have never seen them live, maybe they play a mean tambourine live. They did do some live shows (although they were not well received). But I’ll compromise, if you want to put their tambourine playing in the Hall of Fame then I get the Monkees producers in the Hall of Fame.

I met Mark Bolan from T Rex. My cousin was a good friend of him and his wife (I think she was his wife, might have been living together).

Funny bit of music trivia is that Jimi Hendrix actually opened a few concert shows for the Monkees.


No one is taking personal offense here…I think we just feel impassioned because the arguments that both you and Mr. Jones are putting forth just simply aren’t the truth…matter of taste aside. From what you have written here, it is obvious that your knowledge of The Monkees is either rooted in rumors that have been disproven for many, many years now, or is limited to their very first year and a half of existence. It is true that on the first two albums, The Monkees were not allowed to play their own instruments for the most part (Mike and Peter were allowed to play on a few tracks). But the vocals were theirs…let’s get that clear. And it is true that they were initially hired as actors to PLAY musicians on a tv series. No one is discounting that either. And no one is discounting the role that Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson (the producers) played in the vision…it was theirs to begin with.

HOWEVER…that’s where you stop…but the history of the band does not. After the second album, The Monkees fought for and won the right to control their music. Enter their thirsd album, Headquarters. Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mike play every note on that album with the exception of the occassional bass and the french horn. They sing every note. They either wrote the songs or handpicked them from songwriters they admired. They produced it along with Chip Douglas. This is where Pinocchio becomes the real boy. The tv band The Monkees became the real band The Monkees. They began touring in 1967, and have toured over and over again since then. And yes, they played their instruments on stage. And they were all musicians even before The Monkees. All four came in with musical experience…Mike, Peter and Micky had all been in bands prior to The Monkees. True, Micky did learn to play the drums as a Monkee, but he was an accomplished guitarist before landing the gig. And Peter Tork can play pretty much any instrument you throw at him. Seriously. On this tour, he even played the French horn.

I also want to address the argument that Pamela Anderson could be a Monkee. Well, let’s be serious here. She couldn’t. While each of the Monkees were hired to play a role on a show, both Schneider and Rafelson have both said that they hired each of them as much for who they were as for how they could play the roles. There was a chemistry that happened. Just like with Pam Anderson and her red bathing suit. One could argue that you could stick any pretty blond in a red suit and it would be the same, but it wouldn’t. There was something about her. And there was something about those four guys who became The Monkees. No one could have done the job like they did. Millions of fans didn’t fall in love with Schneider and Rafelson’s concept…they fell in love with Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike.

So all in all, please just accept that there is a lot you don’t know about The Monkees. The reason they have gotten such a bad rap for 45 years is because misinformed people have been perpetuating lied and myths over and over. Again, no one is saying the world has to declare them the best band in the world…just simply recognize there is more to the story than “music snobs” care to learn about, and that these guys deserve some more respect than they’ve been given.


@Typoqueen. You haven’t even heard the Monkees play live, yet you feel you can fairly critique them? If music is your first love, do yourself a favor and listen to some of the stuff the Monkees wrote themselves…go beyond the three songs you seem to know them for (the ones that oldies station play over and over again, while neglecting their very large and varied catalog). Listen to the soundtrack of “Head”…listen to Micky perform “Goin’ Down,” a song they all wrote ( And if you’re really daring, go to one of their live shows. There’s still a few on the calendar. Then come back and tell us they’re not musicians. You might at least have some credibility then.


Typo, respectfully, by your “logic” the first astronaut on the moon should not be honored because his presence on the moon was “produced” by the NASA ground crew and aerospace engineers. And by the same “logic” actors should not be honored because hey were put in place by directors and producers.

But, how about we look at it this way:

The Monkees TV series was unique at the time and innovative and was a forerunner of much video that came after it. The individual members of The Monkees —yes, there were true, accomplished musicians among them—imparted a unique quality and style to their performances, musically and otherwise, that reverberate with interest decades later.There’s was a unique type of “rock TV” that was a complete departure from the “Dick Clark style” musical TV showcases that predominated to that time.

In any case, what in hell is so sacred about the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” honor that some people feel that a legendary, Hollywood produced and marketed rock band, The Monkees, must be excluded from it?

But the Rock and Roll Hall of fame is not about Rock at all. It’s about show biz, myth-making, “entertainment” and, above all, dollars.

As far as I’m concerned no rock “Hall of Fame” could ever be legitimate or complete without a wing devoted to GG Allin. Most every other “rock star” is a poseur by comparison.


Mr Jones and Typoqueen, I suggest that before publicly publishing what you deem to be truth on a subject, you make sure to do your research first. If you are interested, both Andrew Sandoval and Eric Lefcowitz have published very comprehensive and eye-opening books on The Monkees. Or if you are lazy, it is pretty easy to find accurate information on the band anywhere on the internet.

It seems pretty obvious to me that neither of you is a fan of The Monkees…which is fine. No one is forcing you to be. Not every person must love every band. I certainly have bands I can’t stomach. In regards to Typoqueen, that makes me wonder why you are even expelling any energy reading or commenting about them, especially when it is obvious you know pretty much nothing about them? I certainly don’t go around bashing bands I don’t like. I have more important things to do, and frankly, they never did anything to hurt me, so why hurt them? It is just a matter of taste. And Mr. Jones, what you have put forth here is just irresponsible journalism. Just for clarification, The Monkees have released eleven albums, ALL of which contain tunes penned by at least one member of the group, and nine of those albums were produced under the direction of The Monkees…they controlled what songs went on the albums, wrote a large number of the songs, and yes, even played the instruments on them. Also for your information, the MAJORITY of the set list for this concert came from those nine albums. So you comment in regards to an understandable lack of passion (which I respectfully disagree with anyway) for the songs because they didn’t write any of them holds no merit whatsoever. That’s just for starters. I could go on to enlighten you on every other point you bring up in your review if you care to have an open mind. Oh, and you spelled Micky incorrectly.

Again, no one is saying you have to be a fan of The Monkees. We Monkees fan certainly accept that the band is not for everyone. All we ask is that you leave it at that. Please don’t malign three musicians (yes, I said MUSICIANS, because they are) who are working very hard, keeping a grueling tour schedule, to make their very loyal fans happy…especially when your ammunition is flat-out lies.


Maybe some day, when Mr. Jones earns himself a job as a real, published writer for something besides a dime-a-dozen website, he’ll be in a position to cast aspersions on the talents of others.

What exactly is his basis for his statement that the Monkees were an American “equivalent” to the Beatles? Were the producers of the show looking at “A Hard Day’s Night” as an inspiration? Yes. Were the Monkees the only group looking at the Beatles for inspiration? I’m pretty sure they weren’t. But they sure took an original path, and absolutely had more success than any others.

It was all the rage in the ’60s to tsk-tsk about the Monkees not (originally) playing their own instruments. Of course then, as now, it was easy to be hypocrites about “credibility”. The Monkees were failures because they didn’t write and play everything themselves, even though it was just fine for everyone at Motown, everyone at Stax, and that guy Elvis Presley. You know – “The Classics”.

I don’t know what show Mr. Jones was at, but I saw plenty of passion, plenty of soul. These guys spent the whole show heaping praise on the writers of the songs they sang. It was clear that they were as much fans of the songs as the crowd were. They smiled, danced, and made each other laugh throughout the performance. When did writing one’s own songs become a prerequisite for finding “deep feeling” in one’s material? It’s too bad that Mr. Jones wasn’t out there protecting us from all those wasted years of listening to scheming fakers like Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin. And their feeble need for back up bands.

(By the way, the Monkees didn’t “mimic” their songs on their show. “Mimic” implies copying. Mr. Jones probably meant “lip-synched”. When (if) he ever writes for an actual publication, maybe a thesaurus could be included in the budget.)

As for the Monkees getting intio the “Hall of Fame”: This ridiculous excuse for an “honor” is run by lawyers and the publisher or “Rolling Stone” – a magazine that no one with any actual interest in music has read since sometime in the ’80s. Lawyers seem to me to be as acceptable an arbiter of quality as is Mr. Jones. The only downside that I can see is that the Monkees seem to feel that induction into that overblown fan club would be important.

The funny thing is that rock music used to be about rebellion, and celebrating the outsiders. In that (phony, even then) world, the Monkees were shunned as apparent sell-outs to “The Man”. Now that rock music is all about, and actually celebrated for, selling out to “The Man”, the Monkees are still locked out. It seem they just can’t win. And, to my mind, the people who can’t win but keep on going anyway, are the ones that we should be looking up to. And treating with a little more respect that this amateurish little blogger did in this unnecessarily snarky little trifle.


The only reason I was crazy about The Monkees back in the sixties was because Davy Jones was cute.

Lets face it…when you’re 10 to 13 years old you have no clue about musical talent. Now in my 50’s, cute means nothing to me, and I have a lot of other things I can think of to spend my hard earned money than nostalgia.


The Monkees didn’t pioneer anything. They were completely made up. Who ever made them up were the pioneers. It would be more appropriate for the producers of that show to be in the Hall of Fame. They could have had real monkeys do I’m A Believer and it would have been the same. They didn’t play the instruments and they didn’t write the music on their TV show and they even had real singers singing in. Except for snippets of Davey and Micky’s voice they even had studio singers sing over them. They were actors and not very good ones at that. I agree with the writers that they were the first boy band but they had much less talent than some of the guys that came out of the boy bands. I guess they have better talent scouts now.

I can’t believe that the show was sold out.


BTW, for the TV show they had studio musicians play. Rumor had it that they actually learned to play after they got their parts on the show.


Typo, members of The Monkees were performing musicians prior to the invention of The Monkees TV show. (Steven Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, was among the musicians who auditioned to be a “Monkee”.)

And it may come as a shock to you, but MANY “rock” bands employed studio musicians to perform crucial parts on now famous rock recordings. For instance, Charlie Watts does NOT play drums on some of the Rolling Stones hit songs; and neither Lennon or McCartney are at the keys on some of The Beatles’ hits that include piano.

That’s showbiz, baby. Same as it ever was.


Ok, like that of many inductees in to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Monkees music is mostly Tin-Pan Alley style pop music. (It seem the closest The Monkees got to real rock was “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”)

But do The Monkees deserve a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Of course they do! First off, for people of a certain age, The Monkees music was the first “rock” music they got into. The Monkees version of “I’m a Believer” has to be considered a classic of some sort.

But, bottom line, you have to give credit to The Monkees for having pioneered or stretched the boundaries of music as a cultural phenomena because of their ground-breaking TV series “The Monkees”. Sure, it was a bit of a rip-off from movies by The Beatles, but nevertheless, in the history of (loosely defined) rock music and culture, it now definitely stands as some sort of landmark which reverberates to this day.

Any thorough survey of American “rock and roll” as loosely defined as that which makes its way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, would not be complete without consideration of The Monkees and their place and stature in the rock world.

So, regardless of how The Monkees perform these days, I contend that any American Rock and Roll hall of fame would be woefully incomplete without having inducted The Monkees into its heart and soul.


the closest they got to “real” rock and roll? once again, go rent the movie HEAD.

try tork’s Long Title: Do I have to do this all over again?

or the previously linked Goin Down

or Circle Sky from HEAD

or Randy Scouse Git

or any of a bunch of other post-kirschner songs


Fair enough, rudeboy. But to get a better idea of what I mean when I distinguish pop music from “real rock”, read Joe Carducci’s classic book: Rock and the Pop Narcotic