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Profile: The Monkees

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The Monkees

The Monkees

source: retrocrush.com

Formed:

1965 (Los Angeles, CA)

Genres:

Pop, Pop-rock, Rock and Roll, Psychedelia, Bubblegum, Country-rock

Members:

Michael Nesmith (b. Robert Michael Nesmith, December 30, 1942, Houston, TX): vocals, guitar
Micky Dolenz (b. George Micheal Dolenz, Jr., March 8, 1945, Los Angeles, CA): vocals, drums
Davy Jones (b. David Thomas Jones, December 30, 1945, Manchester, England): vocals, tambourine
Peter Tork (b. Peter Halsten Thorkelson (b. February 13, 1942, Washington, D.C.): vocals, guitar, keyboards

Contributions to music:

  • The first live-action prime time television show to feature a rock and roll band
  • Advanced the careers of several Brill Building songwriters, including a young and struggling Neil Diamond
  • Invented the television music video
  • Produced at least one unique solo talent in Michael Nesmith, who played a large hand in inventing "country-rock"
  • Their 1968 cult film Head is considered by many to be a surreal masterpiece of entertainment-business parody
  • Arguably the most lovable of Sixties pop groups
  • The first group to introduce the synthesizer on record

Early years:

MADNESS!! Auditions. Folk & Roll musicians-singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running parts for 4 insane boys, age 17 - 21. So ran the ad placed in Variety by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, looking to make an American TV version of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night film. 437 auditions later, the pair had four boys, two of whom were musicians and all with some TV, stage, or studio work under their belts. On September 12, 1966, the show aired, and within two months the band's flagship single, "Last Train To Clarksville," sat at Number One.

Success:

The weekly NBC show became a huge hit, but the manufactured nature of the project led many to question the group's authenticity as a "real band" (despite the fact that many groups recorded using session musicians and didn't write most of their own material). Soon, the backlash caused the group's members to rebel, fighting to complete an album entirely on their own (Headquarters) and to tour behind their hits. By 1968, however, the series was canceled due to poor ratings, and the group attempted to shed its teenybopper image entirely with the combative and psychedelic film Head.

Later years:

For several reasons, Head flopped, and the band soon broke up one member at a time; Nesmith went on to a solid career in his own right as a singer and pioneer in the burgeoning video movement. In 1986, a marathon of Monkees episodes on MTV resuscitated the group overnight, although it would be a few years before all four would reunite. Over the last twenty years, the original members have reunited on stage and record off and on, with varying degrees of success. The TV show is still shown in many markets, and their hit singles continue to be a staple of oldies radio.

Other facts:

  • The bass on many of the Monkees' later songs was provided by producer Chip Douglas, who had played bass with the Turtles
  • Contrary to rumor, Charles Manson did not audition for the group, although Stephen Stills did
  • Nesmith's mother did indeed invent the formula for what would become Liquid Paper
  • The group infamously used Jimi Hendrix as an opening act on their 1967 tour
  • Micky Dolenz voiced Arthur on the cartoon series The Tick
  • Michael Nesmith pioneered the idea for the format that would eventually become MTV
  • Beatles George Harrison and John Lennon were both very vocal about their love of the group and its TV show

Awards/Honors:

  • Emmy Awards (1967, 1968)
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame (6675 Hollywood Blvd.)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Last Train To Clarksville" (1966)
  • "Daydream Believer" (1967)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (1967)
  • "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (1967)
  • "Valleri" (1968)
#1 albums:
Pop:
  • The Monkees (1966)
  • More Of The Monkees (1967)
  • Headquarters (1967)
  • Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967)
Top 10 albums:
Pop:
  • The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968)
Other notable recordings: "(Theme From) The Monkees," "Take A Giant Step," "Saturday's Child," "I Wanna Be Free," "Papa Gene's Blues," "Gonna Buy Me A Dog," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "She," "Mary, Mary," "Your Auntie Grizelda," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," "I'll Be Back Up On My Feet," "Laugh," "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," "She Hangs Out," "Forget That Girl," "You Just May Be The One," "Shades Of Gray," "For Pete's Sake," "No Time," "Randy Scouse Git," "Words," "Goin' Down," "The Door Into Summer," "Love Is Only Sleeping," "Cuddly Toy," "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?," "Star Collector," "Magnolia Simms," "Valleri," "Tapioca Tundra," "Auntie's Municipal Court," "Zor And Zam," "Nine Times Blue," "Carlisle Wheeling," "St. Matthew," "Porpoise Song," "As We Go Along," "Circle Sky," "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again," "Listen to the Band," "Some Of Shelly's Blues," "That Was Then, This Is Now"
Covered by: Anne Murray, The Mr. T Experience, Bongwater, Cassandra Wilson, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Smash Mouth, The Specials, Shonen Knife, Magnapop, Mitch Easter, Peter Holsapple, The Four Tops, Nina Hagen, The Residents, Taj Mahal
Appears in the movies: "Head" (1968)
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