Fifty two years ago four “pre-fab” actors launched the most misunderstood band in rock history.
“The Monkees” debuted on NBC Sept. 12, 1966, building the prototypical “boy band” template in the process. That mold helped launch future, teen-friendly groups.
None can measure up to The Monkees.
Can we expect the Backstreet Boys or New Kids on the Block to keep crooning into their 70s? More importantly, do any of their songs resonate the way “Daydream Believer” or “Pleasant Valley Sunday” still do?
The Monkees – Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz – fused TV and music in a way never done before. They also concocted a calamitous movie (“Head“) while showing how perfect pop songs never age.
The group’s TV series lasted only two seasons. The band members packed plenty into that span, though. The series won an Emmy for Best Comedy Series and fueled a gaggle of hit singles including “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” The latter delivered a sly Vietnam War protest, a notion that likely sailed over the heads of its teen fan base.
They’ve been showing that anew via a series of reunion concerts. They carried on after the 2012 death of Jones. The band has continued to honor the late singer’s legacy, even including him in the 2016 reunion album “Good Times!”
Here are seven incredible Monkees facts to salute the group’s remarkable run.
- Wall, Meet Fist: Michael Nesmith once punched a hole in the wall after what he called a “personal affront.” But the singer says it didn’t have anything to do with the band being offered “Sugar Sugar” as has been rumored for years.
- ‘Head’s Up: The band’s 1968 feature “Head” proved a box office debacle, but the film intrigued some of the biggest names in pop culture at the time. Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones requested to see the film via private screenings. So did legendary author Thomas Pynchon, who donned a plumber’s disguise to preserve his anonymity.
- Best Warmup Act … Ever: The Monkees arranged to have a hot new guitar slinger open for them during one of their tours. Sadly, Jimi Hendrix didn’t finish the tour with the band, completing only seven concert dates. The gig did expose Hendrix to a younger audience. Nesmith first heard Hendrix’s music while hanging with several members of the Beatles in England.
- ‘Easy’ Cash: No two projects could be more dissimilar than “Easy Rider” and “The Monkees.” Yet the money made by the latter made the former possible. Just ask Peter Fonda: “…Bob and Bert Schneider had made all this money with ‘The Monkees.’ That’s what made “Easy Rider.”
- Meet Your New Drummer: Frank Zappa once appeared briefly on “The Monkees” show. Years later, Zappa asked Micky Dolenz to join his Mothers of Invention band as its drummer. Dolenz declined – he couldn’t get out of an existing record contract. Dolenz didn’t play the drums until joining “The Monkees.” Apparently, he was a quick study.
- That’s Not Monkee Material: Nesmith, a prolific songwriter, penned a beautiful song that the Monkees brass rejected. He passed it along to Linda Rondstadt, who turned “Different Drum” into a major hit with the Stone Poneys.
- The Numbers Game: In 1967, The Monkees sold more records than The Beatles and the Rolling Stones – combined.