By Lola Rossi
Gearing up for the 50th Anniversary of The Monkees television show that debuted on September 12, 1966, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork make their debut performance here in the Coachella Valley this Friday, March 27, 2015 at Fantasy Springs Casino.
Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Micky Dolenz was a child actor in the 1950’s series Circus Boy on NBC. Approximately ten years later, another series opportunity came his way. It was going to be a comedy about the adventures of a “make believe band” but The Monkees became a phenomenon instead.
“In the early 1960s, I was in Folk groups and Rock and Roll groups singing and playing guitar,” said Dolenz. “My audition piece for The Monkees was ‘Johnny Be Good’ by Chuck Berry.
Hollywood wanted a zany, young, pop/rock band styled as The American Beatles. We were singer, actor, entertainer, musicians and they were casting this new TV Series called The Monkees, so, my agent got me an interview; Peter has been a performer basically his whole life and tells the story that Steven Stills told him about the interview; Mike (Nesmith) was a musician performing in town; Davy (Jones) was an actor who had been on Broadway; and so we met during the audition process. Then one day, they said, you four guys are The Monkees.”
They recorded “Last Train To Clarksville” and released it in August of 1966, preparing the world for the new television program. Much to their surprise, the song became an instant hit. When the show aired that September, The Monkees became International Super Stars. “We were fortunate to have a stable of really great writers, writing songs for us,” shared Dolenz.
The critics may have dubbed them The Pre-Fab Four, but they were competent musicians, who weren’t allowed to play their own instruments on the show. However, with their growing popularity, Screen Gems decided to take the “garage band act” on the road. On December 3, 1966, The Monkees made their concert debut in Hawaii; their confidence as a real band grew; and they continued with a 12 city tour.
The young men weren’t a “pretend band” any longer, so they stood up for themselves and seized control in a very “high stakes mutiny”, as mentioned in Behind The Music on VH-1. They recorded their third album Headquarters that went to number one on the charts. However, the times were changing and the ever popular TV Show was cancelled. It ran from 1966 through 1968, only two seasons, but the re-runs still air today.
On February 22, 1986, MTV aired a 22-hour marathon of The 20 year old Monkees television shows. It sparked a revival of MonkeeMania with a 145 show tour. Arista Records released The Monkees Greatest Hits with a new song sung by Dolenz, “That Was Then, This Is Now” and it was The Monkees first hit since 1968. In 1996, their album JustUs was produced by The Monkees to commemorate their 30th year anniversary, followed by an ABC television special written and directed by Michael Nesmith. A month later, they kicked off the tour with 12 Concerts in England.
We can expect a great concert featuring all of their hits along with some of their favorite cover tunes from other bands. Hey, Hey, It’s The Monkees…I’ll see you there…