Conventional wisdom has it that the Monkees were

a television Pop group cynically manufactured to cash in

on the popularity of the Beatles.

While that may have been the original impetus


for producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the four

guys cast as the Monkees had other ideas.

Musically talented actors Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones

were paired with musicians Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork

in 1966. The chemistry was instant and electric. Music impresario

Don Kirshner provided songwriters like Boyce & Hart, Goffin &

King, and Neil Diamond to supply the songs.

The Monkees’ infectious first single,

“Last Train To Clarksville” was on the charts before the TV

show hit the airwaves. Their self-titled debut, as well as the

follow-up, More Monkees both reached  #1.

“Serious” rock critics dismissed the band as the

“Pre-fab Four.” They noted (accurately) that the band didn’t

play their own instruments. Willfully ignoring the fact that early

recordings by the Beach Boys, the Who and the Byrds also

relied on studio musicians.

As the Monkees headed into the studio to record their

third album the band staged a bloodless coup insisting this

new effort feature their musicianship and songwriting skills.

The resulting album, Headquarters, included

classic tracks by Nesmith, (“You Told Me,” “Sunny Girlfriend”)

Tork, (“For Pete’s Sake”) and Dolenz  (“Randy Scouse Git”).

Headquarters proved to anyone paying attention that the

Monkees were as capable as any of their peers.

Unfortunately, the specious contention that the band

were talentless poseurs persisted. The Monkees broke up by the

early 70s. Each band member achieved a measure of success:

Dolenz had a solo recording career but really thrived behind the

scenes as a producer and director. Jones continued performing and

acting. Tork,  actually contributed to George Harrison’s Wonderwall

album and remained in the music business. Mike Nesmith has

managed the most sustained success. First as a songwriter, (Linda

Ronstadt’s first hit was Nesmith’s composition, “Different Drum”).

He was a pioneer in early video production with his multimedia

company, Pacific Arts. Nesmith produced cult classic films like

“Repo Man” as well as cutting edge videos.

In 1986, MTV began rerunning “Monkees” episodes,

allowing a whole new generation to discover the meta comedy

that seamlessly blended pure pop harmonies and Marx brothers-

styled antics.

Dolenz, Jones and Tork took advantage of their newfound

popularity and toured as the Monkees. They would replicate the

tour during milestone years, most recently in 2011.

Sadly, Davy Jones died suddenly of a heart attack in

early 2012.  As a tribute to their fallen comrade, Nesmith joined

Dolenz and Tork for the first time, playing a series of concerts.

During this same period, Micky Dolenz began working

on a solo album, Remember. The record pays tribute to

artists Dolenz has worked with or admired over the last 45 years.

Fittingly, Remember opens with the Fab Four’s

“Good Morning, Good Morning.” Turns out the Beatles invited

Dolenz to the “Sgt. Pepper” recording sessions in 1967.

While the Beatles version was a clarion call to start the day,

Dolenz recasts the track as a breezy Brazilian samba replete

with bongos and sensuous guitars.

Naturally, Dolenz revisits three Monkees classics.

“Sometime In The Morning” was a Goffin/King cut on the band’s

second effort, More Monkees. Here the melody is slow and

meandering, highlighting the rueful quality of the lyrics. Dolenz

sings the song beautifully.  The instrumentation is a languid

blend of Spanish and steel guitars.

“I’m A Believer” is transformed from a jangly pop

confection to a chugging, countrified charmer. Dolenz layers

his own harmonies giving the tune an Everly Brothers patina.

Dolenz reserves the biggest metamorphosis for his

own Monkees composition, “Randy Scouse Git.” Roughly

translated, the title is British slang meaning “horny Liverpudlian

putz!” In it’s original incarnation, the tune was a clangorous

fever dream.  (The ultra 60s video featured Dolenz in a Dashiki,

sporting a white boy afro and pounding Timpani drums).

Eschewing the controlled chaos of the Monkees version, here

Dolenz slows the proceedings to a languorous pace.

The lyrics chronicle a whirlwind trip to London with the

Monkees. Dolenz hung with the Beatles while screaming girls

surrounded their hotel… “The four kings of EMI are sitting stately

on the floor, there are birds out on the sidewalk and a man at

the door/He reminds me of a penguin, with few and plastered hair

there’s talcum powder on the letter and the birthday boy is there.”

Remember includes a couple of newer tracks,

“Many Years” and “Quiet Desperation.”   Written by producer

David Harris, the former is a buoyant celebration of a long term

relationship. The melody is a jangly mix of Power Pop and Psychedelia.

The latter is a Dolenz original inspired by the Thoreau

quote “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” A country rock

melody is tethered to a clip-clop beat and ringing guitar licks.

The lyrics sketch out a sad existence… “I wonder why I keep trying,

must be something in my genes/Any minute now I’ll see the light

and realize what it means.”

Not all the tracks here are successful. Dolenz tackles

Bread’s lugubrious stalker’s lament, “Diary” and the results are

toothless and dull.  He also sucks the Bubblegum fun out of

the Archies’  “Sugar Sugar.” It’s a louche finger-snappin lounge

track  that feels cutesy and irritating.

Dolenz fairs better with Three Dog Night’s “Old Fashioned

Love Song.” He jettisons the pop rock arrangement  offering up

a New Orlean’s style romp that echoes the style of Louis Prima.

Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” also receives

swampy reboot that recalls the choogling pleasures of Creedence

Clearwater Revival.

The album closes with the title track.  The tune was

written by the late Harry Nilsson. Not only was Nilsson a running buddy

of Dolenz’ and John Lennon, he was a criminally underappreciated

songwriter who died quite suddenly in 1994.  The plaintive song

serves as a tender farewell to both Nilsson and Davy Jones.

David Harris has ably produced Remember

The album features the crack musicianship of session players

like drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Alex Acuna and

guitarist Phil Keaggy.  Vicki Peterson of the Bangles also lends

a hand on rhythm guitar.

The Monkees have been eligible for the

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame since 1991!    Dolenz is back on

the pop culture  radar with Remember. Rush is finally

inducted in the Hall Of Fame.  Maybe now is the time for

the Monkees to receive the critical acclaim they deserve.