Daily Archives: March 3, 2012

The Monkees

In the fall of 1966 a program debuted on NBC. It was a knockoff of The Beatles, Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and starred Davey Jones, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork.

They were — The Monkees.

With the recent death of Monkees singer Davey Jones I pretty much had no choice about this weeks topic. The Monkees were a phenomenon that  practically defies explanation. To try to classify them, push them into the proper musical cubby-hole, is a bona fide challenge.

Were they pop? Were they top-40? Were they the Marx Brothers who blended in pop-music with slap-stick comedy? They were a made-for-TV boys band, a quartet of young guys thrown together like shake and bake, and plastered on television to become an overnight sensation.

The MonkeesSongwriters penning songs for The Monkees reads like a who’s who of the music business of the late sixties, Neil DiamondI’m a Believer, Harry Nilsson – Cuddly Toy, and Carole KingPleasant Valley Sunday.

The Monkees craze began with the recording of their first studio album, July of ’66, rolled out a few weeks after the series launched that September. It was the first of four consecutive U.S. number one albums for the group, taking the top spot on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.

The first cut was the Monkees theme song which would become ingrained in the musical ear of a generation. We all knew the words and remember the off-beat boys they referred to.

The top cut on side two was the Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart song, Last train to Clarksville which shot to the top of the charts the first week in November for one week.

I believe an argument could be made saying The Monkees, despite their commercial upbringing and contrived roots were one of the most influential pop bands of the era standing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. As a matter of fact in one of the oddest pairings in rock and roll history, Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees for seven concerts in 1967.

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Of those concerts Micky Dolenz would later reflect:

“Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break out into ‘Purple Haze,’ and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with ‘We want Daaavy!’ God, was it embarrassing.”[/box]

I am one of the people who was not necessarily on The Monkees bandwagon in the late 60s. I was more of a Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Grand Funk Railroad kind of guy. However I stand with the folks that believe this odd foursome belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based purely on their impact on the music scene of that era.

The fact that they haven’t been nominated is the most blatant rock-snobbery since the HOF opened. For every argument about why The Monkees should not be in the hall you can point to a dozen inductees that would lose that same argument. I can only assume it’s a bit of underlying jealously about the success of Nesmith, Dolenz, Tork, and Jones.

In one year The Monkees sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. (Their albums and singles have sold over 65 million copies worldwide since 1966.)

The Rock Hall of Fame has an exhibit called: The 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll. With few exceptions, most Hall of Fame inductees on that list only have one song. The Monkees have two. (I’m A Believer and Last Train To Clarksville.)

Davey Jones was the cute one. He was the first crush of many women my age. I know a few who wept openly on the news of his passing. With Davey gone I think it’s high-time the rock elite gets off their high-horse and extend The Monkees their rightful place in the Hall of Fame, because it’s the right thing to do, because they deserve to be there, and because it’s way past time.