The Monkees

The Monkees

“Here we come,
Walking down the street,
Get the funniest looks from,
Everyone we meet…”

Whenever something is a resounding success, there will always be imitators that follow. Often they pale in comparison to the original, but in the rare case, it turns out that the imitator has a charm and appeal all its own. Such was the case with The Monkees. Yes, they were Hollywood’s answer to The Beatles, but still quirky and original enough to make millions of their own fans along the way.

Producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafaelson interviewed over 400 potential Monkees before they settled on two musicians, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, and two former child stars, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. Dubbed The Monkees, the four would become stars of their own television series in 1966, which chronicled the zany adventures of the quartet as they played almost a comic book version of the Fab Four.

Each had their own distinct personality – Mike was the intellectual, Peter the introvert, Davey the heartthrob, and Micky the class clown. There was nothing malicious about any of them, just four fun-loving guys always willing to help out someone in need – and always finding themselves amidst a bizarre set of circumstances as a result. They might be spending the night in an eerie castle, or decide to help Davey’s newfound boxing career, or heading to England to save Davey’s family’s estate. No matter the situation or location, there was sure to be plenty of hijinks to follow.

When they weren’t traveling around the world, they resided in a beach loft and drove around in a modified GTO dubbed “The Monkeemobile.” And like any group of good-looking guys living at the beach, there were always plentiful members of the opposite sex to keep them company – and usually a jealous boyfriend or two to contend with. But The Monkees never wanted any trouble, they just wanted to have fun – and make some music. Long before there was MTV, each episode of The Monkees generally featured two songs, each presented in a filmed segment much like a music video, and with the same madcap feel of the show.

Although The Monkees ran for a mere two seasons (in which they managed to pick up an Emmy) it still helped to launch their careers into superstardom. The group released numerous albums, sang some great songs, went out on a major tour, and steadily built a following of adoring and screaming female fans.

When they released The Monkees in 1966, the album was an amazing success, managing to outsell all of the Rolling Stones albums to date – combined! It was simply impossible to not find something to like in a collection of material that included “Daydream Believer,” Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Stepping Stone” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” A rather impressive body of work from a band of so-called wannabees.

After the series was cancelled, a feature film followed in 1968 called Head, which was co-written by Jack Nicholson and starred a very young Terri Garr in her first film appearance.

Soon after the film’s release, Peter Tork quit to pursue other interests, and the remaining three kept things afloat by releasing two more albums. When Mike Nesmith decided to throw in the towel shortly thereafter, Micky and Davy released one more album before The Monkees officially called it a day in 1970.

In the 80s, a whole new generation was introduced to The Monkees, thanks to MTV which started showing reruns of the old series. Suddenly, the Monkees found themselves popular again and it wasn’t long before they were recording new albums (although, only one would include Mike Nesmith) and watching history attempt to repeat itself in the form of The New Monkees, a regrettable television series that featured four new wacky guys. While the TV show left almost as soon as it arrived, the older, wiser Monkees still took advantage of their returned popularity and reunited for an extensive tour.

While the Monkees weren’t quite as prolific as The Beatles, nor did they achieve the same iconic status, their place in history is well-assured. Few acts that were originally considered imitators have ever achieved the same longevity and popularity as The Monkees. As it turned out, they were pretty darn special in their own right.

If you have fond memories of watching The Monkees on television, or are just a fan of their classic tunes, we’d love to hear all of your Monkees recollections in our comments section below.

“Hey hey, we’re The Monkees,
And people say we monkey around,
But we’re too busy singing,
To put anybody down…”