September 1965, auditions were held for an American TV comedy about a rock group called the Monkees. 437 young men went to Hollywood, California to try out for the roles, but only four were selected for the series. One year later, the show premiered on NBC, preceded by the release of their first single, "Last Train to Clarksville", an immediate Number One hit.
Within this made-for-TV band, Michael Nesmith and Peter "Tork" Thorkelson were musicians, and Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones were TV actors who also had some musical experience. Despite their ability to play (as displayed in their 1966 and 1967 concert tours), outside musicians were hired to provide nearly all of the backing music for their first year's worth of material, leaving the Monkees themselves to provide little more than lead vocals to each song. Despite the good commercial judgements of record producer Don Kirshner, his constant control over the members' creative input led to his firing in early 1967.
After this, the Monkees began writing and playing more on their albums. Despite this, the success of their albums, concerts, and TV show was continually slammed by "serious" music critics who considered them showbiz phonies.
In 1968, the band stopped doing the TV series, choosing to concentrate on feature films. Unfortunately, their film of that year--"Head", a psychedelic montage of comic scenes and music videos--was considered too avant-garde by the average Monkees fan, and their record sales suffered as a result.
Despite the release of some quality music from the group, the general public was taking the band less and less seriously. As a result, Peter left the group in 1969. Two albums later, Mike followed suit, and the remaining two released one last Monkees record before calling it quits.
The 1970's saw sporadic TV, radio, and concert appearances by each of the four ex-Monkees. A highlight of the post-Monkees ventures in that decade was a semi-reunion tour of Japan called "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart". This group was comprised of Monkees Micky and Davy, and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who wrote several hits for themselves, the Monkees, and other groups). Mike's early-seventies works with the First National Band are also of note.
From the mid- to late-1980's, "Monkeemania" had returned, thanks to a 20th Anniversary reunion tour comprised of Micky, Davy, and Peter. They hoped to continue their comeback success by releasing an album of new material in 1988. Unfortunately, MTV--the music cable channel which had put the band back into the spotlight by re-running their series--refused to show their videos, due to a misunderstanding over an appearance they didn't make on the channel's "Superbowl Tailgate Party" special. By the end of the decade, the three Monkees had gone back to their separate lives...for the time being.
In the mid-1990's the three reunited once again for a 30th Anniversary tour, preceded by an excellent CD reisuue campaign headed by Rhino Records. The '90's wave of "Monkeemania" reached a peak in late-1996 and early-1997, when all four Monkees got together for a TV cable documentary, an ABC-TV special, a tour of the U.K., and "Justus"--an album comprised of songs written, played, and produced solely by the four Monkees, with no outside assistance whatsoever. But when Mike opted not to join them on their 1997 tour, the band drifted apart once again.
But public interest in the band has continued, inspiring another Mike-less reunion tour in 2001. Episodes of their show are available on video. Their musical output, meanwhile, is best encapsulated on a 2-CD set, "The Monkees Anthology", released in 1998.
* Micky Dolenz- drums, vocals
* Davy Jones- tambourine, vocals
* Peter Tork- bass, vocals
* Mike Nesmith- lead guitar, vocals
U.S. CHART SUCCESSES (1966-1970):
* 5 Top Five albums (4 Number One's)
* 7 Top Five singles (3 Number One's)
* Greatest Hits (Rhino version)
* Anthology (2-CD set)
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