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The Monkees’ last stand: Their final 1969 TV special ‘33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee’
05.22.2017
12:34 pm
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After the glorious fiasco that was the 1968 movie Head, the last project that the Monkees undertook as a quartet was a TV special for NBC called 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee. It’s basically the TV equivalent of Head, complete with corny jokes, audacious cameos, hummable ditties, and stuff that makes you scratch your noggin in puzzlement.

Like the band itself, 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, which aired on April 14, 1969, is thoroughly of the Sixties, somehow managing to blend (say) the Batman TV show and Barbarella with musical performance shows of the day like Shindig! (which makes sense, as the producer of Shindig!, Jack Good, was involved with this as well.

The Monkees enlisted Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll to take care of the half-baked framing narrative, a crazed musical impresario (errr, Don Kirshner?) who turns the four Monkees into mindless automatons so that he can “brainwash the world!!” (I told you it was right out of Batman.) The Monkees’ arrival is highly reminiscent of the “beaming” effect on Star Trek, which had been out for a couple of years by that point, so that counts as a reference.

About a third of the way through the show, Auger (still in “sinister” character) explains the nature of the musical mind-control properties of the rock and roll piano chords via an audacious device—the camera shows Auger at the piano and strategically pans away from the action to reveal that Auger’s piano is perched on a piano played by Jerry Lee Lewis, which is perched on a piano played by Little Richard, which is perched on a piano played by Fats Domino. Like this:
 

 
It was probably no accident that the band chose a metaphor of being controlled by a sinister puppet master. After all, the Monkees’ story is the most vivid example in rock history of a band struggling to seize the means of production (we call them “instruments”) from the corporate overlords that had conjured them into being in the first place—in the show, Auger actually uses the word conjure to summon them into being. Later on in the show, the four fellows sing a discordant little ditty called “Wind Up Man” (as wind-up men), which included lyrics like this:
 

I’m a wind up man
Programmed to be entertaining
Turn the key
I’m a fully automatic
Wind up man
Invented by the teeny bopper
Turn me on
And I will sing a song about a
Wind up man

 
As mentioned, it would seem that the stress of being the world’s first purely manufactured rock and roll TV sensation had gotten to the boys…...

More fun than a barrel of Monkees after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.22.2017
12:34 pm
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Harry Nilsson’s demo recordings for the Monkees
04.04.2017
12:01 pm
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The Monkees ran on NBC for the first time in September of 1966. The brainchild of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the program was a canny attempt to mimic the playful hijinks of the Beatles movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help! in a way that would attract viewers in the American TV system. The experiment was successful, to say the least, leading to two lively seasons of programming, a succession of million-selling albums, the strange and mesmerizing feature release Head, and so on.

Every Monkees fan knows that the four young lads weren’t really allowed to play their own instruments or write their own material, but over time they struggled mightily to garner more creative control. As a “manufactured” band that was constantly attempting to transcend or leave behind the synthetic nature of their origins, the Pre-Fab Four relied to a great extent on hired songwriters—until, increasingly, they didn’t.

In 1966 RCA Records signed a bright young singer-songwriter named Harry Nilsson—who had been doing computer work in a bank on the night shift and hawking his songs around town during the day—and in early 1967 Nilsson submitted some material for use by the Monkees. The two acts were essentially label mates—the label that released the Monkees’ albums, Colgems, was a joint venture of RCA and Screen Gems, which was the television division of Columbia Pictures.
 
So on March 17, 1967, Harry Nilsson recorded several demos for the Monkees. Among them was “Cuddly Toy,” which would find its way onto Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., which was released in November 1967. A month later, Nilsson would release his own debut, Pandemonium Shadow Show

Nilsson’s relationship with the Monkees grew over the years. Davy memorably sang and danced (with choreographer Toni Basil) to his “Daddy’s Song” in Head. Nilsson and Micky Dolenz became close enough that when Nilsson traveled to Ireland to meet his fiancee’s parents, Dolenz joined him for the trip. Dolenz occasionally used Nilsson’s London flat, a notorious residence in rock and roll history in that both Mama Cass and Keith Moon died there (er, not together, however).
 
After the jump, hear Nilsson’s demos for the Monkees…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.04.2017
12:01 pm
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See Frank Zappa on ‘The Monkees’ for the first time in HD!
07.22.2016
09:21 am
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Episode #57 of The Monkees saw two of the most “out there” moments of the entire series flanking one of their less memorable escapades—Peter has his mind taken over by an evil hypnotist he visits to get over his writer’s block—and we’ve got an exclusive HD version of that show premiering here for the very first time, an appetizer from the new Blu-ray box set of The Monkees (available only from their official website).

“The Monkees Blow Their Minds,” which aired originally on March 11, 1968 was the next to last show before The Monkees was cancelled. The principals wanted to take the show in a new direction creatively and NBC wasn’t into that. This might explain how viewers came to see the surreal—certainly unexpected—sight of Frank Zappa (playing “Mike Nesmith” in a wool cap) and Mike Nesmith (playing Zappa with wig, rubber nose and false beard) beating the shit out of an old car. Zappa as “Mike” wields a sledgehammer while Nesmith “conducts” and we hear a snippet of Zappa’s “Mother People.” By the standards of 1968—or any year since when you get right down to it—it was a distinctly odd thing to see on television. If you’re forced to bow out, why not go out with a cacophonous bang?
 
Watch “The Monkees Blow Their Minds” in glorious HD for the first time, after the jump..

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.22.2016
09:21 am
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The Monkees’ Peter Tork plays Bach and Elvis at CBGB during the height of the punk era
05.02.2016
12:34 pm
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A bearded Peter Tork, around the time of his 1977 CBGB solo set. Can we call this his “head” shot?

In 1977 The Monkees TV show was nine years in the rearview mirror, the Monkees hadn’t been active for six years, and an outfit going by the name Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart had released an album a year earlier.

The post-Monkees years had not been easy for Peter Tork. He tried to start a band with his girlfriend Reine Stewart that was to be called “Peter Tork and/or Release,” but they never, ah, “released” anything (Tork says that he possesses Release demos to this day), and in 1972 he got busted for possession of hashish and did three months in an Oklahoma penitentiary. By 1975 he was a teacher at Pacific Hills School in Santa Monica.
 

This pic comes from the September 22, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone—the same issue that memorialized the passing of Elvis Presley
 
As improbable as it sounds, in 1977 Tork played a solo set at CBGB, the legendary venue catering to punk and new wave on the Bowery in Manhattan. The date was July 31, and no less a personage than Lester Bangs wrote a review of the show for the Village Voice.

Tork’s jaunty, amateurish set was all over the map. Playing some guitar but mostly piano, Tork played “Prelude #2 in C Minor” as well as a two-part invention by Johann Sebastian Bach and Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” One of the numbers was a Russian folk tune titled “Kretchman” that I recommend a certain DM contributor adopt as his new personal anthem. He played “I’ll Spend My Life with You”  off of Headquarters and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” off of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
 

This CBGB ad appeared in the Village Voice, August 1, 1977 issue
 
Lester Bangs quotes Tork as saying before the show, “This is pretty much a one-shot for me; I was booked in here by a journalist friend of mine who’s helping me do a book on the Monkees trip, and after it’s over I’m gonna go back to California and teaching. I couldn’t do this on the West Coast; CBGB’s is psychedelic.” (To which Bangs blandly responds “If you say so.”)

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.02.2016
12:34 pm
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Frank Zappa & the Monkees: ‘No, YOU’RE the popular musician, I’M dirty gross and ugly’


 
The Monkees are often referred to as the “Pre-Fab Four” in reference to the fact that they were a TV knock-off of the Beatles, recruited from a help wanted ad in Variety. Still, no matter how “uncool” they were supposed to be, the Monkees casting was a rare example of stroke of genius by committee. It’s difficult to imagine anyone but the four of them having the same chemistry, both comedically and (eventually) musically. And to further refute their “uncool” rep, John Lennon called them “the Marx Brothers of Rock” (he was right about that) and the Beatles even hosted a party for the Monkees in London when they toured England. (Furthermore, Mike Nesmith was present at the Abbey Road recording sessions for “A Day in the Life” and Peter Tork played banjo on George Harrison’s eclectic Wonderwall soundtrack).

Even that most far-out of the really far-out musicians of the day, Frank Zappa himself, made not just one, but two onscreen appearances with the Monkees: First in a TV segment where Mike pretended to be Frank and vice versa (which certainly foreshadowed Ringo Starr’s portrayal of Zappa in 200 Motels) before they destroyed a car with a sledgehammer to the tune of “Mother People,” and again in a brief cameo in Head.
 

 
Zappa’s Head cameo, after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.26.2015
04:57 pm
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‘Show Biz Babies’ vintage toys of The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Bobbie Gentry and more

Mike Nesmith
 
In 1967, apparently imitating Remco’s successful Beatles dolls of 1964, Hasbro introduced a cute-as-the-dickens line of “Show Biz Babies,” featuring several popular musical acts of the moment, including The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Herman’s Hermits, and the Spencer Davis Group.

The packaging of these adorable dolls is a delight, as you can see here. Every doll came with a “groovy 33 1/3 record” that “tells all about” the personality whose doll was inside the package. Even better, every doll “bends into swinging poses,” which is an album title waiting to happen. In addition, wasting no square inch, the back featured an “autographed photo” like this one:
 
Bobbie Gentry
 
There were 12 dolls in all: all four Monkees, all four members of the Mamas and the Papas, and an additional ad-hoc quartet made up of Bobbie Gentry, Spencer Davis, Mitch Ryder, and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. On eBay, the dolls routinely fetch about $100, with the Nesmith model reaching as high as $250 on at least one occasion.
 
Mickey Dolenz
 
Davy Jones
 
Peter Tork
 
Mama Cass
 
John Phillips
 
More dolls plus two of those “groovy 33 1/3 records” after the jump…..

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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02.21.2014
10:10 am
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Liberace gets all avant garde and artsy fartsy on ‘The Monkees’
09.28.2013
01:43 am
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Episode 37 in the Monkees’ TV canon, “Art for Monkees’ Sake,” is a pretty routine episode as Monkees episodes go. The premise is that Peter gets interested in art, paints his version of Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier at the local museum, which then gets switched for the real thing, it gets stolen, hijinks ensue. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a Monkees episode, with two wonderful songs (“Randy Scouse Git” and “Daydream Believer”) and as many dumb sight gags as they could cram in there.

Because it’s set in a museum, the writers took full advantage of the opportunity to make “modern art” the target of as many silly jokes as possible. There’s a brief scene where Mickey wanders into an artist’s studio and the artist says most of the things you’d expect a pretentious “actionist” painter to say in an absurdist sitcom. There’s a gag where three of the Monkees are surprised in the darkened museum by a security guard, but they just freeze in odd poses, and the guard doesn’t “see” them, thinking they’re just some dumb art installation. Get it? Modern art! Hah!

Right in the middle of the episode, Mike’s off looking for Peter and wanders into a chamber music concert. And then something remarkable happens.

The room is populated by snooty-snoots wearing tuxedos and fine gowns. Through a door enters Liberace, who wordlessly opens a large case, extracts a golden sledgehammer, and proceeds to lay waste to a blameless piano while Mike mugs and cringes. Then Liberace, clearly having enjoyed himself, is wordlessly congratulated by the snooty-snoots as the scene fades out.

But wait! Destroying a piano with a sledgehammer? That’s a Fluxus move, innit? Pretty sure…..
 
Piano Activities
George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell, Benjamin Patterson, Emmett Williams performing Phillip Corner’s Piano Activities at Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik, Wiesbaden, 1962

By the autumn of 1967, when “Art for Monkees’ Sake” first aired, destroying musical instruments was a well-known Fluxus trope. As Hannah Higgins reports in her book Fluxus Experience, in Nam June Paik’s 1961 work One for Violin, “The performer raises a violin overhead at a nearly imperceptible rate until it is released full-force downward, smashing it to pieces.” Furthermore, Higgins continues,

In Philip Corner’s Piano Activities, performed in 1962 at the first Fluxus-titled festival in Wiesbaden, Germany, Dick Higgins, George Maciunas, Alison Knowles, and Emmett Williams engaged in the apparent destruction of an old, unplayable piano belonging to the Kunstverein. They did destroy the instrument, but not haphazardly. … [the performance included] the careful rubbing of a brick over the strings, patient waiting for the right moment to use a hammer.”

As Richard Meltzer writes in The Aesthetics of Rock, “One of the farthest-reaching dissonant-worlds-of-quality moves that the Monkees (or their producers) have carried out has been their TV scene with Liberace destroying a piano with a sledge hammer before an appreciative chamber music audience.”

I have to agree. I don’t know if Liberace gave a hoot about Fluxus or not—probably he didn’t—but I have to applaud the discipline and sheer insouciant gumption it took to do that scene and that scene only and not demand even a line of dialogue for his trouble.
 


 
The complete episode, after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.28.2013
01:43 am
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The Monkees: Complete un-aired TV pilot from 1965
07.22.2013
01:07 pm
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When series creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider shot the un-aired 16mm pilot (something that would now probably be called a “sizzle reel” in show biz lingo) for The Monkees, the Pre-Fab Four weren’t even miming along to their own voices.

It starts off with some charming B&W screen test footage from Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith, then still going by his stage name “Michael Blessing” but credited here as Nesmith. (Micky Dolenz, however was called “Micky Braddock” then, as you can see above)

At 6:14, you can hear Boyce and Hart’s demo version of the show’s theme and a decidedly less colorful opening credit sequence. At 9:23, Boyce and Hart’s demo of “I Wanna Be Free” is heard while the group mime along. At 22:06 you see them and hear Boyce and Hart’s “Let’s Dance On” demo.

It’s (mildly, of course) jarring, to say nothing of the Monkeemobile being a broke-ass old station wagon…
 

 
In terms of the plot, it’s one of their typical, Davy with (literally) stars in his eyes over a girl story-lines. The pilot episode was remade properly for the NBC series (with the same pretty blonde actress for Davy to moon over) the following year as “Here Comes The Monkees,” episode #10. Again they used the B&W screen test footage, but at the end this time, and by then the group was at least miming along to their own voices.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.22.2013
01:07 pm
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Monkee Business: Troubling behind-the-scenes shenanigans of 2012 tour revealed
06.25.2013
08:50 pm
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My own Monkee-mania has been detailed on this blog several times. (I listened to Instant Replay all weekend). Eric Lefcowitz’s Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-For-TV Band (which I reviewed here) has been revised and expanded in light of the events of the past year or so. Penn Jillette wrote a forward for the new edition.

Lefcowitz emailed me about the juicy details of the new book:

When I released Monkee Business back in 2010 I was pretty sure the Monkees were kaput and therefore what I wrote would stand as their last will and testament. But seemingly as soon as it came out, Davy agreed to reunite with Micky and Peter and my book was instantly passé.

What happened after that—not just Davy’s death which, of course, was cataclysmic but all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans—convinced me I had to go back and add a new ending.

The shenanigans include a lot of crazy stuff about Davy’s stormy May/December romance with a telenovela star half his age and his insistence that she become part of the act. You can imagine how that went down. But amazingly the 2012 tour was a resounding success. Even Rolling Stone began showing the Monkees some love.

And then it all came to a screeching halt. The tour was canceled and nobody’s talking. It’s all very mysterious and it gets even stranger. Michael Nesmith, the notoriously reluctant warrior of the bunch, agrees to perform with Micky and Peter for a one-off tribute show dedicated to their classic album Headquarters. Davy, however, has no intention of performing.

Then Davy dies and suddenly the tribute show becomes a tribute tour dedicated to Davy’s memory. History is quickly rewritten. And that’s not all. Nesmith announces he’s almost gone blind (which at least partially explains his desire to tour).

And then there’s the group’s shockingly durable influence. They become a hip name drop. Their songs appear on Breaking Bad and Mad Men. What the fuck is happening? After nearly fifty years of ridicule the Monkees are suddenly considered visionary pop stars who leveraged the cross-platform potential of media, music and marketing.

So I’ve gone back and documented the madness. And now I’ve got it covered. Plus Penn Jillette wrote a very cool foreword and the new cover is bitchin’. What’s not to love? But knowing my luck Peter will reveal some NSA secrets or Nesmith will release his long-awaited K-pop record and I’ll have to do it all over again.

My copy of the revised Monkee Business hasn’t arrived yet, but from the sound of things, quite a few rocks were turned over for some of the darker revelations hinted at above. I understand this is pretty juicy stuff for Monkees fans.

Below, Eric Lefcowitz explains why the Monkees should be—at long last—inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.25.2013
08:50 pm
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Monkee Micky Dolenz wearing some badass shades
04.09.2013
05:59 pm
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To me, Micky Dolenz was always the coolest Monkee. Plus he’s one of the first three people ever to own a Moog synthesizer, having bought one after seeing it demonstrated by electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967 (Wendy Carlos and Buck Owens bought the other two).

Here’s Micky sportin’ some seriously futuristic shades. At first I described his sunglasses as “retro-futuristic,” but such a concept wouldn’t really have existed at the time, so I changed it.

Below, Micky Dolenz and the boys do “Daily Nightly”:

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Head: The Monkees’ ‘Ulysses of a hip New Hollywood’

Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.09.2013
05:59 pm
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Merry Christmas from The Monkees, 1967
12.24.2012
02:25 pm
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The Monkees singing a beautiful a capella version of the traditional Spanish Christmas carol, “Ríu, Chíu,” from their TV Christmas special in 1967.

And no that’s not a joint that Peter Tork is holding, it’s a stick of incense.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.24.2012
02:25 pm
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Jimi Hendrix Jamming With The Monkees: Micky Dolenz’s amazing photograph from 1967
07.09.2012
10:06 am
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As you know, we’re fans of The Monkees and Jimi Hendrix, and we were quite delighted to see this amazing photograph posted by Micky Dolenz on his FB page. As he explains:

‘This is one of my personal photos from The Monkees 1967 World Tour…In honor of the 45th anniversary of the first concert that Jimi Hendrix appeared with The Monkees~

And what a concert that must have been.
 
Via Micky Dolenz
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.09.2012
10:06 am
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The other Monkees react to the death of Davy Jones

image
 
Gathering up the reactions of remaining Monkees Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter to the passing of Davy Jones

Mike Nesmith:

All the lovely people. Where do they all come from?

So many lovely and heartfelt messages of condolence and sympathy, I don’t know what to say, except my sincere thank you to all. I share and appreciate your feelings.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.

That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane.

David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us.

I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels.

Peter Tork posted the following on his Facebook fan page:

”It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer, David Jones. His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always. My deepest sympathy to Jessica and the rest of his family. Adios, to the Manchester Cowboy.

Peace and love, Peter T.”

Micky Dolenz released a statement:

“I am in a state of shock; Davy and I grew up together and shared in the unique success of what became The Monkees phenomena. The time we worked together and had together is something I’ll never forget. He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart. The memories have and will last a lifetime. My condolences go out to his family.”

Below a forever young Davy Jones makes a prom date with Marcia Brady.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.29.2012
07:21 pm
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Monkee see, Monkee doo: Micky Dolenz as a glam rocker
11.22.2011
01:06 am
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Micky as David Bowie.
 
Micky Dolenz of The Monkees goes glam on The Greatest Golden Hits of The Monkees TV special in 1977.

I’m guessing this was intended as a joke. On the other hand, Dolenz directed the show and maybe just maybe this was his idea of a hip career move.

Micky, Marc Bolan wants his pants back.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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11.22.2011
01:06 am
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The Monkees FBI File
06.03.2011
07:07 pm
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Instamatic photo of The Monkees in June, 1966, taken by then 12-year-old Bruce Sallan

In April, the FBI released an amusing file on its website that was kept confidential for three decades regarding a 1967 Monkees concert which featured (according to the memo’s author) “subliminal” and “left wing” messages.

“This series, which as been quite successful, features four young men who dress as ‘beatnik types’ and is geared primarily to the teenage market.”

A lot of it is still redacted, but here is the pertinent description of the concert from the file:

“…that ‘The Monkees’ concert was using a device in the form of a screen set up behind the performers who played certain instruments and sang as a ‘combo’. During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which, in the opinion of [redacted] constituted ‘left wing innovations of a political nature.’ These messages and pictures were flashes of riots in Berkeley, anti-U.S. messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma, Alabama, and similar messages which had received unfavorable response from the audience.”

There is a second Monkees-related document that remains classified!
 

 
Below, “Daily Nightly,” thought to be the first use of the Moog synthesizer in a pop song. Micky Dolenz saw one demonstrated at the Monterey Pop Festival and was amongst the first people to own one.
 

Thank you Nate Cimmino!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.03.2011
07:07 pm
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