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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…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Liberace gets all avant garde and artsy fartsy on ‘The Monkees’
09.27.2013
10:43 pm

Topics:
Art
Music
Television

Tags:
The Monkees
Fluxus
Liberace


 
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…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Monkees: Complete un-aired TV pilot from 1965
07.22.2013
10:07 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
The Monkees


 
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 | Leave a comment
Monkee Business: Troubling behind-the-scenes shenanigans of 2012 tour revealed
06.25.2013
05:50 pm

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture
Television

Tags:
The Monkees


 
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 | Leave a comment
Monkee Micky Dolenz wearing some badass shades
04.09.2013
02:59 pm

Topics:
Fashion
Music

Tags:
The Monkees
Micky Dolenz


 
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 | Leave a comment
Merry Christmas from The Monkees, 1967
12.24.2012
11:25 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Christmas
The Monkees


 
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 | Leave a comment
Jimi Hendrix Jamming With The Monkees: Micky Dolenz’s amazing photograph from 1967
07.09.2012
07:06 am

Topics:
Heroes
History
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Jimi Hendrix
The Monkees

jimi_hendrix_jams_with_the_monkees_1967
 
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 | Leave a comment
The other Monkees react to the death of Davy Jones


 
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 | Leave a comment
Monkee see, Monkee doo: Micky Dolenz as a glam rocker


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 | Leave a comment
The Monkees FBI File
06.03.2011
04:07 pm

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
The Monkees
FBI


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 | Leave a comment
The Monkees on ‘The Johnny Cash Show’
02.26.2011
01:55 pm

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Johnny Cash
The Monkees

image
 
One more Monkees-related post: a seldom-seen clip of them (sans Peter) performing “Nine Times Blue” in 1969 on The Johnny Cash Show. And let’s not forget that “The Man in Black” was born today in 1932.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-For-TV Band
02.26.2011
01:41 pm

Topics:

Tags:
The Monkees
Eric Lefcowitz

image
 
Continuing on with my recent, rampant bout of middle-aged man Monkeemania, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t post about Eric Lefcowitz’s fine new group biography, Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-for-TV Band. Author of a previous Monkees book, Lefcowitz was early on the curve that saw the Monkees’ reputation rehabilitated when MTV began screening the Pre-Fab Four’s antics to a new generation in the mid-80s. In 2011, decades after the fact, who really cares that they were a “manufactured” group when they left behind so much amazing music in their wake? In the context of today’s pop music, the concept is practically meaningless. It’s not like this held back the Spice Girls, NKOTB or Gorillaz, is it?

For Monkee Business, Eric Lefcowitz has expanded his earlier bio, The Monkees’ Tale, with additional information on the big money cottage industry that sprung up practically overnight to surround the project and the four over-whelmed young men at the heart of it. The fact is that the Monkess were a pop culture “product” that had an awful lot of money put behind it and it paid off handsomely. The Monkees generated unbelievable amounts of cash. Selling over 50 million records is not exactly a small accomplishment as Lefcowitz makes clear and it took something of a “machine” to make it happen (It’s also something that might attract the attention of the mob, as it reportedly did…). What I particularly like about the approach of looking at the business side of things when examining the phenomenon of the Monkees, is that it properly ascribes credit to the apparatus that made all of this great music possible, while the author also makes it plain to see that none of it ever would have worked in the first place sans the lucky accident of casting exactly these four guys and the charisma and the individual and collective talents of Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork.

[Try to imagine Stephen Stills in Peter Tork’s role or Neil Young wearing a wool cap playing “Mike” (or Frank Zappa for that matter!). Could say, Steve Marriott, have made a better “Davy”? It falls apart quickly doesn’t it? All I know is that I’m glad I was born into this universe and not a parallel one where the Monkees, exactly as we know and love them, never existed.]

Lefcowitz also pays careful attention to the roles that some major behind-the-scenes talent had on the success of The Monkees: Series creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider who would go on to make films like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The King of Marvin Gardens, and The Last Picture Show; the late millionaire music mogul Don Kirshner; Head’s co-writer/producer, a then-unknown Jack Nicholson; and of course the A-list songwriting talent who wrote for the Monkees like Neil Diamond, Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Harry Nilsson and Boyce & Hart and the studio musicians and producers who made their records so memorable, like Glen Campbell, the Wrecking Crew, Chip Douglas and others.

Along the way we also learn of the various other luminaries the Monkees’ orbits collided with, including The Beatles (who were big fans and threw the Pre-Fabs a party when they were in London) and Jimi Hendrix, who infamously opened for part of their first American tour. Lefcowitz also comes up with a few amusing anecdotes about drug use (well, Micky and Peter’s), over-inflated egos and the madness of being thrust into instant worldwide celebrity (Peter Tork would compose a newspaper editorial about this subject after the death of Michael Jackson). He also follows their post 1970 careers closely, whether together or apart, including the various reunion tours.

Eric Lefcowitz’s Monkee Business is a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and if you suspect you might feel the same, well, you probably will too. There is a special collectible edition of Monkee Business with a die-cut cover containing Monkees “quarters” (yes, actual metal coins with the faces of Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike on them). Only 300 copies of this special limited edition have been manufactured and if you haven’t heard, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork will be reforming for a UK tour soon.

Download a PDF file of two Monkee Business sample chapters here.

Below, minus Peter Tork, the remaining Monkees performing “Teardrop City” in 1969.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Patti Smith singing The Monkees’ ‘Daydream Believer’ live in Paris
01.26.2011
05:33 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Patti Smith
The Monkees
Daydream Believer

image
“Hey hey I’m a Monkee.”
 
While Dangerous Minds’ co-founder Richard Metzger is in the thrall of Monkeemania, I’d thought I’d share something with you and him that I found quite charming. This is Patti Smith (who I am always in the thrall of) doing an acoustic version of “Daydream Believer” last week in Paris. Lenny Kaye on guitar. Enjoy.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
The First National Band: Michael Nesmith’s criminally overlooked post-Monkees country-rock classics

image
 
If you haven’t been able to tell from all of the Monkees posts I’ve been doing recently, I’m going through a bit of a Monkees “phase” right now and probably annoying the hell out of Tara with it. It started when I was listening to “Sunny Girlfriend” from Headquarters. I must have played that song fifty times last week. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s so catchy!

Then I moved on to other of their hits featuring Mike Nesmith. Pretty much 100% of the songs he wrote and sang (and even the material he sang but did not write, for that matter) with the Monkees are total winners. And distinctively his.

After Nesmith bought himself out of this Monkees contract in 1970, he formed a country-rock group called Michael Nesmith and The First National Band. Nesmith and the group released two albums in 1970, Loose Salute and Magnetic South. If you like the sound of his Monkees contributions, you’ll find no surprises with the First (and later “Second”) National Band material. Clearly it’s the same songwriter and voice we all know so well, but with a more mature style that compares favorably with The Flying Burrito Brothers. And the songs are still as catchy as hell. The guy’s an absolutely ace songwriter.

The reason Michael Nesmith doesn’t get as much credit for birthing the country-rock genre as he should is simple: the stigma of being involved with such a commercial proposition as the Monkees tapped his street cred. That’s too bad, because from the vantage point of 2010, Loose Salute and Magnetic South seem like criminally overlooked classics overripe to be critically reassessed.

Here’s a sampling of three of my favorite tracks from Michael Nesmith and the First National Band:

“Silver Moon” (dig the pedal steel guitar solo from longtime Nesmith collaborator, Red Rhodes):
 

 
“Joanne”
 

 
“Tumbling Tumbleweeds” (from the 1935 Gene Autry movie of the same title)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
After the Monkees gave us ‘Head,’ there was ‘33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee’
01.11.2011
04:17 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
The Monkees
Brian Auger
Jullie Driscoll

image
 

We have the knowledge—evil though it be—
To twist the mind to any lunacy we wish.
Through this Electro-Thought Machine, I’ll demonstrate exactly what I mean.
We’ll take the means of mass communication, use them for commercial exploitation,
Create the new 4-part phenomena: 4 simple minds with talent (little or none),
And through the latest fad of rock and roll, conduct experiments in mind control!
On an unsuspecting public they’ll be turned!
I’ll brainwash them, and they’ll brainwash the world!!!!

—Brian Auger in 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee

After they made Head, the four original Monkees completed one final project together, the 1969 NBC television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. Peter Tork, citing exhaustion, bought himself out of the final years of his Monkees contract immediately following production of the program.

Produced by Shindig! creator Jack Good and directed by Art Fisher (whose claim to fame is that he gave the Marx Brothers their names), 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee is basically, as Peter Tork called it “the TV Version of Head.”  The “plot,” as such, centers on a fiendish plot hatched by a devilish duo, played by guest stars Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, to control minds via the commercialization of pop music. The Monkees are stripped of their identities in giant test tubes and turned into “safe” doo-woppers. Along the way they wear monkey suits and there is something about Darwin, too, but I didn’t really understand that bit…

Musical guests on the show included Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Clara Ward Singers, The Buddy Miles Express, Paul Arnold and The Moon Express, and We Three. The show’s big finale was an utterly cacophonous version of “Listen to the Band” that seemed to be wanting to evoke the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” satellite performance and the final noisy ending of “A Day in the Life.” You might say, however, that the spotty 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee was really much more like the Pre-Fab Four’s own Magical Mystery Tour. The program marked the Monkees’ final appearance as a quartet until 1986.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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