Ex-Monkee credits writers for band's enduring popularity
By Chris Varias • firstname.lastname@example.org
November 21, 2008
When it comes to the Monkees, it's hard to pinpoint where prefab ends
and art begins.
It's true that they were a manufactured pop act that played the role
of a band on a TV show.
But it's also true that in real life the band sang on (even if they
didn't play all of the instruments on) some big hits in the '60s, and
those hits have stood the test of time.
Micky Dolenz, the lead singer on most of those tunes, credits the
songwriting. "The CDs still sell and the downloads sell. When you're
having songs written by Carol King, and (Tommy) Boyce and (Bobby)
Hart, and Neil Diamond, and Harry Nilsson, and Paul Williams, and
Carole Bayer Sager, David Gates, John Stewart, Diane Hildebrand, the
songs stand up," he says. "I like to think my vocals and our
performances have something to do with it, too. But when you start
with a great song, it's hard to screw it up."
Dolenz will pay respect to those songwriters and their contributions
to the Monkees songbook when he revisits the hits in concert Saturday
at Grand Victoria. In advance of the show, he shared some Monkees memories.
Question: MTV ignited a Monkees revival in the '80s. Do you envision
the conditions where that could happen again?
Answer: The sensibility of the show, not so much the style, was sort
of timeless. That was a conscious choice the producers made, that the
humor was not topical or satirical. The show was about this
out-of-work rock band that wanted to become the Beatles but never
did. It showed us always struggling to survive, and I think that
resonated with those kids out there, and that sensibility resonates
in every generation, trying to make it in the music business. The
reason they keep playing "The Honeymooners" or "I Love Lucy" over and
over again is they keep resonating over generations.
Q: At the time of the MTV revival, the Monkees did a reunion tour.
Wasn't it the highest-grossing tour of the year?
A: It was. It took everyone by surprise. I was living in England in a
big country mansion. I kind of retired a bit. This promoter guy kind
of tracked me down. This guy came up to me and said, "I want to get
you guys together for a summer tour of the States." I thought, "Hey,
this will be fun for a few weeks to see the guys." Three years later,
we were still on the road. The promoter just booked these tiny venues
to start with, and within a few weeks it exploded and we were doing arenas.
Q: Is your solo show exclusively dedicated to Monkees material?
A: In the early '80s, I saw the Everly Brothers, and I was wondering
if they were going to do their hits. They didn't disappoint. They did
"Cathy's Clown," "Wake Up Little Susie," and I had tears running down
my face, thrilled. I thought at the time, "If I ever go back and sing
those Monkees songs, I'm going to do them in their entirety just as
people remember them." But it's not my entire show. I'll do a Chuck
Berry song and tell the story of how it was what I auditioned with
for the Monkees. And I'll do a Jimi Hendrix song and tell the story
of finding him at the Monterey Pop Festival and getting him to be our
Q: It was your idea to hire Hendrix to open for the Monkees?
A: I had seen Jimi months before in New York as a sideman with John
Hammond. He was known as this guy who played guitar with his teeth.
I'm sitting there at Monterey in the audience and along comes this
guy dressed in all of these incredible clothes, and I said to myself,
"That's the guy from New York who plays guitar with his teeth." It
was very theatrical, and the Monkees were theatrical, so I went to
the producers and said, "This guy would be great."
Q: Is it true that Hendrix was booed off the stage when he was your
A: It's semi-true. It's the same thing that happened to Axl Rose
before the Stones concerts. It happens all the time. It's simply
because the fans are there to see the headliner. They don't want to
see an opening act. When you have an act like the Monkees back then,
it's not one of those compilation concerts. Ninety-nine percent of
the audience is there just to see the Monkees. The kids weren't
booing, but they were going, "We want the Monkees!" We want Davy
(Jones)! We want Micky."