By Kevin Eck | email@example.com
July 3, 2009
It's been more than 40 years since Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael
Nesmith and Peter Tork -- collectively known as The Monkees -- took
America by storm with a popular network television series and a
string of No. 1 albums and singles. Although the series about a
fictional rock band was canceled in 1968 after just two seasons and
The Monkees as a recording act were done in 1970, they did not just
fade away. Three members of the group reunited for a highly
successful tour in 1986, and they also toured at various times in the
1990s and even as late as 2001.
Dolenz, who played drums and sang the majority of The Monkees' hits,
still tours as a solo artist. He is scheduled to perform at The
Dundalk Heritage Fair at Dundalk Heritage Park on Sunday at 8 p.m.
I conducted a phone interview with Dolenz, 64, Friday.
Tell us about the set list for the shows you are doing on this tour.
I do all of the big Monkees hits, of course. I sang most of them. So
I do all the big hits and I do them in their entirety. I think you
sort of have this unspoken bond with an audience when you're in a
position like I am. They're there to hear those hits and I know that.
I give them all that, and I try to keep pretty faithful to the intent
of the original song and the style, even the tone of the instruments.
Now having said that, peppered within all the big Monkees songs, I'll
tell some stories. For instance, I'll tell a story about meeting the
Beatles in London in the '60s and going to some of the Abbey Road
recording sessions, and then I'll sing a song that I actually heard
them recording. Or I'll tell the story of Jimi Hendrix when he was
our opening act after I found him at the Monterey Pop Festival, and
then I'll do a Hendrix tune.
How often are you playing shows at this point?
Oh, it's all over the place. First of all, it depends on if I'm even
available for these kinds of shows. I only started doing solo shows
in the mid-90s. I did Monkees reunion shows, but never solo shows. I
started doing it a little bit in the mid-90s, mostly for fun. The
thing I've been doing mostly over the last few years is musical
theater -- Broadway, and national tours of big musical shows like
Grease or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I did Aida,
an Elton John musical, in New York and on tour; a revival of Pippin
on a national tour; I'm currently in negotiations for a show possibly
in London. And at one point I was a radio disc jockey in New York for
six months. So during those periods of time, I don't tour at all. In
other years, I'll be going out at least every weekend for a couple shows.
What are the crowds like that come out to see you play? I'm guessing
you get a lot of people in their 50s who grew up with The Monkees,
but do you see younger people at the shows as well?
Yeah, as a matter of fact, I see up to three generations. As you say,
of course there are the original Monkees fans, and then there also
are the children of those Monkees fans who became fans either through
their parents or in 1986 when we had that huge revival. And then
those fans have passed it on to their kids. I often find young kids
who are fans, either through their parents or the Internet or DVDs of
the television show.
Are you working on any other projects?
I'm currently doing a Carole King tribute album called King for a Day
on Gigitone Records. I think it will be released in August.
Some of your former band mates don't seem to be entirely comfortable
with being known primarily as a member of The Monkees. What are your
thoughts on it as it relates to you, and do you think being a member
of what was initially a made-for-TV band limited your opportunities
after The Monkees first broke up?
That's a good question. I feel very blessed to have been a part of
it. We wouldn't be having this conversation right now and I wouldn't
be doing this concert if it wasn't for The Monkees. I know that, you
know that and the fans know that. If I had done nothing else in my
life if I had not gone to England and been a very successful
director and producer of films and television; if I had not done
these musicals; if I hadn't come back to the states and directed
shows like Boy Meets World and movies for Lifetime -- I might not
feel the same way. I do know people, and not just other members of
The Monkees, that are in a similar situation where this is the only
arrow in their quiver. I can see how one can get very frustrated,
because you try to redefine yourself, and that's typical within our
business. You strive very hard to become successful and then when you
do, the success sort of takes off without you. It's very difficult to
alter the path of that. Don't get me wrong; I have been very, very
frustrated at times when I've wanted to go off in a particular
direction or be considered for something, and I know the only thing
they're thinking is, "Who's the guy who 40 years ago used to be a
wacky drummer?" But, like I said, I just feel blessed and very proud
to have been a part of it. It isn't the only thing I've done in my
life, and I know that and the people that are important to me know that.
There have been several Monkees reunion tours over the years. Do you
think there will ever be another one?
I have learned never to say never, because every time I say it's
never going to happen again, it does. But having that said, it's
important to understand that it really isn't up to us. After the show
was canceled and the TV company folded, there never was a Monkees
organization. Every time we have gotten back together, it has been
through the auspices of a third party -- some agent or manager or
whatever that has tracked us all down and made separate deals with
us and asked if we want to get back together. So it really depends on
if someone is willing to do that. It very well could happen. There
aren't any firm plans, but someone is always talking about it.
There's not a day or month that goes by that someone doesn't call me
or I hear a rumor that somebody's trying to put something together.
Do you still keep in touch with Davy, Mike and Peter?
Not on a day to day basis. I've been in touch with Peter recently
because as you may have heard he's had a cancer episode [Note: Tork
is being treated for a rare form of cancer that had been found on his
tongue]. Mike is almost like a hermit [laughs]. Remember, from my
point of view, The Monkees was a television show about this imaginary
group, and I was playing the part of the wacky drummer. That's always
the way I've looked at it.
Why do you think The Monkees' music has had such enduring appeal?
It had an awful lot to do with the songwriters. I almost dedicate my
concert show to the songwriters that I had writing for me, because I
was blessed to have people like Carole King, Neil Diamond, Harry
Nilsson, Paul Williams, Carole Bayer Sager and David Gates -- all
these incredible songwriters that were part of The Brill Building,
which was part of Screen Gems Music Publishing, which was the music
subsidiary of Screen Gems Television, which produced The Monkees
show. So they had access to all these incredible writers and all that material.
For more information about Dolenz's performance at The Dundalk
Heritage Fair, go to www.dundalkheritagefair.com.