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08/01/13 7:59 PM
July 31, 2013
Age evaporated when The Monkees played the soundtrack to their lives as a 1960s band on TV and on records at the Mizner Park Amphitheater July 27.
A Brit described as a fit vegetarian, singer Davy Jones died suddenly of a heart attack in Indiantown last December at 66.
The lead vocal on such chart toppers as "Daydream Believer," this was the first concert without him on the "Midsummer's Night with The Monkees" tour, one of three stops in Florida. Jones' absence led to speculation why the Boca Raton concert wasn't sold out.
But by their opener, "Last Train to Clarksville," most of the seats were filled with obvious fans who knew all the words and a surprising number of young people.
Kathy Hagler wore a peace and love T-shirt and bought the tickets through a two-for-one offer online and brought her sister. She watched The Monkees' TV show "faithfully" as a child in West Palm Beach, and went to a free Mickey Dolenz concert there last year. "I'm not sure people knew who he was," she said about the mop-headed musician who now wears a hat on stage.
The band included Jones in cute videos and stills like fan magazine covers on a big screen that backdrops their act. But Peter Tork, Dolenz and the group's songwriter-musician Michael Nesmith didn't do a formal tribute or mention Jones until the end of the evening.
They brought up two young women who made a look-alike for Dolenz's famous poncho. The women led the audience in a sing-along of Jones' trademark "Daydream Believer" with him dancing away on the screen. No tears.
But with seven backup musicians and singers, there were 10 performers on stage, and musically the sounds stood the test of time. The group played one hit after another without bantering, including "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "Mary Mary," "I Wanna Be Free," and other familiar songs on their playlist.
The music ranged from rockabilly to Beatles' style takeoffs and even disco, and had depth and variety, a musical answer to '60s critics who complained they were pretenders just manufactured for the TV show.
Monkees' fan Jim Weeck heard them in Pompano Beach last year, when singer Jones was still here. "The last time we saw them they didn't miss a beat," said Weeck of Davie. "I was transported back to the '60s.
Their music was different this time without Davy Jones, he said. "But when you can see a group and they sound the same, it's pretty much a gift."
Copyright © 2013, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
08/01/13 8:01 PM
Ask any woman of a certain age who was her favorite…and you will get one of four names: Mickey, Peter, Michael, or Davy.
The Monkees were originally an NBC TV show about an imaginary band that wanted to be like the Beatles, but just couldn’t find success. That premise did not last long. The TV Monkees became a huge success with scores of fans. One of the biggest is right here in Tulsa, Mona Meacham.
“I’ve been from coast to coast, east to west, north to south. We’ve seen them in Minnesota, California, Texas, Virginia, and every point in between. I think total now, we’ve probably seen them as a group of 10 times, and then as individuals I’ve seen Davy twice, and Peter probably 12 times.”
It has been 50 years since the group was formed. One member, Davy Jones, died last year. But the other three will be in Tulsa this weekend at the Brady Theatre. Meacham already has her seats.
“Eighth row, unless when the box office opens, I can trade closer.”
Now early in the TV series, the Monkees were primarily actors with others providing the music. That would change over time and they started performing themselves. For Meacham, it is a link to a more innocent time of youth.
“Well, at first it was just, when it first started with the first reunion, I don’t know, it was just bringing back, you know, a childhood past, and it was fun. But then it just got to be where it seemed like every show I saw, they put so much into it, and it was so much of a family, and I just keep going. And they’ve never let me down.”
She has met the band members and even shared a meal with the late Davy Jones at the Tulsa Fair grounds. In her home, she has much Monkee Memorabilia.
“I have the Monkee Mobile; I have a copy of Davy’s tambourine, a copy of Mike’s hat, lots and lots and lots of framed pictures, a guitar; just about everything you can think of, buttons.”
She does shy away from being called their greatest fan.
“Oh, well I used to think so! Until I went to a convention in Davey’s memory in March of this year, and there were people there from Japan and Australia. So, I guess I’m not as dedicated as some of those fans.”
The absence of Davy Jones makes the concerts a little different now. But, for the first time, Michael Nesmith is back performing with the others.
“They didn’t try to replace Davey; they just still include him in different ways. So, it’s a good thing. It’s really nice to see Mike again, after all these years. You forget how much you loved his part of the music until you hear it again.”
Does she feel silly being a grandma-aged groupie? No, not at all! She says her kids love the music, and when she does become a grandmother –
“Hopefully my grandkids will enjoy it as much as I do.”
08/01/13 8:04 PM
Even after the death of Davy Jones last year, the remaining members of The Monkees know what it takes to entertain: giving the people what they want, but also being smart enough to intuit what they really do want. Armed with that understanding, they embarked on a triumphant tour last year, and returned for a second run that brought them to the Ryman last Wednesday night.
A video montage of clips from the original TV show and later appearances through the years (including an '80s MTV logo — a reminder of how a second generation was introduced to the group) segued into an opening set pulled from the band's first two albums. From the opening notes of their first hit, "Last Train to Clarksville," it was evident that The Monkees were indeed a band. Though the surviving trio was backed by a seven-piece outfit (that included Michael Nesmith's son Christian, Mickey Dolenz's sister Coco and two Nashville residents, Wayne Avers and John Billings), "backed" was the operative word. The main Monkees were front and center, the leaders and focus of the night's music. The set included more early hits, like "I'm a Believer" and "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," as well as slightly more obscure fan favorites like "Papa Gene's Blues," "Your Auntie Grizelda" and a crowd-raising rendition of "She."
After their crowd-pleasing appetizer, The Monkees got down to real business in an astounding second set that focused on their 1967 landmark album Headquarters, playing seven of the album's 14 tracks. Nesmith's legacy as a songwriter was the primary focus for the set as the band roared through five of his compositions in a row, including "You Told Me," "You Just May Be the One" and "Sunny Girlfriend," one of the greatest "shoulda been" hits in the history of pop music. Nesmith also included the non-Headquarters tracks "Mary, Mary" and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere."
The spotlight swung back to the other Monkees as Peter Tork delivered a moving rendition of the moody rocker "Early Morning Blues and Greens," a song originally given voice by the departed Jones. Dolenz then donned his trademark flowery, fringy poncho from the TV show to pound on the tympani as he led the band through his oddball classic "Randy Scouse Git," and Tork took center-stage for his classic anthem of flower-power optimism, "For Pete's Sake," which led into the rowdy rocker "No Time." The rest of the show was filled with big hits and lesser-known treasures from the group's later LPs, including "Words," "Daily Nightly," "Tapioca Tundra" and Dolenz's psychedelic scat "Goin' Down."
But perhaps the greatest set piece was the six-song condensation of the group's 1968 feature film Head. The set included all six of the original songs from the film's soundtrack, including the rousing "Circle Sky" and "Do I Have to Do It All Over Again," along with spot-on performances by Dolenz on the sublime "Porpoise Song" and "As We Go Along." Footage from the songs' appearances in the film provided the backdrop without distracting from the live performances. To close the set, the remaining Monkees gave it over to Davy Jones, showing the complete movie clip of his brilliant rendition of the Harry Nilsson-written "Daddy's Song." It was a tribute that made the case for the talent, charm and show-biz acumen of the missing Monkee far better than any spoken eulogy could have. The tribute continued by giving the performance of Jones' signature hit "Daydream Believer" to the audience. Led by a woman pulled from the crowd, it was a worthy tribute and a poignant moment.
Bringing the show to a close with two classic Nesmith songs ("What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round" and "Listen to the Band") and one of their great all-time garage rockers, "Pleasant Valley Sunday," The Monkees provided a powerful reminder of their success as a rare instance when varied and disparate threads of pop culture old and new came together to create something truly special. For a short period in the mid-'60s, The Monkees were four guys with the greatest job in the world. Needless to say, 45 years later, they've still got it pretty good and haven't forgotten how to share that joy with their fans.
08/01/13 8:09 PM
Having already seen the Rolling Stones — with Brian Jones — and the Dave Clark Five in Reynolds Coliseum on the N.C. State University campus in Raleigh, I would have been glad all over to attend a Beatles concert, but as far as I know they never came closer to Raleigh than Norfolk, VA. The Monkees, too, were at the top of my must-see list, and it only took 47 years for that dream to come true, when AC Entertainment and Broadway Series South presented A Midsummer’s Night with The Monkees on July 23rd in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
The three surviving members of this made-for-television band — Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork — really rocked the house, starting their two-hour set with a rousing rendition of “Last Train to Clarksville” (written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) and ending the evening with two invigorating encores: “Listen to the Band” (penned by Michael Nesmith)” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King)! In-between, The Monkees performed vibrant versions of “I’m a Believer” (penned for The Monkees by Neil Diamond, but probably best known to younger audience members as the buoyant anthem on the soundtrack the 2001 DreamWorks Pictures production of Shrek) and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (Boyce and Hart), plus a number of choice selections from the Michael Nesmith songbook — including “Papa Gene’s Blues,” “You Told Me,” “Sunny Girlfriend,” and “Mary, Mary” — and other nifty numbers that the band made famous.
From the first note to the last, the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium audience was partying in their seats like it was 1999 — and they interrupted the multimedia show with several standing ovations! The band’s tribute to Davy Jones, who died of a heart attack on Feb. 29, 2012, touched many a heartstring. It included an excerpt from the band’s psychedelic 1968 feature film Head, in which the diminutive Jones sang “Daddy’s Song” (penned by Harry Nilsson). Then Micky Dolenz — who was in remarkably fine voice all night long — picked a particularly enthusiastic female audience member to sing lead on Jones’ signature song, “Daydream Believer” (written by John Stewart of The Kingston Trio), because — he said — that song now belongs to all of us in Monkee Nation.
In addition to Messrs. Dolenz, Nesmith, and Tork, A Midsummer’s Night with The Monkees features a bodacious backup band that includes musical director Wayne Avers (lead guitar), David Alexander (keyboards/acoustic guitar/backing vocals), John Billings (bass), Micky’s sister Coco Dolenz (backup vocals/percussion), Aviva Maloney (keyboards/reeds/wind), Rich Dart (drums), and Mike’s son Christian Nesmith (acoustic guitar). Avers added scorching guitar solos to a number of songs, and Maloney’s saxophone riffs were another highlight of an enchanted evening for Monkees fans in the Triangle.
All of us who remember “The Monkees” television series firsthand, and not from reruns, are older and grayer; and so are our American idols, who perhaps unwittingly created the “music video” and provided so much of the soundtrack for our collective youth. Finally seeing The Monkees live — even without Davy Jones — on July was a dream-come-true for many of us Baby Boomers and proof aplenty that Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork can still bring audiences to their feet. Monkee-mania will resurface everywhere their 2013 summer tour stops!
SECOND OPINION: July 26th New York, NY Guitar World interview with Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork, conducted by Damian Fanelli: http://www.guitarworld.com/interview-michael-nesmith-micky-dolenz-and-peter-tork-talk-monkees-summer-tour-headquarters-and-what-they-learned-jimi-hendrix; July 23rd Durham, NC Indy Week interview with Micky Dolenz, conducted by Jim Allen: http://www.indyweek.com/scan/archives/2013/07/23/the-monkees-understand-mickey-dolenz-on-the-bands-reunion; July 19th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roger Friedensen: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/18/3036392/the-monkees-raleigh-concert-will.html, July 16th New York, NY Rolling Stone preview by Rob Sheffield: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-monkees-return-with-michael-nesmith-20130716, April 29th interview with Micky Dolenz, conducted by Andy Greene: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-monkees-reveal-u-s-summer-tour-dates-20130429, April 1st interview with Michael Nesmith, conducted by Steve Appleford: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/q-a-michael-nesmith-on-solo-tour-and-being-the-difficult-monkee-20130401, and Nov. 9th review by Peter Holslin: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/monkees-delight-believers-in-reunion-tour-kickoff-20121109; and July 15th McLean, VA USA TODAY preview by Brian Mansfield: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2013/07/14/monkees-on-the-road-again/2515371/ and April 29th preview by Brian Mansfield: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2013/04/29/monkees-set-summer-tour/2121761/.
A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT WITH THE MONKEES, starring original band members Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork (AC Entertainment and Broadway Series South, July 23 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC).
AC Entertainment: http://acentertainment.com/.
Broadway Series South: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south.
A Midsummer’s Night with The Monkees (2013 summer tour): http://www.monkees.com/article/back-by-popular-demand-the-monkees-announce-summer-tour-a-midsummer-s-night-with-the-monkees and https://www.facebook.com/monkeestour (Facebook page).
The Monkees (group): http://www.monkees.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/TheMonkees (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/MonkeesOfficial (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkees (Wikipedia).
Micky Dolenz (drums/guitar): http://mickydolenz.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micky_Dolenz (Wikipedia).
Davy Jones (vocals and tamborine): http://www.davyjones.net/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Jones_%28musician%29 (Wikipedia).
Michael Nesmith (guitar/keyboards): http://old.monkees.net/nez/default.php (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Nesmith (Wikipedia).
Peter Tork (guitar/bass/banjo/keyboards): http://www.petertork.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Tork (Wikipedia).
The Monkees (music videos): http://www.youtube.com/user/MisterMusicMan382?feature=watch (MisterMusicMan382′s YouTube Monkees music page).
The Monkees Archive (more music videos): http://www.youtube.com/user/TheMonkeesArchive?feature=watch. “The Monkees” (1966-68 television series): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkees_%28TV_series%29 (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060010/ (Internet Movie Database).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.
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08/03/13 1:51 AM
GRAND PRAIRIE – Nostalgia wields redemptive power.
It was very telling that during the entire two-hour concert performance by the Monkees Friday night at Verizon Theatre the video screen above the stage played clips of the group’s famed late ’60s television show, commercials for Kool Aid and Rice Crispies, outtakes from the series, vintage musical performances and scenes from the trippy 1968 film Head. Even while present-day Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, backed by a seven-piece band, performed song after song those images provided a strong connection to the past.
The tour, dubbed “A Midsummer’s Night With the Monkees,” follows the well-received short trek Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork did last November and December. That was the first time the Dallas-raised Nesmith had performed onstage with the Monkees since 1997. It of course had a bittersweet edge since fourth Monkee Davy Jones died in February 2012. The 24-date jaunt started July 15 in Port Chester, New York and runs through Aug. 18 in Portland, Oregon.
Monkees fans Dorothy Walker of Dallas and Rosie Cloud of McKinney hold up a Colgems 45 single from the Monkees '60s heyday. (Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News )
The gist of the gig was to conjure up warm memories of an era gone by, of carefree youth, and of effervescent pop music. But Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork were in charge. Particular attention was paid to 1967′s Headquarters, the first album to showcase substantive songwriting and musicianship from the actual band members as opposed to outside professional tunesmiths and session players. So once again, 47 years later, the Monkees are still trying to prove they weren’t merely puppets plucked to star in a TV comedy series with music.
Nesmith handled most of the vocals on the seven Headquarters tracks. He was particularly effective during “You Told Me,” “Sunny Girlfriend” and “You Just May Be the One.” It is these songs, not to mention Tork’s turn on “Early Morning Blues and Greens” and Dolenz’s campy rendition of “Randy Scouse Git” complete with timpani drum and poncho, that took the Monkees on a psychedelic trip. A year later came Head, the acclaimed soundtrack album to the head-spinning flick that would forever change the perception of the Monkees. It was great to hear Dolenz on the ethereal “Porpoise Song,” which was recently used in an episode of Mad Men, and Nesmith on “Circle Sky.”
But naturally the crowd reaction was strongest for the big hits. “Last Train to Clarksville” opened the performance, while “I’m a Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” came early in the set. Much later “Daydream Believer” was a mixed bag. That song featured Jones on lead vocals, so Dolenz told us that there was much discussion as to how it was going to be done onstage. They decided to use the audience. Dolenz brought up a 10-year-old girl to sing the tune with him. Before long he called on the crowd for repeated takes on the chorus.
Nothing wrong with that per se, it just proved to be a bit anticlimactic on such a huge song. But again, this is all about nostalgia. The Monkees are older now, the voices certainly sturdy enough but not as strong. We need to all feel a part of the glory days. We need to imagine that Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork are ageless, timeless. That redemptive power packs a wallop.
Dallas-raised Michael Nesmith make sure to pack the show with songs from 1967's creative control effort "Headquarters." (Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News )
08/03/13 7:25 PM
The unexpected death of Davy Jones in February 2012 marked the end of an era for many fans who’d grown up watching Jones go from playing a rock star to being a rock star on “The Monkees,” TV’s answer to the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night.”
But his death at age 66 also marked a new beginning for the three surviving Monkees. Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith are headed to Mesa this week on a reunion tour that grew out of wanting to do a memorial concert for their friend and former co-star.
We caught up with Dolenz, who reflected on Jones, the tour, the TV show and “Headquarters,” the first album the Monkees could truly call their own.
Question: How does it feel to be taking the tour back on the road?
Answer: Well (laughs), I hardly know anything different. It’s like asking, “What’s it like being home?”
Q: Michael hasn’t always been involved in Monkees tours. How did it come to pass that he’s on board this time?
A: Well, you’d have to ask him that. But Michael, after the original Monkees show and touring and recording, started a production company, Pacific Arts, which he still does. And over the years, he did come out and perform. He was at the Greek Theatre back in the ’80s. And then in ’97, we had a quite successful tour of the U.K. But mainly, he just hasn’t felt like performing live. Then, after Davy passed away, we got together to do a memorial and talked about doing a memorial concert, which sort of expanded into 12 concerts back in November. I think Mike just started having a really great time. I think he was very pleasantly surprised by the wonderful reaction he’s been getting from the fans.
Q: Has the memorial aspect of the shows you did last year carried through to this tour?
A: Not as much. Because it’s been a year and a half now. We think about him all the time. And there are some references and photographs and a couple of songs. So, yeah, he’ll always be remembered. If you saw the show in November, that actually wasn’t the Davy Jones Memorial Concert, either. But we definitely did pay homage, and we’re doing it again.
Q: Was it a bittersweet experience going out as the three of you after his death?
A: Definitely. It was tough to get through some of it at times. And he’ll be sorely missed. He’s like my brother. I probably spent more time with him than I did some of my siblings.
Q: Do you recall your reaction when you heard he had died?
A: Yeah, I was stunned. I was in New York, actually, working on a musical. And that whole period of time is a blur. It came as such a surprise. It’s like getting hit by a bus. And there are still times that I’ll think about him and want to give him a call or send him an e-mail and it’s like, “Uhh, no, that’s not going to happen.”
Q: How do you go about choosing a set list at this point?
A: Well, the set list over the years has always been somewhat dictated by the fact that we had so many hits. We have to do all those big hits. I sang most of them, of course. So that hasn’t changed. And with Mike coming back on board, of course, it’s given us the opportunity to sing a lot of the tunes that he sang. And Peter gets a chance to sing some stuff. We’re doing a lot of songs from “Headquarters,” the first album where we managed to get all the musical control, and also from the movie “Head.” We do, obviously, a couple of tunes that David sang. And we have so much video and so much footage from the television show and stills and documentaries, it’s quite an audiovisual multimedia production because we always did that, right from the get-go. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, we were one of the first acts to bring a full-blown motion-picture screen with a giant film projector on the road with us. In 1967.
Q: What do you think of the TV show?
A: You know, I don’t remember much of it subjectively. Mike and I were talking about this the other day. We looked at some of those old scenes and we were like, “Who was that guy?” I mean, I was 20, 21 years old.
Q: What about the recordings? Is there anything that stands out in your mind as something you’re especially proud of?
A: Well, yeah, it would be “Headquarters,” because I’m sure you know the story. We had little or no control over what was being recorded in the beginning. And that’s not to say I didn’t like the stuff. I did. And I still do. Some of those songs written by Boyce and Hart, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, Paul Williams, David Gates, and Mann and Weil, it was incredible material. But Mike, especially, and Peter wanted to be more involved in the creation and the writing. We had absolutely no control over what was recorded or released or anything, until “Headquarters.” And from then on, it was some of the best stuff.
Reach the reporter at [email protected]
08/04/13 11:37 AM
Published: 03 August 2013 06:52 PM
Updated: 03 August 2013 06:54 PM
GRAND PRAIRIE — Nostalgia wields redemptive power.
It was very telling that during the entire two-hour concert by the Monkees Friday night at Verizon Theatre, the video screen above the stage played clips of the group’s famed late-’60s television show, commercials for Kool-Aid and Rice Krispies, outtakes from the series, vintage musical performances and scenes from the trippy 1968 film Head.
Even while present-day Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, backed by a seven-piece band, performed song after song, those images provided a strong connection to the past.
The tour, dubbed A Midsummer’s Night With the Monkees, follows the well-received short trek Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork undertook last November and December. That was the first time the Dallas-raised Nesmith had performed onstage with the Monkees since 1997. It, of course, had a bittersweet edge since fourth Monkee Davy Jones died in February 2012.
The current 24-date jaunt started July 15 in Port Chester, N.Y., and wraps up Aug. 18 in Portland, Ore.
The gist of the gig was to conjure warm memories of an era gone by, of carefree youth and of effervescent pop music. Particular attention was paid to 1967’s Headquarters, the first Monkees album to showcase substantive songwriting and musicianship from the actual band members as opposed to outside tunesmiths and session players. So once again, 46 years later, the Monkees are still trying to prove they weren’t merely puppets plucked to star in a TV comedy series with music.
Nesmith handled most of the vocals on the seven Headquarters tracks performed Friday. He was particularly effective during “You Told Me,” “Sunny Girlfriend” and “You Just May Be the One.”
It is these songs, not to mention Tork’s turn on “Early Morning Blues and Greens” and Dolenz’s campy rendition of “Randy Scouse Git” complete with timpani and poncho, which took the Monkees and the audience on a psychedelic trip.
A year after Headquarters came Head, the acclaimed soundtrack album to the head-spinning flick that would forever change the perception of the Monkees. It was great on Friday to hear Dolenz on the ethereal “Porpoise Song (Theme from Head),” which was recently used in an episode of Mad Men, and Nesmith on “Circle Sky.”
But naturally the crowd reaction was strongest for the big hits.
“Last Train to Clarksville” opened the performance, while “I’m a Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” came early in the set.
Much later, “Daydream Believer” was a mixed bag. That song featured Jones on lead vocals, and Dolenz told us that there was much discussion regarding how it was going to be performed onstage. They decided to use the audience. Dolenz brought a 10-year-old girl onstage to sing the tune with him. Before long, he called on the crowd for repeated takes on the chorus.
Nothing wrong with that per se, it was just a bit anticlimactic on such a huge song.
But again, this is all about nostalgia. The Monkees are older now, the voices certainly sturdy enough but not as strong. We need to all feel a part of the glory days. We need to imagine that Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork are ageless and timeless.
That redemptive power packs a wallop.
08/05/13 8:50 PM
It was very telling that during the entire two-hour concert performance by the Monkees Friday night at Verizon Theatre, the video screen above the stage played clips of the group’s famed late ’60s television show, commercials for Kool Aid and Rice Krispies, outtakes from the series, vintage musical performances and scenes from the trippy 1968 film Head. Even while present-day Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork, backed by a seven-piece band, performed song after song, those images provided a strong connection to the past.
The tour, dubbed “A Midsummer’s Night With the Monkees,” follows the well-received short trek Nesmith, Dolenz, and Tork did last November and December. That was the first time the Dallas-raised Nesmith had performed onstage with the Monkees since 1997. It of course had a bittersweet edge since fourth Monkee Davy Jones died in February 2012. The 24-date jaunt started July 15 in Port Chester, New York and runs through August 18 in Portland, Oregon.
The gist of the gig was to conjure up warm memories of an era gone by, of carefree youth, and of effervescent pop music. But Nesmith, Dolenz, and Tork were in charge. Particular attention was paid to 1967′s Headquarters, the first album to showcase substantive songwriting and musicianship from the actual band members as opposed to outside professional tunesmiths and session players. So once again, 47 years later, the Monkees are still trying to prove they weren’t merely puppets plucked to star in a TV comedy series with music.
The Monkees' Michael Nesmith performs during their "A Midsummer's Night With The Monkees" Tour at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, on August 2, 2013.
The Monkees Micky Dolenz (right) and Michael Nesmith perform during their "A Midsummer's Night With The Monkees" Tour at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, on August 2, 2013.
Nesmith handled most of the vocals on the seven Headquarters tracks. He was particularly effective during “You Told Me,” “Sunny Girlfriend,” and “You Just May Be the One.” It is these songs, not to mention Tork’s turn on “Early Morning Blues and Greens” and Dolenz’s campy rendition of “Randy Scouse Git” complete with timpani drum and poncho, that took the Monkees on a psychedelic trip. A year later came Head, the acclaimed soundtrack album to the head-spinning flick that would forever change the perception of the Monkees. It was great to hear Dolenz on the ethereal “Porpoise Song,” which was recently used in an episode of "Mad Men," and Nesmith on “Circle Sky.”
But naturally the crowd reaction was strongest for the big hits. “Last Train to Clarksville” opened the performance, while “I’m a Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” came early in the set. Much later “Daydream Believer” was a mixed bag. That song featured Jones on lead vocals, so Dolenz told us that there was much discussion as to how it was going to be done onstage. They decided to use the audience. Dolenz brought up a 10-year-old girl to sing the tune with him. Before long, he called on the crowd for repeated takes on the chorus.
Nothing wrong with that per se, it just proved to be a bit anticlimactic on such a huge song. But again, this is all about nostalgia. The Monkees are older now, the voices certainly sturdy enough but not as strong. We need to all feel a part of the glory days. We need to imagine that Nesmith, Dolenz, and Tork are ageless, timeless. That redemptive power packs a wallop.
08/05/13 9:35 PM
August 5, 2013 by Sarah Clark | Leave a comment
08/06/13 4:10 PM
The Monkees are coming to the Mesa Arts Center this Friday, in a tour that celebrates a nearly 50-year span of music that may have its roots right here in Arizona.
A cartoon from the British fanzine, “Monkees Monthly.”
Or didn’t you know that the Monkees’ first hit, “The Last Train to Clarksville,” was actually inspired by the little town of Clarkdale, just 90 miles outside of Phoenix on your way to Jerome?
“Clarksville” was written by Bobby Hart (half of the famous Boyce & Hart), who describes the origin of the song in this quote from Song Facts:
“We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There’s a little town in Northern Arizona I used to go through in the summer on the way to Oak Creek Canyon called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn’t know it at the time, [but] there is an Air Force base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee – which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn’t be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn’t really make a protest song out of it – we kind of snuck it in.”
So, a ’60s pop song with the subtext of military sacrifice was actually about a sleepy mining town here in Arizona, that just happens to have a train station. When the Monkees croon this tune on Friday night, the song will finally be home.
Stay tuned for more Monkees trivia this week, including the Monkees’ connection to — Batman?
08/06/13 4:11 PM
Mike and Micky read an issue of “World’s Finest.” This week Nerdvana will explore why the Monkees deserve that title, too.
In today’s popular culture, all roads lead to the Monkees.
In 1965, long before American Idol began manufacturing pop stars through humiliating auditions and broadcast democracy, Screen Gems Television put an ad in the Hollywood dailies calling for “four insane boys, age 17-21.” Urban legend tells that Charles Manson was among the thousands to audition — predating William Hung as a reject whose reputation would supersede those who surpassed him — but at the time Charlie just wasn’t “insane” enough to become a Monkee. Instead, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Mike Nesmith became television’s first Glee club, i.e. actors that played musicians so convincingly, the music actually became a hit.
Perhaps the line between the Monkees as actors and their zany onscreen personas was so blurred because they opted to use their real names throughout — a logical choice when establishing a franchised band, but rather short-sighted in retrospect if the guys had any hopes of shedding their Monkee skin later in life. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld, or any other comedic lead that used his real name in the role that defined his career. The trend had to start somewhere.
Therein lies the irony to the Monkees’ success. They started as a manufactured band, starring in a campy television show that acted as thinly veiled commercials for their music, yet they grew into their own names, becoming a phenomenon that has since defined the road to stardom. An exaggeration, you jest? Coupling slapstick and quip-riddled video with the trendiest music of the day, edited at a jackhammer’s pace to accommodate a teenager’s split second attention span, all in a mad attempt to grasp celebrity — thirty years ago, we called it MTV. Today we call it YouTube. I call it any episode of The Monkees.
I inherited my fondness for the Monkees from my mother, who, like many other teenage girls in the ‘60s, had an enduring crush on Davy Jones, bringing him and his bandmates into our living room every evening via Nick at Nite. My first album was Then & Now: The Best of Monkees, a record that reunited the group (sans Mike Nesmith) on a few new tracks just in time for their ’86 anniversary tour. When I saw them live as an impressionable six-year-old, I didn’t know of the nearly twenty year silence between those shows and their initial success in the ‘60s. I assumed the Monkees had always been, and always would be, and, so, for me, that became and remains true.
I’ve seen the Monkees live several times over the past several years, as a group and individually, but this coming Friday will mark the first time I’ve seen them perform in Arizona since 1996. It’ll be only the second time I’ll see Mike Nesmith on stage, as he rejoined the group to commemorate Davy Jones, who passed away last year. Their concert has evolved to include rare video clips from their heyday and deep tracks never before performed live, even in the ‘60s.
Even if they stuck to the standards, we’d see glimpses of the Monkees’ impact in its entirety any time we watched an Andy Sandberg digital short, or tuned in to the next episode of America’s Got Talent. They embody the idea of finding celebrity with an ad in the paper, and enduring through a cutting edge synthesis of video and music.
This Friday, the Monkees perform at the Mesa Arts Center. Throughout the week, Nerdvana will be anticipating the concert with articles and personal stories about the Monkees’ impact on pop culture.
08/06/13 4:12 PM
A comic from the UK fanzine “Monkees Monthly,” with a little lettercol between the panels.
The Monkees, who are coming to the Mesa Arts Center this Friday, cornered the music and television market in the late 1960s, and their influence was felt all across pop culture, including the world of comic books. Dell published a Monkees comic when the band was at its peak, but I’m more interested in the gang’s possible (and inadvertent) inclusion in the DC Comics Universe.
The Monkees’ and Bill Dozier’s Batman TV shows aired around the same time, so the pop culture crossover and comparison is palpable. In fact, MonkeesTV explores the group’s multi-tiered connection to Batman here, including the Penguin’s cameo on their TV show. And there’s the angle I want to explore: that the Penguin’s appearance is actually a clue that the Monkees coexist with Batman in the same world.
Consider this other campy cameo, in an episode of the Monkees’ show called “The Audition (Find the Monkees).” The Monkees are performing for a booking agent over the phone, as an impatient line forms outside the booth. Recognize that well-dressed, barely mild-mannered reporter? Can we expect this sequence to reappear in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel sequel?
Additionally, artist Alex Ross is an unabashed Monkees fan, and, rumor has it, he included the band’s heroic alter egos, the Monkeemen, in his DC Universe epic Kingdom Come. Don’t those four faces over Red Robin’s shoulder look familiar?
Yes, that’s Wonder Woman in the foreground. So, there’s the gang, alongside some allusions to DC’s biggest guns. Can this latest tour be the Monkees’ reincarnation in DC’s “New 52?” Come to the Mesa Arts Center this Friday to find out!
08/06/13 4:17 PM
They played all of the hits: "I'm a Believer", "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday". In addition, they played crowd favorites that are usually a highlight of their shows such as "Goin' Down", "No Time" and "Your Auntie Grizelda". In a highlight of the night they performed much of their amazing work from "Head".
Micky, Michael and Peter's chemistry is electric. Not only was the crowd having a good time, you could see the pure joy on their faces. In a touching moment Micky explained that they could no longer sing "Daydream Believer" since Davy Jones’ passing because it now belongs to the fans. Then he brought two children from the audience on stage to sing the classic hit. You would be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the building.
If you have a chance to catch one of the remaining shows of the tour, this is a must see event. Even though The Monkees were brought together for a television show about a band, they proved tonight that even 47 years later they are one of the greatest actual bands in music.
Please stay tuned for additional Denver Music updates. To read Heather’s other columns, please visit her profile page.
Follow Heather on Twitter at @DrWhoHeather, or join her Facebook group. Also follow her bog at www.heathermaloneynews.com .
08/06/13 4:33 PM
They don't make pre-Fab (Four) bands like this anymore.
A Midsummer's Night with the Monkees tour touched down in Denver Monday night, along with so many video clips from the group's '60s heyday one half expected to spot Nehru jackets in the crowd.
Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith allowed themselves four breaks during their nearly two-hour show, but the group's sturdy songbook required no technical time outs.
The band played in front of a massive screen, one loaded with videos from the group's Emmy-winning show. The boys were television's answer to The Beatles, a link that doomed them in the eyes of the music press. They didn't play their own instruments, scribes cried, unaware in 40-odd years major acts would lip sync their way through nationally televised appearances.
These Monkees do play their own instruments, but they were backed by a band including one fellow introduced as their "lead guitarist." The tour's band may be large enough to make Lyle Lovett envious, but the assembled musicians recreated the group's material with clarity and power. Some songs emerged more muscular than their recorded versions, while Tork's banjo strumming added texture to tracks that previously lacked bite.
Nesmith, the Monkee most reticent about these reunion projects, is still in fine voice and proved it by taking a larger share of the lead vocals. His country influences made the Monkees more than just a pop assembly line, and hearing him embrace What am I Doing Hanging 'Round reinforced his indelible mark on the band.
Nesmith, a respected tunesmith and innovator outside of the Monkees' bubble, adds gravitas to the tour. He's a necessary counter-balance to the aging rockers' knack for youthful mugging. It's a tic that has trailed the group through its various reunion tours. One wishes they would retire the forced shtick and just play the hits.
We all know Pleasant Valley Sunday, Daydream Believer and Last Train to Clarksville, but what secures the Monkees' legacy are the lesser-known numbers. Take She, a bruising break up and make up song with a blistering organ riff. Even better is Girl I Knew Somewhere, which Nesmith sang Monday with a kiss of remorse blending with its shimmery pop beauty.
Dolenz tipped his hat early on to Neil Diamond, Carole King and other songwriting giants who helped create the Monkees legacy.
The night's only clunker, Tork's novelty track Your Auntie Grizelda, was never meant to be taken seriously. Said novelty still wore off mid-song, leaving the crowd to, uh, admire Tork's fancy footwork.
The concert ignored the group's later efforts--both albums released immediately after the demise of its TV show and subsequent reunions producing Pool It and Justus. The band unwisely ladled plenty of attention on Head, the soundtrack to the justly maligned movie of the same name. It was worth it to hear a take-no-prisoners Circle Sky, arguably the hardest rocking song in the Monkees' catalog.
The expected tribute to Davy Jones, the former teen idol who died last year, featured Dolenz inviting two young fans to sing lead on Daydream Believer. It was the sort of stage schmaltz doomed to fail. Instead, the moment felt like the most surprising segment of the show.
Then again, did anyone expect the lads responding to an ad in Variety seeking "4 insane boys" would still be touring to adoring crowds nearly 50 years later? Here's betting those music critics of yore would be most surprised of all.
The Monkees tour continues Aug. 9 in Mesa, AZ then moves to Henderson, NV Aug. 10, San Diego Aug. 11 and Long Beach, CA Aug. 13.
08/07/13 5:56 PM
08/07/13 7:05 PM
The Monkees have survived so many backlashes and so many revivals that Micky Dolenz can answer most of your questions before you even consider asking them. Just say "TV show" or "actors" or "instruments," by way of priming the pump, and he'll generate an interview that touches on every important piece of the band's strange history and successful revival. He'll tell you about their formation and their reunions and the way each new generation discovers their TV show and their music. He'll explain how a meta-band in a sitcom transformed, thanks to their own skills and a top-notch songwriting team, into a real band playing fictional versions of themselves. He'll go over the backlash and the backlash against the backlash. While he's at it, he'll also express his gratitude for the band's lasting popularity; as unflappable as Dolenz is by now, it's still clear that he appreciates pop culture's most recent pro-Monkees swing.
— By Dan Moore
08/07/13 7:49 PM
The Monkees have survived so many backlashes and revivals that Micky Dolenz can answer most of your questions before you even consider asking them. Just say "TV show" or "actors" or "instruments," by way of priming the pump, and he'll generate an interview that touches on every important piece of the band's strange history and successful revival.
He'll tell you about their formation and their reunions and the way each new generation discovers their TV show and their music. He'll explain how a meta-band in a sitcom transformed, thanks to their own skills and a top-notch songwriting team, into a real band playing fictional versions of themselves. He'll go over the backlash and the backlash against the backlash.
While he's at it, he'll also express his gratitude for the band's lasting popularity; as unflappable as Dolenz is by now, it's still clear that he appreciates pop culture's most recent pro-Monkees swing. But their own success isn't what excites him about it — "The whole Monkees zeitgeist has always been pretty consistent," he says. He's much happier talking about the revival of the kind of musical comedy they performed.
When pressed, Dolenz — who was a working actor and musician when he auditioned for the role — is most comfortable calling himself an entertainer. "I had always sort of dreamed about somehow getting onto Broadway, doing musicals. [But] I was born and raised in L.A. . . . I wasn't in that world; I wasn't swimming in that pond.
"A kid my age on the West Coast, it was about rock 'n' roll — it was about the Beach Boys and then, of course, it was about the Beatles."
Other pilots that TV season were attempting to make that rock 'n' roll connection, and Dolenz auditioned for all of them. "[But] I remember when I went up for the audition with The Monkees, thinking, 'This is different.'
"You put together a bunch of people in a project, you do your best, you work as hard as you can, and you surround yourself with very talented people. And then, if you get lucky . . . I describe it as the whole being greater than the sum of its parts."
The Monkees' odd formula — too much a band to just be musical comedians, too much a troupe of musical comedians to just be a band — made their shifting reputation inevitable, but their staying power means they're now a formula of their own. Shows like Glee and Big Time Rush try for the same combination of surreality and precise pop earnestness, even if they rarely end up tapping into the weird anarchy that drove John Lennon to compare the Monkees to the Marx Brothers.
Which is great — endless grist for TV critics — but doesn't have much to do with helping them fill a reunion show in 2013. That's where the songs come in. Dolenz, sounding decades removed from worrying about the Monkees' old reputation as a manufactured band, is still eager to give the songwriters themselves credit for a lot of their staying power. "Those songs stand up because they were written by some of the greatest songwriters of all time."
Which is certainly true. But the one thing Dolenz won't tell you, while he's telling you everything else about the Monkees — at least not explicitly — is just how much of it depended on the band itself, and their uncanny ability to sell "Daydream Believer" and improvised pratfalls in the same half-hour.
Of course, his self-interview is its own testament to the intuitive grasp the Monkees have on their half-fictional selves. It's its own reminder that after 40-plus years — no matter how and why they came together — Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith are very good at being The Monkees.
08/07/13 8:53 PM
08/07/13 11:58 PM
08/09/13 12:15 AM
The Monkees sounded like a real band again for the first time in more than a decade when Michael Nesmith reunited with Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork for a surprise tour last fall. Nes had previously rejoined his old mates only two or three times since they split up in 1970 -- although he kept busy in other ways, including virtually inventing country rock in his solo career, launching the prototype for MTV and executive producing Repo Man, among other hobbies. The early Monkees certainly were helped by some great songwriters, such as Gerry Goffin & Carole King and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart (and they took a chance on the then-unknown Harry Nilsson), but it was Nesmith who wrote many of their best songs. Last November at the Greek, Nesmith crooned beloved lost Headquarters gems like "You Told Me" and "Sunny Girlfriend" and even beat-boxed like a human Moog while Dolenz intoned the spacey freakout "Daily Nightly." A sing-along tribute to the late Davy Jones was actually moving instead of corny, and a masterfully witty Dolenz was in ultra-fine voice, occasionally playing drums with a teenage garage-rock intensity. Tork was impressive when he dug out the difficult bass octaves of "You Must Be the One" and sang lead on his own "For Pete's Sake," with its inexorably mesmerizing guitar lick. Tonight's show has as much promise. Hey hey.
— By Falling James
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