Micky Dolenz: The Monkees Top Banana Still Making Believers
By David DeRocco
Musical historians like to credit four lads from Liverpool with being at the vanguard of the 1960s’ cultural revolution. However, there’s no denying the cultural impact that four long-haired actor/musicians performing as THE MONKEES had on a generation weaned on American television during that same decade.
“Timothy Leary had a chapter in his book The Politics of Ecstasy,” recalls The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, who will be bringing the band’s music to the stage at Fallsview Casino January 15 through 17. “He was the first to acknowledge that The Monkees brought long hair into the living room. In the mid-60s the only time you saw kids with long hair on television they were getting arrested. The Monkees said to that generation, it’s okay to have long hair, wear bell bottoms, have paisley underwear and sing pop rock music. It didn’t mean you were committing crimes against nature.”
For a TV show that Dolenz describes as being about “an imaginary group that lived in an imaginary beach house in Malibu that wanted to be The Beatles,” The Monkees have gone on to enjoy very real success over their 50-plus year history. Despite being a pre-fab foursome pulled together solely for the purpose of the television show, The Monkees – Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork – and their producers relied on an A-list team of songwriters including Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Carol King, Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer Sager to craft their tunes . As a result of that quality writing, the band has sold more than 75 million records worldwide, with international hits including “Last Train To Clarksview,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “Daydream Believer”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “I’m A Believer.” Despite those astronomical sales numbers, Dolenz said it wasn’t until the band’s 20th anniversary reunion that he realized how impactful the music of The Monkees had been on an entire generation.
“I was living in England producing and writing television shows,” said Dolenz, who inherited the acting bug from his father, veteran character actor George Dolenz. “I wasn’t singing or acting, I was known as Micky Dolenz the television producer. Somebody tracked us down to have a 20-year reunion. MTV was going to run the old show. My wife and I and kids said, ‘let’s take a few months off and have some fun.’ Three years later we were still on the road. That was the first time I really acknowledged what an impact the whole Monkee experience had had on so many people and the American cultural landscape. There’s no way to know that at the time it’s first happening. One producer when asked how did it all happen said ‘we just caught lightning in a bottle.’ I’ve always felt blessed that I was chosen to be part of that project.”
The ongoing critical and commercial renaissance has continued to pay dividends for The Monkees, who helped expose the Jimi Hendrix Experience to American audiences when he opened for them during a U.S. concert tour in July 1967. For example, the band embarked on a 50th anniversary tour in 2016 that lasted seven months and included 66 concerts in four countries. That tour also lead to the release of The Monkees’ first original album in 20 years, the well-received GOOD TIMES. Featuring vocal tracks from Davy Jones, who died in 2012, the album is also noteworthy for the number of modern rock stars who collaborated with The Monkees on the project.
“I’m very proud of that album,” said Dolenz, who sings lead on over half the album’s 13 tracks and whose vocals Nesmith often credits for giving The Monkees their distinct sound. “It came together very quickly. We had no idea if it was going to work. We found these old tracks, mostly unfinished demos from the 60s that we’d never got around to finishing because the show was cancelled. We got very lucky having (producer) Adam Schlesinger get involved from Fountains of Wayne, but also Rivers Cuomo from Weezer, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), and Paul Weller (The Jam) and Noel Gallagher (Oasis). All of a sudden they were scrambling over each other to submit material because that jangly guitar pop rock kind of thing had found a resurgence with those acts. We had to turn down some amazing material. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded on the same day in 1966.”
Nostalgia for those halcyon days of the late 1960s continues to fuel the performance schedule for The Monkees alumni, with Dolenz touring both solo and occasionally with Mike Nesmith. And while he says he doesn’t particularly enjoy the travel, Dolenz still thrives on the live performance, and he’s promising that true Monkees fans will have plenty to enjoy at the multi-media presentation being staged at Fallsview’s Avalon Ballroom.
“There’s an old joke in our business, they pay us to travel and we sing for free. For me that’s very very true. I love doing the shows, I hate the touring. Travel today is so abominable. When I get on stage, I can finally relax and have a good time. Sometimes I play drums, but that’s not my instrument of choice. I was a guitarist. I was cast as a drummer and learned to play. My audition piece for The Monkees was “Johnny Be Good.” The show is much like a Monkees show because I sang the majority of the hits, and I sing them in their entirety. There’s no medley, I do complete versions. I tell a lot of stories and we do a lot of video of that time and era. I can guarantee if you’re a fan of The Monkees you’re going to enjoy this show.”
For tickets to the performance visit: https://www.fallsviewcasinoresort.com/entertainment/event/micky-dolenz