1960s television band’s music still holds up Monkee mania
By John Benson
Hey, Hey, they’re The Monkees. And they’re back again for their 45th anniversary tour, which finds Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork coming to Stage AE in Pittsburgh tonight. What’s amazing is the fact the ’60s television show band lasted this long.
“I didn’t think I’d last this long,” laughed Dolenz, calling from Boston. “If I knew I was going to live this long I’d have taken better care of myself, but I’m not surprised anymore. By now every reunion we’ve had has been so successful and the music has stood up so well over the years. When we had the first big reunion in 1986, that was a surprise because it was the biggest tour of that year. That’s the first time I realized it had left an indelible mark on the American cultural landscape.”
Formed in Los Angeles in 1966, The Monkees debuted with an eponymous NBC series and No. 1 hit single “Last Train to Clarksville.” The show ran for only two seasons while winning two Emmy Awards and drawing more viewers than “Gilligan’s Island” in the 1967 Monday night time slot. Musically, the band stood toe to toe with the giants of the era, outselling both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in 1967.
In addition, they scored a dozen Billboard Top 40 hits and are the only artists ever to have four No. 1 albums in the same year. The band was a touring powerhouse as well, scoring the top-grossing tours of 1967 and then again in 1986 after MTV reignited “Monkee-mania” by airing the original episodes.
So what is it about The Monkees that succeeded four decades ago and keeps audiences coming out today?
“It’s a combination of things,” Dolenz said. “At the top of my list is the songwriting, which is true for any musical act. We had some of the best in the world writing for the show. There was Neil Diamond, Carole King, Harry Nilsson. When you start with that kind of quality material, it’s pretty hard to mess it up. The music stands up all of these years. Also, I’d like to think obviously that we had something to do with it the way that we sang it. Being more or less the lead singer, I’d like to think that had something to do with it. And then, of course, there’s the television show which was produced well, written well, directed well. If you add all of those things up, that’s the answer.”
Fans planning on taking a walk down memory lane once again with The Monkees will see a different show from past tours. The multimedia experience celebrates nearly a half-century of the band’s legacy with hits “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “[I’m Not Your] Steppin’ Stone” and “Valleri,” as well as deeper album cuts “Saturday’s Child” and “Someday Man.” And, for the first time ever onstage, songs from their cult classic movie “Head.”
Considering The Monkees only seem to reunite for the major anniversary dates, does that mean we won’t see them again until 2016 for the 50th anniversary?
“You never know,” Dolenz said. “Like I always tell people, make me an offer.”