‘Folk and rock Inusit‘ianswingersfor acting roles in a new 'I‘I's‘eries‘. Running parts for/our insane boys. age [7—24. '
In late 1965 that ad appeared in the pages of Daily l'ariety. In a blatant attempt to cream off some of the success enjoyed by The Beatles. .\'B("l‘\’ planned a situation comedy strongly based on the style of the Fab Iiour’s Richard Lester-directed movies. liven with those cynical intentions it‘s hard to believe that
.\' B(‘ imagined just how successful their planned series was to be. but like that of'l’he Beatles themselves the chemistry of'I'he Monkees was
; right. Actors Mickey I)olenz and
Davy Jones and folk-rock musicians Peter ’I‘ork and Michael Nesmith became superstars: and they had songs - like ‘I)aydream Believer'. ‘I.ast Train to (‘larkesville‘ and ‘I'm a Believer' ~ which could even melt the hearts of many of the snecring 'authentic' rock fans who despised them.
The hits. and the repeats of the series. have proven so durable that The Monkees. three of them at least (only Nesmith is absent). have reunited for a comeback that‘s taking them across the world.
This isn't the first Monkees reunion. In 1976 Dolenz and .lones toured the world with ’I‘ommy Boyce and Bobby l Iart. the songwriters who had turned out so many of the top-selling hits. The tour that marked their Ztlth anniversary. however. coincided with a staggering resurgence of interest in the hand. and a flurry of nostalgia for music and television of that era.
M’I'V even set aside an entire day to show old Monkees shows — 22 hours of quaint musical mayhem! — and carried on from there to show two to three episodes 21 day. Monkeemania II had swept the ISA.
The proportion of young people in the audiences. who could not have remembered the original craze. came as a surprise to Mickey Dolenz. the ersatl. drummer and ‘insane boy'. now in his 44th year and a successful 'IV and stage producer. Perhaps it shouldn‘t have. From the profusion ofold hits being given new life in every second TV commercial to then-President Reagan‘s attempts to turn the country into the Norman Rockwell painting it never was. North America seemed to be looking backwards like never before.
‘I think that's an accurate observation of just people in general.‘ he says. "l‘here was a nostalgic flair for the Forties. and there was for the Fifties. and for the Sixties. and there will be for the Seventies. there will be for the
Iiighties. and the Nineties. 'I‘hat always happens. When the kids grow up. get married. have families and settle they remember how easy the had it as kids. But I think that the Sixties are unique in that there was a lot going on socially and politically and psychologically and sexually. in many ways some real momentous social breakthroughs. Life imitates art imitates life. And that was
It‘s over twenty years since The Monkees swang into action. So what price their successful revival? Micky Dolenz— the joker with the goofy grin— talked to Alastair Mabbott.
reﬂected by the music and generated by some of the music and movies and television. what have you. So I think the Sixties will stand out as a decade. maybe like the Roaring Twenties.‘
It‘s been mythologised already.
‘()h yeah.‘ he laughs. ‘When I found out they had a class at UCLA called “History ofthe Sixties" I felt so olth
He’s not too old. though. to get back on to a stage and sing. or attempt his rudimentary drumming. but ten years on the other side of a camera left Dolenz somewhat apprehensive ofgoing back on stage — 'not so much as a Monkee. but going back at all‘. (ientle persuasion did the trick.
By 1968 the beat boom had metamorphosed into a new. threatening and entirely separate culture. The Monkees. entrenched in 1966. was hopelessly out of step with the times. They bowed out with the surreal movie Head. a much-maligned. but wonderfully anarchic and bizarre piece co-written by Jack Nicholson. The film‘s ‘Restricted‘ rating. of course. barred the largest proportion of the band‘s fans from seeing it. Monkeemania died the natural death ofall fads. and although their last appearance was on a 1970 TV special. the movie was an effective final nail. The actors musicians were still young
when their golden era faded. and can‘t have had an easy time adjusting. surely?
‘Well. you‘d have to ask each of us individually to get a real precise answer. Um. I had. everyone had problems. I think coming down after a success — post-orgasmic depression. right? But I think I was fortunate in that it had happened to me before.‘
A child star. Dolenz had starred in the TV series ('ireus Boy. albeit with blonde hair and the surname Braddock. because the producers didn‘t think Dolenz was an ‘American name‘.
‘I‘d had to come down off that. so I‘d got a taste ofit. as it were. I think Peter probably had a bit of a problem. Davy I don't think as much because he'd been in the business for a while too. It's difficult. sure. It was especially difficult for me because I wanted to get back into acting. and suddenly I realised everyone thought I was a drummer!‘
Drummer or not. after a dry spell in the early Seventies. Dolenz landed on his feet. marrying an English woman and moving to Britain in 1977. whereupon he directed and produced the TV series Metal Mickey. followed by a host of other projects. including work written by British comic stars like Peter Sellers. Michael Palin. Terry
.lones and Bill ()ddie. I Ie also adapted and directed .-\lan l’arker‘s movie Bugsy .lIa/one for the stage.
Davy .lones has hardly left the stage since the Monkees disappeared. a veteran of show s like ()lll't’t'. (iodspelland I Iarry Nilsson‘s ill/IF l’UI'N! (co-starring none other than a certain Michael I)olen/,). as well as his solo gippNj-mmcc Experienced in show bi/. I)o|enz nd Jones w ere naturally ccustomed to going out and finding her roles. I’olk-inclined musicians 'l'ork and Nesmith had to liv c with the prospect of demands for ‘I)tty'tlt‘Citttt Believer" if they ever dared walk on a stage again. Not surprisingly. l‘ork'spost-Monkees biography is brief. and mainly tells of the intellectual facets that never came across on IV. the qualities of ‘peace. love and freedom‘ he embodies. and his fanatical interest in current affairs and health.
()nly Michael \esmith. now filling an executive capacity in a film and video business. could not be tempted back to the happy hand. ‘lt would be like Ronald Reagan going back to acting.’ he‘s reported to have said.
‘We don‘t attempt to make tip for his absence.‘ says I)olen/. ‘\\’e miss him. I miss him especially in the comedy aspect of the show. I Ie did a couple ofshows with its in I.os Angeles. and I wouldn't be surprised if he comes back .‘
That would make it a complete blast from the past. The stage act is. quite naturally. a greatest hits show. and the hand are essentially the same characters everyone remembers from the TV series.
‘()n stage I play the part. Absolutely. I think it would he very disappointing to the audience if I didn't. I play the part in much the same way David Bowie played Ziggy Stardust.‘
All in all. the characters attributed by the scriptw'ritet‘s to I)olenz. Jones. 'I'ork and Nesmith. and carried on in the current stage shows by the remaining three. only have a tenuous connection with the actors playing them.
‘I'd say that Peter was the most different from his character. he had to do the hardest acting job. Mike was also very different from his character. but he and Peter weren‘t actors. you see. they weren‘t used to portraying characters. Davy and I. being actors. found it a little easier to slip into those. shall we say. caricatures ofourselves. We weren‘t really acting parts. I think the fact that we were obviously more or less playing ourselves was part of the charm. Having said that. I was playing a drummer in a rock'n‘roll group. I became a drummer in a rock’n‘roll group. and we went on the road. That's the interesting story of'I'he Monkees. I think. in that life really did imitate art. and we becatne a group and went on the road. It‘s the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy suddenly becoming a Vulcan.‘
The Monkees appear at the Playhouse Theatre. Edinburgh. on
Sunday [9. and at the Pavilion.
Glasgow on .l/londay [7 April.
8 The List 10— 23 March 1989