The Monkees Biography

PHOTO: The Monkees

Unlike most bands of the time, the Monkees were not formed by its members, but rather by TV producers: they were a fictional band in the TV show of the same name.

TV producers, Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, formulated an idea for a show about a Beatles-like band, then put ads in newspapers, seeking musicians to star in the series.

The band was composed of Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork. All of the members had some musical experience.

The show debuted on NBC in 1966 and became a huge hit. When the series got the greenlight to go ahead, development of the musical side of the project accelerated with Columbia Screen Gems and RCA Records forming a partnership called Colgems Records to distribute Monkees records.

Each week the group would sing a song or two written by top industry names like Carole King, Neil Diamond and Gerry Goffin, while instrumentation was provided by talented musicians, including Stephen Stills and Harry Nilsson.

'Last Train to Clarksville' was the band's first single was released in August 1966 before the debut of the show and it became a huge hit. Their first album 'The Monkees' was released a month later and shot to the top of the chart.

The Monkees' principle audience consisted of young teenagers and children. Nonetheless, singles like 'I'm a Believer' became Top 10 hits, and the 'Prefab Four' became media icons. By 1967 the Monkees were the most popular band in the US, their records outselling the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Other top hits included 'I'm a Believer' (1966), 'A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You' (1967), 'Mary Mary' (1968) and 'I'm Not Your Stepping Stone', with the group selling over 65 million records worldwide.

But the Monkees themselves grew frustrated at not being able to play their own instruments or write their own songs, and began to rebel against their producers and record company.

The Monkees began playing some of their instruments and writing some songs on 1967's 'Headquarters'. That year they embarked on a major tour, proving they could perform live.

By 1968 the Monkees were already deviating from their manufactured image and straining for credibility, starring in the bizarre psychedelic movie 'Head'. It was not a commercial success but has since gained a cult status.

That same year the TV series came to an end. Peter Tork left the band in 1969 citing exhaustion and he bought out the remaining years on his contract. The group had just returned from a far eastern tour at the end of 1968 and after Tork's departure, they worked as a trio. They recorded 'Instant Replay' and 'The Monkees Present' and appeared on chat shows including 'The Johnny Cash Show' and 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour'.

Due to contractual obligations, they starred in a number of commercials such as Kool-aid. In the summer of 1969 they went on tour with many of their sets lasting more than two hours but some shows were cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Mike Nesmith left a year later than Tork, which left Jones and Dolenz to record 'Changes', with the final singles by the Monkees being recorded in 1970 before the duo lost the right to use the name. They toured as a duo through the 1970s, while Nesmith led his own band 'The First National Band'.

After a temporary revival in the 1980's, the reunited group continued to tour the oldies circuit, usually without Mike Nesmith, who concentrated on the band's behind-the-scenes operations.

They recorded new material in the 1990s, releasing their 11th studio album 'Justus' in 1996, on which all the songs were written and performed by all four Monkees. The trio of Tork, Dolenz and Jones then enjoyed a successful 30th anniversary tour in the US, with Nesmith joining them on stage for a UK tour in 1997 marked by two sold-out gigs at Wembley.

After the tour, they went on another hiatus until 2001 when Jones and Dolenz reunited to tour the US and UK. They then split to concentrate on solo projects and didn't mark their 40th anniversary due to internal conflicts. Over the 2000s, Jones denied the possibility of the band reuniting again but on 21 February 2011, the group announced a 45th anniversary tour, which started in the UK in May without Nesmith. On 8 August 2011, they cancelled the rest of the tour due to internal conflicts.

Davy Jones died of a heart attack aged 66 at his home in Florida on 29 February 2012.

"He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart".
Mickey Dolenz

The Davy Jones biography
shows on Thursday 1 March at 5pm

Or catch it again on Saturday 3 March at 6pm and watch The Monkees at 7pm

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