The Monkees Legacy
Time moves on and even the most popular stars age and die. I am sure this periodically crosses Paul McCartney's mind, as he recently recorded a song, "When I Die", who is now 69-70. Ditto for Ringo. The sudden and sad death of Davy Jones of The Monkees pop group at age 66 (massive heart attack) will shake those who grew up in 1966-69 time slot, either as teens or tweens, because of the sitcom The Monkees TV show. Even though the show ran only two years and the group was totally manufactured from a Hollywood talent search to create a "Beatle-like" band with comedic talent, they were VERY popular if you were 10-16yrs old at the time. No question. The TV show debuted with a massive audience, their first LP,like the band they emulated, shot to #1, even competing with the real Fab Four! Most of their songs were written by others and most of the music created was by studio musicians, not themselves, at least in the first season. This made the fans angry when it leaked out that they did not even play and the TV show started to decline in popularity. Like many shows, the first season was the best. The themes, the writing, the acting was zany and still appeals to mostly tweens today. The second season showed their weaknesses and the themes and overall enthusiasm started to drop. Their fans remained, however, and their were millions of them. The Monkees did set ONE fashion trend for guys and girls, that was the WIDE 3" belt and round, unique buckle shown on their first LP cover. If you were in Jr. High or a 9th grader in HS, you bought one. Oddly, that fashion has long returned for today's tweens and teens.
The Monkees TV show stopped airing in 1968, yet the band remained touring and made a movie, Head, until 1970. It is rather odd, the real Beatles and their copies, ended in the same year. By then, both bands had simply grown up, as did the millions of fans that had made them famous.
The Beatles, however, took Monkee success in stride and hosted a party for them when they visited England on tour. Now fans had eight members to scream for! John actually told them that he thought they were great zany actors as good as the Marx brothers and he had watched every episode. Members of the band were invited to watch the legends work at Abbey Roads during recording some of Sgt. Pepper's LP. Peter Tork, one of Monkees, actually played on George Harrison's Wonderwall LP, and McCartney in 2002 while on tour, sang the Monkee theme song, "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees..."
In July, 1967, the unknown band, Jimi Hendrix Experience, was the opening act for The Monkees tour. It is ironic, because at the time, only one was famous and popular. Hendrix was a total unknown making rounds to become famous. Hendrix played with the usual awesome style and heavy metal that would make him an icon in 1969, but in 1967, few saw it as legendary. He despised the tour and The Monkees and when he played for the tweens and teens then, they did not like his band and thought the music was weird. So disgusted with this, Hendrix flipped the audience off with his middle finger and quit the tour.
Minimizing The Monkees is easy, by late 1967, even the media had turned against them for not being "real" musicians. After all, The Beatles were! When they made their movie, Head, the co-producer was none other than Jack Nicholson, the now legendary movie star, who then was totally unknown and a nobody. The Monkees thought of Nicholson as part of the anti-Monkee frenzy who had been told to make sure the movie flopped. It did. "Head" is akin to The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour", in that, its storyline and filming are simply bad, made little sense and not professional. "Head" virtually had no press release and only a few theaters had the film.
The Monkees in 1966 had the #1 LP for 31 consecutive weeks and a total of 37 weeks. It was their best of the 8-9 LPs they did. It even beat their mentors, The Beatles, who released their great Revolver LP that year. The Monkees record that they set in 1966 remained that way until 1982. They had four #1 LPs, and the 12th biggest selling LP, "More of the Monkees", their 2nd LP, which stayed on the charts for 70 weeks!
Prior to becoming Monkees, one had been a janitor, one a teacher, one a horse jockey. So, it is true, ANYTHING can happen in Hollywood!
"Hey, hey, were the Monkees, we're just fooling around..."