The huge success of the first two Beatles (see entry under 1960s—Music in volume 4) films, A Hard Day's Night (1964; see entry under 1960s—Film and Theater in volume 4) and Help (1965), prompted producers Bob Rafelson (1933–) and Bert Schneider (c. 1933–) to try duplicating the form on television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3). They envisioned a show built around a real rock and roll (see entry under 1950s—Music in volume 3) band whose members would play themselves. Like the Beatles films, each show would feature minimal plot, a great deal of dashing around (called "romp" by the producers) by the characters, and the group's songs as part of the soundtrack. The result was The Monkees.
The band consisted of Englishman Davy Jones (1945–) and Americans Peter Tork (1942–), Micky Dolenz (1945–), and Mike Nesmith (1942–). At first, none of the boys except Nesmith could play any musical instrument. Instead, they were chosen for their cute looks, adequate acting skills, and above-average pop-singing ability.
The Monkees succeeded both as a band and as a TV show. Their initial albums were recorded using studio musicians, although the four stars picked up instrumental skills quickly. "Last Train to Clarksville," their first single, was a top-ten hit. It was followed by five others, including "Daydream Believer," "Valerie," "Girl," and "I'm a Believer." Their albums sold in the millions.
The TV show was extremely successful in its first season (1966–67), winning both high ratings and an Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series. As intended from the start, the show fed album and concert sales, and vice versa. However, the show's ratings declined in its second season, and it was canceled in 1968. The same year, a bizarre Monkees movie, Head, was released, produced by Rafelson. The film was cowritten by him and by actor Jack Nicholson (1937–). The film flopped at the box office, and the Monkees broke up shortly thereafter.
The band (without Nesmith) reassembled for a successful tour in 1986, sparking a mini Monkees revival. The next year, an attempt was made to revive the Monkees concept with new band members, but the resulting TV show and album both failed miserably.
All four original members came together to tour in 1996 and 1997, but the reunion was temporary. Jones and Dolenz formed a Monkees-themed duet and began touring in 2001.
For More Information
Baker, Glenn A. Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986.
Bronson, Harold. Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees. Santa Monica, CA: General Publishing Group, 1996.
Dolenz, Micky, and Mark Bego. I'm a Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music, and Madness. New York: Hyperion, 1993.
Hey, Hey . . . It's the Monkees Home Page.http://www.monkees.net (accessed March 18, 2002).
Wincentsen, Edward. The Monkees: Memories and the Magic. Pickens, SC: Wynn, 2000.