It was 46 years ago tonight (September 12th, 1966) that The Monkees premiered on NBC. The series featured relative unknowns Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork as a struggling rock and roll band, living together in a beach house, who each week would stumble from one comedic adventure to the next.
The show, which was inspired by the comic lampooning in the Beatles' second movie Help!, released the previous year, proved to be the '60s answer to the Marx Brothers. The Monkees, who never met each other before being cast in the pilot, have been affectionately dubbed throughout the years as "The Pre-Fab Four." Together, with their on screen chemistry along with the guidance of music impresario Don Kirshner, who supervised the music for the show and the group's first two albums, the Monkees were a hit out of the box.
The Monkees ran for two seasons and won two Emmys in 1967 -- Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy. But it was the show's music, much of it written by such top songwriters as Neil Diamond, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King, that made it a success. The Monkees scored six Top 10 hits during the show's run, including the 1966 Number Ones "Last Train To Clarksville" and "I'm A Believer."
After the series ended, the "group," which had won the right to choose its own material, released the 1968 cult classic film Head, which was co-written by Jack Nicholson. By 1970, with both Nesmith and Tork gone, Dolenz and Jones fulfilled their recording contract with the chart bomb Changes and called it a day.
Although Dolenz and Jones had done a 1976 tour of Japan with Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, it took MTV's re-airing of the series during the summer of 1986 to spur the group -- minus Nesmith -- to reform. They have reunited several times over the past 20 years, most notably in 1997 when they released Justus, their first album as a foursome in 29 years.
Micky Dolenz told us that although the Monkees have taken a beating over the years for not playing on their earliest and biggest hits, the songs continue to entertain, regardless of who was playing on the actual sessions: "Y'know the criticism that does exist, which of course it does, and I kind of take it a little bit with of a grain of salt. 'Cause the bottom line is that you can judge quality by a, one of the things is longevity. To still have the show stand up, and to still have the songs stand up, and to still have the music and the performances stand up, it does say something to the body of work."
Noted Beach Boys author, documentarian, and West Coast historian, Jon Stebbins says that the group's music reached even loftier heights once they wrestled control away from Don Kirshner: "The stuff they did themselves is even a little bit better, in my opinion. It's like they retained whatever the magic was of the first stuff of the Kirshner stuff, but they brought a little bit something else into it that made it even better."
The upcoming Monkees shows -- featuring Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork -- mark the first the group has undertaken since Davy Jones died of a heart attack on February 29th at age 66.
Mike Nesmith, who apart from an occasional walk on during the group's reunion tour encores, last performed and recorded with the band in 1997, and according to those involved, left the group flat following their sole four-man UK reunion tour.
Nesmith fully endorsed -- but once again sat out of -- the Monkees' last reunion trek in 2011, marking the group's 45th anniversary.
The Monkees tour dates (subject to change):
November 8 - Escondido, CA - California Center for the Arts
November 9 - Santa Barbara, CA - The Arlington Theatre
November 10 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre
November 11 - Cupertino, CA - Flint Center for the Performing Arts
November 15 - Minneapolis, MN - The State Theatre
November 16 - Chicago, IL - Chicago Theatre
November 17 - Lakewood, OH - Lakewood Civic Auditorium
November 18 - Buffalo, NY - UB Center For The Arts Mainstage
November 29 - Glenside, PA - Keswick Theatre
November 30 - New Brunswick, NJ - State Theatre
December 1 - Huntington, NY - The Paramount
December 2 - New York, NY - The Beacon Theatre