Monkees Sing, Monkees Do

Young Monkees. clockwise from top left: Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Young Monkees. clockwise from top left: Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Every few years, I grow deeply nostalgic for the music of the Monkees. When I’m really jonesing for the band, I never crave their biggest hits such as “Last Train to Clarksville” or “I’m a Believer.” I’m more likely to rewatch Head, the group’s genre-busting, nearly incomprehensible feature film (the soundtrack is gorgeous!) or play Headquarters, the band’s third album. Each Monkee shines on Headquarters, following a hard-fought battle to play their own instruments and develop songs without corporate meddling. There are three great Michael Nesmith compositions (“You Told Me,” “You Just May Be the One” and “Sunny Girlfriend”), a great Tommy Boyce-Bobby Hart showcase for Davy Jones (“I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind”), and what is arguably Peter Tork’s best song (“For Pete’s Sake”). The album closes with the boisterous “Randy Scouse Git,” a chance for Micky Dolenz to scat, wail on the kettledrum, and grouse about the Generation Gap.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Monkees TV series, which debuted in September 1966. I have vivid memories of watching reruns on Saturday mornings with a big bowl of Trix and listening to the vinyl albums I inherited from my older cousins. While I no longer eat sugary cereal marketed to children, the Monkees’ sweet music is another story. This is a band that sold 75 million records, and—at their peak—moved more product than the Beatles and Rolling Stones combined.

To celebrate the Monkees’ golden milestone, Rhino will release the series—all 58 episodes—in newly remastered HD as part of a deluxe, 10-disc Blu-ray collection (available April 29). The set also includes Head (directed by Bob Rafelson and co-written by Jack Nicholson) and the Monkees’ mostly awful 1969 television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. The bonus material is extensive, with commentaries from all four Monkees, screen tests, old Kellogg’s commercials (one of the show’s original sponsors), Head outtakes, vintage live performances, and a special 7-inch single. The set is limited to 10,000 copies and is only available at Monkees.com ($199). A less expensive version—with fewer frills—will likely appear later.

Although Davy Jones died in 2012, the surviving Monkees are working on a new album, Good Times!, scheduled for release on June 10. This is the first batch of new Monkees material since 1996’s JustUs, with songs written by Ben Gibbard, Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge, Zach Rogue, and Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller. The project—produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne—also includes songs from original Monkees composers Carole King, Boyce & Hart and Harry Nilsson (who wrote the title track). Jones will be heard singing on Neil Diamond’s “Love to Love” and though the full extent of Nesmith’s participation is unclear, he is contributing a song (“I Know What I Know”).

Finally, Tork and Dolenz will kick off a 35-city tour starting May 18. (It comes to Primm Valley’s Star of the Desert Arena on September 17.) Tickets are on sale now, and include a free digital download of Good Times! when purchased through Ticketmaster.

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