Friday 4 March 2011

Hey, hey, we're (not) The Beatles

Boy bands. Don't you just love them? Who do you reckon was the first? The fact that such an accolade is often bandied around when talking about The Monkees is to totally rewrite history. It also airbrushes barbershop, doo-wop and harmony groups from pop's rich tapestry: The Ink Spots, anyone? But, in as much as they predated The Osmonds and The Jackson 5, Messrs. Dolenz, Nesmith, Tork and Jones were certainly among the first guests to arrive at the party.

Back in 1966 the moguls at Screen Gems decided to manufacture a group to rival The Beatles. And, as befits such a manoeuvre, it was all done very tongue in cheek; giving four unknown actors (that's right, actors not musicians) a 'zany' script, hiring in some professional songwriters (and a house band) and then pump out the resulting mix on prime-time coast to coast television - and seeing what happens.

And what happened was a massive TV show, numerous Top Ten hits including three Billboard No.1s (I'm A Believer, Last Train To Clarksville and Daydream Believer), an iconic logo that still makes me smile and (though it would take many years) a grudging acceptance by the public that at least half (if not three quarters) of the band did prove themselves as bona fide musos. Sorry Davy, you should have stuck with Coronation Street.

But were they ever a serious threat to Beatlemania? No, of course not, don't be silly. Have they left a lasting legacy? Well, yes they have actually; whether it be the rich seam of catchy singles, the critically acclaimed Headquarters album or Head, their cinematic wig out with Jack Nicholson, The Monkees place in rock and roll history is assured. Oh, and don't forget Robert Wyatt's blinding cover of I'm A Believer.

During their heyday comparisons with our own moptops were rife. But in as much as a Skoda and an Aston Martin both have four wheels and an engine, there the similarity ends. However, as the photographs of Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork testify, they did get to meet their Liverpudlian counterparts though it's doubtful they joined forces in any songwriting circles. If they had, maybe they would have beaten Go Home Productions to this:


  1. I heard a very unfortunate interview with Davy Jones last year on R4 - he came across as incredibly embittered about the 'lack of respect' that has apparently been accorded him by the industry and his peers. He said, with no visible irony, that he felt he actually belonged 'up there with Lennon and McCartney'. It seems to be preventing him from enjoying his life in any substantial way. Even those amazing new pecs he forked out for haven't made him happy.

  2. Redirect yourself here for some of my Monkee nuts and one punchy cover - if you can, track down Hubert Laws Listen to the Band. A flute-tootin gem

    Hang on, that Daily Mail pic of Davey 'mammaries are made of this' Jones looks a bit famil'

  3. I didn't want to look but I had to....

  4. The only thing I recall about the Monkees was the repeats of their TV show well into the seventies, personally I preferred the Banana Splits show

  5. ...oh dear I just clicked on the Daily Mail link...there goes my plan for tea with Cream Crackers and Wensleydale just now

  6. See how at 1m - 34s Richard Hammond, I mean Davy Jones, sees into the future: Daydream Believer (literal version).

  7. Loved the TV show, and loved the band (I got into the Beatles via the Monkees!).

    Saw the full line up live in the 90's too - last time Nesmith played with them I think? Glad I went, and was better than expected, could have done without the on-stage 'wackyness' tho.