In their heyday the Monkees had clean-cut good looks, a wholesome sound, and a catalogue of tunes written by the greatest songwriters in the industry. Sure, they were created for a TV show and critics lambasted their integrity, but most people didn't seem to care whether they played their own music.
Except, as it turned out, the Monkees themselves, who staged a coup and overthrew their manager before recording the revelatory 1967 album Headquarters. With it they became fully realized as their own group, and fittingly it's this album around which their impending reunion tour is centered. Their first in 15 years to feature original member Mike Nesmith, it also commemorates the passing this February of member Davy Jones.
Micky Dolenz, the constant throughout the various permutations of the core group's existence, spoke with us about the band and the tour.
It's been a long time since Mike has played with the band. What has it been like for you and Peter to work with him again?
For me? Hearing Mike sing. He and I did a lot of singing together on the early records. When we started rehearsing about a month ago, we did some of those harmonies and it just sent chills up my spine.
You've done reunion tours before, but — between the return of Mike and the much-mourned absence of Davy — this one is a little different. What is it like to tour without Davy?
I don't know… It's going to be weird. It was a very different dynamic when we started rehearsing — I kept looking over my shoulder. You're never going to replace somebody like Davy Jones. I knew Davy for almost 45 years; he was the brother I never had. But you have to move on, obviously. It will be different. The tour's focus will be on songs from the Headquarters album… but with a few surprises.
Did Davy's passing play a role in the decision to put together this tour, or was it something you'd already been planning? Why now?
After the last Monkee tour had been put together with Davy and Peter and I in 2010, we started talking about doing a Headquarters tour and getting Mike involved. Of course, everything changed when Davy passed away in February. It was at a private memorial in Los Angeles that we started talking about doing a concert, and it snowballed into this 12-city tour.
Since the 1960s, the original Monkees fans have grown older; the TV reruns introduced the band to a new audience in the 1980s; fans have shared the music with their kids. How has it felt to watch the Monkees' audience change over the years?
At the shows last summer and at my shows with my band, the audience was all-ages. At Westbury this past summer, when I was appearing with the Happy Together tour, there were these two girls there with their father. They loved the show, knew all the songs and the words. Every ten years, it seems, there's a Monkee revival. The show — the music — is timeless.
The Monkees were once criticized for not writing your own music and for not having formed as a group on your own…
I think the only ones who really made that distinction or took it so seriously were the media. Look at Glee — that's really what the show was, right?
How has Los Angeles changed over the decades you've known it?
I was born in L.A. and love it. There's a great documentary called The Legends Of Laurel Canyon, that everyone should watch. It will always be home for me.
Are you happy with the trajectory your life has followed?
Absolutely. It's harder to hit a moving target! I've grown to love musical theater and next year, in January, I'll be part of a production for Hairpsray celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film; I did the part of Wilbur Turnblad in the play in the West End. And my new album Remember is an audio scrapbook of my life — the songs and memory that have gone onto to mean something substantial in my career.
The Monkees perform this Saturday, Nov 10, at the Greek Theatre