Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith, aka The Monkees, made their television debut 46 years ago this month (Sept. 12). The made-for-TV band’s show lasted two years, but their music still lives on today.
Dolenz characterized the band’s improbable success in a recent interview: “The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan,” he said.
Yet, the quartet sold more than 65 million albums. At one point, they were even more popular than The Beatles. The Monkees went their separate ways after formally breaking up in 1971. They have held several reunion tours but their latest plans were temporarily sidelined when lead singer Jones died suddenly in February.
While Nesmith and Tork are in semi-retirement, Dolenz, at 67, is as active as ever. He’s had a successful solo career, still tours with his own band and has acted on Broadway in such shows as Aida, Grease, Pippin and a revival of Hairspray on London’s West End.
Last year he released a solo album, King For A Day, containing songs all written by Carole King, who got her start writing songs for The Monkees. He’ll release a new album, Sept. 25, titled Remember
Dolenz calls it a musical scrapbook of songs that have made a mark on him. Last year, before Jones passed, he undertook a Monkees reunion, with Tork. In November, he will tour again with Monkees mates, including Nesmith.
We spoke to Micky in Monterey where he is rehearsing with his partners for the 14-date tour in November:
Improper: You hit the road this summer on what was called the “Happy Together tour. How did it go over those 42 dates?
Dolenz: It was just great fun, great audiences. Working with Flo & Eddie, Gary Puckett, The Grass Roots and The Buckinghams. It was just tremendous synergy all around. At the end, we all came out on stage and did each other’s hits … it was so much fun. They’re all great performers.
IM: Tell us about Remember, out on Sept. 25.
Dolenz: The album is an audio-scrapbook of my memories of these songs. I’ve performed and arranged them more to my style. You know how many times Frank Sinatra recorded ‘Fly Me to the Moon’? In every possible configuration and band, so who says I can’t do “Sometime in the Morning” another way?
Same thing with “I’m a Believer,” which is re-done on the album. Over the years, I’d come up with this sitting-around-the-dressing-room country version. My mom is from Austin (TX) by the way. And my parents were singers and actors, so I grew up on the “Sons of the Pioneers” and “Tennessee Ernie Ford.” You can hear a huge country influence on me on the song I wrote, “Desperation.” Most of the songs I’ve written over the years are country because of my mom. Don’t forget, I did the TV-show “Gone Country” several years back!
IM: The title track is a Harry Nilsson song, right? Tell us about him a bit.
Dolenz: He was a great friend, and I miss him every day; great writer. He wrote “Cuddly Toy” for The Monkees.
IM: Your participation in the 25th anniversary production of the John Waters film “Hairspray” here in the United States, sounds terrific. Tell us about it. The Indianapolis dates are Jan. 11-13, and the Baltimore dates are Jan. 24-27.
Dolenz: I did the “Wilbur Turnblad” role in the West End and the European tour last year; right before the [music] tour with Davy and Peter. John Waters will be the narrator and that’ll be a terrific addition. I’m very honored to have been invited.
IM: And, of course, here in New York City, you’re at B.B. King’s on Oct. 19. The show is being recorded and filmed for release. I bet you’re excited by that.
Dolenz: B.B. King’s is a legendary venue and it will be terrific to play there and have it recorded as a DVD. I’ve performed there before at various benefits and events, but this will be quite a special evening. I am very much looking forward to it.
IM: And, in November you’re reuniting with Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork for 11 dates. How’s that developing?
Dolenz: It’s something that just organically came up. We’re in rehearsals now; it’ll be a very special event.
IM: Are those dates going to be filmed for a DVD? I know last year’s shows with Davy were not.
Dolenz: Sadly, those shows were not; I’m hopeful that these dates will be. They should!
IM: Any thoughts on the soundtrack album to the movie “Head?” (originally released in 1968).
Dolenz: It was misunderstood by a lot of people; most of our fans couldn’t get in because there was an age restriction and the intelligentsia wouldn’t go to see it anyway because they hated the Monkees. actually, I think it stands up pretty well these days.”
IM: What an amazing agenda for the rest of this year. What do you think when you see an old episode of the show?
Dolenz: I can’t believe how young and goofy I look.