So I heard a rumor yesterday that they are making the story of the Monkees into a Broadway musical, although all the articles I found, like this one, are now mysteriously blank, which is weird.
But this is such a fantastic idea. The Monkees’ story is absolutely amazing and drama-filled and fun and random and drug-addled, and the show is such a piece of sugary campy cheesecake that I can’t help but love the hell out of it. Here are some of the highlights of their story:
- Two aspiring filmmakers, inspired by the Beatles, decided to develop a show about a fictional rock n’ roll group. They sold the idea to Screen Gems television and in September 1965, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter both ran an ad seeking “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” As many as 400 guys showed up to be considered as one of the “4 insane boys” who would be the stars of the show. From this pool, four were chosen to become the fictional band The Monkees. (By the way, it’s true that Charles Manson auditioned for it!!)
- Mickey Dolenz was an actor, Davy Jones had some theater experience in England, Mike Nesmith was a songwriter and guitarist, and Peter Tork was a musician and hippie drifter.
- The producers of the show cared not for their musical talents, and hired a producer to make the songs and told the guys just to sing and pretend to play their instruments. They made Davy the lead singer, which pissed everyone off, as he had the least musical talent, but was the best at drums. However, he wasn’t seen enough behind the drums, so they put Mickey back there. The producers of the show fired the music producer and hired Mike to do some of it, though they wouldn’t let him play his own instruments.
- The pilot was screen tested and was the lowest rated show of all time. People complained that the young hooligans all looked alike. They repackaged the pilot so that by the time it got on the air, the boys original audition screentest were run at the very beginning of the show. INSTANT SUCCESS, helped of course by the release of the song Last Train to Clarksville.
- In between takes of the show, they started picking up their instruments and playing them. They got good enough that the producers decided to send them out on tour. They decided to have their first show be in Hawaii so that it wouldn’t get much press if it sucked. They played well and had huge success, but the show’s creator became frustrated that they were playing music as a rock band when their image was of a squeaky clean pop band.
- They were doing a lot of drugs, and hanging out with the Beatles and Jack Nicholson, for gods sake! They went on a hardcore tour on the summer break of their show in 1967, and came back to find that the record studio had released this album, More of the Monkees, without even telling them, just from backlogged stuff they recorded!
- They were so furious at music coordinator Don Kirschner that they fired him. Don Kirschner hated the rebelliousness of the guys so much that his next project was The Archies, an animated band that he controlled completely. No more pesky real people!
- They released an album in 1967, Headquarters, that was written mostly by them, and played entirely by them. The album was a huge hit, but the next month, the Beatles released Sgt Peppers, and that was that. No more hit for the Monkees.
- They went on tour for Headquarters, but the press had a field day with them, dismissing their current autonomy and instead focusing on the fact that they didn’t start out that way. They called them the Pre-Fab Four and dismissed them completely. The Monkees TV show was cancelled.
- They decided to make a movie after the show, and made the movie Head, which was a huge flop, but has become a cult classic. It had a bizarro stream of consciousness style, and the soundtrack was put together by Jack Nicholson, who appears in the movie a bunch too. The movie also featured Annette Funicello, a young Teri Garr, boxer Sonny Liston, Frank Zappa, and stripper Carol Doda. Check out the trailer!
- This is where I choose to end the Monkees story. After this, random members quit the band, the rest tried to soldier on, and then they petered out until the 80s, when myself and many many other people watched the 3 day Monkees marathon on MTV and fell in love with them. Go to their Wikipedia page for more of the story, but how could you not love a band that makes a movie specifically to alienate their fan base. It makes you really want to smack those Jonas Brothers.