If you haven’t heard about The Monkees, you should have. They were a boy band every bit as popular as the Beatles, NSYNC and even One Direction, and many of their songs competed with The Beatles for the top position in the charts.
The truth of the matter is, The Monkees were not a real group in the beginning. They were four actors for a TV show about a fictitious band. Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones were the actors hired to play the parts, and the original intent was to have them be a front for a TV show to capitalize on the popularity of The Beatles. Although Nesmith and Tork could play the guitar and sing, it didn’t matter since they were never going to be allowed to play on their own records. Session musicians were called in to do all of the soundtrack recording.
The Monkees songs were written by professionals, lined up by legendary producer Don Kirshner, in the song making factory called “The Brill Building.” This was a essentially a facility set up for songwriters that song producers used when they wanted a new hit song. The likes of Neil Diamond, who wrote the #1 hit, “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,”, while Boyce and Hart penned the #1 song, “Last Train to Clarksville,” and Carole King and Gerry Goffin contributed #3, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” among several other big-time top 10 hits for the group. All of these song artists worked there, writing songs for others at that time, before their own musical careers took off.
In spite of the fact that the TV show was a big hit, The Monkees themselves were not satisfied. Sure, they were one of the most popular bands around, and yes, they had there own killer TV show and certainly, they were singing #1 songs across the nation. But they weren’t happy. The word got around that they were a made-for-television creation, that they were “manufactured,” and they they couldn’t play a lick even if they tried.
Now, you’d think in this age of “Glee,” or lip syncing on stage, or not even singing songs at all, a.k.a. Milli Vanilli, that the Monkees would just take the money and run. But back then they were labeled a sell-out, they were said to be fake, that they were merely puppets run by the establishment, and worst of all, that they weren’t ever a real band. This was too much for the Monkees, as a whole, and particularly Mike Nesmith, to stand for. They demanded a say in their own music and the production values after Nesmith put his fist through a wall at a meeting, while telling Don Kirshner, “That could have been your face!”
Kirshner was fired after that, and the Monkees got their wish. From then on they were on their own, and although they were now a real band, no one believed it anyhow. Their own songs weren’t as good as the professional songwriters had been writing, and whereas they scored a few minor hits, and made one of the most bizarre psychedelic movies ever made called “Head,” the Monkees began to fade away and eventually broke up when the hits stopped coming.
They regrouped in the late 80’s and have been touring ever since, playing their own instruments and being a real band, but the legacy of the fabricated Monkees remians as one of the best pop bands, with some of the most recognizable songs sung, that came out of the 60’s.
Enjoy The Monkees with “I’m a Believer”
Here’s “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” featuring the Monkee Mobile
One of the first genuine Monkee songs written by Mike Nesmith called, “You Just May Be The One”