The Monkees were a manufactured group—a revolutionary concept at the time—created by Columbia Pictures producers. Their concept consisted of a television sitcom based on the adventures of a rock band. While the extraordinary success enjoyed by both the NBC-TV show between 1966-1969 and Monkees’ recordings validated the prefab notion (and laid the groundwork for the bubblegum genre), the later problems ensuing from the independent thinking of band members led to the creation of cartoon rock stars and recordings cut by anonymous studio musicians for imaginary acts.
Despite the fact that the foursome comprising the Monkees had a reasonable amount of experience as musicians—although Mickey Dolenz had been a child actor, Peter Tork had been part of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, Mike Nesmith was performing in Los Angeles folk clubs, and David Jones had sung in London musicals and television programs—their label insisted that session players provide the instrumental backing on the first couple of albums, The Monkees (Colgems 101; 1966; #1) and More of the Monkees (Colgems 102; 1967; #1). When the band, with Nesmith as spokesperson, rebelled against this policy, Colgems ceded them full musical control. Although lacking the polish of its predecessors, the first LP under the new arrangement, Headquarters (Colgems 103; 1967; #1), enjoyable a comparable chart run.
The later albums—Pisces, Aquarius, Caprisorn & Jones Ltd. (Colgems 104; 1967; #1), The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees (Colgems 109; 1968; #3), the movie soundtrack, Head (Colgems 5008; 1968; #45), Instant Replay (Colgems 113; 1969; #32), The Monkees Present (Colgems 117; 1969; #100), and Changes (Colgems 119; 1970)—featured musical experimentation and songwriting contributions by band members. Tork departed in 1968 due to musical differences, and when NBC dropped the show and record sales slowed to a trickle the following year, the Monkees disbanded. While the Nesmith found success both a solo recording artist and in the production of conceptual videos (Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts won the 1981 Grammy for video of the year), Dolenz and Jones—whose acting careers had lost momentum—formed a marginally popular Monkees revival band in the mid-1970s called (for legal reasons) Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart.
In the mid-1980s, a resurgence of interest in the band due to cable TV reruns of the NBC episodes inpired Dolenz, Jones, and Tork to re-form the Monkees. In addition to issuing CD editions of the original albums (six of which made the charts in 1986), Rhino began releasing new material by the band, including Pool It! (Rhino 70706; 1987; #72) and 20th Anniversary Concert Tour 1986 (Rhino; 1987). The revival gained momentum in the new decade, with Nesmith coming aboard for the LP, Justus (Rhino; 1996), which coincided with Rhino’s release of the TV show episodes in a twenty-one volume video anthology. In 2000, VH1 broadcast a made-for-TV film of their career, Daydream Believer.
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