11 Amazing Facts About the Monkees

the monkees facts

11 Amazing Facts About the Monkees

monkees factsThe Monkees TV show debuted on NBC the evening of September 12, 1966. It’s now 50 years later, and the Monkees are as popular as ever.

The 4 band members shared a chemistry together that simply cannot be replicated, and they’ve re-grouped in various formations over the years for tours, albums, and other assorted projects.

Sadly, Davy Jones passed away in 2012, but Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork are still going strong.

The Monkees released a new album called Good Times! on May 27, and it’s received a lot of rave reviews. Most fans feel that it’s their strongest album by far since the sixties. I agree.

The band (minus Nesmith) is also touring this summer, so you should consider becoming prepared – they may be coming to your town!

The evolution of The Monkees is a fascinating story, full of interesting twists and turns. Listed here are 11 of our favorite mind-blowing Monkees facts.

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1. Michael Nesmith’s mother invented Liquid Paper

michael nesmith

Literally. Bette Nesmith Graham (Mike’s mom) was a typist who also happened to be a painter, and she had been looking for an easy way to correct typing mistakes.

In 1951, she began blending up a homemade correction fluid that she called Mistake Out, using a form of paint as the base. Co-workers started requesting some for themselves, and she soon began selling Mistake Out from her home, later changing the name to Liquid Paper.

She eventually sold the Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette in 1979 for $47.5 million.

Michael Nesmith once joked about Liquid Paper’s secret recipe, saying he knew what was in it but would never tell.

2. Davy Jones Appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the Same Night as the Beatles

In 1965, producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider began casting for a TV series about an American rock group. Like so many others, they were inspired by A Hard Day’s Night, the popular Beatles film released in 1964.

Earlier that year, on February 9, the Beatles made their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in front of nearly 73 million viewers in America, including a couple of future Monkees. It turns out, however, that one of them had a front row seat.

A scene was performed on that very episode from the Broadway production of Oliver, in between appearances by the Beatles, that just so happened to feature our very own Davy Jones as the Artful Dodger!

No one could have predicted that a couple of years later, that young man would be daydream believing his way to the top of the charts, and hanging out with the Beatles themselves at the toppermost of the poppermost.

3. In 1967, the Monkees Sold More Albums Than the Beatles and Rolling Stones Combined

monkees 1967

1967. The Summer of Love. Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Rolling Stones. The Grateful Dead. Jimi Hendrix. And the Monkees.

It was a strong year for the Beatles artistically, releasing both Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Magical Mystery Tour albums that year. The Stones also released two new records, Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request. Add all album sales together for both bands in 1967, and the total is less than the # of records sold by the Monkees that year!

monkees1967It all began on January 9, when the Monkees second album, More of the Monkees, was released. It contained the hit song ‘I’m a Believer’, and was an instant smash, staying at #1 for 18 weeks, and eventually selling over 5 million copies.

Unbelievably, it had been released without the knowledge of the band! They were on tour in Cleveland when they heard about it, and sent someone out to the record store to buy a copy.

The band members were furious, and soon won the fight to regain control of their own music from Musical Director Don Kirshner. They grabbed their guitars and headed straight into the studio to make Headquarters, writing most of the songs and recording the entire album themselves (producer Chip Douglas did play some bass on the album).

Headquarters was released in May and shot to #1. A week later, Sgt. Pepper came out, knocking Headquarters down to #2. The two albums stayed 1-2 on the charts throughout the Summer of Love, with Headquarters selling over 2 million copies in the first two months.

In November, the Monkees released what is probably their best album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., which also went on to sell over 2 million copies.

They were unknowns in the fall of 1966 when the tv show began airing, and spent the following year on top of the world, filming the series, recording albums, touring, and hanging out with the Beatles in London. Unfortunately, things started to come apart in ’68, but 1967 saw these Monkee Men at the peak of their powers.

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4. Peter Tork Was Recommended for the Monkees … by Stephen Stills

stephen stills monkeesOn September 8-10, 1965, a now-famous ad was run in The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety looking for “4 insane boys, age 17-21” for a new tv show.

One of the 437 people who responded to the ad was a young, still relatively-unknown musician named Stephen Stills.

A long-standing rumor has often been repeated that Stills was turned down for the series because his hair and teeth were not up to par. According to Stills, however, he had no interest in acting on a tv show. He was hoping to sell some of his songs, and figured the easiest way to get an audience with the producers was to go to the audition.

The songwriters for The Monkees had already been hired, so Stills was turned down. However, before leaving he recommended that they consider his friend from New York for the show, who had recently arrived in California; a young guitarist named Peter Tork. Stills and Tork had met performing in the folk music scene in peter torkGreenwich Village, and had become good friends.

Unable to work on the Monkees project, Stills was forced to settle for becoming a member of Buffalo Springfield, and later Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young instead. The end result was a Hall of Fame music career, and some epic jam sessions at Peter’s house including members of both bands, including Neil Young, who also played guitar on several Monkees tracks.

Note: Regarding those infamous auditions, another long-standing rumor you may have heard is that Charles Manson also auditioned for the show. This was not true; he was in jail at the time. The rumor apparently got started after Micky said it one time as a joke.

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5. David Bowie Changed His Name Because of a Monkee

bowie monkeesIn the mid-60s, a young musician living in London decided to pursue a music career. With a single out, he planned to make his mark on music history. There was a slight problem, though. A rising star on the British theatre scene was soon cast on a popular American television show, and he also happened to share the same name.

This musician’s name was David Robert Jones. He had already released his first single ‘Liza Jane’ in 1964 under the name Davie Jones and the King Bees, and a couple of other singles as well. To avoid confusion with Davy Jones, he decided he would need a way to differentiate himself.

He took one look at his bowie knife, decided to take a stab at show business … and thus, David Bowie (and Ziggy Stardust) were born. In reality, the exact reason he chose the name “Bowie” was never revealed publicly. One rumor is that he may have got the name from American pioneer Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo.

Some have suggested that he may have changed his name before the Monkees premiered on television, although Davy Jones was already well-known in London well before that. Bowie didn’t release his first album David Bowie until 1967.

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6. Jimi Hendrix Opened for the Monkees

hendrix monkeesIn June, 1967, Micky and Peter went to check out the Monterey Pop Festival, and Micky had an epiphany while watching a charismatic young guitarist perform onstage.

His name was Jimi Hendrix, and he was relatively unknown, very theatrical, and extremely talented … so why not offer him a gig opening for the Monkees?

Jimi agreed to join the Monkees on tour, but things didn’t go exactly as planned.

The crowd was made up largely of teenage girls, and they were there to see their beloved Monkees, not this weird experimental guitar player. So they would boo Jimi, and chant things like “We Want Davy!” and “We Want the Monkees!” during his set.

One night, Hendrix finally had enough, flipped the crowd the bird, and left the tour after just 7 shows.

7. The Monkees Were the First Band to Use a Moog Synthesizer on a Pop Record

In 1967, Micky Dolenz obtained one of the first 20 Moog synthesizers ever sold, and started experimenting with it, assisted by electronic music pioneer Paul Beaver.

 micky moog

On the Monkees 4th album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., Micky used the Moog quite prominently on the song ‘Daily Nightly’, also playing it on ‘Love is Only Sleeping’. The extended section featuring the Moog on ‘Star Collector’ was played by Beaver.

While a Moog synthesizer had technically been used on a couple of albums that came out earlier that year, it wasn’t prominent in the mix, and the Monkees are generally regarded as having been the first group to feature it on a top-charting pop music album.

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the monkees tv show

8. Monkee in Space

chekovLike the Monkees, Star Trek also began airing on network television in the fall of 1966. By the end of season 1, producer Gene Roddenberry and the network felt that the show needed an injection of youth, to try and attract more younger viewers. So they turned to the most popular show around for inspiration: the Monkees.

By this time, the Monkees were world-famous davy jones monkeeand Davy Jones was a hugely popular teen idol. So Roddenberry decided to add someone to the cast who looked a little bit like a Monkee.

Roddenberry also felt that the futuristic show should have a Russian character, a nod to America’s chief rival in the space race to the Moon.

So they added a new character to the show, Russian navigator Pavel Chekov, played by Walter Koenig … and even had him wear a Monkees-style wig in the first few episodes. The official story at the time was that Roddenberry added a Russian character in response to a Pravda article criticizing the show for not having any Russian characters, but Koenig himself has always maintained that the real reason was because of the popularity of Davy Jones.

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9. The Script for the Monkees Movie ‘Head’ Was Written by Jack Nicholson

monkeeswithjack

In early 1968, many people were sick and tired of the manufactured image of the Monkees, none moreso than the band members themselves, along with producers Rafelson and Schneider.

monkees headThe producers were friends with a then relatively-unknown but very charismatic actor named Jack Nicholson, and they decided to skip town for a weekend with the Monkees to discuss a movie project, bringing with them a tape recorder and a large amount of recreational drugs.

Everybody agreed that they had no interest in simply making a “movie” version of a regular Monkees episode; they wanted to experiment, and deconstruct the Monkees image.

So they spent a few days riffing on ideas, talking into the tape recorder, and detailing all the things they wanted to say in the film. They really wanted to subvert their image, as well as the manufactured nature of mainstream art itself. And thus began one of the weirdest career suicide attempts in the history of show business.

monkeesarmy

Jack took the tapes home, and wrote the screenplay for ‘Head’. Bob Rafelson directed the film. The end result was a bizarre “head” movie, surreal and incoherent, yet strangely compelling.

Even stranger than the film itself was the marketing. To begin with, the stars of ‘Head’ were the Monkees (thus alienating the “sophisticated” art and music crowds they were trying to appeal to), the film was rated R (thus alienating many avid young Monkee fans who couldn’t get in to see it), and some of the ads barely even mentioned the Monkees.

A bizarre trailer was created that simply focused in on a man’s head, and another ad consisted of the word ‘head’ being spoken over and over (thus alienating everybody who had not already previously been alienated).

The film was a massive bomb, virtually disappearing from theaters overnight. Made with a budget of $790,000, it earned just $16,111 in its original theatrical run.

monkees movieThe Monkees tv series itself was soon canceled, and the group’s popularity began to rapidly decline over the next couple of years until they eventually disbanded.

As the years went by, however, ‘Head’ began to establish a following, and eventually became a cult classic.

The film is at times maddening and brilliant, and begins with the Monkees attempting to commit suicide. It gets darker from there. If you like the Monkees and haven’t seen it yet, you really should take a look.

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10. Monkeemania Returns … in 1975?

Most people know that the Monkees were hugely popular in the late 1960’s, and that they experienced a massive resurgence in 1986, when MTV aired a Monkees Marathon. They showed every episode of the tv show back to back, leading to the second coming of Monkeemania.

dolenz jones boyce & hartLess people are aware, however, that something similar (albeit on a much smaller scale) had happened several times before.

Typically, the show would start airing in a particular country, the Monkees popularity would rise, and there would suddenly be a demand for some new Monkee business. In fact, calls for a reunion began shortly after they first broke up. The most interesting example of this phenomenon occurred in 1975.

In 1965, songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (aka Boyce & Hart) caught the ear of Rafelson & Schneider, and became part of the Monkees musical team.

They wrote the theme song for the tv series (‘Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees’), along with a bunch of other classic Monkees songs (‘Last Train to Clarksville’, ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone, ‘I Wanna Be Free’, ‘Valleri’, and ‘Words’, among others).

After leaving the Monkees project, Boyce & Hart began focusing on their own musical career, releasing several hit singles including ‘I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight’, which reached #8 on the charts.

In 1975, the Monkees were gaining popularity due to syndicated episodes of the show airing in the United States and Japan. An idea was hatched, and a group was formed.

dolenz jones boyce & hart albumNesmith and Tork declined offers to join the group (although Tork did join the band onstage for a show in 1976), so Dolenz and Jones teamed up with Boyce & Hart to create an old-school supergroup.

Legally prevented from calling themselves the Monkees, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart toured America, Japan and Thailand from 1975-77, billing the show as The Guys Who Sang ‘Em and The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em.

They even released a self-titled album in 1976. A live album was recorded in Japan, though it wasn’t released until the 1990’s.

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11. Michael Nesmith Helped to Invent MTV

monkees mtvThe concept of the “music video” dates back a long time, but many consider Richard Lester, director of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, to be the inventor. The idea of filming clips of a band playing along to an audio recording, mixing them with other footage, speeding up and slowing down the film, and using quick edits throughout the video, was clearly utilized and expanded upon in The Monkees tv show.

A number of bands used video clips to help promote their music throughout the 60’s and 70’s, but there were still very few places for them to actually be viewed.

In 1977, Michael Nesmith made a groundbreaking video for his song ‘Rio’, and over the next few years became fascinated by the idea of linking audio songs with video clips.

Nesmith suspected there was a huge market for music videos, and after spending time thinking about where these clips could actually be aired, came up with the concept of a music video show called PopClips, which aired on Nickelodeon. Suddenly, other people began to imagine the possibilities, and the idea of a 24-hour music video station was conceived.nesmith mtv

At that time, Michael was intrigued by this new art form, and wanted the focus to be on the creation of artistic videos. However, the people working to finance and create MTV were focused on the idea of using videos to promote hit records.

Nesmith was invited to join the team creating MTV, but declined the offer. Instead, in 1980, he sold the PopClips show and concept to Time Warner/Amex, who turned the concept into MTV. The legendary music channel was officially launched in 1981.

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(Source of Monkees Images: http://psycho-jello.com/monkees/photos.html)

It looks like we’ve made it to the end! If you’re a Monkees fan and enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it!

Bonus Section

As mentioned, the Monkees released a new album this year called Good Times. Here’s the video for the song ‘You Bring the Summer’ (written by Andy Partridge of XTC) – they did an AMAZING job!

 

Click here to check out the Monkees album Good Times (on Amazon).

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Comments (15)

  • Rock Concerts 2016 – The Summer of Live Reply

    […] 11 Amazing Facts About the Monkees […]

    July 12, 2016 at 1:00 am
  • Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle Reply

    Thanks, I found this post so informative and interesting. So many pieces of information that I had not heard of before. The detail and research put into this post is awesome.

    Kathleen
    Bloggers Pit Stop – the home of great posts.

    July 26, 2016 at 12:51 am
  • Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle Reply

    Congratulations, the Pit Stop Crew have chosen your post to be featured. Be looking for the feature on Friday. Well done.

    Kathleen
    The Bloggers Pit Stop

    July 27, 2016 at 1:02 am
  • Blogger's Pit Stop #34 | Mostly Blogging Reply

    […] 11 Amazing Facts About the Monkees by Guitar Spotting […]

    July 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm
  • Cathy Lawdanski Reply

    Loved the Monkees! Davy Jones will always have my heart. Had no idea that Michael Nesmith had anything to do with MTV! Would love it if you shared this on the #overthemoon link up that I co-host. Opens at 5 pm. CST on Sunday. All posts get comments and shares. I am sharing this post on Twitter and with the My Side of 50 FB Group!

    July 29, 2016 at 6:35 am
    • GuitarSpotting Reply

      Thanks for reading and sharing the article! Is there a url i would need to share it on your #overthemoon link up?

      July 29, 2016 at 3:58 pm
  • edward michno Reply

    the monkees were and are great beatles and stones fans need be made more aware of how they came to be they became a great band in their own right after the first 2 albums they were and are great actors they themselves are great musicians and songwriters these are the facts plus in 1967 they outsold the beatles and stones the monkees belong in the rock hall of fame for they have made a legendary mark on music they are truely great

    August 7, 2016 at 2:21 pm
  • Mary-the boondocks blog Reply

    Such a fun post. The only thing I knew is the one about David Bowie. Thanks for all the fun facts.

    August 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm
  • sue Reply

    thanks for some great memories! I loved the Monkees and like the Beatles knew the words to every song. I did know about Mike Nesmith and his mum’s invention but thanks for sharing the interesting facts with us at Over the Moon.

    August 9, 2016 at 2:17 am
  • Debbie Reply

    This is so interesting! I’ve been reading much of this post out loud to my husband (Stones fan that he is!). I believe I knew about the Liquid Paper, but that was it. So much fun!

    August 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm
  • stevebethere Reply

    That was an interesting read as I was a Monkee fan when I was a kid loved all those facts but the line that cracked me up was

    David Bowie Changed His Name Because of a Monkee

    Have a McTastic week 🙂

    August 23, 2016 at 3:45 am
  • Emma Reply

    I actually knew all of these! I was quite the Monkees fan back in my day (certainly the only 11 year old who was rocking out to the Monkees in the ’90s, lol!)

    September 2, 2016 at 8:05 am
  • Colette S Reply

    That was a fascinating read.
    Now I know more about the origins of liquid paper.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for joining our music train.

    Aloha!

    September 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  • XmasDolly (linky) Reply

    What a great Post. Your facts are spot on and love the tunes you have chosen to share with us. You have rocked the house my friend. Thank you for joining us at Monday’s Music Moves Me. Hope to see you next week too. This week was a Freebie, but I hope you’ll look in my sidebar next week for our theme. We do a theme every other week. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. I surely hope you followed us in Linky Followers in my sidebar… and left a comment. hugs and ROCK ON my new friend.

    November 16, 2016 at 12:45 am

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