Sunday, December 30, 8942
Michael Nesmith (b. 1942) - The Monkees
[Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith]
Robert Michael Nesmith (December 30, 1942) is an American musician, songwriter, actor, producer, novelist, businessman, and philanthropist, best known as a member of the musical group The Monkees and star of the TV series of the same name. Michael Nesmith is notable as a songwriter, including "Different Drum" sung by Linda Ronstadt with the Stone Poneys, as well as executive producer of the cult film Repo Man. In 1981 Nesmith won the first Grammy Award given for Video of the Year for his hour-long Elephant Parts.
The Monkees were a pop rock group assembled in Los Angeles in 1966 by Robert "Bob" Rafelson and Bert Schneider for the American television series The Monkees, which aired from 1966 to 1968. The musical acting quartet was composed of Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, and Englishman Davy Jones. All music was supervised by producer Don Kirshner.
At the time of the group's formation, its producers saw The Monkees as a Beatles-like band. At the start, the band members provided vocals, and were given some performing and production opportunities, but they eventually fought for and earned the right to collectively supervise all musical output under the band's name. The group undertook several concert tours, allowing an opportunity to perform as a live band as well as on the TV series. Although the show was canceled in 1968, the band continued releasing records until 1970. The group reached the height of fame from 1966 to 1968, and influenced many future artists. In 1986, the television show and music experienced a revival, which led to a series of reunion tours, and new records featuring various incarnations of the band's lineup.
The Monkees had many international hits which are still heard on pop and oldies stations. These include I'm a Believer, (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone, Daydream Believer, Last Train to Clarksville, and Pleasant Valley Sunday.
Aspiring filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were inspired by the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night to devise a television series about a rock 'n' roll group.
As "Raybert Productions," they sold the show to Screen Gems television. Rafelson and Schneider's original idea was to cast an existing Los Angeles-based folk rock group, the Lovin' Spoonful. However, the Spoonful were already signed to a record company, which would have denied Screen Gems the right to market music from the show on record. So in September 1965, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ran an ad to cast the band.
During the casting process, Screen Gems head of music, Don Kirshner was contacted to secure music for the pilot that would become The Monkees. Not getting much interest from his usual stable of Brill Building writers, Kirshner assigned Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to the project.
The duo contributed four demo recordings to the pilot, featuring their own voices.
When The Monkees was picked up as a series, development of the musical side of the project accelerated. Columbia-Screen Gems and RCA Records entered into a joint venture called Colgems Records primarily to distribute Monkees records.
Raybert set up a rehearsal space and rented instruments for the group to practice playing, but it quickly became apparent they would not be in shape in time for the series debut. The producers called upon Don Kirshner to recruit a producer for the Monkees sessions.
Kirshner called on Snuff Garrett, helmer of several hits by Gary Lewis & the Playboys, to produce the initial musical cuts for the show. Garrett, upon meeting the four Monkees in June 1966, decided that Jones would sing lead, a choice that was unpopular with the group. This cool reception led Kirshner to drop Garrett and buy out his contract.[
Kirshner next allowed Nesmith to produce sessions, provided he did not play on any tracks he produced.
Nesmith did, however, start using the other Monkees on his sessions, particularly Tork as a guitarist. Kirshner came back to the enthusiastic Boyce and Hart to be the regular producers, but he brought in one of his top east coast men, Jack Keller, to lend some production experience to the sessions.
Boyce and Hart observed quickly that when brought in to the studio together, the four actors would try to crack each other up. Because of this, they would often bring in each singer individually.
According to Nesmith, it was Dolenz's voice that made the Monkees's sound distinctive, and even during tension-filled times Nesmith and Tork voluntarily turned over lead vocal duties to Dolenz on their own compositions, such as Tork's For Pete's Sake, which became the closing title theme for the second season of the TV show.
The Monkees' first single, Last Train to Clarksville, was released in August 1966, just weeks prior to the broadcast and, in conjunction with the first broadcast of the television show on September 12, 1966, on the NBC television network, NBC and Columbia had a major hit on their hands. The first long-playing album, The Monkees, was released in October and shot to the top of the charts.
In assigning instruments for purposes of the television show, a dilemma arose as none of the four was an actual drummer. Both Nesmith, a guitarist, and Tork, who could play several stringed and keyboard instruments, declined to give the drum set a try. Jones tested well initially as a novice drummer, but the camera could barely capture him behind the drums because of his short stature. Thus, Dolenz (who only knew how to play the guitar) was assigned to become the drummer. Tork taught Dolenz his first few beats on the drums and the producers hired a teacher for him.
Unlike most television shows of the time, the Monkees episodes were written with many "setups", requiring frequent breaks to prepare the set and cameras for short bursts of filming. Some of the "bursts" are considered proto-music videos, inasmuch as they were produced to sell the records. Eric Lefcowitz, in The Monkees Tale, pointed out, and Nesmith concurred, that the Monkees were first and foremost a video group. The four actors would spend 12-hour days on the set, many of them waiting for the production crew to do their jobs. Noticing that their instruments were left on the set unplugged, the four decided to turn them on and start playing.
After working on the set all day, the Monkees (usually Dolenz) would be called in to the recording studio to cut vocal tracks. As the Monkees were essential to the recording process, there were few limits on how long they could spend in the recording studio, and the result was an extensive catalogue of unreleased recordings.
Pleased with their initial efforts, Columbia (over Kirshner's objections) planned to send the Monkees out to play live concerts. The massive success of the series and its spin-off records created intense pressure to mount a touring version of the group. Against the initial wishes of the producers, Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Tork went out on the road and made their debut live performance in December 1966 in Hawaii.
The band had no time to rehearse a live performance except between takes on set. They worked on the TV series all day, recorded in the studio at night, and slept very little. The weekends were usually filled with special appearances or filming of special sequences.
During the Hangin' on Trees tour, fans threw bananas at the band. After three months of the band having bananas thrown at them, they incorporated it the on stage act, lead singer, Davy Jones would eat roughly 4LBs of bananas a night. The tour was cut short after Jones was hospitalized for a broken leg after slipping on a banana peel.
These performances were sometimes used during the actual series. The episode Too Many Girls (Fern and Davy) opens with a live version of (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone being performed as the scene was shot. One entire episode was filmed featuring live music. The last show of the premiere season, Monkees on Tour, was shot in a documentary style by filming a concert in Phoenix, Arizona on January 21, 1967.
Bob Rafelson wrote and directed the episode.
In commentary tracks included in the DVD release of the first season of the show, Nesmith stated that Tork was better at playing guitar than bass. In Tork's commentary, he stated that Jones was a good drummer and had the live performance lineups been based solely on playing ability, it should have been Tork on guitar, Nesmith on bass, and Jones on drums, with Dolenz taking the fronting role, rather than as it was done with Nesmith on guitar, Tork on bass, and Dolenz on drums, yet when they took over as instrumentalists the members stayed in their known roles. (Jones mostly played maracas and tambourine, filling in briefly for Dolenz on drums on a song and for Tork on bass when he played keyboards.) The four Monkees performed all the instruments and vocals for most of the live set. The most notable exceptions were during each member's solo sections where during the December 1966 - May 1967 tour, they were backed by the Candy Store Prophets. During the summer 1967 tour of the United States and the UK (from which the Live 1967 recordings are taken), they were backed by a band called the Sundowners. In 1968, the Monkees toured Australia and Japan.
The results were far better than expected. Wherever they went, the group was greeted by scenes of fan adulation reminiscent of Beatlemania. This gave the singers increased confidence in their fight for control over the musical material chosen for the series.
With Jones sticking primarily to vocals and tambourine (except when filling in on the drums when Dolenz came forward to sing a lead vocal), the Monkees' live act constituted a classic power trio of electric guitar, electric bass, and drums (except when Tork passed the bass part to Jones or one of the Sundowners in order to take up the banjo or electric keyboards).
Critics of the Monkees observed that they were simply the "prefab four," a made-for-TV knockoff of the Beatles; the Beatles took it in their stride and welcomed the Monkees when they visited England. John Lennon publicly compared the Monkees' humor to The Marx Brothers, saying that he "never missed an episode." George Harrison praised their self-produced musical attempts, saying, "When they get it all sorted out, they might turn out to be the best." (Tork was later one of the musicians on Harrison's Wonderwall Music, playing Paul McCartney's five-string banjo.)
During the time when the Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Monkees were touring England; the Beatles hosted a party for them. The meeting partially inspired the line in the Monkees' tune Randy Scouse Git, written by Dolenz, which read, "the four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor." Nesmith attended the A Day in the Life sessions at Abbey Road Studios; he can be seen in the Beatles' home movies, including one scene where he is conversing with John Lennon (who called him Monkee Man, and would go on to call the group the "Marx Brothers of Rock").
Dolenz was also in the studio during a session, which he mentioned while broadcasting for WCBS-FM in New York (incidentally, he interviewed Ringo Starr on his program). Paul McCartney can be seen in the 2002 concert film Back in the U.S. singing Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees, the theme from The Monkees show, while backstage.
The animosity between Kirshner and the Monkees began in the very early stages of the band. The Monkees' off-screen personalities at the time were much like what became their on-screen image (except for Peter). This included the playful, hyperactive antics that are often seen on screen. Apparently, during an early recording session, the four Monkees were clowning around in the studio. The antics escalated until Micky Dolenz poured a Pepsi on Kirshner's head; at the time, Dolenz did not know Kirshner by sight.
The Monkees had complained that the producers would not allow them to play their own instruments on their records, and these complaints intensified when Kirshner moved track recording from California to New York, leaving the Monkees out of the musical process until they were called upon to add their vocals to the completed tracks. This campaign eventually forced the series' musical coordinator Don Kirshner to let the group have more participation in the recording process (against his strong objections). This included Nesmith producing his own songs, and band members making instrumental contributions. The Monkees were capable of playing their own instruments on the recordings and they had written some material. Except for the few songs forced through by the Monkees' campaigning, they were not allowed by Kirshner to play or use their own material.
Nesmith and Tork were particularly upset when they were on tour in January 1967 and discovered that a second album, More of The Monkees, had been released without their knowledge. The Monkees were annoyed at not having even been told of the release in advance, at having their opinions on the track selection ignored, at Don Kirshner's self-congratulatory liner notes, and also because of the amateurish-looking cover art, which was merely a composite of pictures of the four taken for a J.C. Penney clothing advertisement. Indeed, the Monkees had not even been given a copy of the album; they had to buy it from a record store.
The climax of the rivalry was an intense argument between Nesmith, Kirshner & Colgems lawyer Herb Moelis, which took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel in January 1967. Kirshner had presented the group with royalty checks and Nesmith had responded with an ultimatum, demanding a change in the way the Monkees' music was chosen and recorded. Moelis reminded Nesmith that he was under contract. The confrontation ended with Nesmith punching a hole in a wall and saying, "That could have been your face!" However, each of the members, including Nesmith, accepted the $250,000 royalty checks.
Kirshner's dismissal came in early February 1967, when he violated an agreement between Colgems and the Monkees not to release material directly created by the group together with unrelated Kirshner-produced material. Kirshner violated this agreement when he released "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", composed and written by Neil Diamond, as a single with "She Hangs Out", a song recorded in New York with Davy Jones vocals, as the B-side.
Kirshner was reported to have been incensed by the group's unexpected rebellion, especially when he felt they lacked the musical talent, and were hired for their acting ability alone.
This experience led directly to Kirshner's later venture, The Archies, which was an animated series -- the "stars" existed only on animation cels, with music done by studio musicians, and obviously could not seize creative control over the records issued under their name.
Screen Gems held the publishing rights to a wealth of great material, with the Monkees given first crack at many new songs. Their choices were not unerring; the band turned down Sugar, Sugar, which became one of the biggest hits of 1969 when Kirshner recorded it with studio musicians and released it under the name of The Archies.
After escaping from the clutches of Donnie Kirshner, the Monkees went into 'Goldstar Studios' in Hollywood determined to prove to the world that they were a bonafide group, and could play their own instruments. What resulted was Headquarters, with all four Monkees in the studio, now together at the same time, with very few guest musicians. Produced by Chip Douglas and issued in May 1967, the four Monkees wrote and played on much of their own material. Nearly all vocals and instruments on Headquarters were performed by the four Monkees (the exceptions being few, usually by producer Chip Douglas). The album shot to number one, but was quickly eclipsed the following week by a milestone cultural event when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The group assumed total control over the recording sessions for their third release, Headquarters.
Following Headquarters, they began what they referred to as "mix mode where they played their own instruments but also continued to employ session musicians. The Monkees continued using additional musicians (including The Wrecking Crew, Louie Shelton, Glen Campbell, members of the Byrds and the Association, drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh, Lowell George, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles and Neil Young) throughout their recording career, especially when the group became temporarily estranged after Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. and recorded some of their songs separately.
The high of Headquarters was short-lived, however. Recording and producing as a group was Tork's major interest and he hoped that the four would continue working together as a band on future recordings. However, the four did not have enough in common regarding their musical interests. In commentary for the DVD release of the second season of the show, Tork said that Dolenz was "incapable of repeating a triumph". Having been a musician for one album, Dolenz no longer was interested in being a drummer, and largely gave up playing instruments on Monkees recordings. (Producer Chip Douglas also had identified Dolenz's drumming as the weak point in the collective musicianship of the quartet, having to splice together multiple takes of Dolenz's "shaky" drumming for final use.) Nesmith and Jones were also moving in different directions, with Nesmith following his country/folk instincts and Jones reaching for Broadway-style numbers.
The next three albums featured a diverse mixture of musical style influences, including country-rock, folk-rock, psychedelic rock, soul/R&B, guitar rock, Broadway, and English music hall sensibilities. Nesmith's song-writing was heavily influenced by country music, while Tork contributed the piano introduction to Daydream Believer and the banjo part on You Told Me, as well as exploring occasional songwriting with the likes of For Pete's Sake (which was used as the closing theme music for the second season of the television series) and Lady's Baby.
When the Monkees toured the U.K.in 1967, there was a major controversy over the revelation that the group did not always play all of their own instruments in the studio, although they did play them all while touring (except for the solo segments, which used backing band the Candy Store Prophets). The story made the front pages of several UK and international music papers, with the group derisively dubbed "The Pre-Fab Four." Nevertheless, they were generally welcomed by many British stars, who realized the group included talented musicians and sympathized with their wish to have more creative control over their music, and the Monkees frequently socialized with the likes of The Beatles, the Spencer Davis Group, and The Who.
Many Monkees fans argued that the controversy unfairly targeted the band, while conveniently ignoring the fact that a number of leading British and American groups (including critical favorites such as the Byrds and the Beach Boys) habitually used session players on their recordings, including many of the very same musicians who performed on records by the Monkees. This commonplace practice had previously passed without comment. However, the Beatles had led a wave of groups who provided most of their own instrumentation on their recordings (although they at times used additional musicians such as George Martin, Eric Clapton or Billy Preston to augment the Beatles' own instrumentation) and wrote most of their own songs. The comic book quality of the Monkees' television series (where they mimed song performances out of necessity) brought additional scrutiny of their recorded music. But both supporters and critics of the group agree that the producers and Kirshner had the good taste to use some of the best pop songwriters of the period. Neil Diamond, the Boyce-Hart partnership, Jack Keller, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and many other highly regarded writers had songs recorded by the Monkees.
In November 1967, the wave of anti-Monkee sentiment was reaching its peak while the Monkees released their fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. In liner notes for the 1995 re-release of this album, Nesmith was quoted as saying that after Headquarters, "The press went into a full-scale war against us, talking about how 'The Monkees are four guys who have no credits, no credibility whatsoever and have been trying to trick us into believing they are a rock band.' Number one, not only was this not the case; the reverse was true. Number two, for the press to report with genuine alarm that the Monkees were not a real rock band was looney tunes! It was one of the great goofball moments of the media, but it stuck."
The Monkees went back into the recording studio, largely separately, and produced a large volume of recordings, material that eventually turned up on several albums.
The Monkees fifth release, The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees. Tork was virtually absent throughout the album.
In April 1968, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees was released. Being released after the final season of the television series (the series was canceled in February 1968, although new episodes continued to air each week through the spring), this was the first Monkees album not to hit number one, but it still went gold. The album cover -- a quaint collage of items looking like a display in a jumble shop or toy store -- was chosen over the Monkees' objections.
During the filming of the second season, the band tired of scripts which they deemed monotonous and stale. They had already succeeded in eliminating the laugh track (a then-standard on American sitcoms), with the bulk of Season 2 episodes minus the canned chuckles. They proposed switching the format of the series to become more like a variety show, with musical guests and live performances. This desire was partially fulfilled within some second-season episodes, with guest stars like musicians Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley and Charlie Smalls (composer of The Wiz), performing on the show. However, NBC was not interested in eliminating the existing format, and the group (except for Peter) had little desire to continue for a third season. Tork said in DVD commentary that everyone had developed such difficult personalities that the big-name stars invited as guests on the show would invariably leave the experience "hating everybody."
Screen Gems and NBC went ahead with the existing format anyway, commissioning Monkees writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso to create a straight-comedy, no-music half-hour in the Monkees mold; a pilot episode was filmed with the then-popular nightclub act The Pickle Brothers. The pilot had the same energy and pace of The Monkees, but never became a series.
After The Monkees was cancelled in February 1968, Rafelson directed the four Monkees in a feature film, Head. Schneider was executive producer, and the project was co-written and co-produced by Rafelson with a then relatively unknown Jack Nicholson. Rumors abound that the title was chosen in case a sequel was made. The advertisements would supposedly have read: "From the producers who gave you HEAD."
Nicholson also assembled the film's soundtrack album. The film, conceived and edited in a stream of consciousness style, featured oddball cameo appearances by movie stars Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, a young Teri Garr, boxer Sonny Liston, famous stripper Carol Doda, and musician Frank Zappa. It was filmed at Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems studios and on location in California, Utah, and The Bahamas between February 19 and May 17, 1968 and premiered in New York City on November 6 of that year (the film later debuted in Hollywood on November 20).
Head was not a commercial success, in part because it was the antithesis of The Monkees television show, intended to comprehensively demolish the group's carefully groomed public image. Rafelson and Nicholson's Ditty Diego-War Chant (recited at the start of the film by the Monkees), ruthlessly parodies Boyce and Hart's Monkees Theme. A sparse advertising campaign (with no mention of the Monkees) squelched any chances of the film doing well, and it played only briefly in nearly-empty cinemas.
In commentary for the DVD release, Nesmith said that by this time, everyone associated with the Monkees, including the four Monkees, "had gone crazy." They were each using the platform of the Monkees to push their own disparate career goals, to the detriment of the Monkees project. Indeed, Nesmith said, Head was Rafelson and Nicholson's intentional effort to "kill" the Monkees, so that they would no longer be bothered with having to deal with the matter.
But they all proved later to have gotten it entirely wrong, for over the intervening years Head has developed a cult following for its innovative style and anarchic humor, and the soundtrack album (long out of print, but re-released by Rhino in the 1980s and now available in an expanded CD version) is counted among their most adventurous recordings. Members of the Monkees, Nesmith in particular, cite Head (the first Monkees album not to include any Boyce and Hart compositions) as one of the crowning achievements of the band. The highlights include Nesmith's Circle Sky, an all-out rocker, Tork's psychedelic Can You Dig It? and the Goffin/King composition Porpoise Song.
But tensions within the group were increasing, and Peter Tork, citing exhaustion, quit, by buying out the last 4 years of his Monkees contract at $150,000/year. This was shortly after the band's Far East tour in December 1968, after completing work on their 1969 NBC television special, Thirty-Three And One-Third Revolutions Per Monkee, which rehashed many of the ideas from Head, only with the Monkees playing a strangely second-string role. In the DVD commentary for the television special, Dolenz noted that after filming was complete, Nesmith gave Tork a gold watch as a going-away present, engraved "From the guys down at work." (Tork kept the back, but replaced the watch several times in later years.)
The remaining Monkees had decided to pursue their musical interests separately since Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd.; they were no longer in the studio together -- and planned a future double album (eventually to be reduced to The Monkees Present) on which each Monkee would separately produce one side of a disc.
Reduced to a trio, the remaining members went on to record Instant Replay and The Monkees Present. Throughout 1969, the trio would appear as guests on various television programs such as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Johnny Cash Show, Hollywood Squares, and Laugh-In. The Monkees also had a contractual obligation to appear in several television commercials with Bugs Bunny for Kool-Aid drink mix as well as Post cereal box singles.
In the summer of 1969 the three Monkees embarked on a tour with the backing (soul) band Sam and the Good-timers. The concerts for this tour were longer sets than their earlier concert tours: many shows running over two hours. Unfortunately the 1969 Monkees' tour was not all that successful; some shows were canceled due to poor ticket sales.
In March 1970, Nesmith left the group, leaving only Dolenz and Jones to record Changes as the Monkees. By this time, Colgems was hardly putting any effort into the project, and they sent Dolenz and Jones to New York for the Changes sessions, to be produced by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. In comments for the liner notes of the 1994 re-release of Changes, Jones said that he felt they had been tricked into recording an "Andy Kim album" under the Monkees name. Except for the two singers' vocal performances, Changes is the only album that fails to win any significant praise from critics looking back 40 years to the Monkees' recording output. The album spawned the single Oh My My which was accompanied by a music film promo (produced/directed by Micky).
After a final 1971 single (Do It In The Name Of Love b/w Lady Jane), the two remaining Monkees lost the rights to use the name; in several countries, the USA included, the single was not credited to the Monkees but to Dolenz and Jones. The duo continued to tour throughout most of the 1970's.
Achievements of the Monkees:
Had the top-charting American single of 1967 ("I'm a Believer"). (Billboard number-one for seven weeks) with "Daydream Believer" tied for third.
Gave the Jimi Hendrix Experience their first US concert appearances as an opening act in July 1967. It should be noted that Hendrix's heavy psychedelic guitar and sexual overtones did not go over well with the teenage girl audience.
Gene Roddenberry was inspired to introduce the character of Chekov in his Star Trek TV series in response to the popularity of Davy Jones, complete with hairstyle and appearance mimicking that of Jones.
Had seven albums on the Billboard top 200 chart at the same time (six were re-issues during 1986/87).
The Monkees are one of the first artists achieving number-one hits in the United States and United Kingdom simultaneously.
More of The Monkees spent 70 weeks on the Billboard charts, becoming the 12th biggest selling album of all time (Billboard.com).
Four number-one albums in a one-year span.
Held the number one spot on the Billboard album chart for 31 consecutive weeks, 37 weeks total.
Held the record for the longest stay at number one for a debut record album until 1982 when Men At Work's debut record album Business As Usual broke that record.
Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970) was an American singer, songwriter and music arranger. She rose to prominence in the late 1960's as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company and later as a solo artist.
[8943 George Harrison / 8942 Nesmith / 8942 Summers]