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Who’s Pre-Fab?

April 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Fred Velez, news feed

Who’s Pre-Fab?

by Fred Velez

A little pet peeve of mine is whenever I hear a comparison of the Monkees with the Beatles is when they are referred to as the ‘Pre-Fab Four’. Granted, it is a cute reference to the Beatles as the original Fab Four (short for “Fabulous”), but the reference of the Monkees as the ‘Pre-Fab Four’ (short for Prefabricated or manufactured) was not originally attributed to them. In fact, if you go back to the earliest press on the Monkees, you won’t find them referred to as the ‘Pre-Fab Four’. So, where did this title come from and how did it eventually get attached to the Monkees?

The Rutles

The origin of the title can actually be traced to the 1978 TV film ‘The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash’, the first Rock mockumentary, pre-dating Spinal Tap. Written by former Monty Python member Eric Idle, the film is a spoof of the Beatles career, with Idle playing the Paul character Dirk, Neil Innes who wrote and recorded the songs for the show played the John character Nasty, with Ricky Fataar and John Halsey playing respectively the George and Ringo characters, Stig and Barry.  The film makes joke references to different aspects of the Beatles career. Accordingly, ex-Beatle George Harrison showed Idle a rough cut of the documentary the Beatles themselves were putting together, ‘The Long & Winding Road’ (later to become ‘The Beatles Anthology’), and Eric used it as a template for the Rutles film, which Harrison gave his blessings to. There are guest appearances in the film by Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Ronny Wood, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Ackroyd and even George Harrison makes a cameo in the film. Through the film, the phrase ‘Pre-Fab Four’ is used as a reference to the Rutles.

The Rutles film is fun and clever and definitely worth checking out. But how did the ‘pre-Fab Four’ title somehow get attributed to the Monkees? Everyone knows the origins of the Monkees as a made-for-TV band modeled after the Beatles, but as I noted earlier, the ‘pre-Fab’ title was not given to them during the initial lifetime of the group. The title first started to pop up about the time of the 1986 20th anniversary of the Monkees, when news magazines and entertainment programs started to use the term when doing a piece about the Monkees. I believe the very time they were bestowed the ‘pre-Fab’ title was during the period that MTV began promoting the group during their Monkees marathons. The MTV VJ’s referred to the group with that title, and from that point on, it stuck.

While to a certain extent the title is somewhat accurate when you examine the origins of the Monkees, let’s remember that the Rutles were indeed the original Pre-Fab Four.

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Edit: Peter Tork thinks the phrase “prefab four” is a “fabulous joke. It’s one of the great jokes of all time.”


Fred Velez, 2013

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