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For Micky Dolenz, life is about more than being a Monkee

July 19, 2011 by  
Filed under micky, news feed



Here’s what you may not know about the Monkees.

Their television series was the first to portray the counterculture.

Their movie “Head” was the first by members of an auteur generation of filmmakers who would help reinvent Hollywood. And the soundtrack of that film featured Ry Cooder, Neil Young and Leon Russell.

Here’s what you may not know about Micky Dolenz, who starred in the show and is performing with fellow Monkees Peter Tork and Davy Jones at Festa Italiana on Saturday: He has spent the last two decades on Broadway and in touring companies of musicals such as “Pippin,” “Aida,” “Grease” and “Hairspray,” in which he plays not Edna Turnblad, but her husband.

There were discussions about playing Edna, Dolenz said, but “I just don’t see myself in the fat suit yet.”

And at home, he listens to show tunes and standards.

“I’m afraid I couldn’t even name anybody on the charts today,” Dolenz said in a wide-ranging chat about – what else – the Monkees.

The Monkees was never a band, he said.

It was “a television show about an imaginary group that lived in that imaginary beach house,” Dolenz said.

“And we were cast as singer-musicians. The closest thing I’ve seen to it today is ‘Glee,’ which is a television show about an imaginary glee club at an imaginary school. Yet they can all sing and dance.”

While Tork and Mike Nesmith came to the show as musicians, Dolenz was an actor.

He grew up in Los Angeles, and his parents were performers. He made his TV debut in 1956, at the age of 10, when he starred in “Circus Boy,” and “The Monkees” debuted in 1966.

Dolenz said that while growing up, “Oklahoma!” and “West Side Story” were his favorite films, and “in an interesting side note, that’s what ‘The Monkees’ was – musical theater.” He said the show’s kinetic style and the characters’ antics were “similar in style to a Marx Brothers movie,” like Richard Lester’s work on the Beatles’ “A Hard Days Night,” which was released in 1964.

During their heyday, the Monkees had a remarkable string of hits, most of which were written by Brill Building alumni such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”), Neil Diamond (“I’m a Believer”), and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who produced all the music for the group’s first album and wrote the show’s theme, as well as “Last Train to Clarksville.”

In an early example of synergy, the TV show was “connected through a corporate structure” to its Brill Building songwriters, who were “given assignments to write songs” for the show, Dolenz said.

The Monkees “had absolutely no control of what was being done musically” until the album “Headquarters,” he said, “on which we played on every single song.”

The show, Dolenz said, “was the first time radio, record and television industries sort of joined forces in a concerted attack on the consumer. But it was also the first time that young people were ever seen on television as masters of their own destiny.”

“On other shows, it was a parent, a favorite uncle or a parental figure giving advice,” he said. “On ‘The Monkees,’ we were on our own as kids – and that was a big sticking point with the network, in fact. They were quite worried about showing these kids on their own.”

“And the other thing the Monkees represented was the counterculture. The only other time you saw long-haired people on TV, they were being arrested,” Dolenz said.

And like other young people of the time, the band members eventually came to resent working for The Man.

“We wanted to express ourselves creatively,” Dolenz said.

The band members’ “big break” with their squeaky clean image came to a head with “Head,” the psychedelic movie co-written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Bob Rafelson and produced by Bert Schneider.

“That movie had a lot to do with not just the deconstruction of the Monkees, but the deconstruction of Hollywood,” Dolenz said.

In fact, Rafelson and Schneider, who also produced the series, later produced “Five Easy Pieces,” “The King of Marvin Gardens” and “Easy Rider” – all with Nicholson.

“But ‘Head’ is the first one of that group,” Dolenz said.

After the show was canceled, Dolenz went to England for 15 years, where “all I did was direct TV films. I didn’t do any acting or Monkee business at all.”

His stage career followed and remains his first love. People have mentioned staging a “jukebox” musical about the Monkees – like “Jersey Boys,” about the Four Seasons, which starts an extended run Wednesday at the Marcus Center – but the idea has not gained traction, Dolenz said.

Coincidentally, Frankie Valli, leader of the Four Seasons, will appear at Festa Italiana on Sunday, the day after the Monkees.

A Monkees concert is “very different” from a Broadway musical, yet also is “a theatrical kind of enterprise,” Dolenz said. “The music is mostly the same, and you do develop a pattern and routine. But it’s a lot looser” and includes “shtick and dialogue.”

When describing his role in it, Dolenz sounds like someone speaking in third person breaking through the fourth wall.

“I approach the Monkee experience and any Monkee concert as me, Micky Dolenz the actor, recreating the role of Mickey, the wacky drummer, on ‘The Monkees.’‚ÄČ”

via For Micky Dolenz, life is about more than being a Monkee – JSOnline.

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