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It was all Monkee business, Micky Dolenz insists

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under micky, news feed

Micky Dolenz is quite adamant about it.

By the tone of his voice, he has patiently explained it far too often to puzzled interviewers: The Monkees, he insists, was not a real band.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around. After all, out of the 11 albums the group (unfortunately, it will be impossible to avoid that term) recorded, there are a couple on which no one outside the quartet played a note. The four can also take credit for some of the most memorable pop records of their era. And outside the studio, they played live, just like their chart-topping contemporaries.

But ask Dolenz about concert recordings and whether they saw themselves as the garage band they sounded like on stage. The premise of the question, you will find, is quickly rejected.

“First of all, there wasn’t a ‘yourselves,’ ” the friendly and talkative Dolenz said during an interview. “The Monkees was a television show about an imaginary band living on the beach, getting into all these adventures and making music.”

Dolenz is performing at a fundraiser in Montreal next week. Meanwhile, fellow Monkees icon Davy Jones co-hosts a TV special Saturday on PBS called ’60s Pop, Rock & Soul: My Music.

Dolenz likens the Monkees concept to the imaginary glee club in the imaginary high school that forms the backdrop of the TV series Glee.

The cast members of that show, he said, were chosen for their singing, playing, dancing and acting abilities. And by his reckoning, it was more or less the same with the Monkees, thrown together at a casting call for a weekly comedy show that ultimately lasted only two seasons.

A child actor on the TV show Circus Boy, Dolenz had also fronted or played guitar in bands for years before he was cast as the zany drummer of what has been derisively called the Pre-Fab Four. Approaching his new role as an acting assignment and not a musical vocation, he immediately started taking lessons and practising obsessively. Before long, the four actors and musicians from the overnight-hit television series were playing their first gigs before 15,000 people. And as they tried to bash out Last Train to Clarksville, I’m a Believer or (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone, they couldn’t hear themselves for the screaming.

Dolenz, who sang lead on most Monkees songs, couldn’t even make out his voice or his drums. “There were no monitors back then,” he explained. “And no click tracks, of course. The only thing I’m hearing is what’s coming off the back wall, two seconds later.” Dolenz said he would close his eyes and hit his leg at the same time as he hit the snare drum, to keep pace. Eventually, he said, guitarist Michael Nesmith, who could hear the whole group from his position near the amplifiers, would click his heel at the right tempo and Dolenz would use that visual cue to stay in time.

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