Micky Dolenz on The Monkees, the movies and making furniture
By Steve Guntli
Micky Dolenz was a former child actor looking towards a career as an architect when he got the audition for a sitcom that changed his life. The show, called “The Monkees,” centered on the wacky antics of a fictional L.A. rock band looking for their big break. While the show only lasted two seasons, the band at the center of it became a worldwide phenomenon.
With Dolenz as the drummer and lead singer, The Monkees sold more than 75 million albums worldwide, at their peak outselling the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. Two of the band’s albums are in the top 50 bestselling albums of all time, according to Billboard magazine, and their single “I’m A Believer” was the number one hit of 1967. The band spawned toys, comic books and a feature film, “Head,” which, while a commercial failure at the time of its release, proved to be a cult classic and launched the career of its screenwriter, Jack Nicholson.
Dolenz reunites with his old band-mates every couple of years, but he’s kept plenty busy in the meantime. Dolenz has released two solo albums, created a successful children’s television show in the UK, starred in dozens of stage shows in London and on Broadway, appeared in feature films and television shows and opened up his own fine furniture store with his daughter, Georgia Dolenz.
After more than 60 years in show business, Dolenz is still entertaining, and he’s preparing to bring his latest solo show, “Micky Dolenz: Monkees Christmas” to the Skagit Valley Casino Resort’s Pacific Showroom on Friday, December 5 and Saturday, December 6. The Northern Light caught up with Dolenz as he traveled by train to spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania.
Have you spent much time in the Pacific Northwest?
I love it. I’m a big mountain and trees kind of guy. I try to get out into the wilderness every couple of years for a few days, to backpack and unwind. I’m a big fan of the area.
What will you be performing?
It’s basically a Micky Monkee Christmas, so I’ll be playing a lot of the big Monkee hits, but it’s a solo show. We’ve put together a bunch of contemporary Christmas songs with a rock feel. We found this great version of “White Christmas” by The Drifters, a doo-wop version. It’ll be more of a rock n’ roll or pop Christmas as opposed to the more traditional carol singers.
The Monkees just wrapped up their latest reunion tour a couple of months ago. Are you planning another tour anytime soon?
There are no plans right now. We toured for the last three years, so we’ll probably be giving it a bit of a rest for a while, but you never know.
Will you be releasing any more solo albums?
I have two, the most recent is called “Remember,” which is sort of a musical scrapbook of my life, and before that I had a tribute to Carol King, who, along with her writing partner Gerry Goffin, wrote many of the best Monkees songs. But I don’t have any immediate plans to record. I’m always thinking about it, looking for material. I also have a production company, and I’ve done an awful lot of television projects over the years, so there’s always something I’m working on.
Recently one of my daughters and I started a furniture company. I’ve always been kind of a woodworking geek, and I have a full machine shop. She’s really handy, too, so we started a company called Dolenz and Daughters Fine Furniture Company, and it’s so much fun. It’s one of the best things I’ve done. (dolenzanddaughters.com)
You were recently given a lifetime achievement award for your work on Broadway. What was that like?
It was for my work doing charity, but it was from the Broadway community. Once a year we have a concert called Rockers on Broadway, and it brings together rock n’ rollers and Broadway stars to raise money. I’ve been doing it for years, so they honored me and Frankie Valli with a lifetime achievement award. It was wonderful.
I recently re-watched “Head,” and it’s such a strange and fascinating movie, very psychedelic. Was this the movie the studio was expecting? Did they just want a feature-length “The Monkees” episode and you guys took it in a different direction?
No, quite the contrary. When they came to us and said they wanted to make a movie, we didn’t have to deal with the kind of censorship and control issues they had on network television in those days. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I was all for it. There was talk of doing a 90-minute The Monkees movie, meaning a 90-minute version of one of the episodes, but then we met Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson (the director).
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper came by the set, and they used the money they made from “Head” to make “Easy Rider,” so those young bucks basically created the independent Hollywood film industry. Jack was brought in to write it; we all contributed, and he wrote that really bizarre script.
I love it. Basically, it was using The Monkees as a metaphor for the deconstruction of the Hollywood studio film industry, and deconstructing The Monkees at the same time.
You’ve been in the industry since you were a kid. What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned after so long in the business?
Get a good lawyer. No, what my father, who was also in the business, taught me was to follow the fish; the fish won’t follow you. You have to generate your own activity. You can’t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring.