Monkeeing Around Through The Years
by Fred Velez
Was 1966 really that long ago? 1976? 1986? 1996? 2012?
Anniversaries commemorate many different occasions, both happy and sad. They can celebrate a wedding, the founding of an institution, or just a meeting of friends that has blossomed over the years. They also remind us of tragedies, both personal and shared. Sometimes the anniversaries blur together, marking both a happy and sad event, making it a bittersweet occasion.
Twenty years ago the Internet was still brand new, an information highway with many different roads to explore. One person who explored that road was Brad Waddell. Learning what he needed to know about this new frontier called the Internet, and being a huge fan of the television/music/cultural phenomenon, The Monkees, in 1994 Brad launched The Monkees Home Page, one of the first major websites dedicated to a music group. In 1994 the Monkees themselves were just two years shy of commemorating their 30th anniversary, with many projects and events lined up by Rhino Records who had recently acquired the group’s music and television/film catalogue. The Monkees Home Page arrived at just the right moment to keep fans abreast of up-to-the-minute news on the group and their projects.
Back when the Monkees were fresh on the cultural scene in 1966 and 67, the best way fans could get any information about the group was through the various Teen magazines like Tiger Beat, 16 Magazine, Fave, Flip and many others. By the 1970’s came the Fanzines such as Monkee Business, the Purple Flower Gang, the Monkees/Boyce & Hart Action Group, Friends of Davy Jones and many more too numerous to list. Since the Monkees Home page debuted in 1994, fans have been kept informed on all the activities by the Monkees both as a group and as individuals with just a click of the mouse, this new technology sadly making the old fan produced magazines obsolete. The Internet created a whole new community amongst fans in which it even became possible to interact with any of the Monkees online. Brad even was in the unique position of introducing the vast possibilities of the Internet to Michael Nesmith. Each of the Monkees created their own websites, bridging even closer their connection to their fans. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter opened up that frontier even more.
The connection between the Monkees and their fans has always been unique. During the early days of the group’s success when they were being criticized for being a ‘fake band’, fans defended and supported them. When the Monkees went out of public favor, many fans stayed loyal and continued to support them. When the TV show was cancelled and the group eventually broke up, there were still fans who continued to follow what the individual members were doing, be it Michael Nesmith’s solo recordings and his foray into Music Video, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones re-emerging with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart and their later solo projects, and Peter Tork coming back into the spotlight in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The Monkees fan base continued to grow and stayed loyal to the group, and the Monkees didn’t forget this. Davy Jones kept in touch with fans and Peter Tork appreciated those who attended his early solo concerts. Fans cheered when Michael Nesmith became the very first music artist to win a Grammy Award for Music Video, and Micky Dolenz’s various projects as a performer and television director in England were followed with great interest.
And Monkee fandom continued to grow and blossom through conventions, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the group in 1986 that exploded with the reruns of the Monkees series being shown on the video music channel MTV, ironically created by Michael Nesmith. Micky, Davy and Peter reunited for a huge 20th anniversary concert tour that became the biggest tour of 1986, culminating in an historic reunion with Nesmith at the Greek Theatre on September 7th. There were still disappointments with the banning of the Monkees on MTV in 1987 resulting in the disappointing sales of their album ‘Pool It!’, but there were still triumphs with all four Monkees receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989.
Through the years the Monkees as a group and as individuals continued moving forward, and the fans moved along with them and lent their support through their various projects whether they were personal appearances, music, book or video releases. Reunion tours came and went, including a full British tour with all four Monkees in 1997. The Monkees entered into the 21st century, with the fans following closely. There were triumphs and disappointments along the road, and concerns and relief when Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith conquered their health issues. There was great joy when 2011 unexpectedly ushered in another Monkees reunion tour which was as successful as the 1986 tour. Expectations were high for what was in store for the group next. That joy turned to great sadness as fans and the Monkees united in grief at the passing of Davy Jones on February 29, 2012. It was a death in the family, and it solidified the feeling of family between the Monkees and the fans. Fans gathered, grieved and remembered at Davy’s adopted home in Beavertown, PA and joined Micky, Peter and Davy’s family in their grief at B.B. King’s in New York. By the end of the year the joy returned with the surprise announcement of Michael Nesmith rejoining the Monkees and the concert stage as a solo artist. The 2012 Monkees tour with Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith became not only a celebration of the Monkees legacy but also a celebration of the life of Davy Jones.
The years have passed, and so have we. 1966, 76, 86, 96, 2012. Today. We’re older than we once were. But whenever we hear a song by the Monkees on the radio or on our iPhones, whenever we see an episode of their TV show on television or a computer/tablet screen, whenever we go see the group or the surviving members individually in person, for those of us who followed them from the beginning, we become twelve years old again, or whatever age you were during whatever decade that you were first exposed to the Monkees in whatever form.
And what does the future hold for the Monkees and the fans? Another tour? Perhaps an album of new material or a live album from the recent tours that would include some of Davy Jones’ performances? A DVD or CD of the 1997 British tour, the last with all four Monkees together? A bio film along the lines of ‘Jersey Boys’? There are several possibilities that can be pursued. We already are aware of projects like the Rhino box set of the first Monkees album, Micky returning to the theatrical stage, Peter to the concert stage, and Nez with his various projects. And Davy’s legacy continues through the efforts of his daughters in housing and caring for the horses he loved through the Davy Jones Equine Memorial Fund.
Whatever the future holds down the road, the Monkees and their fans will travel that road together.
After all, we’re Family.
Fred Velez, 2014.
Fred Velez is the author of the book ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective’ and the Holiday CD ‘A Little Bit Christmas’.