The Monkees to Release New Album and Head Out on Tour
‘Good Times’ includes songs written for the Monkees by Paul Weller, Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard and Noel Gallagher
For the Monkees’ new album Micky Dolenz (left) and Peter Tork, in February 2016, sing songs written for them by well-known younger artists.
For the Monkees’ new album Micky Dolenz (left) and Peter Tork, in February 2016, sing songs written for them by well-known younger artists. PHOTO: HENRY DILTZ
By DON STEINBERG
May 11, 2016 12:56 p.m. ET
The Monkees turn 50 this summer as a fake and then not-so-fake rock band, and the album they’re releasing to mark the occasion brings together some surprising old material with some even more surprising new stuff.
“Good Times,” out May 27, is a mix of updated recordings from the 1960s and new songs penned by a later generation of pop-rock musicians who came of age in the aftermath of bubble-gum pop. They include XTC frontman Andy Partridge, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Noel Gallagher of Oasis co-wrote a song for the record with Paul Weller of the Jam. Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger wrote a song, played instruments and also produced the album.
‘She Makes Me Laugh’
Written by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, “She Makes Me Laugh” is the first single of the new Monkees album ”Good Times”
“I’m told they’re called ‘indie,’ ” said Peter Tork. 74.
The concert tour will feature Micky Dolenz and Mr. Tork performing hits like “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville,” plus new songs, with a backup band, at venues in the 1,500-seat range. It begins May 18 and runs through October.
Separately, archivists at Rhino Records, the label that has owned the Monkees catalog since 1994, opened the vaults to find never-released demo recordings from 1967 and 1968 sessions—vocal and instrumental snippets of songs written for the group by the likes of Carole King (who wrote “Pleasant Valley Sunday”), Neil Diamond (who wrote “I’m a Believer”), Harry Nilsson, and the songwriting duos of Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart and Jeff Barry/Joey Levine. About half the tracks on the new record are finished versions of these once-incomplete tunes, including a rendition of Mr. Diamond’s peppy “Love to Love” with a lead vocal by Davy Jones, an original Monkee who died in 2012. There was plenty of unreleased material to tinker with, Mr. Dolenz said.
“They needed to have so many songs for the TV show,” he said. “The Monkees,” in which the four actor/musicians initially just pretended to be a real band, aired from September 1966 to early 1968. “They had all these Brill Building songwriters pumping out material by the tons. I think everybody was sort of assuming it would go on for a couple more years.”
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Mike Nesmith, the other surviving Monkee at age 73, joined his bandmates playing new and old material on the album. Mr. Nesmith and Mr. Tork both have their own songs on the record. They’re all multi-instrumentalists now, and they all sing.
“They all totally have their voices. I don’t think this would have worked otherwise,” said Mr. Schlesinger, who co-wrote the Fountains of Wayne hit “Stacy’s Mom” and wrote the retro title-tune for the Tom Hanks movie “That Thing You Do!,” which was about a one-hit-wonder rock band in 1964. “Micky has such a high range. Usually when you’re working with somebody older, you’re just moving everything into lower keys. “
The Monkees were invented for TV, originally cast via an audition to be a fake band on a sitcom, a sort of TV version of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” The first Monkees single, “Last Train to Clarksville,” was released in August 1966, and their debut album came that October. Uncredited session musicians played the music. The Monkees played a little but mostly sang and acted kooky on the show. Then the group blew up, and the guys wanted more creative control and didn’t want to fake it. Their 1996 album was titled “Justus,” as in “just us” with no ringers helping.
“It was a palace revolt,” Mr. Dolenz says now.
Mr. Dolenz was in New York recently to record the lead vocal for “You Bring the Summer,” a song on the record written for the Monkees by XTC’s Mr. Partridge. Popping Ricola lozenges, the band’s lead vocalist and drummer talked about how he has kept his singing voice intact at 71 years old.
“After the Monkees [TV show] ended, I moved to England and didn’t do any singing at all,” Mr. Dolenz said. “I was a director and producer called Michael Dolenz. I missed a lot of the ‘70s and the ‘80 singing in clubs with everybody smoking. My voice got a 15-year break.”