The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








The Monkees

The Monkees

When: Thursday, May 22, at 8 p.m.  (18+)
Where: Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Boulevard, Hampton Beach
Tickets: $35-$78 at

Hey, hey it’s the Monkees
Surviving members play in Hampton

By Michael Witthaus

 At interview’s end, Peter Tork is suddenly energized, agitated by a compliment couched as complaining. So many questionable bands are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Tork is told. But his band, which in its heyday outsold The Beatles and the Stones combined, is not. That doesn’t seem just. 

“I’ll tell you why; it’s easy,” Tork said, his voice rising. “That fuss about The Monkees not playing their instruments is a burr under [Rolling Stone founder] Jann Wenner’s saddle. He has a veto … and he doesn’t like us.”  
It’s true that Tork, Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones sang and studio musicians did the playing on the band’s first two albums, something the group resented at the time. 
“But that turned out to be very smart,” Tork admits in hindsight. “We knew how to play enough music to get people to dance, but we didn’t know how to make records very well.”
They didn’t even know each other until the TV show began in the mid-1960s, but members of the group were active musicians before the Monkees. During breaks filming the pilot episode, they jammed on Chuck Berry covers. “Totally spontaneous,” Tork said, but good enough to impress a Capitol Records executive watching in the studio. 
But early on, the network kept instruments out of their hands. Eventually, they would play and sing on every track, beginning with Monkees Headquarters. 
“There was musicianship waiting to happen,” Tork said. “We didn’t get to sleep five to a mattress in Hamburg with the fleas … it turned out not to be necessary. But it was necessary to Jann Wenner, and the truth is it doesn’t matter.”
It’s certainly not important to fans of all ages who continue to buy Monkees records and concert tickets. 
“It’s wonderful,” Tork said. “People are still interested [and] the fact that they have passed it on through generations — it’s amazing that we’ve managed to keep some connection after all these years.”
In the beginning, everyone, even writers of some of their biggest hits, sniffed at them. Most saw the made-for-television band as “nothing more than a curio, like I Dream of Jeannie,” Tork said. “I can’t image Carole King would want to write a song for Ozzie & Harriet. That would not have been a great feather in her cap.”
But eventually King and writing partner Gerry Goffin came around. So did Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka and the team of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. 
“There was movement, and the other guys went, ‘Hey, there’s something there, let’s see what we can do,’” Tork said, emphasizing that principal songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (“Last Train to Clarksville,” “(Theme From) The Monkees”) built the band’s early foundation.
The three surviving members open a summer tour in Hampton Beach on May 22. It’s a multimedia show, said Tork, with rare films and favorite moments from the TV show, plus classic hits and deep cuts. There will also be a segment paying tribute to singer Davy Jones, who died in 2012. 
Tork believes Jones’s musical talents get an unfair rap. 
“[He] picked up whatever you asked him to and played whatever you wanted him to play, perfect; first time every time,” he said, calling the singer “probably the most purely gifted musician of the four of us.”
Tork, Michael Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz will each take the spotlight for a solo song or two during the show. Tork touted his side project, Shoe Suede Blues, during the interview. 
“Step By Step, the band’s latest CD, will be on the merch table, and we hope that people get it.”  
As seen in the May 22, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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