The 30th anniversary of The Monkees is here! A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those four hand-picked crazies – Davy, Micky, Mike, and Peter – conquered the airwaves and the TV screen with their spoofy humor and groovy sounds. Appreciation has progressed to the point where even the elders in rock’s critical estate can forthrightly proclaim, at no peril to their academic standing, that The Monkees were not just a good band, but an important one. This overdue revisionism means you no longer have to keep your fandom a secret from your hip friends. It’s okay to stand up and say, “I love The Monkees.”
Rhino is leading the charge in what might be termed the third wave of Monkees popularity – after the initial mid-’60s mania and the mid-’80s reunion – with a brand-new album called Justus on October 15, 1996 (the first album featuring all four members in more than 25 years); a new coffee table book (also October ’96) from Rhino Books titled Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees; a complete career retrospective CD-ROM in the fall of ’96; and last but not least, a full-length documentary of the group (also titled Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees) airing in January ’97 on the Disney Channel.
Justus offered the four pop phenoms their first opportunity to go into a studio and record an album completely on their own terms. They wrote the songs. They played the songs. They produced the songs. This was a true labor of love, and a long-overdue shot for one of pop music’s most well-known quartets to raid the record industry candy store.
The seed for the album was planted during a few casual conversations between band members about getting back together to just jam. The original thought wasn’t to make a new album, but simply to have some fun. Well, a few months later, and many late nights in the studio, that seed had grown into what every Monkees fan has been holding their breath for: Justus.
The album features 12 newly recorded tunes that showcase not only the wide-ranging musicianship of each band member, but also the diverse nature of their musical tastes. The Monkees were traditionally an eclectic group, blending straight-ahead pop tunes with surreal and humorously offbeat songs all on the same album. Justus will not disappoint as it continues this tradition with songs like “Never Enough,” “You And I,” “Regional Girl,” “It’s Not Too Late,” and a 1996 remake of the classic Mike Nesmith song “Circle Sky,” to name a few.
After Rhino’s 1994 purchase of everything Monkees-related, including all sound recordings released and unreleased; all 58 episodes of the TV series; the film Head; and the hour-long TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee (even the Monkees logo now belongs to Rhino), the label embarked on a massive reissue campaign of all nine original albums: The Monkees; More Of The Monkees; Headquarters; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.; The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees; Head; Instant Replay; The Monkees Present; and Changes.
In addition to the original lineups, each album contains a bonanza of bonus tracks, alternate versions, different mixes, non-LP A- and B-sides, unissued songs, live cuts, and radio spots. For the first time, musician credits are provided for each track, at long last detailing who played what. There are some eye-opening revelations here, as such stalwarts of American music as Harry Nilsson, James Burton, Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, and many more are identified as collaborators and contributors to The Monkees’ recordings.
On the video front, Head is available on Rhino Home Video. Rhino has released a limited-edition box set of 21 videocassettes, containing all 58 episodes of The Monkees TV show (individual videos featuring two half-hour episodes apiece are also now being released), plus 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.
To put it simply, The Monkees were America’s Fab Four. They rapidly rose to a crescendo of popularity that rivaled and for a period even outstripped Beatlemania. Just as The Beatles had reenergized rock ‘n’ roll and revitalized youth culture with their arrival on these shores in 1964, The Monkees brought boundless wit, creativity, and high spirits to both TV and the Top 40 in 1966. At the height of their popularity, recordings by The Monkees outsold those of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined, and the group shattered sales records previously set by the likes of Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
The Monkees amassed a dozen Top 40 hits, including a trio of tunes that soared to #1 during the most competitive and high-quality period in pop music history. Between September 1966 and December 1967, “Last Train To Clarksville,” “I’m A Believer,” and “Daydream Believer” collectively occupied the top position for 12 weeks. Sales of their LPs were more phenomenal still: The Monkees occupied the #1 position for 13 consecutive weeks, More Of The Monkees for 18. Both Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. went to the top as well, for a four-in-a-row feat in the incomprehensible space of 13 months. The final tally: 16 million albums and 7 1/2 million singles sold in a mere 2 1/2 years.
Still, commercial clout and unrivaled popularity are just part of the story. The Monkees brought their fair share of musical innovation, as well as an often unrecognized measure of hard-won integrity, to rock ‘n’ roll. Not the least of their accomplishments was the determined fight they waged with the “powers that be” for creative control over their music. It is an interesting story, both as a commentary on the inherent (and misdirected) bias against the system they balked at and as a personal triumph for artistic self-expression that vindicated their standing as musicians.
The four Monkees came from vastly different backgrounds. Davy Jones was, prior to his tryout for The Monkees, a professional horse jockey and thespian who’d been dividing his time between racetracks and the theaters in London’s West End. Peter Tork was a happily ensconced Greenwich Village coffeehouse musician and humorist who was proficient on several instruments. Michael Nesmith headed up from Texas with a love of country and folk music, and a studious knack for songwriting. Micky Dolenz was a Hollywood whiz kid who’d been a child actor (in the TV series Circus Boy) and possessed an outgoing nature and strong voice.
Despite their respective talents, the four of them didn’t exactly add up on paper. How could four guys who’d never previously met, who variously hailed from New York, Los Angeles, Texas, and England, pretend to be a band in any organic, ordinary sense of the word? Somewhere along the way, an improbable chemistry developed. “We were a very visible part of pop culture, formed by a combination of creative people from movies and television,” Mike Nesmith once remarked of The Monkees’ TV personalities.
On the musical side, the group was aided and nurtured – controlled, you might say, at least in the beginning – by a combine of producers and writers overseen by Colgems label impresario Don Kirshner. Songs were picked and sessions were arranged for them. The Monkees sang always but played infrequently. The songs were outstanding, as the band’s handlers were given access to the best and brightest pop tunesmiths in America: Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Harry Nilsson, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, and Jeff Barry, among others. The band’s first two albums (The Monkees and More Of The Monkees) captured this phase. They were filled with bright, fresh-faced pop songs, bristling with tuneful hooks and melodies. Those early records were perfect, hummable radio fare for those halcyon times, and they remain an undiminished delight nearly 30 years later.
At the time, however, The Monkees caught flak from certain holier-than-thou types in rock’s emerging progressive wing who chided them for the apparent breach of not playing instruments on their records. (Somehow, this judgment did not extend to The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, the early Byrds, and a profusion of recording artists from pop’s golden era who drew from the same pool of sessionmen as The Monkees.) The Monkees were not unaffected by these complaints. At the same time, they legitimately desired more creative leeway, having grown as musicians and songwriters in the short space of a year. In a showdown with Kirshner spearheaded by Nesmith, The Monkees demanded all or nothing.
In hindsight, it all seems a bit rash, a tempest in a teapot that could have been more diplomatically negotiated. In the end, though, The Monkees were issued their artistic carte blanche, and they backed up their words with solid records of their own design and execution. This was the second phase in The Monkees’ recording career. Album Number Three, Headquarters, was 99 44/100% Monkees, in terms of the playing and singing. Thereafter, commencing with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., they became sufficiently self-confident to work comfortably alongside session musicians, and the balance between their own talents and those of well-deployed professionals resulted in some of their most satisfying music.
As musicians, they proved they could be innovators as well as entertainers. Mike Nesmith, who owned one of the only three Gretsch 12-string guitars ever made, presaged the country-rock synthesis with songs, dating back to the first Monkees album, that had an erudite twang and rootsy underpinning. No less a figure than Paul Butterfield deemed Nesmith’s “Mary, Mary” worthy of recording by his estimable blues band. Purists couldn’t believe that this cool a tune had been written by – gasp! – a Monkee. Nesmith’s songs were also recorded by such diverse artists as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ian Matthews (whom Nesmith produced), and Linda Ronstadt’s Stone Poneys, who had a #13 hit in early ’68 with his song “Different Drum.”
Micky Dolenz acquired for himself one of the first Moog synthesizers, and the group deployed it in the Gerry Goffin & Carole King-penned ode to groupies, “Star Collector.” Dolenz, who’d never played drums before, learned how to do so in the short space of a year. He got so good at it that Frank Zappa actually asked him to play drums for The Mothers Of Invention. (Zappa, incidentally, remarked that The Monkees’ records were better-produced than 90% of what he heard coming out of San Francisco.) Likewise, Davy Jones swiftly became a decent enough bass player that he could relieve Peter in concert when the latter moved to keyboards. As a musician, Tork was The Monkees’ renaissance man, adding decorative parts here and there much as Brian Jones had done with The Rolling Stones. It was Tork, among all of them, who pushed hardest for The Monkees to realize their creative potential after the Nesmith-led coup. He also helped midwife another band – Crosby, Stills & Nash – who met at his home in Los Angeles.
On the concert front, The Monkees most definitely played their own instruments, effectively silencing their critics. No one will claim that they’d ever have won an instrumental shoot-out with Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Mahavishnu Orchestra. Yet they played competently in a garage-pop style that was raw and appealing, certainly of a caliber with the zestful energy of the early Kinks and Beatles in concert. On occasion, such as the live version of “Circle Sky” (heard in the film Head), they could be downright transcendent. The Monkees could spit it out with the best of them. The Sex Pistols weren’t any more punky in their live version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” than The Monkees had been. (Check out the Rhino release Live 1967 for confirmation of this.)
Prior to the recording of Justus, all four guys kept busy with side projects. Both Davy and Micky pursued acting, spending time last year performing and touring with a major road production of the hit broadway show Grease. The two played the role of the DJ, with Davy doing the first half of the tour and Micky finishing up the second half. Peter, who enjoys touring and playing his own music, released Stranger Things Have Happened, a solo album on Beachwood Records. And Mike, famous for his video innovation techniques during the ’80s with projects like Elephant Parts, has released several albums of brand-new material during the past few years.
Most recently Micky, Davy, and Peter embarked on a massive, 60-plus city, standing-room-only tour of the U.S. in celebration of the group’s 30th anninversary. Kicking off in the early summer of ’96, the tour is scheduled to go on until the end of the year, and talks are under way for a possible European leg.
Ultimately, The Monkees are a lot of fun. Let’s be honest about this: Fun has always been a key ingredient in the pop formula, yet it’s been in awfully short supply in the decades subsequent to The Monkees. Rock stars tend to retreat behind an assumed veneer so cool it’s crippling. The Monkees have never been afraid to laugh at themselves, and their brand of humor, embracing everything from dadaist whimsy to genial self-effacement, is endlessly appealing. “As a social document of their era,” writes music journalist Glenn A. Baker, “The Monkees are a precious artifact. But like the perpetual popularity of the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Charlie Chaplin, and Monty Python, there is an aspect of Monkees humor that proved timeless.”
The upshot of all this is that, absent the hype and commotion (pro and con) that surrounded The Monkees and their music at the time of its making, the group deserves to be reassessed in the present tense. Surely now they can be seen and appreciated for what they are: an exemplary pop band responsible for some of the most tuneful, luminescent, and lasting records of the rock ‘n’ roll era.
“The Monkees were blessed with singable songs, and they sang them creditably. The productions were clean, the studio musicians impeccable. Even The Monkees’ biggest detractors would have to admit that their albums have worn considerably better than some contemporaneous offerings from ‘serious’ groups.”
“Monkees music was genuinely enjoyable, ingenious, lightweight pop.”
“I think you’re the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.”
“The Monkees are still finding out who they are, and they seem to be improving as performers each time I see them. When they’ve got it all sorted out, they may be the greatest.”
“I’m sure The Monkees are going to live up to a lot of things many people didn’t expect.”
“Headquarters: The most perfect example of the brilliance that results from uninhibited love of the music.” “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.: An album as worthy of attention as anything the majority of the hippie bands of the time were doing.”
“Monkees music, given the benefit of a 20-year perspective, comes over in the ’80s with a vibrant buoyancy, far from the mindless pop its detractors claimed it to be. In the vast spectrum of 30 years of rock & roll, The Monkees hold an elevated position.”
“They didn’t meet in high school, spend endless time practicing in a garage, or drive to dive gigs in a broken-down van. People wrote songs for them to sing. Davy, Peter, Micky, and Mike made some money, and others made even more. But guess what? It worked! The songs were great, the show was way ahead of its time, and the ‘band’ became a real band.”
Formed primarily for the purpose of starring in a television series, the Monkees were on one hand a cynically manufactured group, devised to cash in on the early Beatles’ success by applying the most superficial aspects of the British Invasion formula to capture a preteen audience. On the other hand, they weren’t devoid of musical talent, and at their best managed to craft some enduring pop/rock hits. “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Stepping Stone,” “Take a Giant Step,” “Valleri,” “Words” — all were pleasantly jangling, harmony rock numbers with hooks big enough for a meat locker, and all were huge hits in 1966-1968. Scorned at their peak by hipsters for not playing on many of their own records, the group gained some belated critical respect for their catchy, good-time brand of pop. It would be foolish to pretend, however, that they were a band of serious significance, despite the occasional genuinely serious artistic aspirations of the members.
The Monkees were the brainchild of television producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, who decided to emulate the zany, madcap humor of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night for the small screen. In September 1965, they placed in ad in Variety for four “folk & rock musicians” to appear in a TV series. Over 400 applied for the job, including Stephen Stills and Harry Nilsson, but as it turned out only one of the four winners, guitarist and songwriter Michael Nesmith, actually saw the ad. Micky Dolenz (who would play drums), Davy Jones (who would sing), and Peter Tork (bass) found out about the opportunity from other sources. Nesmith and Tork had experience in the folk scene; Dolenz and Jones were primarily actors (although Nesmith and Jones had already made some obscure solo recordings).
From the outset, it was made clear that the Monkees were hired to be television actors first and musicians a distant second. There would be original material generated for them to sing in the series, mostly by professional songwriters like Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Neil Diamond. There would be records, as well — had to be, with that kind of weekly exposure, to promote the tunes — but the group wouldn’t do much more than sing, although the series would give the impression that they played their own instruments.
The TV show was a big hit with young audiences between 1966 and 1968, with slapstick comedy, super-fast editing, and thin plots that could be banded together by almost surreal humor. It wasn’t A Hard Day’s Night, but it was, in its way, innovative relative to the conventions of television at the time. The irony was that, by the time the series debuted in September 1966, the Beatles themselves had just released Revolver, and had evolved way beyond their mop-top phase into psychedelia.
Also in September 1966, the Monkees’ debut single “Last Train to Clarksville” became their first big hit, reaching number one, as did the follow-up, “I’m a Believer.” They were quickly one of the most popular acts in the business, yet they were not allowed to play anything on most of their first records, only to sing; the instruments would be handled by session players. This was particularly hard for Mike Nesmith, a serious musician and songwriter, to swallow, although he did manage to place a few of his own tunes on their records from the start.
Eventually the Monkees revealed that they didn’t play on most of their own records, and Nesmith in particular incited the group to wrest control of their recordings into their own hands. Partly to deflect criticism of the group as nothing more than puppets, and partly to effect control over their musical destiny (some of their early recordings had been packaged and released without their consent), the Monkees did indeed play and write much of the music on their third album, Headquarters (1967), with a lot of help from producer Chip Douglas. It didn’t prove the band to be hidden geniuses, in fact sounding not much different from their previous releases, but as a hard-won victory to establish their own identity, it was a major point of pride. They would continue, however, to rely upon industry songwriters for the rest of their hit singles, and frequently employ session musicians throughout the rest of their career.
Despite the questions surrounding their musical competence, the Monkees did tour before live audiences. They made their own contribution to rock history by enlisting Jimi Hendrix, then barely known in the U.S., as an opening act for a 1967 tour; Hendrix lasted only a few shows before everyone agreed that the combination was a mismatch (to put it mildly). But the Monkees were always a lot hipper personally than many assumed from their bubblegum packaging. Their albums are strewn with rather ambitious, even mildly psychedelic, cuts, some rather successful (“Porpoise Song,” Nesmith’s “Circle Sky”), some absolutely awful. In 1968, they gained their freak credentials with the movie Head, a messy, indulgent, occasionally inspired piece of drug-addled weirdness that was co-written and co-produced by Jack Nicholson (before he had broken through to stardom with Easy Rider).
By 1968, the Monkee phenomenon was drawing to a close. The show’s final episode aired in March 1968, and Head, released in November, was not a commercial success, confusing the teenyboppers and confounding the critics (not many people saw it to begin with in any case). Surprisingly, it was not Nesmith, but Tork who was the first to leave the group, at the end of 1968. They carried on as a trio, releasing a couple of fairly dismal albums in 1969, as well as producing a little-seen TV special. By the end of the ’60s, Nesmith — who had established his credentials as a songwriter with “Different Drum,” which was taken into the Top 20 by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys — was also gone, to start a lengthy solo career that finally allowed him to stretch out as a serious artist. That left only Dolenz and Jones, who fulfilled the Monkees contract with the pointless Changes in 1970.
When enough years separated the music from the hype, the Monkees underwent a critical rehab of sorts, as listeners fondly remembered their singles as classy, well-executed, fun pop/rock. That led to a predictable clamor for a reunion, especially after their albums were reissued to surprisingly swift sales in the mid-’80s, and their series was rerun on MTV. Nesmith was having none of it; by this time he was a respected and hugely successful music video mogul with his Pacific Arts company. The other three did reunite to tour and record a predictably horrendous album, Pool It! (Nesmith did join them once on-stage in 1989). Rhino has treated the Monkee catalog with a respect usually accorded for Charlie Parker outtakes, reissuing all of their original albums on CD with added unreleased/rare bonus tracks, and even assembling a box set.
In November 1965, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz came together as The Monkees to film a pilot television program for creator/producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider’s Raybert Productions. The group members were selected via a casting call, word of mouth and just plain luck. All four had prior musical and acting experience.
The Monkees series was sold to the NBC network in February 1966 and began shooting at the end of May. It debuted on September 12, 1966 and ran for two seasons. Fifty-eight half-hour programs were produced over an 18-month period, and the show won two Emmy awards in 1967.
During June ‘66, the Monkees started recording sessions for the show’s soundtrack with a variety of producers and songwriters. Contrary to popular belief, the Monkees did perform instrumentally on some of these sessions and provided the lead vocals for all of their recorded efforts. Additionally, group member Michael Nesmith produced and wrote some of the Monkees’ earliest recordings.
Without a doubt, the architects of the Monkees’ sound were Music Coordinator Don Kirshner and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. In addition to composing and performing the music featured in The Monkees pilot from November ’65, Boyce and Hart’s creations included “Last Train To Clarksville” (#1 in 1966), “(Theme From) The Monkees,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (#20 in 1966), “Valleri” (#3 in 1968), “Words” (#11 in 1967), “I Wanna Be Free” and “She.”
The Monkees scored their biggest hit in late 1966 with Jeff Barry’s production of the Neil Diamond song, “I’m A Believer.” Despite this success, friction developed between the group and Music Coordinator Don Kirshner. Stung by the criticism that they did not fully participate in their own records, the Monkees took control of their musical destiny.
During 1967, the Monkees created two albums (Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.) and two singles (“Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer”) as a full-fledged musical unit with only minimal use of outside musicians. However, by November of ‘67, the individual Monkees had decided to pursue their recorded exploits separately.
In 1968, the Monkees starred in their one and only feature film, Head. A collaborative effort with Jack Nicholson, the movie found only a limited initial audience, but has gone onto to become a cult classic. Towards the end of ’68, the Monkees taped a television special for NBC called 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. It was to be Peter Tork’s last original project with the band. Dissatisfied with the separate direction the group’s recordings had taken, he split from the band in December ’68.
Micky, Davy and Michael continued as a trio for the next year. They mounted a nationwide tour with a backing band called Sam & The Goodtimers, but found their popularity diminishing. Record-breaking Saturday morning reruns of The Monkees series in ‘69 provided something of a rebirth, but record sales did not rebound. In early 1970, Michael Nesmith split from the Monkees to form the First National Band. Micky and Davy recorded one further album (Changes) and single (“Do It In The Name Of Love”) before going their separate ways.
In 1975, Micky and Davy reunited with songwriters Boyce and Hart for live shows and records as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. Ten years later, promoter David Fishof organized a massively successful tour featuring Micky, Davy and Peter. Just a few days short of the 20th anniversary of The Monkees series’ debut, Nesmith briefly rejoined his bandmates on stage at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater for performances of “Listen To The Band” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” After this, the four Monkees taped a Christmas video for MTV, but this reunion was fleeting.
Nevertheless, 1986 proved to be a phenomenal year for Monkeemania. By November, seven Monkees albums were on the Billboard charts and a new single from Micky and Peter (“That Was Then, This Is Now”) went Top 40. This success was due in large part to the re-airing of The Monkees series by MTV (in a deal worked out by Bert Schneider).
In 1987, Micky, Davy and Peter recorded a new album together, Pool It! (for Rhino) and two years later the entire group reunited to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. After this event, all was quiet on the Monkee front until 1994 when producer/creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider sold the entire Monkees legacy of films and recordings to Rhino Entertainment. Two years on, Nesmith regrouped the Monkees for an album calledJustus. As the title implied, this was a group effort ala 1967’s Headquarters. An ABC network television special, Hey Hey We’re The Monkees, directed by Nesmith also returned the group to prime time, albeit for one night only. Forty years on from their initial debut, the Monkees are all pursuing different avenues of creativity.
The Monkees TV Show premiered on NBC in September 1966 presenting a wacky comedy show about a 4 piece long haired rock band. It was patterned after a movie, as many TV shows are, called “A Hard Days Night” starring The Beatles. The 4 actors recruited for the show had all performed musically prior to the show, and they used their real names for the characters.
Music for them to “romp” to had been created shortly before the show first aired by Don Kirschner, with the actors providing primarily vocals. The album “The Monkees”, released to promote the TV show, became a chart topper with the song “Last Train To Clarksville” even before the show had aired, causing the unexpected reversal of the TV show promoting the record.
The overwhelming success of the music demanded that this “band” perform live, so the actors rehearsed the music and toured the US in December, playing all of the music themselves.
The group was surprised to see the release of their second album, imaginatively titled “More of The Monkees” show up in stores without their input, and go on to be the number 1 album of 1967. The actors demanded and received control of their musical product, as they were being reviled by the musical community for not playing on their records.
They went on that year to create the album “Headquarters”, the favorite of many fans today, playing all of the music themselves. At this point they began to change the musical sound as well as the tone of the TV show, and the project ran out of steam by the end of the second TV season, and ceased production.
Without the TV show for promotion, and with no friends in the music industry because of their “easy fame”, the group went their seperate ways.
In 1986, MTV ran 24 hours of Monkees TV episodes in a special called “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, and revived the 20 year old band, causing a reunion record and tour (minus one notable member), to great success until 1989, when they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before breaking up again.
Today, the music of the group lives on through CD re-issues by Rhino, and the issuing of the entire TV series on Video. The Monkees phenomena remains a major event of 60’s pop culture. Many argue that it began the idea of music video as promotion, and the marketing of TV show products to pre-teen audiences, as well as opening the door to multi-media.
Some still revile the music of the Monkees as “manufactured”, others remember it as a fond memory of their childhood. The Monkees were a real working band in every sense of the word, and provided quality music and comedy in a format that had never been tried before, and were wildly successful at it.