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Music / The Monkees

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The Monkees in 1967. L - R: Peter Tork (in white), Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz.
"The Monkees themselves are a harmless lot, little pop-idol puppies who can't sing, can't dance, can't talk, don't need to."
Roger Ebert's 1971 assessment of the group

This article is primarily about the band; the series has a page here.

The Monkees started when two TV producers, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, placed an ad in entertainment industry trade papers calling for "Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series". After hundreds of hopefuls auditioned, the "4 insane boys" who made the cut were Former Child Star and Garage Band singer Micky Dolenz,note  expatriate Brit turned Broadway musical head-liner Davy Jones (not to be confused with the ocean spirit of the same name), Texas-born singer-songwriter and Liquid Paper heir Michael Nesmith, and Connecticut-raised Greenwich Village folkie Peter Tork. While all four had prior musical experience, Nesmith and Tork had no professional acting experience (the two had some high school and college acting creds, and Tork appeared in a long-lost short film made by an acquaintance in his college years), but they adapted quickly. Screen Gems partnered with Raybert Productions (Rafelson and Schneider's company) to produce the pilot. NBC picked it up as a series, and plans were quickly made to issue their music alongside the series on the newly-created Colgems (Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems) label, which would be distributed by RCA Records. (RCA owned NBC at the time.) The concept of a Hollywood studio putting together a Beatles-like pop band from scratch attracted much attention to the project, with the band being dubbed "The Prefab Four", though Rafelson has said that he viewed The Monkees as being like an Arranged Marriage of talented guys, using The Beatles as an inspiration, rather than a coldly cynical Follow the Leader situation.

Their music was an instant smash — tellingly, the first single, "Last Train to Clarksville" (written by the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who also produced the debut album and contributed dozens of songs over the next few years) started climbing the charts before the TV series went on the air — and the "4 insane boys" soon found themselves major stars. Still, musical director Don Kirshner rarely let them play on their records (or write their own songs)—which was kept secret until the frustrated band revealed it to the media, losing some credibility in the process. Continuing conflict culminated in Kirshner getting fired, and the Monkees took control of their music and show (with Nesmith holding most of the reins), both of which became increasingly free-wheeling and psychedelic. Even though the four had gotten greater control of song-writing, the band continued to take advantage of the pool of songwriters assembled for the show, since — paraphrasing Peter Tork — if you had access to Neil Diamond and Carole King in their prime writing songs for your band, wouldn't you use those songs?

The hits continued for a while, even after the Monkees gave up their TV series after its second season. However, the group's film Head, a surreal, deliberately plot-less Deconstruction of the band's journey through the Show Business meat grinder, was a flop (although it has become a Cult Classic); their television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, was a disappointment as well; and Tork left the band in November of 1968. Nesmith stuck around for two more albums (Instant Replay and The Monkees Present), both of which sold poorly, before leaving the band himself in February of 1970. Now reduced to a Dolenz/Jones duo, the Monkees still owed Colgems one more album, and though there was no shortage of releasable tracks still in the vaults, the labelnote  opted to send them to New York to record some new songs with Jeff Barry, who'd produced More of The Monkees. The resulting album, Changes, marked a return to the bubblegum pop of the early albums. However, the songs on Changes were not as catchy or distinctive as the ones on the band's early albums. Changes didn't chart, and that was the end of the Monkees. The four ex-members went on with their separate lives and careers—until 1986.

In 1986, MTV began celebrating the Monkees' 20th anniversary by rerunning their TV series. The reruns got great ratings, and suddenly the Monkees were a viable proposition again. Dolenz and Tork were persuaded to record some new tracks for a Greatest Hits album, one of which, "That Was Then, This Is Now", even charted in the top 20. Davy Jones rejoined the group, and the trio recorded a new album, Pool It, and also began touring again. The independently wealthy Nesmithnote  was missing from Pool It and most of the concerts, but he returned in 1996 for the band's 30th-anniversary swan songs as a quartet—Justus, the only Monkees album not to feature any outside musicians, songwriters or producers, and its follow-up TV special Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees (which Nesmith also wrote and directed). Since then, Creative Differences and Peter Tork's health problems (he was diagnosed with a rare form of head and neck cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, in 2009) seemed to have destroyed any chance of another reunion. However, in the summer of 2011, Jones, Dolenz and Tork embarked on a hugely successful concert tour commemorating the band's 45th anniversary.

Sadly, a full reunion became impossible in 2012, when Davy Jones died of a sudden heart attack in 2012 (on Leap Year Day). Still, the surviving trio kept the Monkees alive not just as a memory, but as a functional band; Dolenz, Tork, and Nesmith toured in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2016, Dolenz and Tork not only toured to commemorate the band's 50th anniversary but released a new album, Good Times!, which was produced by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger and included new songs by Rivers Cuomo, Noel Gallagher, Andy Partridge, Paul Weller and Ben Gibbard. Nesmith appears on the album, but wasn't able to tour due to being busy writing his memoir Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff. He Skyped in to the band's June 1, 2016 show to do a song and joined the band in person for two more shows, one of which he announced beforehand as his final appearance with the group. However, Nesmith and Dolenz toured together as the Monkees in 2018 (this time, Tork sat out due to health problems and to work on a new solo album). That year, the band released another new album, a Christmas record called Christmas Party. This turned out to be the last release with Tork, who died of cancer in February 2019. Dolenz and Nesmith toured as the Monkees in 2019 and planned a tour in 2020 that was delayed by the COVID-19 Pandemic; during the delay, they decided that the postponed tour would be their last. The farewell tour finally started in September 2021 and ended November 14 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. It turned out to be the ultimate swan song for Nesmith as well, as he passed away less than a month later, leaving Dolenz as the last living member of the group. Shortly after Nesmith's passing, Dolenz announced that The Monkees were finished as a band; any of his future performances will be by "Micky Dolenz of The Monkees". However, thanks to all this late career activity, along with the quality of their work, the Monkees' popularity and artistic legacy have remained strong to this day and will likely endure into the foreseeable future.

In 1987, in the wake of the publicity drummed up by the Pool It reunion, Columbia Pictures assembled a group of musicians called "New Monkees". They starred on an eponymous syndicated TV show, but it only lasted 13 episodes. Their sole album wasn't a success at the time either, although it has developed a following.

The TV show is on this page. Head and the trivia game Monkees Equals Monkees also have pages.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold, final members in italic):

  • Micky Dolenz - lead vocals, drums, guitar, synthesizer, timpani (1966–1971, 1986–1989, 1993–1997, 2001–2002, 2011–2021)
  • Davy Jones - lead vocals, percussion, tambourine, maracas, jawbone, chimes, organ, bass, guitar, drums (1966–1971, 1986–1989, 1993–1997, 2001–2002, 2011–2012, died 2012)
  • Michael Nesmith - lead vocals, guitar, organ, percussion, bass, maracas, keyboard (1966–1970, 1986, 1989, 1996–1997, 2012–2021, died 2021)
  • Peter Tork - lead vocals, bass, guitar, keyboard, banjo, organ, piano, clavinet (1966–1968, 1986–1989, 1995–1997, 2001, 2011–2019, died 2019)

Studio Discography:

  • 1966 - The Monkees
  • 1967 - More Of The Monkees
  • 1967 - Headquarters
  • 1967 - Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
  • 1968 - The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees
  • 1968 - Head
  • 1969 - Instant Replay
  • 1969 - The Monkees Present
  • 1970 - Changes
  • 1987 - Pool It!
  • 1996 - Justus
  • 2016 - Good Times!
  • 2018 - Christmas Party

Live Discography:

  • 1987 - Live 1967
  • 1987 - 20th Anniversary Tour 1986
  • 1994 - Live!
  • 2001 - 2001: Live In Las Vegas
  • 2001 - Summer 1967: The Complete U.S. Concert Recordings
  • 2006 - Extended Versions

The Monkees' musical career contains examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" is a comical little story based on the "P" sound (as if the title didn't give it away).
  • Advertised Extra: On the debut album, Peter's participation was limited to acoustic guitar on Mike's two songs and some backing vocals on a couple others. Even worse, on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees his only contribution is the piano on "Daydream Believer" (which was not even recorded for that album, it was a holdover from the Pisces sessions), though one could argue that Peter's piano intro is the most distinctive feature of the Monkees' version of the song. note 
  • Alliterative Title: "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky", "Writing Wrongs", "Tapioca Tundra".
  • B-Side: "I'm a Believer"/"(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday"/"Words" could probably be considered double A-sided singles since the B-sides were both Top 20 hits in their own right. Several other B-sides charted as well, and the fan favorite "Goin' Down" was originally on the flip of "Daydream Believer".
  • Bad to the Bone: "Pleasant Valley Sunday" has become a popular alternative to "Yakety Sax" for zany chase scenes.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Multiple, depending on who you personally consider The Face. Averted if you consider Micky the face, as he has been the only member to participate in all versions of the band.
    • Instant Replay and The Monkees Present both came out after Peter had quit.
    • Changes came out after Mike had quit and the band reduced to a Micky/Davy duo.
    • A failed attempt at a full reunion in 1976 turned into Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart and the Great Golden Hits of The Monkees tour, pairing "the guys who sang 'em" (Micky and Davy) and "the guys who wrote 'em" (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart).
    • The 1976 single "Christmas is My Time of Year" was the first Micky/Davy/Peter project.
    • The new tracks recorded for Then & Now: The Best of The Monkees in 1986, including the comeback hit "That Was Then, This is Now", were by Micky and Peter.
    • Pool It! was Micky/Davy/Peter.
    • Justus had all four members on the album and tie-in television special, but Mike declined to participate in most of the tour.
    • The 2001-2002 tour started as a Micky/Davy/Peter trio, but Peter started causing backstage disruptions, and he got fired from the tour partway through. note 
    • The 2011 reunion tour was again a Micky/Davy/Peter affair.
    • The 2012 reunion after Davy's death was Micky/Peter/Mike.
    • Good Times!, like Justus, has album contributions from all four members (including a posthumous Davy cut), but the tour is (mostly) Micky/Peter only. note 
    • The 2018 tour was Micky and Mike. However, they performed under the name "The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show" in deference to Peter, who had officially taken time off from the band to work on a solo album, but was also fighting the cancer that would ultimately take his life the next year. By this time, the Monkees were officially the duo of Nesmith and Dolenz.
    • The 2021 farewell tour was Micky and Mike, again as "The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show".
  • Borrowing the Beatles: They were conceived as a television version of The Beatles, a fact not unnoticed by observers at the time given that the group gained the disparaging nickname "The Pre-Fab Four."
    • Both groups are named after living creatures in Myspeld Rökband fashion.
    • "Randy Scouse Git" is a Shout-Out to the Beatles. The word "Scouse" is a slang term for Liverpudlians. It also has the line "The four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor," a reference to the group.
  • Boy Band: Arguably the Trope Maker in the sense of "a music group with a bunch of good-looking young men, put together by moguls specifically for the Teen Idol demographic."
  • The Bus Came Back: Two songs released in 1969, after Peter left the band, still featured some musical contributions from him, since they'd been recorded while he was a member: "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" (recorded in 1966, Peter on acoustic guitar) and "Mommy and Daddy" (recorded in 1968, Peter on bass).
  • Call-Back:
    • "Randy Scouse Git" includes the line "four kings of EMI", a reference to The Beatles. Two years later in "Mommy and Daddy" one of the lines Micky ad-libs at the end is "kings of EMI."
    • "I Was There (and I'm Told I Had a Good Time)" is another reference to "Randy Scouse Git" and the Beatles, with the opening riff of the song being lifted directly from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." What ties it all together is that the Monkees were present for one of the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions, but Micky has often mentioned through the years that he was stoned out of his gourd and has little recollection of it. "RSG" is sprinkled with what he can remember, and "I Was There" is the rest of the story.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • The Monkees Present is often considered their equivalent to The Beatles' The White Album. They're both Genre Roulette albums that showcase the individual members instead of being group efforts, and both albums end with lullabies ("Good Night" for The Beatles, "Pillow Time" for The Monkees).
    • Besides his obvious similarities to Ringo Starr (dorky but cute and endearing) and George Harrison (his affinity for mysticism), Peter also filled a similar role to David Crosby in The Byrds: a Step Up to the Microphone lead vocalist who was actually The Heart of the band (Crosby with vocal arrangements, Tork with music arrangements), who wrote songs with sophisticated dark chords and modalities, and the band's true blue hippie. Crosby and Tork were friends as well.
  • Censored Title: Micky used the Non-Appearing Title "Randy Scouse Git" for his first self-composed Monkees song after watching Till Death Us Do Part while visiting England and hearing Alf Garnett call his son-in-law by that epithet, not understanding it at all but invoking Rule of Cool. Unfortunately, he wasn't aware that it's a mildly insulting phrase that means "sex-crazed jerk from Liverpool",note  and their UK label refused to release it at first, asking that song be given an alternate title. Hence, it was initially released as "Alternate Title", although it has since been restored to its proper title.
  • Christmas Songs:
  • Continuity Nod: The title track of Christmas Party mentions Auntie Grizelda and her fudge.
  • Creator Cameo: Bob Rafelson plays the cocktail lounge-y piano in the intro section of "Don't Call on Me".
  • Cult Soundtrack: The first four albums could be considered this, since they featured music that was used on the show. The Head soundtrack also counts, since it was more successful than the film (even though it was their first album to miss the Top 10).
  • Cut-and-Paste Suburb/Stepford Suburbia: The subject of "Pleasant Valley Sunday".
  • Daydream Believer: One of the band's most popular songs is the Trope Namer.
  • "Days of the Week" Song: "Saturday's Child".
  • Dramatic Timpani: Featured in "Randy Scouse Git" (and also in the video for the song on the TV show).
  • Fake Band:
    • The Monkees were not allowed to play their own instruments on the show during the first season until they overthrew label supervisor Don Kirshner.
    • Peter Tork didn't even sing on their first record: He had to make do as being one of the five guitarists on Nesmith's composition "Papa Gene's Blues", which contained the only instrumental contribution from a Monkee until Kirshner was fired.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Listen to The Band".
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: "Do Not Ask For Love", a Michael Martin Murphey-penned song recorded for, but left off of, their debut album and later revived for the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee special:
    Thou makest me free then soon thou makest demands on me
    And I am not thy love, thou workest in me slavery
    But I shan't heed thee as before
    I prithee, do not ask for love once more
  • Friends with Benefits: The kind of relationship the narrator of "I Wanna Be Free" seems to be describing as his ideal.
  • Genre Throwback:
    • Good Times! sounds like it could have been one of their 1967 releases.
    • Michael's two songs on Christmas Party ("The Christmas Song", "Snowfall"), recorded with his current touring band, are very much in the style of his solo albums from The '70s.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The Neil Diamond-penned "Love to Love" was recorded in 1967 but didn't get released in its original state until much later, and was eventually included on several compilation albums. It was dusted off again for Good Times! in order to have a Davy Jones lead vocal on the album. The "new" version used the original backing track and an alternate lead vocal track, but added newly-recorded backing vocals from the other Monkees.
  • Gratuitous Panning: If you listen to the track "Zilch" with headphones on, it sounds like the four of them are surrounding you.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The subject of "Shades of Gray".
    Today there is no black or white, only shades of gray
  • Groupie Brigade: Truth in Television of course, but "Star Collector" was one of the first rock songs about a groupie.
  • Growing Up Sucks: "Shades of Gray".
  • Important Haircut:
    • During the psychedelic period, Micky stopped straightening his hair, while Davy cut his hair shorter.
    • Borderline example: Mike, during the same period, stopped wearing his famous wool hat and grew killer sideburns.
  • In the Style of:
    • "No Time" = The Beatles' "I'm Down"note  and "Boys".
    • "Your Auntie Grizelda" = The Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown".
    • Speaking of The Beatles and Stones, the debut album version of "I Wanna Be Free" obviously owes its arrangement style to "Yesterday" and "As Tears Go By".
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The band were fans of Jimi Hendrix and wanted him to open for them on their tour. Somehow, the managers of both parties actually set up the arrangement. Basically, The Monkees wanted street cred from hiring Hendrix, while Hendrix wanted mainstream exposure. This went about as well as you'd expect: whenever Hendrix went on stage, he was booed by Monkee fans. Both the Monkees and Hendrix were upset at this development and while there was no bad blood between them, Hendrix dropped out of the tour when "Purple Haze" started climbing the charts.
  • Kazoos Mean Silliness: The lighthearted "All Alone in the Dark" on Changes features a kazoo solo.
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "Pleasant Valley Sunday" ends with the song's Epic Riff gradually getting more distorted and echoey, before finishing in total chaos.
    • "Star Collector". The final minute is dominated by the organ holding down a single discordant note, followed by it playing a jittery staccato riff as the band breaks down.
    • "Auntie's Municipal Court" fades out with some bizarre tape loop samples floating over the music. The album version is strange enough, but the remix from the Listen to the Band box set adds a disturbing voice saying "My God, I'm dying!" over and over.
  • The Last Title: "Last Train To Clarksville".
  • Literary Allusion Title: "The Door into Summer"' is named after a novel by Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Location Song: "Pleasant Valley Sunday" takes its title from Pleasant Valley Way, a main road in West Orange, New Jersey, the New York suburb where the song's writers Gerry Goffin and Carole King lived at the time.
  • Looped Lyrics:
    • "Listen to The Band" (The Monkees Present) is a single verse and chorus repeated three times with minor lyric variations, plus a Fake-Out Fade-Out.
    • "Ticket on a Ferry Ride" (Changes) constantly repeats the lines "I got a ticket on a ferry ride, I got a ticket and it hurts inside".
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Cuddly Toy", written by Harry Nilsson, is a rather dark song, with lyrics that seem to be telling the latest victim of The Casanova to just get over it ("You're not the only cuddly toy/that was ever enjoyed by any boy... You're not the only choo-choo train/That was left out in the rain/The day after Santa came... I never told you that I loved no other/You must've dreamed it in your sleep"). You'd never know it by the bouncy, cheerful way Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz sing it, though (and Nilsson's own version turns the bounciness up to eleven). Additionally, the line "You're not the only cherry delight/That was left in the night/And gave up without a fight" implies that the woman was a virgin — and an easy "conquest" as well.
    • The main verses of "Randy Scouse Git/Alternate Title" are from the perspective of a young lad attending a festive party, and the refrain to the chorus switches to an angry, older man ranting at a long-haired youth:
      Why don't you cut your hair? Why don't you live up there?
      Why don't you do what I do, See what I feel when I care?
      Why don't you be like me? Why don't you stop and see?
      Why don't you hate who I hate, Kill who I kill to be free.
    • "Goin' Down" is a fast-paced, upbeat song... about a guy having second thoughts after trying to drown himself (in a river and drowning his sorrows in alcohol) while recovering from a hangover, as noted in the lines "Floatin' down the river with a saturated liver", "I wish I had another drink, it wouldn't be so hard to sink", "I can't believe they drink this stuff in town", and so on. Ultimately subverted in the last verse, when the guy starts to feel better about himself and decides to ride the river into New Orleans so he can have some fun.
    • "Daddy's Song" is a brassy, upbeat song (until the last verse) in which the singer remembers the day his father walked out on his family.
    • "Last Train To Clarksville" was written as a stealth commentary on The Vietnam War. It's about a soldier who's done with basic training and wants to spend time with his lover before being sent to fight in the war. It brings a new meaning to "And I don't know if I'm ever coming home".note 
    • "Pleasant Valley Sunday", a peppy little tune about the monotony and societally-enforced routine of suburbia - with a bonus shot at mass media, courtesy of the lines "And Mr. Green he's so serene/He's got a TV in every room".
  • The Man Behind The Band: Evidently, Don Kirshner thought this was his role in the group's career. Consider his liner notes for More of the Monkees; he devotes much more text to the team of veteran songwriters he assembled for the band than the band itself.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: "Mr. Webster" is about a bank employee who "thwarted 27 robberies" and was promised a raise by his boss each time, but the boss never followed through. Webster gets his revenge by taking all the bank's money as a retirement present to himself.
  • Motor Mouth: Micky in "Goin' Down".
  • My Nayme Is: Micky. It is not spelled with an E before the Y (he spelled it with an E as a child, but dropped it after high school).
  • Never Bareheaded: Mike in the wool hat days, Micky more recently.
  • New Sound Album:
    • Changes, not just for featuring only Micky and Davy, but the music shifted from the Beatles-inspired Genre Roulette style of all the previous albums to more of a uniform, slick pop sound with a pinch of Soul influence.
    • Pool It! brought back the Genre Roulette aspect (there's even a halfhearted attempt at Reggae, "She's Movin' In With Rico"), but is firmly rooted in The '80s, sounding more like Wham! than The Beatles.
  • Non-Appearing Title:
    • Many of Mike's songs. Examples include "Good Clean Fun", "Daily Nightly", "Tapioca Tundra", and "Papa Gene's Blues", among many others. He adores this trope.
    • "Randy Scouse Git" aka "Alternate Title" is a double dose of this.
    • "For Pete's Sake"
    • "Early Morning Blues and Greens", for a non-group-written example.
    • "Birth of an Accidental Hipster"
  • One-Steve Limit: Played with, and ultimately averted. Both Micky and Mike go by their middle names, as they were born George Michael Dolenz and Robert Michael Nesmith respectively.
  • One-Woman Song: "Valleri" was a deliberate invocation of this trope; Don Kirshner asked Boyce and Hart to write a song with a girl's name in it.
  • Patter Song: "Goin' Down".
  • Posthumous Collaboration: Good Times! featured a Davy lead vocal ("Love to Love", as mentioned in George Lucas Altered Version above) and a guest appearance by Harry Nilsson ("Good Times", with his vocal taken from a demo recording of the song he made in 1968). Christmas Party has two Davy lead vocals, recorded in 1991, with newly-recorded backing tracks ("Mele Kalikimaka", "Silver Bells").
  • Progressive Era Montage: The 2013 reunion tour shows opened with a video montage of moments from their history and various uses of Monkees music in pop culture, including a cereal commercial Micky did as a child actor, the "Win a Dream Date with Peter Tork" contest from the early years of Late Night with David Letterman, "Porpoise Song" on Mad Men, the "Getting Davy Jones" episode of The Brady Bunch, Teri Garr playing "Last Train to Clarksville" in After Hours, Johnny Cash singing "Last Train to Clarksville", "Goin' Down" on Breaking Bad, a Kool-Aid commercial with the group and Bugs Bunny, Bob Rafelson accepting the Best Comedy Emmy, various clips from Head, then finally the TV show Title Sequence. Typically, Mad Men, The Brady Bunch, and Johnny Cash got the biggest cheers from the audience.
  • Protest Song: Their career started with a subtle example; as noted, "Last Train to Clarksville" was secretly about Vietnam, but from then on, the band stayed apolitical during the Kirshner era. After he was ousted, the band did several songs that had varying degrees of social commentary, including "Shades of Gray", "Randy Scouse Git", "The Door Into Summer", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Daily Nightly", "Zor & Zam", and "Mommy & Daddy" (which was so blatantly anti-authority that Executive Meddling forced Micky to tone down the lyrics). Justus added another example, "Admiral Mike".
  • Proto Punk: One of the genres that was on their Genre Roulette wheel. "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" became a Garage Rock staple that eventually got covered by punk bands like the Sex Pistols and Minor Threat. While a few studio tracks also count as this ("Saturday's Child", "She"), it was their live performances where they sounded the most Proto Punk, a combination of their unpolished style and having to play loud to even be able to hear themselves slightly over the screams of the audience. The live performance of "Circle Sky" in Head is a great representation of this sound, but the various legal and bootleg recordings of the live shows in The '60s are often very raw-sounding.
  • Retraux: "Magnolia Simms", one of Mike's tributes to the music of The Roaring '20s, is meant to sound like it's being played on a 78 RPM record, complete with surface noise and Repetitive Audio Glitch. On original vinyl pressings of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the song actually played at 78 RPM while the rest of the album was the usual 33⅓ RPM.
  • Rhyming with Itself:
    • "She"
      Why am I standing here
      Missing her and wishing she were here?
    • "P.O. Box 9847"
      Lonely, understanding man affectionate and true
      Looking for a girl to share his dreams and make them true
  • She Is All Grown Up: Basically what the song "Valleri" implies.
  • Signature Song: "Daydream Believer" is considered to be Davy's song and his alone. After he died, the remaining members decided that none of them would take over as its lead and that the audience should sing it in homage instead.
  • Silly Love Songs: Plenty, and usually given to Davy to sing, in accordance with his persona as "The Heartthrob."
  • The Something Song: "Porpoise Song" and "Daddy's Song" from Head and "French Song" from The Monkees Present.
  • Spell My Name With An S:
    • It's Micky, not Mickey, Dolenz. A promo shoot showing the group in directors' chairs with their names on them, and the label of the 1971 Micky/Davy single "Do It in the Name of Love" both make this error.
    • Plus, Davy Jones, not Davey (though he often went by David, eliminating that confusion).
  • Spoken Word in Music:
    • Davy and Micky cracking jokes during "Gonna Buy Me a Dog".
    • Davy recites the lyrics to "The Day We Fall In Love", and he also does spoken interjections in "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)".
    • "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" consists of Peter reciting a short story without musical accompaniment.
    • The simulated nightclub chatter at the beginning and end of "Don't Call on Me".
  • Stage Name:
    • Peter Tork was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson.
    • Micky Dolenz was credited as Micky Braddock when he starred in Circus Boy in The '50s.
    • Michael Nesmith was credited as Michael Blessing on his pre-Monkees singles for Colpix Records.
    • Not a member of the band, but Chip Douglas, who produced Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., was born Douglas Farthing Hatlelid (and is credited under that name on Headquarters).
  • Stealth Pun: The last word of the title of The Monkees Present is supposed to be pronounced "pree-SENT", but if you pronounce it as "PRES-sent" it also works in the sense of saying the album is a gift from The Monkees to you, and saying that, with Peter having left the group at this point, Davy, Micky, and Michael were "The Monkees present".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Peter sang full lead vocals on just eight songs (plus one short spoken piece) from their studio albums, with just two of those songs coming from the group's 1960s releases ("Your Auntie Grizelda" from More of the Monkees and "Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?" from the Head soundtrack); "Your Auntie Grizelda" is one of the few times when Peter got a chance to sing lead vocals. He's better represented on rarities albums, bonus tracks and in live shows.
  • Take That!:
    • A music publisher told Mike that he needed to write songs with memorable hooks which were "good clean fun". So he wrote a song called "Good Clean Fun" but didn't use the title anywhere in the lyrics.
    • RCA Records in England told Micky Dolenz that they wouldn't release "Randy Scouse Git" in England unless it had an alternate title, so Micky said "Okay, 'Alternate Title' it is", and in the U.K. record market, "Alternate Title" replaced "Randy Scouse Git" as the title.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The various reunion projects since The '80s have seen this to varying degrees, with all four members having individual ideas on what would be best for their careers, which often clashed. Everyone's egos mellowed with age, though.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Your Auntie Grizelda".
    You can't begrudge her style, your Auntie Grizelda
    She couldn't budge a smile and do it for free
    So righteous making fudge, your Auntie Grizelda
    So proper, judging others over her tea
  • Train-Station Goodbye: "Last Train to Clarksville" is about a soldier trying to meet his lover at the titular train station; while it's not explicitly stated, the implication is that he's about to go overseas to fight in Vietnam.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Much of the Head soundtrack sounds like The Monkees doing their takes on various music styles from The '90s—in 1968! "Porpoise Song" sounds like Dream Pop or Shoegazing (The Church even covered it), "Circle Sky" is like early Pop Punk, and "As We Go Along" calls to mind Jewel-style Folk Pop.
  • Uncommon Time:
    • "Love is Only Sleeping" is in 7/4.
    • "As We Go Along" is all over the place. The verse goes three bars in 5/4, one bar in 6/4, five bars in 3/4, repeats that pattern, then it stays in 3/4 for the chorus. No wonder Micky recalled that "it was a bitch to sing".
  • Ur-Example: The Dolenz/Nesmith/Jones vocal blend can be seen as something of a precursor to the sound that Crosby, Stills & Nash would later make famous, in that both groups featured a nasally Mancunian (Jones and Nash), a gravelly-sounding southerner (Nesmith and Stills), and a smooth-voiced Californian (Dolenz and Crosby).
  • Vocal Evolution: A surprising amount in 4 years. Mike had his tonsils removed in May 1967, and after that his voice was a touch deeper and less drawly. Davy was a natural baritone but was asked to sing at a raised pitch on the early albums, apparently so his voice matched his physical stature. On the later albums he didn't do that as much. Micky was exactly the opposite: starting around 1968 he preferred to sing at a higher pitch than he had before. If you knew nothing about The Monkees and heard a few later songs ("Zor and Zam"note , "As We Go Along", "Acapulco Sun"), you'd be excused for thinking they had a female member. Peter...well, his voiced stayed fairly constant, but his phrasing got more natural over the years.
  • Vocal Tag Team: All four Monkees sang. With the exception of Peter, each one was featured as lead vocalist on at least one song from each album in which he participated. Peter would later sing "Your Auntie Grizelda" (More of the Monkees) and "Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" (Head) and recite "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" (which was 27 seconds long on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.), in addition to sharing lead vocals with Davy on "Shades of Gray" (Headquarters) and Micky on "Words" (Pisces).
  • Who's on First?: In "Gonna Buy Me a Dog":
    Davy Jones: I just got back from Africa, y'know. I was playing cards with the natives.
    Micky Dolenz: Oh, Zulus?
    Davy: No, I usually won.
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • Several of Mike's lyrics during the psychedelic period.
    • Mike's "Tapioca Tundra".
    • Carole King's lyrics for "Porpoise Song" are Dewey Cox-level gibberish.
    • Micky dabbled in this as well, with "Randy Scouse Git" and "Shorty Blackwell", and the opening to "No Time":
      Hober reeber sabasoben, Hobaseeba snick, Seeberraber hobosoben, What did you expect?
  • World Music: "Can You Dig It?" from Head is a musical Culture Chop Suey. There's an obvious Indian raga influence in there, but also some East Asian flavoring (which fits lyrics that composer Peter Tork said were inspired by the Tao Te Ching). And it sounds Middle Eastern enough that the sequence for the song in the film had an "Arabian Nights" Days theme, complete with belly dancers. And that's not all: Peter himself described the song's chords as "vaguely Spanish/North African".


Video Example(s):


The Monkees

The Monkees were conceived as an ultra-fluffy version of the Beatles, a fact not unnoticed by observers at the time given that the group gained the disparaging nickname "The Pre-Fab Four."

How well does it match the trope?

3.88 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / BorrowingTheBeatles

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