Monkees Top Everyone on TV

Whoa! Hold your horses there! Let’s just do a little Monkee boosting in the light of things that have happened recently to the Beatles over their film “Magical Mystery Tour”. The Beatles were panned by all the critics for their production… and what it proved is that it is not so easy to make a television film which earns general approval.

And the Monkees are entitled to come in, around here, and claim an enormous amount of credit. One accepts that the Beatles started off a whole new scene, and got international credit, but then the Monkees are also due for a whole heap of praise. BECAUSE they have achieved so much in a little over a year.

Let’s really do some flag-waving right here and now. And let’s be fair, this isn’t so much Beatle-knocking as using the sheer weight of facts and figures on behalf of the Monkees. Right now, the Monkees have covered some 39 episodes of their television series. At half an hour a go, that adds up to some nineteen hours of TV entertainment. All produced in very little more than a year… remember that their first single here was out as recently as October, 1966.

The Beatles’ first single was out in October, 1962, which is an awful long time ago… and more power to them for having stayed so long at the top. But let’s delve deeper into what the Monkees have achieved during their comparatively short spell at the top of the pop business.

At the time of writing, there have been SIX hit singles, plus FOUR hit albums. There has been the smash-success box-office visit to Britain to play the Wembley Pool. There have been tours of America, where the sell-out notices have gone out night after night. And, of course, they are currently working on their first full-length feature movie for cinema audiences.

Now look at one of the knocking scenes. Here’s a headline from Disc and Music Echo: “The Tail End Of Monkeemania?” And they go on: “Is the year of Monkeemania over? This winter, Monkeemania has staggered to a hideous halt. What flourished in the beginning of the year as a repeat of the Beatles has sagged into nothing.

There’s no name appended to this article, but there are even more horrific and untrue things to come. “At the BBC there is talk of ending the current Monkees series. Their records are no more sure of reaching number one than anyone else’s. The early promise as their young socks galloped into 1967 seems to have petered out.

It goes on: “‘They were just cashing in on the Beatles.’ ‘They were lucky, that’s all.’ ‘They’re not a major force on the pop scene and never were’…” That’s the sort of remarks we’ve been getting from the Monkee puzzle.

All right, so the Beatles are inevitably mentioned. Well, they certainly established their position in pop music. No arguments. But during the last year they had three hit singles, a magnificent LP, a big-selling EP. Some people obviously thought they could do no wrong, but then came “Magical Mystery Tour”. This was panned wholeheartedly by the critics. And why? Because they got off the beaten track, to some extent and because it simply isn’t easy to make a film, of [sic] even 55 minutes for television.

Yet the Monkees have apparently made it easy. Even hard-boiled critics have enjoyed their half-hour shows, weekly. Some may be below the standards of others but the fact remains that in one year, the boys have produced nearly twenty hours of filmed entertainment. The Beatles have still only produced two major films, both good, but both adding up to only roughly three hours entertainment on the big screen.

There is no specific news of a third Beatle film. But on top of all the television items, the Monkees are already going forward to their own major movie. Remember, too, that Monkee Micky has already directed one of the television shows. Remember, too, that they’ve also started having a much bigger say in their recordings and that they’ve written quite a lot of their own material.

Really, in one year the Monkees output has been quite astonishing. They start in on a television series, have a record released to tie in which goes to number one in the States—and have since worked almost non-stop to keep up their public image. So how can people say they are slipping! “Daydream Believer” is an established Top Ten hit; “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd” is a huge-selling LP. The only time they visited Britain together they could have sold ten times as many tickets as were available.

What should happen, especially in the light of criticism about the Beatles’ telly-film, is that they should be given full credit for having the energy and ingenuity to keep going, week after week, on a comedy series that puts in the shade most other similar American comedy half-hours.

They’ve burned up nearly a whole day of script and camera angles, and they still show more inventiveness than one can really expect. It’s only the beginning, though, as can be seen by Mike Monkee getting involved by jazzman Shorty Rogers on an LP… for sale later on. And when it comes to being helpful to the fans… well, the Monkees really do take the honours. What is remarkable is that it IS only a year, plus a few weeks, since they first exploded onto the pop scene.

Of course people inevitably say that they came in on the Beatles’ kick… that their TV shows owe a lot to the Beatle movies. One implies from that that it is easy to do just that same sort of formula. In fact, it is terribly hard. And remember that the Monkees depend on their weekly TV ratings to keep going. If the audiences happened to slump, then they’d be out on their necks.

As I was saying earlier on, this is a Monkee-boosting piece. It’s only right that we should shout from the roof-tops about the fantastic achievements of the fabulous foursome, simply because there are so many people, and so many MAGAZINES who try to put the boys down. If only the stupid people who do the knocking could sit back and really weigh up how much the boys have tackled successfully… well, then knocking would be a thing of the past. Even somebody who actually dislikes the Monkees (and it’s hard to think what such a person must be like!) must own up that they’ve packed a whole lifetime of experience into the short time they’ve been going as a group.

Because the Monkees “came together” in such a strange and fairy-tale way, they’ve had more than their share of kicks. When the Beatles also show that mistakes can be made, even by the longest-established stars, it’s even more marvellous that the Monkees should have gone so far in such a short time.

I know a top British pop group who took two and a half months to make just ONE half-hour television show. This rate of progress just wouldn’t suit the Monkees… they can do one in a week and also fit in recordings and personal appearances!

No, the Beatle telly-film flop merely underlines just how good and how consistent the Monkees are. We don’t want to start a war between any two groups. Just have a little bit of fairness for the “new boys” on the international pop scene. All together then: THREE CHEERS for our Monkees, top stars of the world.

Magazine: Monkees Monthly
Editor: Jackie Richmond
Issue: 13
Publisher: Beat Publications Ltd.
Pages: 30–31