Christmas time again. The old festive season looms up and we send our best wishes to the Monkees and they send their own love ’n’ kisses right back to you. Though they sometimes joke about it, the boys are sentimentalists at heart, and Christmas is a very important time of year to all of them.
And we’ve got to thinking about Christmases past and present—Yuletides as they affected our fantastic foursome, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Let’s start with the present one…
Christmas, 1968—and all the boys are hoping to be with their near and dear ones. A specially exciting Christmas for Micky because it’s his first one as a husband. But, for all of them a chance to relax for a while, having added Australia and most of the Far East to their own world where personal appearances have completely captivated millions of fans.
David Thomas Jones was born in Manchester on December 30, 1945… SO THAT particular Christmas was a specially memorable one for his parents. But this year will bring many memories flooding back to Davy—now he has lost his father.
Robert Michael Nesmith, was born on December 30, 1943 [sic], so he’s older than Davy by two [sic] years and just a couple of hours. He, too, had money problems not so many years back when he had to take on extra chores after school to get enough loot together to buy his family little Christmas presents.
So, for two of the Monkees, Christmas leads bang into birthdays and then straight into the celebrations of the New Year. No wonder these two like to get work organised during this spell, so that there’s as little early rising for the studios as possible during a hectic party spell.
But come back to Christmas last year, 1967. “Daydream Believer” was top of the American charts and high in the Top Twenty in Britain. What’s more the album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.” was out and made its appearance almost immediately in the LP charts. As the television series went happily along, the Monkees showed their essential niceness by recording a special message for the children of Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton, which was included in BBC-1’s “Meet The Kids” programme, watched by millions Christmas morning.
And last Christmas, Davy managed to get across to England for a quick, and almost private, visit. Peter went to join his family in Canada: Mike and his family went to Texas; and Micky hovered around the offices of Screen Gems until the very last moment, bringing Christmas cheer to the employees, then nipped off home.
Of course, Micky and Sammy were very much together at this time—in spirit, anyway, if not actually in person. Sammy had gone over to Australia on modelling work and she sent a load of luggage, plus a Siamese cat, to Micky to look after until she could join him in Hollywood. And here in London, at Christmas time, we met up with Diane Hildebrand, a 22-year-old good-looker who had written several Monkee songs, like “Blues and Greens” and “Going Down”… only the previous Christmas she’d dated Peter Tork several times and told us what a gas character he was, how considerate, and how unpredictable in what he liked to do on an evening off.
Altogether it added up to a several-week holiday for the Monkees. A piece of cake, in fact, compared with the previous year, 1966, when they worked literally non-stop in the interests of providing all of us with plenty of entertainment.
And back further to Christmas, 1966. Now this was, for US, a most important Christmas. On December 31, we had the first of their television shows on our screens. Let’s just recap on the record scene. We’d had “Last Train To Clarksville” but it didn’t really register on the first release because we knew so little about the TV series. “I’m A Believer” came out at this particular Christmastime and what also came out was Davy Jones. Here for a short holiday, he turned up at the BBC’s Lime Grove Studios and explained what the series was all about.
We remember his exact quotes: “We play four young guys who are trying to make the big-time. We play two numbers each show and these are different each week except when we have a hit and then we’ll sing it in maybe three consecutive shows, simply because the fans want to hear it. In the course of our climb to the top we mix in with crazy situations, and include bits of slapstick, and catching bank robbers, things like that.”
All the Monkees look back on this particular Christmas with a great deal of enthusiasm. Davy, specially, was mad keen to know whether the series would go down well in Britain, his home country. He said: “Though I had a few breaks here, the really big things happened in America. But I’d like to show my friends here that I appreciate their support and the best way is to become a real big name in my own country.”
Meanwhile, back in America, things were really happening. In fact a special staff of vacationing schoolgirls had to be enlisted to cope with the barrage of fan-mail for the Monkees. That should give a good idea of how instant the boys’ appeal had been because the first show had not been shown in American television until September 12, 1966, going on the air at 7.30 p.m. Over there, “Last Train” had been released on August 16 and was an instant hit… which surprised a lot of people seeing as how it was really just a trailer for a television series which hadn’t even started at that time.
A tremendous sense of team-spirit and keenness in the Screen Gems offices on this Christmastime. The boys were given dozens of presents from the staff… and this was the year when Micky, now with money to spare, gave his sister Coco a 1967 Le Mans Pontiac, plus a colour television set for his grandmother. Micky was the life and soul of the party, roaring about and singing “Jingle Bells”.
So, as this new Christmas looms up, the Monkees, relaxing for a while from one of the most hectic careers in pop-music history, have plenty to look back upon. And one of their key feelings will be one of gratitude because they’re grateful to YOU, for making this such a happy time of year.
It’s a time for rejoicing. Let’s all rejoice together.