We were talking about how hard-working the Monkees were, some two years ago as everything possible happened for them on the Fame Front. We were talking too, about how the stresses and strains can lead to niggles. We were cut off, through space problems last month… but let’s talk on some more.
Out came “A little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, by Neil Diamond—a song that millions thought was tailor-made for the Monkees. Stars like Lulu agreed. “There’s room for both the Monkees and the Beatles and I just love the Monkees. Come to that, I love Neil Diamond, too, ’cos he’s written my next, which is ‘The Boat that I Row’.” Lovable words from a lovable bird, later to become friendly with Davy Jones.
But niggles from that self-avowed Monkee hater, Simon Dee. He said, simply, that he was “sick and tired” of the Monkees. Well, we got pretty sick and tired of “him” too.
Of course, Neil created hits for both the Monkees and Lulu. He had the last laugh over those who didn’t much go for his material. But, back in the States, there were rumours about the boys’ very future. Remember the panic that went up when it was hinted that Davy might be called up into the U.S. Services? We know now that it was blown up out of all proportion, but be fair—it was a STORY about one of the biggest show-business attractions in the world.
As the headlines blasted out the “news”, the boys themselves were subject to close cross-examination about their future. This needled them. After all, they’d only just started on their meteoric career. Why, they asked, should a mere “rumour” about Davy donning khaki lead to so many critics theorising that the group was already “finished”.
But around this time we, closely involved with the boys, had more important things than gossip on our minds. For we’d just got the dates of the Monkees first “live” appearances in Britain—those memorable Empire Pool scenes when fan furore reached a new peak. We talked to Micky about this time and he said: “Davy is beside himself with delight at being able to show us all over your country. He’s only sad that we can’t fit in a date in Manchester because he gets shoals of letters from that part like the city has turned over to being a personal big fan-club for the guy. He’s knocked out, really!
“But please, PLEASE, do something about those cats who insist on likening us to the Beatles. I idolise the Beatles but this kind of comparison only leads to problems. Our humour is different to theirs—and that must be obvious. We gotta Texan, a Washington wierdo [sic], an English eccentric and a Californian clown in our scene—nothing to do with Liverpool at all. You’ll hear rumours about us your side, but don’t believe them without checking with us. Lots of writers try to get to see us, but we’re so downright busy we can’t fit them all in. So these guys go away and make it up—and hardly any of it is complimentary to us.”
See the scene? The harsh glare of publicity hits any international entertainer at the beginning. Gradually it slows down. At that time, some two years ago, papers were full of the Monkees and so many inaccurate stories were going around that it sometimes led to arguments among the boys themselves… until, that is, they realised that all of them had been misquoted at some stage or other, which made it easier for them to accept that the others were not deliberately being controversial for personal glory.
Listen to Davy, for a moment: “The Monkees are the Elvis story and the Beatles story all rolled into one. That’s because it’s only been four months for us, where it has taken years for others. That’s why we’re resented in some quarters. Forget it. We plan to make the cynics eat their words and we plan to do it in a dignified way.”
But here’s an interesting tie-up between those days of riots in 1967 and today. Micky, Davy and Mike all visited Britain and the only one not to make the trip was Peter. This indicated that even then he was very much a loner with a sort of innermost feelings that eventually caused him to leave the group. Actually over a cuppa, Davy told us: “I guess Peter just wants to go places as a member of the group, not as an individual. Like when Micky come over first and didn’t panic at facing a whole horde of Press guys, well… Peter just isn’t the type to relish that at all. He doesn’t go gadding around the music scene, either. His pals are mostly in Greenwich Village, where he can go and enjoy himself without being hustled.”
No sudden change of heart, then, from Peter’s point of view. Many, many months before he finally made the split, he was the sort of guy who didn’t seek the spotlight apart from when he was working. Some people have had a go at him for leaving the group, but be fair—he did put in a lot of service despite being, in many ways, the odd one out. And he certainly acted as an antidote for the open zaniness of the others.
Of course romance was already in the air for Micky. His first introduction to Sammy had led to further meetings but, again despite the headlines, it was much too early for people to start marrying them off. But without making the boys sound TOO fed up at certain aspects of fame, we must refer to their attitudes about very early and individual records being released. Davy “suffered” from this, but so did Micky. His “Don’t Do It” came out in Britain and some of the critics had a right old go at it.
Not so bad
Said Micky: “Maybe I don’t feel as strongly about this practice as Davy does. I figure that my record wasn’t so bad in view of how long ago it was made. But it sure doesn’t sound like the way I do now, so in a way the fans are being mislead. I must own up that my record wasn’t even made to be released… it was just a matter of being produced to see what kind of sounds we came up with. Still, in the last instance, I suppose people who paid out good money for a session are entitled to try and cash in on it if circumstances change.”
If there was a lot of activity round the Monkees’ TV lots and recording studios, there was a lot more in London. All over fans trying to make sure they’d get tickets for the shows at Wembley Pool. Special trains were laid on from all parts of the country—it was a sort of pop equivalent of the Cup Final, held only a few weeks earlier at the near-by Wembley Stadium. That Stadium holds 100,000 people. The Pool holds 10,000. Let’s leave it that the Monkees could have filled that Stadium several times over if they’d had the opportunity.
While he was here, Davy taped a broadcast on the B.B.C.s “Be My Guest” show. He was allowed to pick records by his favourite artists and it came as a surprise to lots of fans to hear that he rated “older” entertainers like Lonnie Donegan, Harry Secombe and Max Bygraves more highly than a lot of the current pop people.
Incidentally, as “Little Bit Me” stormed up the charts, the “opposition” came from some rather unusual sources. At the top was Frank and Nancy Sinatra and their “Somethin’ Stupid”, a favourite record at that time of Micky and Davy. Engelbert Humperdinck was in the throes of his first hit. And Whistling Jack Smith was doing his “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” bit. Alas, Davy’s own solo record “It Ain’t Me Babe” did NOT make the charts, despite a big rush early on from fans. However, Davy admitted openly that it was not exactly the best vocal performance he’d ever done!
And more action on the London side of things: a protest march, led by fan Linda Hards, against the possible call-up of Davy. It led to tch-tch-ing from some of the older brigade, but it sure showed the love and affection felt for Davy back here in his home country.
Yet recording man Jonathan King went from London to America and suggested in “Disc” magazine that the Monkees should split NOW. In 1967, no less early 1967! “Get out and go your own ways,” he urged. “Split up now, before it is too late…”
He got a very strong response from the fans, as was only to be expected. In Hollywood, the boys were completing tracks for their third album and folk who were hearing the early pressings were saying that the boys had made astonishing progress in terms of sound.
Quit? Goodness, it was only just starting.
Another exciting, new Monkee Story episode next month