Some people may find it sacrilegious for “America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine” to be doing a special edition on the Monkees. After all, they would argue, the Monkees were a product of “showbiz”—and “showbiz” has got nothing to do with rock ’n’ roll. Well, yes and no. As I’ve argued often during the last year, that doesn’t hold much water in an age where all kinds of “manufactured” groups, ranging from Duran Duran to almost any current heavy metal band, are treated with more respect than the Monkees ever could’ve hoped for in their own time.
But, even beyond that, “showbiz” has always been a part of rock ’n’ roll. It’s just depended on what the artist does with it. Kids have been going to rock ’n’ roll shows ever since Chuck Berry took his first duckwalk across a stage in the mid-’50s. Even the King made a series of “showbiz” movies, most of them awful (though a delight for little kids), and most of them hardly as good as the best shows of The Monkees series. And while The Monkees may not have compared to Richard Lester’s Beatles epics, A Hard Day’s Night and Help! (the prototypes for the series), John Kordosh, the senior editor of this mag, would argue endlessly that Head may well be the greatest rock ’n’ roll movie ever made. I’d have to agree that, at the very least, it certainly surpasses Purple Rain.
The Monkees have transcended rock ’n’ roll (and I mean that as a compliment) to become total, all-around entertainers. Bear in mind that, as child stars, Micky and Davy have been performing longer than many of us have been alive. Of course, the group always had—and always will have—a strong rock ’n’ roll base. Let’s not forget that the ’60s were a time of incredible creativity in all the arts, and the fact that the Monkees managed to do so well against such incredible competition speaks extremely well for them in retrospect. During the past several months, I’ve rediscovered songs I’d totally forgotten about: Monkee-composed tunes like “Tapioca Tundra,” “Daily Nightly,” “Little Girl,” “Goin’ Down” (rumored to be one of Lou Reed’s favorites—yeah!) and other songs addressed elsewhere in this issue. It’s all great rock ’n’ roll material. The Beatles liked the Monkees a lot (witness the quotes from Lennon, McCartney & Harrison in Iman Lababedi’s overview). With praise like that, does it really matter what the band’s detractors have to say?
Many non-believers have condemned the Monkees for their recent reunion tour. Yet, Flo & Eddie have successfully toured as the Turtles with a highly entertaining show for the last several years. Why shouldn’t the Monkees be able to produce a show that’s just as entertaining? In fact, the two Monkees’ performances I saw this past year were as entertaining as any show I’ve ever seen, and that includes rock ’n’ roll, Broadway, and even Las Vegas. They’re still incredibly charming, and the chemistry between them is like magic. (During a photo session for this magazine, the threesome had photographer Bob Alford and I in stitches.)
But the audiences were the most incredible thing about these shows, as the age of those in attendance literally ranged from six to sixty. It almost looked like a latter-day Elvis Presley show. This more than anything proved to me that, like Elvis himself (though we can’t claim they were nearly as important or as innovative), the Monkees have gone beyond rock ’n’ roll to become great American entertainers, not to mention an American institution.
This issue doesn’t promise to be a Monkees history. There are several excellent books on the market right now to serve that purpose. What it does promise are three of the most recent interviews the Monkees have given (including a few things they’ve never talked about in print before), and some writers’ thoughts and perspectives on the phenomenon, as well as a revealing Mike Nesmith interview from several years ago.
The Monkees have a lot planned in the near future—new records, movies, books, TV specials, even a Broadway musical. We think they’re gonna be around for a long time to come. And we couldn’t be any happier about that.
Bill Holdship, Editor
P.S. Special thanks to Melanie Rodgers of Arista.