Hey, hey it's... three-quarters of The Monkees
The original manufactured TV band getsback together for greatest hits reunion tour
Tuesday 22 February 2011
Here they come, walking down the street... for another lucrative reunion tour. The Monkees, the first pop stars entirely manufactured for television, are re-forming – again – 45 years after they first assaulted the charts.
Simon Cowell has acknowledged the debt that he owes to Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, the quartet put together for a 1966 US television series that became a global phenomenon.
Devised to cash in on the Beatles' success, the Monkees' wholesome good looks, zany antics and catchy songs, written and often played by backroom musicians, produced record sales in 1967 that exceeded the Fab Four.
But the "prefab four" soon rebelled against their creators and demanded the right to play on their own records and write their own songs.
After more feuds and firings than Oasis, the band – who sold 50 million records– will return for a UK tour in May, a little older, greyer and one original Monkee light.
Jones, the Manchester-born singer, Dolenz, the cheeky drummer, both 65, and goofy bassist Tork, 69, will take to the stage when the tour opens in Liverpool.
However guitarist Nesmith, heir to the Liquid Paper fortune, whom Jones once described as having his head "firmly up his ass", is sitting the tour out.
Tork, who has been successfully treated for a rare form of tongue cancer, was "fired" during a 2001 US reunion tour by Jones and Dolenz for "disagreeable" behaviour.
Tork said then: "Thank God I don't need the Monkees anymore...I'm a recovering alcoholic and haven't had a drink in several years."
Yet he is back in the fold for a new "greatest hits" reunion tour, which Jones said, just three years ago, that he could not envisage.
"The popular demand has been carefully cultivated and they made us an offer we couldn't refuse," Tork told The Independent.
Despite the past disputes Tork, who played the "lovable dummy" in the series despite being a proficient musician, said he was looking forward to the reunion.
"We like each other just fine now," he said. "Whatever ups and downs we have had pale into insignificance. Each one of the tours we do is more fun than the one before."
The Monkees have outlasted many of the instant television stars produced by Simon Cowell, who has said that he wants to create a scripted music show inspired by the original Monkees series.
But Tork is not a Cowell fan. He said: "I don't believe The Monkees were the precursor to his shows. I watched Susan Boyle on YouTube and I thrilled to that. But I gather Simon can be quite nasty on those shows."
Their looks might have faded but it's now the music the fans have come to hear. Once derided as a bubblegum Beatles rip-off, The Monkees' reputation has soared since the short-lived television show was cancelled in 1968.
The band's 1968 psychedelic musical film Head, designed to trash their "teen idol" reputation once and for all, has become a cult classic.
Even the Beatles themselves endorsed their imitators, with John Lennon affectionately calling the band "the Marx Brothers of Rock".
Tork said: "We couldn't hear the music in the old days because of the screaming. These days the audience is more respectful of the music."
The Monkees: models for...
The warring band
Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis, whose verbal jousting was legendary before they split, have nothing on the "prefab four". Jones once said: "I can't be responsible for Peter, Mike and Micky and their behaviour," while Tork once claimed: "I just couldn't handle the backstage problems." Jones also said of Nesmith: "[He's] a brilliant businessman [but] as a person, I haven't got time for him."
The manufactured TV pop band
The Monkees paved the way for Girls Aloud, who were stitched together to order for the Popstars: The Rivals ITV talent show. However, their most direct influence was probably on S Club 7, the hit 1990s BBC kids show, which aped the Monkees format directly by creating a fictional teen pop band which went on to sell millions of records in real life.
The band that can't stop reuniting
By 1970, Tork and Nesmith had both quit the band – but that didn't stop the Monkees from reforming at regular intervals, occasionally without Nesmith. The Who and Led Zeppelin have since proved that the power of the brand can be a bigger live attraction than the original line-up.
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