In his astonishing 57-year television and recording career, gifted songwriter and vocalist Micky Dolenz experienced 12 Top 40 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 with the Monkees, still the most underrated pop/rock band of the late ’60s.
Dolenz’s importance to the group’s success can be measured by the fact that he sang lead on eight of those hit songs, including such standards as “Last Train to Clarksville”, “I’m a Believer”, “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”, “Words”, and “Pleasant Valley Sunday”.
Dolenz performs a handful of solo shows annually, ably assisted by his younger sister, Coco, on backing vocals, along with members of the Monkees’ touring band. Without a doubt, the early to mid 2010s have exemplified the definition of a comeback for the vocalist, both onstage and in the recording studio.
The Monkees, minus Michael Nesmith, reunited for their acclaimed “45th Anniversary Tour” in 2011. After Davy Jones’s completely unexpected death the following year of a massive heart attack, “Papa Nez” joined his bandmates for a short, albeit well-received West Coast jaunt, his first appearance with the group in 15 years. The trio next performed in 24 American cities as part of their “A Midsummer’s Night with the Monkees.”
Dolenz’s recording career has picked up considerable steam, too. He has unleashed two concept albums that fans and critics alike routinely praise him for, King for a Day and Remember. The latter featured “Quiet Desperation”, an effective country-tinged ballad influenced by his mother’s Texas upbringing. It was the drummer’s first songwriting credit since the Monkees’ 1996 Justus album.
In a candid interview plugging a solo show at the beautiful Lake of the Torches Resort Casino in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, the veteran Monkees drummer contemplated his musical heroes and discussed a few tunes that fans can definitely expect to hear in a live setting. “My influences musically became Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The real rock and rollers,” added Dolenz.
“In fact, my audition piece for The Monkees television show was ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry. I just recorded a cover version for Remember which I’m very proud of. The arrangement is very different than Chuck’s original. I did that with quite a few of the songs on the album.
“I’ve always performed ‘Johnny B. Goode’ at my solo shows. However, I usually stick with the original version. I’ve slowly started incorporating the re-arranged version, so you’ll have to come to the show to find out which one I ultimately perform.
“I also sing ‘Randy Scouse Git’ and ‘Sugar Sugar’. I always tell the story of why I’m doing these tunes, because I find that if I don’t do an original Monkees tune, the fans like to know why I’m singing that particular song. When you think about it, it’s kind of a behind the music type scenario [laughs].
“Lots of people may not realize that guitar was my first instrument and still is to a great degree. I play guitar on quite a few tunes when I’m on my solo show because people like to see me downstage. On the Monkees show I get up on the drums considerably more”.
Don’t forget to browse the six-image slideshow accompanying this article. Entitled “Instant Replay: Through the Looking Glass with The Monkees and Micky Dolenz”, the kaleidoscope revisits images taken from the Monkees’s August 1967 visit to Chicago’s Rainbow Room to shoot the “Daydream Believer” music video, the band’s first photo shoot after Peter Tork left the band in December 1968 in Las Vegas, Dolenz and Jones performing onstage in 1976, and the recent, well-regarded concerts where the drummer stepped in for his longtime friend at Disney’s Epcot Center.
A video of Dolenz performing the rock solid, long-unreleased “Steam Engine” is included at the top of this article. Taken from one of the singer’s very final studio sessions during the Monkees’ golden era, the summer of ’69 track features Clarence White of the Byrds on electric guitar, Jim Gordon of Derek and the Dominos on drums, and Red Rhodes, soon to join Nesmith’s First National Band, on a cool fuzz-laden pedal steel guitar.
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! Fans will forever argue whether the Raiders or the Monkees had the best version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” In “A Piercing ‘Mommy and Daddy’ Conversation with Monkee Micky Dolenz,” the self-taught drummer who belted out the definitive version of “Last Train to Clarksville” waxes poetic on such intriguing subjects as the origin of his sense of humor, how his mother lovingly guided his career, a surprising fondness for country music demonstrated on his solo Remember album, his first musical instrument, an inability to write prolifically, his most underrated composition, the joys and pitfalls of touring, and whether he is an Elvis fan.
To connect via social media with Jeremy Roberts, visit Twitter (@jeremylr) or Facebook.
Further Reading: Written on the very night of Davy Jones’ entirely unexpected death from a massive heart attack, “Us Without Him: Remembering Monkee Davy Jones Beyond the Hit Songs” is a detailed guide to 14 of Jones’ most essential Monkees songs. Notwithstanding, the article takes a unique approach in presenting musical contributions from the Manchester Cowboy that are relatively obscure cuts, with quite a few stemming from Jones’ own lyrical hand.
Exclusive Interview: Dubbed the resident genius of the Monkees, Michael Nesmith knew he wanted to play music upon graduating from San Antonio College. The son of the inventor of liquid paper, Papa Nez participated in the incredible rat race of Monkee celebrity, but his heart lay in songwriting. After composing Linda Ronstadt’s first hit, “Different Drum,” Nesmith exited the band that made him a household name and ventured into the uncharted waters of country rock with the First National Band. The cosmically conscious musician surprised fans by rejoining the Monkees on the road and agreed to spend some time with this writer on his musical back-pages, Elvis Presley, some tunes worthy of rediscovery, and the unimagined joy of touring again. Visit “Still Rollin’ with the Flow: Twists and Turns with Songwriter Michael Nesmith” for the juicy enchilada.
Exclusive Interview No. 2: In “For Pete’s Sake: In This Generation…,” bassist-keyboardist Peter Tork explains how relatively easy it was to learn bass, becoming the first Monkee to play on a session, meeting Beatle George Harrison, if he listens to bootlegs, why Michael Nesmith rejoined the band in 1996, the legacy of Justus, a film that had a substantial impact on his comedy leanings, perhaps his greatest vocal performance, and the perfect day.
- Exclusive Interview No. 3: “Had I focused on worry or resentment every time I had a setback, or on anger toward those I perceived were responsible for my woes, it seems clear to me now that I would have only gotten better at worry, resentment, and anger.” In a hybrid interview-review conducted with Bobby Hart, the songwriter examines his debut memoir, Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles and partnership with the late, effervescent Tommy Boyce. Responsible for an astonishing 25 contributions to the Monkees’ songography like the iconic “Last Train to Clarksville,” “(Theme From) The Monkees,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”, “She,” “Words”, and “Valleri,” Boyce and Hart’s Monkees collaboration lit a chain reaction to a lucrative solo career on late ’60s pop-rock radio.
Exclusive Interview No. 4: Mark Lindsay, the ferocious former lead singer of ’60s garage rockers Paul Revere and the Raiders, left home at the tender age of 15 to pursue a rockabilly career in southern Idaho. Lying about his age so he could play seedy nightclubs, Lindsay ultimately met the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll during the filming of the iconic ’68 Comeback Special. When personnel changes threatened to derail the band’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, Lindsay and Revere acted immediately and planted the seeds for a swampier, more organic band incarnation perhaps best exemplified on their first gold-selling single, “Let Me.” Dubbed the Rebel Raiders, Lindsay has rarely explored this criminally ignored band era in-depth. That is, until now.
*****For more high-profile interviews, thought-provoking features, and stunning photography delivered straight to your inbox, CLICK HERE to receive your free subscription to Jeremy Roberts’ pop culture column. And whether you enjoyed or disliked this article, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below to join the discussion. Thank you.
© Jeremy L. Roberts, 2013. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without first contacting the author. Do not copy or paste the article text—please share the URL instead. Headlines with links are also acceptable. Posting any links on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, or Google Plus is sincerely appreciated.