How else to explain the enduring popularity of the “pre-fab four”? The story is quite familiar to music fans of a certain … vintage. Four young actors are chosen from a cattle-call to play musicians on a lightweight network TV series. The series finds an audience; the band becomes a phenomenon; and things start to spiral in unanticipated ways.
Eventually, the make-believe band becomes are real one — headlining sold-out mega-shows with opening acts like Jimi Hendrix. They fight for creative control — and among themselves. They make a trippy, underground-classic film — poking the metaphorical eye of their corporate overlords. The collective tension finally leads to the inevitable breakup. And then they are re-discovered and re-born, multiple times.
Somehow, The Monkees just kept on going and going.
The full story is a lot more complex, and interesting, than this generally-accepted summary. (For that, we can recommend the “Daydream Believer” episode of “A History of Rock in 500 Songs.”)
But, for now, let’s focus on the music. While each Monkee was quite gifted in his own right, the band was also surrounded by many, many talented writers, musicians, producers, and promoters. Collectively, they created a substantial body of work whose influence is deeper and broader than you might expect.
To illustrate the point, let’s turn to our pal, musician/scholar Vinnie DeMasi, who makes some inventive connections. Let’s let Vinnie explain…
Public Domain photo of The Monkees via WikiMedia Commons
PS — While we’re on the topic of Rock History, you might enjoy our YouTube series of daily one-minute nuggets of memorable moments…