The Year of the Monkees: 1967

It’s difficult to believe that in a year that boasted some of the most celebrated music in rock and roll history, the biggest act of 1967 was a fictional band. The Monkees began as a television sitcom about four struggling musicians who shared a California beach house. To help cross-promote the series, the producers simultaneously released Monkees records featuring vocals from the young stars of the show. At the height of their popularity, however, the Monkees fought for their musical independence and in the process had one of the most successful years in the history of popular American music.

1967 opened with the Monkees’ self-titled debut LP and their best-selling single, “I’m a Believer,” both sitting comfortably on the top of the pop charts. Their second album, More of the Monkees, supplanted their first album at the number-one spot, where it would remain for 18 weeks. It was an auspicious start, but the Monkees weren’t satisfied with commercial success alone.

The group, comprised of Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork, all had prior music experience but were only allowed limited input on the creation of Monkees’ songs. Their first two albums were assembled by music supervisor Don Kirshner who utilized Brill Building songwriters and Wrecking Crew studio musicians to craft the Monkees’ sound. By early 1967, Nesmith and Tork had grown frustrated with this process and wanted the group to have more say. When Kirshner refused to compromise, he was fired, and the show’s producers gave the Monkees full control of their musical destiny.

With their newly-earned independence, the band went into the studio with fledgling producer Chip Douglas (of The Turtles) and crafted an album all their own. Headquarters is an eclectic mix of early country rock, sentimental ballads, and frolicking sixties pop. They played their own instruments on the album, which Tork often likened to “Leonard Nimoy becoming a Vulcan.”

When Headquarters was released in May 1967, it was well-received by critics and shot to the top of the charts, where it spent a single week before being replaced by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Monkees album spent the rest of the Summer of Love in the number two spot behind the Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece–not a bad place to be for a once-fictitious band.

In addition to their musical accomplishments that year, the Monkees also won critical acclaim for their television show. In June of 1967, they won “Outstanding Comedy Series” at the Primetime Emmy Awards, beating out shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, and Get Smart. The show, which aired on NBC for two seasons from 1966-1968, helped popularize the concept of the music video and influenced the eventual development of MTV.

After a successful tour of the U.S. and U.K. – that included an infamous pairing with Jimi Hendrix – the Monkees released their second number-one hit single of the year, “Daydream Believer.” They followed the single up with yet another studio album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., in November of 1967.

Like its predecessor, the album features a diverse mix of the musical interests of its band members. It also dabbles in psychedelia and features an early use of the Moog synthesizer. Incredibly, it became their fourth number-one album of 1967. No other act has ever matched that feat, with Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Taylor Swift only managing three chart-topping albums in a calendar year.

All told, the Monkees ended 1967 with the best-selling single of the year (“I’m a Believer”), the best-selling album of the year (More of the Monkees), five top ten singles, four number-one albums, an Emmy Award, and two Grammy nominations. They gained their music independence, outsold the Beatles, and they even found time to introduce Eric Clapton to psychedelic drugs that year. Very few musical artists have seen so much success in such a short time, and their accomplishments have only gained appreciation over time.

-Donnie Summerlin

Photo: The Monkees, 1967 (public domain)

6 comments on “The Year of the Monkees: 1967

  1. Wonderful feature, Donnie, thank you. I’ve been a Monkees fan and collector since childhood, recognizing both the controversial and creative aspects of their existence.

  2. F Robison

    Thank you for your concise recap of my favorite band from 1967 I was 9 years old and hadn’t matured into the Beatles yet (that came later). Headquarters was the first LP I bought with my own money. We all remember our 1st album purchase. My first 45 was “Hair” by the Cowsills.

  3. Eric Ozmonkeeman

    As a huge Australian fan what a great read !!! … Well Done & thanks from Down Under

  4. Nice article, but one quibble: after nearly 58 years, you’d think people might realize that it’s *Micky* Dolenz, not Mickey.

  5. Good article, but pretty sure it was Dolenz, not Tork, with the quote about “Leonard Nimoy becoming a Vulcan.”

    • DonnieSummerlin

      Thanks! They’ve both been quoted saying it, so I think we’re both right!

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