The Monkees: “We were essentially a garage band, but we had no control”

Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz look back at their finest work

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Colgems/RCA Victor, 1968
The far-out soundtrack to The Monkees’ psychedelic movie of the same name – both conceived by Jack Nicholson!

Dolenz: This must be one of the best soundtrack albums ever made. Carole King wrote two songs, I love singing those, like “The Porpoise Song”. Peter wrote two killer tunes on that album, too. Mike wrote “Circle Sky”, which is great. And of course, Davy sang “Daddy’s Song” by our friend Harry Nilsson. The movie was interesting too – still not sure what it’s about. It’s definitely weird!

Tork: I’ve got two tunes on there and I think they’re both really good. We did “Circle Sky” live to film, and I think we rocked it.


Dolenz: It was our intention to move away from pop. Someone suggested we don’t just do a 90-minute version of the TV show, but that we stretch out and do something more reflective of our age or whatever. So they brought in this actor, who wanted to be a writer, to come in and write it with Bob Rafelson. And that guy was Jack Nicholson. He came and hung out with us for months. Then we all got together in LA for a weekend, and Jack went away and wrote a wonderful screenplay.

Tork: I’ve come to a rather unhappy conclusion about the film in the intervening years, that the message was: “You don’t get out.” The movie starts with us jumping into the bridge and it ends with us caught in a tank of water, underwater. It’s circular. I thought there was some great stuff in there, I thought it was wonderful to try and make a commercial movie that is as surreal as that was. But the overarching point of the movie, I think, was a bad message.



Instant Replay
Colgems/RCA Victor, 1969
Peter Tork departed, leaving the band as a trio for this set of reheated tracks from their archive.

Tork: Micky didn’t want to play as a real band anymore, because he was scared to – he’s not a fearful man, but he was startled into not wanting to go back. And Michael, if he’s not in charge he doesn’t want to do it. So I was left on my own. I would’ve gone on merrily making Monkees records with those guys ’til the end of my days, if we’d been a band. But I didn’t get the chance to find out, because of what I saw as Michael’s inability to join and Micky’s reluctance to continue the process, and Davy feeling a little left out because he wasn’t an instrumentalist particularly at the time.

Dolenz: Almost all the stuff on the Instant Replay album had already been started when the show was on the air, they wanted at least a couple of new songs every week, so the producers and us were told, “Just get in there, and make stuff!” So we ended up with a library, and there’s really good stuff to this day still sitting in the vaults. When Peter quit, we had to decide what we were gonna do live. There was this band in town here called Sam & The Goodtimers who we would go and see. We thought, ‘We’ll have them as our opening act, and then they can back us up.’ So we became sort of ‘Three Dog Monkee’, with Mike and David and I upfront, and this all-black R’n’B band backing us up wearing tuxedos – it was just wonderful, and the music started taking on a very different flavour. The fans, of course, thought we had gone out of our fucking minds, but we had a great time.


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