”Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees”
As the Beatles conquered the globe, upstart producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider pitched a musical-comedy series about a fictional band (think: Spi¨nal Tap). An open casting call landed the four stars in 1965.
America Goes Ape
A zany TV show about a fake band quickly morphed into a legit band starring on a zany TV show. In the 14 months after their Sept. 12, 1966, premiere, the Monkees dropped four No. 1 albums and topped the Billboard 200 for 37 weeks, thanks to peppy, uptempo hits like ”I’m a Believer” and ”Daydream Believer.” Oh, and The Monkees won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Monkeemania at Its Peak
The band’s pop culture impact was felt all the way into the 23rd century (witness Ensign Pavel Chekov’s Davy Jones-esque haircut on Star Trek). And they attempted to blast out of the teenybopper orbit, working with edgier musicians like Jimi Hendrix.
The Monkees Get a Head
NBC canceled The Monkees in 1968. Too many egos, too few fresh ideas. But Columbia Pictures gave Rafelson $750,000 to direct Head, co-written by Jack Nicholson, an acid-trip-as-movie in which the Monkees deconstructed their own image. Today it’s a cult fave, but in 1968 it was not what fans wanted.
No More Monkee Business
By 1970 the band was finished. Individual projects lay ahead, including Jones’ beloved 1971 appearance on The Brady Bunch. Worlds collide!
The Later Years
The Monkees‘ mix of pop hits and improv comedy anticipated MTV by more than a decade, so it’s no wonder reruns found renewed success there in the mid-’80s, prompting a much-touted VMAs appearance in 1986 and intermittent reunion tours as late as 2011.