The Monkees have been knocked around by critics since their meteoric late-1960s rise for not playing on their first songs. Micky Dolenz points out the hypocrisy of that, considering the way that studio albums were produced at the time — and by some of rock’s most iconic groups.
“They used the same musicians [known as the Wrecking Crew] that the Beach Boys used, and the Byrds, the Mamas and Papas,” Dolenz said at Salt Lake Comic Con of the early Monkees recordings. “So many groups at the time used studio musicians. They wrote the songs, and routined them, and played them live — but when you were in the studio, you used studio musicians. The story goes, there’s not one Beach Boy on ‘Good Vibrations,’ or [one Byrd on] “Mr. Tambourine Man,’ and that was just what people did.”
Besides, it’s not like the Monkees had a choice. Each was cast for their part on a proposed television show, and that was the role they played. Eventually, Dolenz and bandmates Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones took up their own instruments, and the world learned that the Monkees were, in fact, accomplished musicians in their own right. By then, however, the storyline had been set: The Monkees were actors, not artists.
“I was a guitar player, and I got cast as the drummer,” Dolenz adds. “Mike played guitar, Peter played guitar, bass, keyboards, French horn — about 10 instruments. David played percussion, and he played a little guitar.”