‘Something’s got to trigger’: Micky Dolenz on the best Monkees song you’ve never heard

Anyone tempted to dismiss the Monkees probably never heard Micky Dolenz’s “Mommy and Daddy,” a trenchant late-1960s protest song which continues to resonate with anyone who’s felt alienated from an older generation turned numb to social injustices. In the end, however, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the track has been so consistently overlooked, considering how little Dolenz found himself in the role of featured composer — and the circuitous route this gem took to the record-buying public.

“I’m not a prolific writer,” Dolenz said, in a recent fan Q&A. “I’ve only written a few songs, in my time. I wish I could sit down every morning at a piano or with a guitar and write, like an assignment. I wish I could do that sometimes, but I just can’t. You know, something’s got to trigger.”

Just what led Dolenz to “Mommy and Daddy” remains something of a mystery now to Dolenz, though he points to an issue of Native American legacy rights as the likely spark.

“You know, I’m part Chickasaw,” Dolenz adds. “There was a bunch of Indians, I think it might have been in Oregon or Washington state. They had all been arrested for protesting fishing rights. It was something between them and the government about the right to fish their tribal lands. They’d been fishing in that particular area for, you know, 1,000 years. There was an issue, and they got arrested. Somebody came to me in Los Angeles and said, “they need some money to be bailed out.” I guess they knew I was part Indian. It was a lot of money at the time, like $15,000 or something like that. But I put up the money, and they were very grateful. They sent me some very beautiful Indian artwork. That might have been the inspiration for that.”

“Mommy and Daddy” was intended initially for February 1969’s Instant Replay, the Monkees’ first album without Peter Tork — only the song was almost abandoned when label heads balked. After some encouragement from bandmate Mike Nesmith, Dolenz reworked the song, only to see it relegated to the b-side of Nesmith’s “Good Clean Fun” single in September of ’69 — and then as a deep cut on that fall’s The Monkees Present. It was the 1990s before Dolenz’s unexpurgated original finally saw the light of day on an expanded reissue of Present.

Perhaps Dolenz will pull this chestnut out as part of his on-going tour dates. Just off another well-received Monkees jaunt with Nesmith and Tork, he is set to present a solo show on Friday, August 1, 2014 at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

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  • Norma Desperate

    wow – EXCELLENT. Dolenz is one of the most underrated singers in rock history!!