The Monkees once tricked critics into giving them a fair hearing: ‘It’s so funny’

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The Monkees’ career can be split between the pre- and post-Headquarters era, between the days as a made-for-TV band and the period in which they created their own music. The problem, Micky Dolenz notes, is that some critics never recognized this important transition.

“Essentially, there were two Monkees groups,” Dolenz says in a newly posted interview. “One was the Monkees group that was on the television show, that was cast by the producers. They had songwriters writing, and they had the Wrecking Crew. I kind of think of it as one Monkees group that was on the television show — the imaginary group, the one that lived in the beach house and had the imaginary adventures. And then along came Headquarters.

That 1967 album, the Monkees’ third, found each of the members substantially contributing for the first time. All of them had multiple songwriting credits; all of them played, as well. Micky Dolenz dubs the project a “world-famous battle with the record people to get control of the music.”

The result was a schism with everything that came before, he argues. “That’s a different Monkees group, the group you hear on Headquarters,” Dolenz says. “It’s kind of a garage band, and it’s not bad for a garage band. [Laughs.]”

This same sense of musical camaraderie continued, long after the initial successes of the Monkees’ television show faded, Dolenz notes — specifically referencing 1996’s Justus, the final album to include all four members.

But the Monkees, even then, hadn’t completely shaken their original image as actors. Bandmate Mike Nesmith decided to test the theory with a very telling experiment involving the Justus project, Micky Dolenz added.

“Mike sent out a bunch of unlabeled CDs of that album to a bunch of radio stations and reviewers,” Dolenz remembered. “The unlabeled ones came back with great reviews — about this new garage band! [Laughs.] It’s so funny.”

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  • gjakub

    Pretty sure Mike did not send out CD’s

    • Patrick B Gawne

      Why not? Cd’s have been around since the early 80’s and “Justus” came out in ’96.

    • Uncle Buck

      I was a radio deejay from the mid ’70s on. Radio began playing CD’s around the mid ’80s.

  • Guest2014

    Same thing happened when “Soldier of Love” came out by “mystery singer”…turned out to be Donny Osmond…good song, too!