The Monkees officially broke up in 1970, two years after the show was canceled by NBC. Peter Tork had actually left at the end of 1968, using an opt-out clause in their original contract; Michael Nesmith left late in 1969, and had to pay a default of nearly $500,000. After the failure of the "Changes" album (featuring only Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, standing back-to-back on the cover) Jones announced he was resuming his solo career, and a joke went around that Dolenz would continue on as "The Monkee".
Of the four Monkees, only Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz participated in all 58 episodes. Davy Jones was written out of an episode so he could attend his sister's wedding in England; Michael Nesmith was written out of three episodes; one while he recovered from a tonsillectomy, one when his son Jonathan was born, and one to make a family trip home to Texas.
The initial version of the pilot set a new record at the time - for the lowest ratings for a pilot. A re-edited version that featured Davy Jones' and Michael Nesmith's original screen tests at the beginning scored one of the highest test ratings ever.
After the first season ended, Davy Jones disappeared from the public eye for several weeks, while a series of morbid rumors about his health made the rounds. The truth was that Jones had received a draft notice, and subsequently fasted for three weeks in order to fail the physical. It worked.
Among those who auditioned to be members of the group were Paul Williams (who later wrote "Someday Man" for the group) and Stephen Stills, who showed promise but appeared too old to the producers at his audition. He also lost interest when he learned Screen Gems would demand the publishing rights to his songs. Stills suggested his former roommate, Peter Tork, audition for the group, and Tork was cast.
The four Monkees were each paid $450 per episode, raised to $750 for the second season. They received standard royalty rates for their recordings (and publishing, when they wrote the songs), but received virtually nothing for their merchandising. Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones sued Columbia Pictures in the late 1970s, but had to settle for a payment of only $10,000.
Peter Tork actually did play guitar on "Papa Gene's Blues," one of the songs on their first album. This was done at the insistence of Michael Nesmith, who produced this song as well as "Sweet Young Thing" for the debut LP. Other than Peter's guitar deployment here, it is widely known that none of the four Monkees played any instruments on their first two albums, supplying only vocals; in the case of Nesmith's tracks he himself was producer. This all changed on their third LP, "Headquarters," in which they sang and played on every track, with some backup help from Mike's longtime bassist pal John London, producer Chip Douglas and bassist Jerry Yester. Their fourth album, "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd." had a little of both studio musicians and Monkees playing the instruments (this was due to the crushing time constraints of a hectic concert tour as well as filming the TV show's second season; primary outside involvement revolved around the use of drummer "Fast Eddie" Ho), and by the fifth album, "The Birds, the Bees, & the Monkees," they had gone full circle, employing studio musicians and supplying only the vocals, again due to time constraints. They would continue this practice until they stopped recording altogether in 1970, but picked it back up for their 1996 comeback LP, "Justus."
To cast the show, the producers placed an ad in Variety, which was answered by 437 hopefuls, all of whom were interviewed. The only one cast as a result of the ad, it turned out, was Michael Nesmith; Davy Jones was already under contract to Screen Gems, which wanted to place him in a series, while Micky Dolenz learned of the audition from his agent and Peter Tork had been referred by his friend Stephen Stills. The four actors selected had to take a six-week course in improvisational acting, taught on the set by director James Frawley.
The Monkeemobile was a modified 1966 Pontiac GTO. The trunk was removed. and a third seat was added. A drag chute was placed between the tail lights. The front end had a fiberglass grille and headlight shroud and the exhaust pipes exited from the back of the front wheel wells. There were three Monkeemobiles; the first of which sported a real supercharger and a tan interior and convertible top. It lacked the logo in the first season, but it has since been added. The latter two had a fake superchargers and white interiors and convertible tops. All three had different sized logos on the door.
Monkees filming and recording sessions were usually closed to fans and outsiders, with only session personnel and occasional VIPs as guests. One person who fit both definitions was Micky's sister Coco Dolenz, who'd always sung with him, and sang background vocals on some of their later records.
Twelve of the 58 episodes featured a candid end-of show interview of The Monkees as filler. One such epilogue interview discussed rioting on the Sunset Strip early in 1967, an act that Michael Nesmith cryptically discussed in the lyrics of the song "Daily Nightly".
Initially, Michael Nesmith was nicknamed "Wool Hat" for the show, even so credited in their early publicity. (Rudy, their manager in the show pilot, calls Nesmith by that name.) Nesmith had worn such a hat the day he auditioned (to keep his hair out of his eyes, riding a motorcycle to the studio), and it made him stand out to the producers. He disliked the nickname though, which was soon dropped.
After their six-week improvisational acting course with director James Frawley, the boys rehearsed and recorded as a band during the spring and early summer of 1966 with instruments rented for them by Screen Gems; among the songs they "tracked" was Michael Nesmith's "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," and Nesmith has said "about a hundred" tracks from these sessions were made. This musical gestation was quashed when Don Kirshner was retained as music supervisor.
When the show was about to be renewed for a third season the group wanted to turn the show from a half hour sitcom into an hour variety show where they would introduce new artists. However, NBC gave the group an ultimatum to stick with the format as-was or get canceled. The group stuck to their guns and the show was canceled after two seasons on the air.
The opening title sequence seen in syndication is from the second season (it's used for the first-season episodes as well). The producers redid the sequence to include clips from "The Monkees on Tour" (the first-season finale) and even some second-season episodes such as "The Devil and Peter Tork" before they even aired. In the final three episodes of the second (and last) season, three of the Monkees invited special musical guests onto the show. Davy Jones talked to Charlie Smalls about soul, Michael Nesmith interviewed Frank Zappa and vice versa, and Micky Dolenz introduced a song by Tim Buckley. Peter Tork had planned to do a similar item with Janis Joplin but this never came about.
Michael Nesmith produced nearly a dozen recording sessions during 1966, producing music for the television series and for potential inclusion onto other artists' albums. Among his "stock" session guitarists was future country superstar Glen Campbell, and Mike strove to include Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz in those sessions. The musical signature of Nesmith's 1966 sessions was the use of a Danelectro or "dano" bass by bassist Robert West as well as possibly Tork and one of the other guitarists in Nesmith's "stock" company; the "dano" bass was an electric bass with lighter strings than a normal bass that when played with a pick produced a distinctive percussive plucking sound, sometimes called a "tic-tac twang." The "dano" bass thus produces a slightly higher sound registering on recording, particularly useful for the monaural soundtracks of television of the time.
It was long rumored that and notorious cult leader and convicted killer Charles Manson auditioned for the group, but that rumor is not true--Manson was serving a sentence in a federal penitentiary at the time the auditions were held.
Throughout the series, there were rival bands the Monkees routinely encountered. These bands include: The Jolly Green Giants who wore green hair, outfits, and green skin to resemble the advertising icon. The Four Martians who wore gold tunics over red tights and nylon stockings over their heads. And The Foreign Agents who wore trench coats and sunglasses.
The show had two chief sponsors: Kellogg's cereals and Yardley Cosmetics of London, and they rotated each week. The Monkees made humorous half-minute sponsor tags for Kellogg's Rice Krispies and Yardley Black Label Aftershave. In 1969, when the show was picked up by CBS, The Monkees (sans by-now departed Peter Tork) were hired to shoot commercials for the series' new sponsor: Kool-Aid.
A line of dialogue from Loving You (1957) inspired the name of The Monkees, when Deke (Elvis Presley) says to his controlling managers in a moment of rebellion, "That's what you're selling, isn't it? A monkey in a zoo."
Midway through Season 2, the Monkees themselves insisted the show drop the laugh track. It became the first sitcom in the history of television not to have a laugh track at this point, and set the precedent decades later for the no laugh track trend followed by shows like Arrested Development, Community and Scrubs.
If two of the "Prefab Four" had been billed by their real names instead of their stage names, the complement of the group would have looked like this: Davy, Peter, George, and Robert! Micky Dolenz's real name is George Michael Dolenz; Mike's real name is Robert Michael Nesmith.
Aired from 12 September 1966 to 9 September 1968 on NBC for 58 episodes. It ruled its NBC primetime slot (Mondays 7:30) for the entire duration of its run. CBS carried repeats of the series on its Saturday Morning schedule between 13 September 1969 and 2 September 1972; after which, it was seen for a season on the ABC Saturday Morning schedule from 9 September 1972 to 1 September 1973.
The second season was rushed into production immediately after the first one stopped filming, probably because Davy Jones was eligible for induction into the U.S. Army and the producers were afraid he would be drafted. When Jones was let off the hook due to being the sole support of family, The Monkees - with plenty of episodes in the can - spent the summer touring and shooting videos for the completed episodes. When they resumed filming in the fall, producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were "kicked upstairs" to executive-producer status and Ward Sylvester was promoted from associate producer to producer.
It was long believed that the song "Sugar Sugar" was originally offered to The Monkees but they refused to do it, leading to a huge argument that ultimately resulted in the firing of Don Kirshner as the show's musical supervisor. "Sugar Sugar" became a huge hit in 1969 for Kirshner's later creation, The Archies. However, at the time of this series, Kirshner recorded a Sandy Linzer-Denny Randell song, "Sugar Man", that he offered to the group, which they balked at doing; confusion about "Sugar Sugar" came about because of the similarity in the titles of the two Kirshner-related songs. The incident that led to Kirshner's dismissal from the project was his release, against an agreement with the group, of the single "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", which was written by Neil Diamond, in February 1967 with the song "She Hangs Out" on the flip-side. "She Hangs Out" was recorded in New York in January 1967 and Davy Jones laid down vocals reportedly without the knowledge of the other three Monkees, who at the time were preparing for the group's vacation in Europe before commencing recording on the album "Headquarters". The single was released in Canada and some American DJs began playing "She Hangs Out", and when it got heard in the US Kirshner was fired.
The address of the beach house where the boys "lived" on the show was 1334 North Beechwood Drive. The real-life location of that address was in the middle of the Columbia Pictures studio lot, and it was used by their fan club for correspondence.
Monte Landis made numerous appearances during the show's second season, as the Monkees' latest adversary. This was the producers' idea, to introduce a new "running gag" by having the band face off against the same villain every week in a different guise. Landis wasn't always available, however.
Some of the later episodes have a "throwback" feel to them, with storylines recalling the early episodes of the series. This is because the scripts were submitted (and rejected) during the first season, then dusted off after new scripts were no longer being commissioned. Latter-day Monkees albums likewise included songs recorded during their first sessions, after their studio budget was cut by Screen Gems.