Walking Down the Street with Micky Dolenz

prof mickydolenz-Michael-OchsWhat is wonderful is that Mike’s coming back and singing the songs he wrote, especially the earlier songs where we do some great Everly Brothers–style harmonies.

 

 

prof mickydolenzMany of us who grew up watching The Monkees can use the show’s intro to pinpoint the exact genesis of our affection for Micky Dolenz. There he was with his toothy grin and that ever-present mischievous glint in his eye, making it so very easy for us to embark on whatever wacky adventure the band had in store for us. Whether we saw him on first-run episodes, re-runs, or sometime during their ’80s renaissance, it was Dolenz who instantly made us feel like he was the Monkee dude we could join up with for a hard day’s magic carpet ride.

Now, here we are facing the summer of 2014 and the guys are walking down our street once again: Dolenz, Peter Tork, and the until-recently reclusive Michael Nesmith have reunited for a summer tour that culminates at Lollapalooza in August. Prior to Davy Jones’ untimely passing, the regrouped lineup consisted of Jones, Tork; and Dolenz; since that time, Nesmith has rejoined the group.

I asked Dolenz what the main dynamic difference was between the two lineups, both on the road and onstage. “The dynamic has changed, and naturally it would, not better or worse though” he says with that familiar optimism anchoring his voice. “Mike brings a very different sensibility with his own style. For the most part, mine doesn’t change; I sing the hits mainly, and I love singing them.” What effect will this have on the set list? “What is wonderful is that Mike’s coming back and singing the songs he wrote, especially the earlier songs where we do some great Everly Brothers–style harmonies,” he says enthusiastically. “Mike sings the lead on those, as he did on the original versions, and I jump in with a nice harmony.”

One of the songs fans will be able to hear live this summer is “Goin’ Down,” which some believe was completely made up on the spot. Like many rock ’n’ roll rumors, this one appears to be the figment of someone’s imagination. “We had already worked up a lot of the music, and had it lying around,” Dolenz says. “It was actually Mike that said, ‘We should get some lyrics written for that; it could be a great tune.’ We went out to [songwriter] Diane Hildebrand’s place and finished it up.” When I note that the rapid-fire lyrics seem like they would be a challenge, Dolenz replies, “As you know, it’s a very long song in its original version. I take out one of the verses, and it still works.” With a multi-million-selling back catalogue like The Monkees have, how hard is it to fit everything in? “Some of the album cuts, the deep cuts, we truncate, so we get more tunes in. But we very seldom truncate the hit songs; we leave those alone.”

Now, if anyone taking the time to read this needs any further proof that The Monkees’ popularity is actually growing and not diminishing, the biggest Monkees convention yet took place at the Hilton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., last March. Though Dolenz explained that it was odd not performing or meeting fans in a standard concert setting, he seemed to enjoy the experience. “We’ve had conventions in the past, but this was the first real official Monkees convention and it’s strange,” he relates. “People are there to see you, but you’re not performing; you’re just talking and hanging out. I like to use it as a way to connect to the real diehard fans—you know, like when you have a convention at Ford Motor Company: You get all the people there that are the best of the best, right? It helps because we spend some time with some of those real hardcore fans.”

prof mickydolenz monkeesOne question being asked by some of those hardcore fans is why Jones’ name isn’t mentioned when they perform live. According to Dolenz, the answer is a lot simpler than one would expect. “I don’t recall noticing that we did that. But to answer the question, there’s no specific reason that we would say his name. I don’t know in what context that would happen. We’ve sung his songs and mentioned his songs; we’ve used an enormous amount of videos, home videos, and what not.” Naturally, there is an emotional quotient to what factors into the question, as well. “It would be a strange thing to mention his name, and he isn’t here with us. When Mike joined Peter and me on our first tour back together, we had quite a long section that was a tribute section that fans loved,” he adds. “So, I don’t know in what context it would be done.”

On a lighter note, we talked about the band’s fascinating history, including having the one and only Jimi Hendrix as their opening act on tour. The mind boggles at the endless imagined scenarios, but how much fun did Dolenz and the boys have with Mr. Hendrix? “Oh boy,” he laughs. “It would probably be some of the time spent partying after the shows, doing stuff on the plane, and traveling around. I did see him perform, of course, but we would be backstage waiting to go on most of the time. It was apparent that he was a force to be reckoned with. He was a lovely guy. Very sweet, quiet, and naïve.”

When The Monkees TV show was winding down and coming to its conclusion, Dolenz ended up directing the very last episode. Did he know at the time that was it? “Oh, yeah,” he remembers. “We knew it was the last one because NBC had canceled the show, and it was a mutual arrangement. We had all sort of felt like we had enough and we wanted to move on and do other things, other projects. It wasn’t a big depressing thing like ‘Woe is us’; we all knew by then we would need to go on and do other things with our lives.”

One of those “other things” included showing up as an actor in unexpected places, such as Rob Zombie’s “reimagining” of the horror classic Halloween. How did that happen? “As it turns out, Rob Zombie is a fan of ours. He got in touch with me through my agent and said, ‘I want you to do a cameo in my film.’ I knew who he was and that he was a fan, but I wasn’t familiar with his work as a writer and director.” Apparently, it’s fairly common that when Dolenz is approached to do things of this nature, he’s asked to play “himself,” which obviously would be of zero interest to someone who enjoys conjuring up characters. However, that proved not to be the case this time. “When I found out I wasn’t playing myself, I got excited about that, which was cool. I don’t like playing myself. As it turned out, it’s one of the best little pieces of footage I have that I’ve done.”

When The Monkees tour winds down in June, Dolenz will do a bit of solo touring, but he has something else up his sleeve that is certain to pique the interest of longtime fans. “This fall,” he says conspiratorially, “I might be doing a play in summer stock. Nothing has been confirmed yet, so it’s not a done deal.” The possibility also exists that The Monkees could reunite in the studio to record some brand new material. “Recording new music is something we talk about a lot, and who knows? Just keep watching the skies.”

Finally, I ask him the question that every Monkee fan has been dying to know the answer to: Does he think he could take Ringo in a fight? “I have met Ringo many times, and we’ve become really good friends over the years. I just saw him recently, as a matter of fact. Taking him in a fight, though? That’s a crazy question!” | Jim Ousley


The Monkees will be at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis on Thursday, June 5. Tickets are $30–100 and are available at www.Metrotix.com. For a full lineup of The Monkees tour dates, visit http://www.monkeestour.com/.

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