I think that by now the Monkees have overcome their epithet of “Prefab Four,” which I suppose was clever but not especially accurate. At least three of the Monkees were musicians who could act. I’d argue that Micky Dolenz was an actor who could play music. (More on that below.) Having said that, however, he’s got one of the best voices of the rock and roll era, so my label comes from the fact that he came from acting rather than from music, as the others did.
That they didn’t write most of their own music is really of no consequence, given that the pressure for artists to write their own material wasn’t really there yet. Similarly, the Monkees were under a tight contract, which made that difficult. Every move they made toward autonomy was met with resistance. In Michael Nesmith’s case, it meant some acrimony between him and the label.
At any rate, as I mention early in the show, “Daydream Believer” was the Monkees’ last Number One hit, but it was only their second-to-last Top Ten in the United States. (Their last was 1968’s “Valleri,” which peaked at #3.) After that, it was the bottom half of the Hot 100 for the band until a brief comeback in 1986.
While the band members had achieved the autonomy they sought, they were also drifting apart as a group. Dolenz had lost interest in drumming, preferring instead to let session musicians take over. Producer Chip Douglas also noted that Dolenz was the weak link musically. He said that Dolenz’ work on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. was cobbled together from several takes of the same song. The cancellation of the show and the poor reception of the film Head didn’t help either. Finally Peter Tork quit the group by buying out his contract at the end of 1968. By the time their television special 33⅓ Revolutions per Monkee aired in April 1969, Tork was long gone.
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