There is so much wrong with this thread I don't even know where to begin. True, Bob Rafelson & Bert Schneider were the creators of the Monkees project, they were inspired by the Beatles and in particular the movie 'A Hard Day's Night' and the TV series was basically a TV version of the movie. Of the four chosen to play the group, two were actors with a background in music and two were actual musicians.
Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork both came from the L.A. music scene, with Tork coming out of the folkie movement in New York's Greenwich Village, rubbing elbows with the likes of Stephen Stills, Neil Young, the Mamas & the Papas and Bob Dylan. Tork in fact was the most musically experienced as he studied in a music conservatory and is considered the best musician in the group and can play multiple instruments and is extremely adept at all styles of music, be it classical, blues, rock, folk, etc. Tork's friend Stephen Stills had in fact auditioned for the Monkees series, but then decided not to do it. The producers liked Stills' looks and asked him if he knew anyone who resembled him. He suggested Peter as they both looked alike at the time and Peter went to the auditions under Stills' recommendation.
Nesmith was very active in the L.A. music scene, acting as MC at the famous Troubadour club and was a member of the New Christy Minstrels and had recorded under the name of Michael Blessing for the Colpix label, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. Of the four members, he's the only one who actually saw the newspaper ad for the auditions.
Dolenz and Jones both were child actors. Micky played the part of Corky in the 1950's series 'Circus Boy', produced by Columbia Pitures/Screen Gems. Interesting to note that Irving Lippman who worked as cinematographer on 'Circus Boy' later went on to do the same chores on the Monkees TV series. Another interesting footnote is that Lippman had previously worked on some of the Three Stooges shorts. After 'Circus Boy' ended it's run Micky's parents, one of them actor George Dolenz, wisely 'retired' Micky so he could pursue a normal childhood. Micky later on studied to be an architect and on the side did acting jobs, appearing on Peyton Place and other shows, and also fronted his own band in L.A., the Missing Links, playing guitar. His agent arranged for Micky to audition for the Monkees series.
Davy Jones was a young actor on the British TV series 'Coronation Street' (which also boasted future 'Herman's Hermits' member Peter Noone), and Jones later went into musical theater, winning the role of the Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart's musical 'Oliver!', which eventually went to Broadway. Ironically, Davy and the cast of 'Oliver!' performed a scene from the show on the exact same Ed Sullivan show that featured the American debut of The Beatles. Davy's turn as the Dodger earned him a Tony nomination and won him a contract with Screen Gems which groomed him for a TV series that eventually got him signed to the Monkees project.
Future filmmaker Paul Mazursky and his partner Larry Tucker helped to develop the series and both appear in the Monkees TV pilot, Mazursky as a man on the street interviewer. Bob Rafelson directed some of the early episodes of the series and would later go on to become an accomplished director and producer, directing the classic Jack Nicholson film 'Five Easy Pieces'.
The four chosen Monkees were schooled in improvisational comedy, led by director James Frawley, who later directed the first 'Muppet Movie', as well as the Three Stooges TV bio-pic. Since the series was produced at Screen Gems, the TV subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, the Monkees were able to study some of the comedy films in the Columbia library, including the classic Three Stooges shorts.
Even though the group, in particular musicians Nesmith and Tork were promised an active role in creating the music for the series, because of a tight TV schedule, it just wasn't possible so music tracks were recorded in advance by some of the top session musicians in the business, the famed L.A. Wrecking Crew, whose members included Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Leon Russel among many, who also recorded with Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, in fact, pretty much everybody. The Monkees' vocals were later added to the final tracks. The same musicians also did all the music on the acclaimed Brian Wilson produced 'Pet Sounds', which just needed the Beach Boys harmonies over the finished tracks. This was a fact that was selectively overlooked when the Monkees were later accused of being a 'fake' band when pretty much everyone in the business worked this way.
The Monkees' recordings were supervised by Don Kirshner who provided the cream of his song writing stable with luminaries like Carol King & Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Jeff Barry, Carol Bayer-Sager, Paul Williams, and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart among others. Other song writers to contribute to the Monkees project included Harry Nilsson and Michael Murphy. Kirshner kept a tight reign on the music end of the project. The Monkees, in particualr Nesmith & Tork, rebelled and kept pushing for the group to be allowed to play and write the songs on their records. Dolenz & Jones joined in solidarity with the other two, and they both eventually developed into decent musicians themselves. Dolenz, who already played guitar, being a quick study was able to learn to play the drums by Peter Tork. Davy Jones also learned to play rhythm guitar, percussion, bass and keyboards. During the filming of the pilot episode when they were supposed to be playing a club band, they asked if the amps were live, and when they were assured that they were, they ripped into several Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis tunes and got the extras and crew dancing. An executive visiting the set remarked that he would have signed the group to a recording contract right on the spot. Nesmith did get several of his songs on the first two Monkees albums.
The Monkees did eventually gain creative control of their music, playing the music on the Nesmith penned 'The Girl I Knew Somewhere', that became the B-side of 'A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You'. The first album they recorded as a group was 'Headquarters', that featured several songs written by all four members of the group. The song Micky Dolenz wrote, 'Randy Scouse Git', chronicled the party that was held in their honor by The Beatles when The Monkees toured England in early 1967. The Beatles were fans of the TV series, John Lennon was quoted as being a big fan, and he likened the Monkees as being more like the Marx Brothers than the Beatles. Members of the Beatles would remain life-long friends with the Monkees throughout the years.
The Monkees would continue to write and produce their own music, but after 'Headquarters', they became more disenfranchised from each other, Tork in particular was disenchanted as he really wanted to be in a group. Their music became a little more experimental, getting away from the earlier 'bubble gum' style enforced by Kirshner. Stephen Stills and Neil Young both played sessions on some of the Monkees songs, Young in particular plays a blistering guitar solo on the Davy Jones penned song 'You and I' from the group's 'Instant Replay' album.
The TV series also reflected this experimentalism, becoming more surreal in the second season. Frank Zappa even appeared in an episode of the series. In considering a third season, the group didn't want to continue doing regular episodes but submitted an idea to the parent network NBC about doing a series of specials that mixed music with topical comedy. While the Monkees proposal was rejected, the idea did eventually take root as Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.
Instead of continuing with the TV series, the Monkees along with Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider and Jack Nicholson wrote the script to what would eventually become the Monkees only feature film 'Head'. Instead of a 90 minute Monkees episode, 'Head' is a surreal, psychedelic biography of the Monkees and was a statement by director Rafelson on the manipulation of the media. The film featured cameos by Ray Nitschke, Sonny Liston, Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, Terri Garr, Toni Basil (who would later have a 80's hit with the song 'Mickey') and co-starred Victor Mature. There's even a brief cameo by Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper pre-'Easy Rider', which was co-produced by Rafelson and Bert Schneider. While 'Head' was not a commercial success at the time, it later went on to become an acclaimed cult film favorite. Even folks who are not Monkees fans have an appreciation of 'Head' as pure cinema.
The commercial failure of 'Head' pretty much marked the end of the Monkees. Peter Tork stayed with the group long enough to tape the TV special '33 & 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee', produced by Jack Good who also produced the 1964 'Around The Beatles' TV special and the series 'Shindig'. Following the same concept as 'Head', the special traces the creation of the Monkees and the media manipulations by the powers that be as represented by Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll, and features special musical performances by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Miles. The surreal special was pitted against the 1969 Oscars, so it didn't get much of an audience. The special is also a cult favorite among Monkees fans and its' musical sequences are very entertaining with innovative video effects. The sequences with the musical guests doing a melody of their classic 50's hits is particularly exciting.
After the special, Peter Tork left the group and the Monkees became a trio. They made guest appearances on shows like Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, ironically 'Laugh-In', the Tonight Show among others. Having gained autonomy of their music, they continued to release recordings, though they were no longer topping the charts. A pity, since they were producing some really good music at the time. Nesmith was blossoming as a song writer and eventually he bought himself out of his Monkees contract and went onto a solo career that produced top 40 hits like 'Joanne' and 'Silver Moon' and recording several highly acclaimed albums that pioneered the field of Country Rock. Nesmith had already scored hits for other artists like Linda Ronstadt who recorded his song 'Different Drum' and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band who recorded Nesmith's 'Mary, Mary'. (In the 80's the rap band Run DMC would also record their own version of 'Mary, Mary'). Nesmith, whose mother invented Liquid Paper and which he would later inherit the fortune, became a pioneer of Music Video, developing it as a viable art form. Nesmith would become the first music artist to win a Grammy Award for Music Video for his 1982 long form video album 'Elephant Parts'. Nesmith is recognized in the industry as an important figure in the field.
While not sharing the same level of success as Nesmith, the other three Monkees have had various degrees of success as solo artists in the fields of music, theater and films. Dolenz in the 80's was a successful and respected director in British television and has appeared in several productions on Broadway, including 'Grease' and 'Aida' and is involved in the charity 'Broadway Cares'. Jones continued in theater, television and music as an all-round entertainer. Peter Tork continued in music and fronts his band Shoe Suede Blues which tours around the country to great audience appreciation.
In 1986, with a resurgence of the Monkees' popularity due to the TV series being shown on MTV (similar to how the Stooges' career was revived when their shorts were sold to television in the late '50's), Dolenz, Jones and Tork reunited and went on an extremely successful 20th anniversary reunion tour that was one of the top tours of 1986. Nesmith was unable to participate due to prior film commitments, but wished the other three well. He did join them for a memorable moment at the Greek Theater in September of that year, the first time all four Monkees performed together on-stage since 1968. The Monkees have done several reunion tours over the years, entertaining older fans while winning a new generation of younger fans. The last time all four Monkees toured together was in England in 1997. The four members have all gone on and enjoy their own individual successes, with their music recognized as Pop/Rock classics and their TV series as a precursor of music video. Still, they'll always be remembered as one of the classic Pop bands of the 60's, The Monkees.
The Monkees Reunited, 1986