Monkee Micky Dolenz promises piston power in a city near you
Oddball Gretsch drummer Micky Dolenz tallied 12 Top 40 A-sides on Billboard’s Hot 100 with the Monkees, the most critically lambasted, ironically durable band to legitimately challenge the Beatles’ chart supremacy post-“Paperback Writer.” The Prefab Four’s not so secret rock weapon, Dolenz supplied dramatic tenor lead vocals on two-thirds of those hits. “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “[I’m Not Your] Stepping Stone,” “Words,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” are ubiquitous oldies radio staples over 50 years after they were waxed to 7-inch 45 rpm vinyl.
The twenty-tens have epitomized a comeback for Dolenz as both a band member and solo artist. The Monkees reunited for their acclaimed “45th Anniversary Tour” in 2011 with usual suspect Michael Nesmith missing in action. After Davy Jones’s unexpected death the following year of a massive heart attack, “Papa Nez” made peace with any lingering road reservations for a well-received West Coast mini jaunt, his first appearance with the group in 15 years.
Subsequent treks consisting of two and a half hour setlists raked in the dough and a Billboard Top 20 debut in 2016 for Good Times!, the Monkees’ highest charting album since The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees dropped 48 years earlier, confirmed the potency of the Monkees’ multifaceted discography. Five months after another startling Monkees studio set spearheaded by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger — Christmas Party — Dolenz and Nesmith are back in action come March 2019 for “The Monkees Present The Mike & Micky Show.” Nesmith’s life threatening quadruple bypass heart surgery prompted the tour’s four make-up dates plus eight brand new ones.
Dolenz garnered considerable steam with two back to back concept studio albums routinely praised, King for a Day and Remember. The latter featured “Quiet Desperation”, a country-tinged ballad influenced by his mother’s Texas upbringing. It’s notable as Dolenz’s first songwriting credit since 1996’s failed experiment Justus, the Monkees’ quasi sequel to Headquarters in so much as all instruments were tackled by band members.
Dolenz commandeers a smattering of solo shows annually, ably assisted by kid sister Coco Dolenz on Everly Brothers-reminiscent harmonies along with members of the Monkees’ touring band. During a candid interview with my “Jeremy’s Instant Monkees Mayhem” column, the veteran Monkees rhythm guitarist contemplated his musical heroes and a few tunes that fans can definitely expect to hear onstage. “My influences musically became Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis,” divulged Dolenz. “The real rock and rollers.
“In fact, my audition piece for The Monkees television show was ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry. I recorded a cover version for Remember which I’m very proud of. The arrangement is very different than Chuck’s original. I did that with quite a few of the songs on the album.
“I’ve always performed ‘Johnny B. Goode’ at my solo shows. However, I usually stick with the original version. I’ve slowly started incorporating the re-arranged version, so you’ll have to come to the show to find out which one I ultimately perform.
“I also sing ‘Randy Scouse Git’ and the Archies’ ‘Sugar Sugar’. I tell the story of why I’m doing these tunes, because I find that if I don’t do an original Monkees tune, the fans like to know why I’m singing that particular song. When you think about it, it’s kind of a behind the music type scenario [laughs].
“Lots of people may not realize that guitar was my first instrument and still is to a great degree. I play guitar on quite a few tunes when I’m on my solo show because people like to see me downstage. On the Monkees show I get up on the drums considerably more.”
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