When The Monkees last hit the road together 10 years ago things didn't go so well. Guitarist Peter Tork quit near the end, later telling the press that Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were drinking to the point that they became "mean and abusive." In 2009 Jones told the National Enquirer that he had no interest in a reunion, adding that he "couldn't imagine sharing a stage with Micky Dolenz."
So it came as surprise last week when they announced a 45th anniversary world tour. "It was the estimation of certain professional people that this could work," Tork tells Rolling Stone. "They asked if the three of us were interested in doing it. After some discussion we all said 'yeah.' That's just about the bottom line of it."
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In a significant shift, Tork now takes full responsibility for the backstage problems on the 2001 tour. "We were getting along pretty well until I had a meltdown," he says. "I ticked the other guys off good and proper and it was a serious mistake on my part. I was not in charge of myself to the best of my ability – the way I hope I have become since. I really just behaved inappropriately, honestly. I apologized to them."
He now says alcohol played only a small role in the group's problems. "I'm sure it played a part, but I cannot honestly say it was anything more than a very slight part," he says. "It could have been very, very minor. But the main thing was that I had a meltdown and I messed up."
With the personal problems resolved, the three remaining Monkees were able to sit down and plan their tour. "We're going to do all the Monkee hits," Tork says. "Starting with the five major ones: The two believers ['Daydream Believer' and 'I'm A Believer'], 'Last Train To Clarksville,' 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' and '(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone.' Then we'll do the top twenties and the top hundreds and then the obscure ones." Of the many deep cuts to draw from, Tork hopes to revive the a cappella song "Riu Chiu," and "As We Go Along" and "Porpoise Song" from the Head soundtrack.
The band will perform in front of a gigantic HD screen. "Sometimes we'll make it look like the backdrop of the apartment [from the Monkees' Sixties TV series]," says Tork. "Sometimes we'll just be out on the wild and windy plain, singing 'I Want To Be Free' to the wind. The whole thing is about moods and trips."
The three Monkees will bring on other musicians for the tour, but Tork wants to strip it back at points. "I have hopes that the three of us are just gonna sit down and rock," he says. "It can be Davy on rhythm guitar or bass, me on keyboards or bass and Mickey just wailing away on the drums."
Founding member Michael Nesmith isn't participating in the tour: His mother invented Liquid Paper and left him with her fortune, leaving him financially secure for life. He did return for the group's 1996 LP Justus and a brief European tour to support it. "I last saw him at the end of the 1997 British tour," says Tork. "I haven't talked to him in all that time."
Nesmith popped up onstage at a couple of Monkees reunion shows in the Eighties. Might that happen again? "It's possible," says Tork. "I'd be game for it. Michael's always welcome."
Two years ago Tork feared that he might never tour again when he was diagnosed with a rare form of head-neck cancer called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. "Two years ago to the day I went under the knife in New York at Sloan-Kettering," he says. "They sliced open my lip, broke my jaw, reached down inside and carved this thing off my tongue. Later I underwent radiation. My checkups have been clear ever since....I'm excruciatingly lucky. I count my blessings every day."