Earlier this month, Monkees fans got the shocking news that reclusive guitarist Michael Nesmith will hit the road with the surviving members of the band for a fall tour. "It's shocking to us, too," says Monkee drummer-singer Micky Dolenz. "It just caught us all by surprise. It wasn't this massive plan that people had been concocting for years or months or anything. It sort of happened organically."
The band had barely communicated with Nesmith since he walked off a U.K. reunion tour in 1997 after just a handful of dates. "I think he moved back up to Carmel after that," says Dolenz. "There wasn't any strained relations as far as I was concerned. Look, it's impossible to go through something like that and get totally disconnected. It's like a brother. We may not see each other for literally years, and as soon as we get back together we're immediately back into the same dynamic."
Sadly, it took the death of Davy Jones to get the three surviving members of the Monkees back into the same room. "We started talking about doing some sort of memorial show," says Dolenz. "It just sort of escalated from there. It was, 'Well, where do you do the memorial? If you do it on the East coast, the fans on the West coast are disappointed. So, what then? Do we do two memorials?'"
They ultimately decided that a short tour made the most sense. "As soon as the three of us expressed even the slightest bit of interest there was a lot of interest from others," says Dolenz. "The ball started rolling, and the train left the station. Rhino Records also got very excited and helped us support it."
Details of the show are still coming together, but they plan on using the evening to trace the group's entire history. "We're going to use our music, and also videos and still images from the time," says Dolenz. "We'll start out with the early Boyce and Hart songs, the 'Last Train to Clarksville' stuff, and then morph into Headquarters, which we plan on playing a significant amount of material from. Then we'll do material from the movie Head. I'm really looking forward to that. There are great Mike songs on that. 'Circle Sky' is one of my favorites. I'll be on drums for some of the evening, popping back to the front for some songs. We'll be more stripped down for the Head material, and then fleshed out with a bigger band for some other other material."
The show will also feature a tribute to Davy Jones, and his trademark numbers like "Daydream Believer" will be performed. "It's one of Davy's signature tunes," says Dolenz. "I don't know the specific setlist yet. We're having a pre-production meeting soon. Sometimes records sound great on the radio, but then you try and play them live and something just doesn't work out."
The Monkees recording career was incredibly brief, but in that time they produced an astounding amount of material. "It was brutal," says Dolenz. "They needed so much material to service that television show. They were running at least two songs a week. I remember frequently finishing a taping at 7 p.m. and I had to go to RCA at sunset and record until midnight. I would often do two or three lead vocal takes in a night. This was only four-track recording. No pro-tools. No editing. No nothing. People often ask if I remember recording 'I'm a Believer' or 'Last Train to Clarksville.' I say, 'No way!' I was recording two or three vocals a night. Every night."
As of now, only 12 Monkees dates are booked. Might they hit Europe or other markets next year? "Haven't thought that far ahead," says Dolenz. "There certainly is a fanbase in Europe, and the far east, Australia, South America. It's going to depend on a lot of things and it's way too early to speculate."
Nesmith released a series of acclaimed country-rock albums after the Monkees split in the early 1970s. His mother invented Liquid Paper and left him her fortune, leaving him with very little financial incentive to join the Monkees on most of their reunion tours. His low profile over the past few decades has turned him into somewhat of a mystery man. "Sometimes he enjoys people thinking that," says Dolenz. "He's just a very private person. He's very, very smart. Also so very talented with his lyrics, and his poetry and books. I know what people mean about him being mysterious, but that's probably one of the qualities that the original producers saw in him. He has that dry Will Rogers sense of humor. That's probably one of the reasons they cast him."
As he begins to prep for the tour, Dolenz is also focusing on his new solo album Remember, in stores on September 25th. "I've been working on this for three or four years," says Dolenz. "It features a lot of music that was important in my life. It starts with a cover of 'Good Morning Good Morning' by the Beatles because I was at that session. I do a version of 'Johnny B. Goode' because that was my audition song for the Monkees." The disc also contains re-recordings of Monkees classics "I'm a Believer" and "Randy Scouse Git."