Earlier this year, the Monkees put aside a decade of acrimony and toured in support of their 45th anniversary. They did 43 dates in Europe and America before the tour was called off with little explanation in August. "I'm not really at liberty to get into detail about what happened," Monkees bassist/guitarist Peter Tork tells Rolling Stone. "But there were some business affairs that couldn't be coordinated correctly. We hit a glitch and there was just this weird dislocation at one point. I can't say anything more without getting into the stuff that we have to keep down. We need to work on this stuff outside of the public eye."
According to Tork, the group's internal problems from the 2001 tour didn't resurface. "I find myself much less reactive than I used to be," he says. "Between everybody's behavior changing enough and restructuring the way that we related to one another . . . We did it all right. We had a good time on stage, laughed and created jokes. Jonsey [Davy Jones] and [Micky] Dolenz are funny guys. Some nights Micky sang [to the tune of 'I'm A Believer'], 'I saw her face, not Justin Bieber . . .'"
Unlike previous Monkees shows which featured mainly the hits, the group dug deep into their catalog and regularly played a 43-song set that lasted over two hours. "We managed to pile in a lot of songs because we dropped the middle verse from some of them," says Tork. "We tried it with an intermission, but it just stopped our pace."
The tour earned the group some rave reviews. "The residual flack that we were getting back in the Sixties for being a fake group only stopped just before this tour," Tork says. "In 1997 we did a tour of the U.K. and we regularly had houses of 8,000 people screaming from beginning to end. Every single reviewer in the UK said, 'Boy, these people are so deluded. They just can't tell when something's awful. What's the matter with these stupid people?'"
That 1997 UK tour was the last time that Michael Nesmith shared the stage with his fellow Monkees. All subsequent tours have featured the three-man line-up of Tork, Jones and Dolenz. "The fans call us the 'Threekees,'" says Tork. "I'd say that the odds of another Threekees tour are better than 50/50. As far as the four-man line-up, or the 'Fourkees,' I'd say odds are in the single digits." Back in the 1980s, Nesmith occasionally joined the band for one or two songs when they came through Los Angeles. "I would imagine even that happening again is unlikely," says Tork. "Though it's a much higher percentage possibility than us going out as a four-piece."
If The Monkees do ever tour again, Tork doesn't think it'll be another 10-year wait for the fans. "It would probably be in the next year or two," he says. "But obviously nothing is settled yet, and until we see a settlement in sight, we can't even begin to arrange a tour. Once you start arranging a tour, you may be able to get it mounted about six or seven months down the road."
Despite the accolades from the latest tour, Tork still feels that the Monkees don't get the respect that they deserve. "With all due modesty since I had little to do with it, the Monkees' songbook is one of the better songbooks in pop history," he says. "Certainly in the top five in terms of breadth and depth. It was revealed that we didn't play our own instruments on the records much at the very moment when the idealism of early Beatlemania in rock was at its peak. So we became the ultimate betrayers. The origins of the group were obvious and everyone understood that, but suddenly some little switch was flipped and all that stuff came crashing down around our ears."
While he waits for the Monkees to sort through their issues, Tork is hitting the road for a series of solo acoustic dates as well as shows with his blues band Shoe Suede Blues. "With the band, we do a third Monkees songs, a third originals and a third blues pop covers," Tork says. "With my solo show, I bring a banjo and the keyboard and I do folk songs and I usually do a Bach keyboard piece just for the fun of it. But I know that if I don't do some Monkees songs, the audience will be all kinds of disappointed."