This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Monkees' television series and the release of their debut single "Last Train To Clarksville," and the group will celebrate by releasing their new album Good Times! and embarking on an extensive North American tour. The album is the Monkees' first collection of original material since 1997's JustUs, and it will feature new songs by Noel Gallagher, Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard and many more. Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne serves as producer on the new LP.
Good Times! also features a handful of songs written for the Monkees back in the 1960s that they never got around to releasing, including Neil Diamond's "Love to Love," Boyce and Hart's "Whatever's Right" and Carole King's "Wasn't Born To Follow." There's also "I Know What I Know," a new song by Mike Nesmith. The title track was written by Harry Nilsson and cut at a 1968 session with Nesmith on guitar, though never finished. The group plans to flesh out the tune, turning it into a virtual duet between Nilsson and Monkees singer Micky Dolenz.
The Monkees returned from a decade-long hiatus in 2011 when the three-man lineup of Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones reunited for a 45th anniversary tour. Jones died of a sudden heart attack early the following year, and months later the group stunned fans by hitting the road with Mike Nesmith, who sat out nearly all Monkees reunion tours since the group split in 1971. The lineup of Nesmith/Tork/Dolenz played a series of American shows through the summer of 2014, though last year Nesmith stepped aside yet again and Dolenz and Tork began gigging without him. "Mike has a lot of other arrows in his quiver," says Dolenz. "For starters, he runs a big business. He's also writing a book, which was the specific reason he gave me for not wanting to leave town again for any particular length of time."
Talk of a 50th anniversary Monkees project began a couple of years ago. The group's trademark is owned by Rhino, and they oversee the release of all Monkees reissues (both the music and TV series) and they license out the name so they can use it on tour. "There have been some recent personnel changes at Rhino and the incoming personnel were very, very pro and positive about the Monkees," says Dolenz. "[Rhino executives] John Hughes and Mark Pinkus both said they wanted us to make a new album, and they spelled out the exact kind of album that would go down well with the 50th anniversary and with our fans."
Adam Schlesinger was hired to produce the disc, and songwriters all over the world were approached about submitting tunes for the group to cut. "I'm not a big music listener outside of Frank Sinatra during martini hour," says Dolenz. "But I began doing research and I realized that the whole indie rock scene is all about recapturing that 1960s jangly guitar sound of the Monkees, amongst many other groups, of course. One reason we don't have a final track listing yet is because once we put the word out all these people said they wanted to get involved."
The album has a hard release date of June 10th, though right now Schlesinger is busy creating music for the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and formal recording sessions have yet to begin. "We've been talking a lot back and forth and sharing music via Dropbox," says Dolenz. "It's coming together fast, which isn't a bad thing since it forces you to make decisions. My job is just to come in and sing lead vocals. It's no different than the old days when we had to get everything done in three-hour sessions because that was the limit of the musician's union."
Right now, he's focused on wrapping his head around the new songs. "We all agree that the lyrics in the Rivers Cuomo song needed to be aged up a little but," Dolenz says. "It sounds like it's about a little girl and I'm 70 years old, so Rivers is re-writing the lyrics." Noel Gallagher is still crafting lyrics for his contribution, though Dolenz says that Ben Gibbard's song "Me & Magdalena" and Zach Rogue's tune "Terrifying" are both in and ready to go. "They're all keeping with our sensibility," says Dolenz. "I just keep calling it that jangly guitar pop sound, though I used to call it 'progressive bubblegum.'"
As of now, there's no formal plans for Mike Nesmith to contribute any guitar or vocal parts. "I don't know what's going to happen with that," he says. "Frankly, we don't even have a recording schedule right now!" Peter Tork, however, will definitely be on hand to record vocals and likely play guitar and possibly the banjo on some of the songs. Davy Jones' voice will be heard on Neil Diamond's "Love To Love," which the group cut in the 1960s. "I'm hoping to do harmonies on that," says Dolenz. "But I haven't spoken to Adam about that in any great detail."
The tour kicks off on May 18th in Fort Myers, Florida and runs though October 29th in Shippensburg, PA, though more dates may be added. The group expects to play some new songs, though the show will revolve around their deep catalog of classics. "I've always felt it was important to give the audience what they want," says Dolenz, "which is the hits. Peter and I do a lovely acoustic portion of the show, like we're sitting around a campfire. Our vocal blend has become very, very interesting."
They plan on performing many songs that originally featured Mike Nesmith on lead vocals, though he won't be on the tour. "He's always invited," says Dolenz. "And at times he has blessed us with his presence. I don't see him going on the road, and certainly not for the whole grueling thing. I sure hope he does show up at some point and sing a couple of songs with us."
The Monkees' heyday lasted little more than three years, and nobody is more shocked than the members of the band that they're still around for the 50th anniversary. "Here I am, 70 years old," says Dolenz. "How the hell did that happen? But I'm more excited for this album and tour than I've been for anything in a long time."
The Monkees Tour Dates
May 18 - Fort Myers, FL @ Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
May 19 - Melbourne, FL @ King Center for the Performing Arts
May 20 - Tampa, FL @ Ruth Eckerd Hall
May 21 - Atlanta, GA @ Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater
May 24 - Charlotte, NC @ Blumenthal PAC - Belk Theater
May 26 - Washington, DC @ Warner Theatre
May 27 - Boston, MA @ The Wilbur Theatre
May 28 - Philadelphia, PA @ Keswick Theatre
May 29 - Red Bank, NJ @ Count Basie Theatre
June 1 - New York, NY @ The Town Hall
June 3 - Toronto, ON @ Casino Rama
June 4 - Windsor, ON @ The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor
June 5 - Cleveland, OH @ Hard Rock Live Northfield Park
June 7 - Fort Wayne, IN @ Foellinger Theatre
June 10 - Louisville, KY @ Louisville Palace Theatre
June 11th - Hammond, IN @ The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
June 12 - Indianapolis, IN @ Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
June 14 - Dayton, OH @ Rose Music Center at The Heights
June 28 - Dallas, TX @ AT&T PAC – Winspear Opera House
June 30 - Tulsa, OK @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
July 1 - Mayetta, KS @ Prairie Band Casino & Resort
July 16 - Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
July 22 - Hot Springs, AR @ Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
September 14 - Tucson, AZ @ Fox Tucson Theater
September 15 - Phoenix, AZ @ Mesa Arts Center
September 16 - Los Angeles, CA @ Pantages Theatre
September 17 - Las Vegas, NV @ Primm Valley Casino Resorts
September 20 - San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield
September 21 - Modesto, CA @ Gallo Center For The Arts
September 23 & 24 - Lincoln City, OR @ Chinook Winds Casino Resort
September 25 - Seattle, WA @ The Moore Theatre
October 1 - Biloxi, MS @ Hard Rock Live
October 22 - Paso Robles, CA @ Vina Robles Amphitheatre
October 29 - Shippensburg, PA @ H. Ric Luhrs PAC