The Monkees: Our Life in 15 Songs - Rolling Stone
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The Monkees: Our Life in 15 Songs

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork tell the stories behind some of their most enduring tunes

The Monkees - Our Career In 17 Songs

The Monkees (pictured from left) Peter Tork as Peter, Davy Jones as Davy, Mike Nesmith as Mike, Micky Dolenz as Micky in the 1960s.

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On September 16th, the three surviving members of the Monkees will take the stage at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, California, nearly 50 years to the day after their TV show premiered on NBC. That night in 1966 kicked off a wave of intense Monkeemania that lasted a mere two years, but in that time they worked at a feverish rate, scoring huge hits like “I’m a Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” shooting 58 episodes of their TV show, touring the world and filming the psychedelic movie Head.

“Bert Schneider, the producer of the Monkees TV series, said that when they cast us they caught lightning in a bottle,” says Peter Tork. “For all the hassles and all the ways its been less than perfect for me, I have to agree.”

Davy Jones passed away in 2012, but Tork, Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz reunited that year for a tour that ultimately lead to their triumphant new LP Good Times! Nesmith has been off the road this year as he works on his upcoming book, but will be back onstage at the Pantages show. There’s also a ton of new Monkees releases tied to the 50th anniversary festivities, including the career-spanning three-CD set Monkees 50, which lands on August 26th.

We spoke to Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith about 15 key songs from the Monkees catalog.

Monkees in 17 songs

“Me and Magdalena” (2016)

Micky Dolenz: This is just a wonderful song by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie from our Good Times! record, which was produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. I really wanted to sing it myself, but we ended up doing a sort of duet with me and Mike. It's that Nesmith/Dolenz harmony which I've always loved doing.

Michael Nesmith: As we speak, I'm driving back from Los Angeles. I just recorded a version of this song in Spanish with Micky. 

Peter Tork: This song is just heart-grabbing. I've never heard Michael be so emotionally available as a singer before. The good reviews to this record were really gratifying, but part of me is amused since the record isn't that much better than the early ones. It's just that the moralistic attitude is gone and that enables people to just enjoy the album. What also comes down to is that the ethos that a pop-rock group needs to write all its own material has faded enormously. There's also the nostalgia that gives us a boost in the fact that it's 50 freakin' years later. That's just amazing. It's astounding to be in the middle of it. I look around and go, "What is this?"

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