Micky Dolenz: The Last Man Standing, Keeping The Monkees Flame Alive

Micky. The last man standing from the Prefab Four. As in ‘prefabricated.’ But time has proven that tossed off moniker as ill-advised.
The Monkees have been embraced over the decades by a cadre of folks who came to understand the band’s intriguing history.
A couple Hollywood entrepreneurs saw the frenzy being created by four Liverpudlians and figured why not the same in the colonies. A casting call rejected dozens of candidates (including Stephen Stills for bad teeth, imagine if he had flossed regularly how different the LA music scene would have been).
The weekly TV show captured the hearts and minds of youth, and their early albums shifted many units. Buying their debut LP (and my first of many records) I did not need to pay the extra dollar for the stereo version. But soon the foursome staged a palace coup, wanting to play their own instruments and write their own songs. Having built the band’s sound with a deft combination of top shelf songwriters and the cream of LA’s session musicians, the puppet masters, er….producers were slow to relent.
But by the third album a rapprochement was attained and the resulting album Headquarters was a delightful production.
By 1967 The Monkees sold a staggering 65 million albums, allegedly outselling The Beatles and The Stones that year.
Credit The Monkees for going out in style by the end of the 1960s. Their only foray into movies was the cryptic unpacking of the band’s brief flight close to the sun. Head featured input from the likes of an already jaded Frank Zappa and a young Jack Nicholson.
Several reunions over the ensuing decades kept The Monkees’ legend from being extinguished. Rhino Records took an early bet on licensing the band’s seemingly dormant catalog, and hit the trifecta just as the CD format was gaining traction. The label set the bar for tasteful reissues, soon copied by the major labels.
Michael Nesmith was collecting songwriter royalties once Linda Ronstadt recorded his “Different Drum.” When The Monkees dissolved he parlayed his inventive mother’s fortune (Liquid Paper, anyone?) into the nascent music video business, winning the first Grammy in that category. He certainly learned much in his prior years on the TV set. Nesmith in parallel had a highly credible career contributing to the invention of country rock / Americana.
Peter Tork pursued various folk music endeavors, Davy Jones mostly stuck to his knitting and Micky Dolenz decamped to England where he also worked in film.
I was fortunate to see one of the last performances by all four Monkees decades ago, and no one in the oversold Greek Theatre was let down.
Now Micky is the last Monkee standing. He is understandably leveraging the band’s extensive songbook on tour. With a punk-like pace of rapidly delivering about a dozen songs after the house lights dim, the best are those in which he originally took the lead vocals.
Micky once released an album of Nesmith-penned tunes, but the green wool-capped singer’s voice is missed.
With a reel of clips from the TV show playing as a pleasant distraction, Micky’s solid touring band captures all the licks and Micky delivers with aplomb.
He is a raconteur, serving up memories of his band mates followed by video excerpts of past footage.
Micky gives credit where it is due: the songwriters. No one really understood the metrics of the music business in the 1960s, but when nascent songwriters began seeing the value of their effort, things became clear. Until the streaming era, non-writing performers still made decent money.
But for many musicians, Micky among them, performing is the prime revenue source and hopefully a source of inspiration and satisfaction.
Although Micky no longer pounds the skins as he did back in the day, he has kept his voice and stage chops in fine fettle.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.