ME AND THE MONKEES
Okay, I love Minnesota music, but my favorite band is still the Monkees. Can’t help it – I was 10 years old in 1967. I didn’t buy Tiger Beat and only had one of their albums, but somehow my parents let us watch the show, which was hilarious when you’re 10. Mike Nesmith was my favorite Monkee – he was tall, serious, and smart, and I guess I related to that. Don’t know if I knew that he was married and had a kid. Much later in life I got the Monkees Music Box and got more familiar with their repertoire, especially Mike’s twangy story-songs. Very un-Monkee-like, but very cool.
I saw them in:
- Baltimore in 1986, on the heels of their comeback and the re-running of their shows on MTV. I recorded them all on my VCR!
- Baltimore in 1987
- DC in 1989
- Micky solo on a package tour in DC in 1991. He did not look happy but there were only about 20 of us. It was an outdoor amphitheater and it poured rain before and after, but cleared up just for the show, which included some incredible acts. He would not sing my request, which was “Sometime in the Morning.”
- The great 930 Club in DC. We had been to Wolftrap in Virginia to see Dylan and then sped like the wind back to town to see the Monkees second show. Amazing!
- 2012 at the State Theater in Minneapolis – described in excruciating detail below.
- 2021 at the State Theater in Minneapolis – their Farewell Tour with Micky and Mike.
MONKEES IN MINNESOTA
The following is a list of the shows the Monkees performed in Minnesota, as much as I could assemble. Please contact me for any additions, corrections, or stories.
The Monkees hit the TV airwaves on September 12, 1966 at 7:30 pm, as attested to by this page from the Minneapolis-St. Paul edition of the TV Guide. Most of us remember the show in Saturday morning reruns, but it was a prime time show when it premiered!
The Monkees were a phenomenon, although perhaps guys didn’t wear Monkee boots like they wore Beatle boots. And certainly they didn’t wear those double buttoned shirts, did they? What about this gear?
Not exactly in the Twin Cities, but close enough, Will Jones reported on August 3:
The younger set in Hayward, Wis., still hasn’t quite simmered down after a surprise visit last weekend from The Monkees… The Buffalo Springfield were appearing in the Big Top tent at Tony Wise’s Old Hayward layout last Saturday night. Earlier, they had appeared in Chicago, where The Monkees also were appearing, and the two groups had partied together there.
The Monkees decided Old Hayward would be a gassy place for another party. So after their appearance in Chicago Saturday, they flew to Duluth in a chartered DC6 – the band, their road managers and agents and assistants and girl friends, a party of 26 in all. From Duluth they chartered a Greyhound bus and roared to Hayward with a police escort.
They arrived for the tail end of the Springfield’s bash in the tent, and then continued with a late jam session in the tent. They took over the old train that is parked at Old Hayward serving as a restaurant and bar, partied there all night, slept in the Pullman, and breakfasted the next day on such delicacies as corn flakes drenched in orange juice before taking off.
Race riots and curfews in Milwaukee brought the Monkees to Minneapolis a day early, so on Friday, August 4, 1967 [right after our own race riot], KDWB arranged for them to take over the airways on the afternoon before their concert at the St. Paul Auditorium. A remote was set up at their hotel, the Capp Towers Motor Hotel at 9th and Minnesota in St. Paul. Although the location was announced as “Secret City,” there was a crowd of screaming girls outside listening to their transistor radios.
On hand were DJs Jimmy Reed and Charlee Brown, and General Manager Sam Sherwood. Photographer Mike Barich was there with his girlfriend Vicki Peters, shown above with Peter Tork in a photo taken by Barich. (Victoria Peters was from West St. Paul and was Miss October 1972.) Barich remembers that they were listening to rival station WDGY over their transistor radios, a fact Mike picked up on and mentioned during the broadcast.
It appears that Mike Nesmith started at 2pm, and he would tell the kids outside to scream on cue. Mike (and apparently everyone) called KDWB the “Dirty 630” and had fun at the expense of the ads, including sacred Dayton’s – it was meant to be satiric, I suppose, but comes off a little mean. Peter Tork took over at 5 and played some groovy tunes and B-sides. Somehow the subject came up that he had been kicked out of Carleton College. Davy Jones was on for a nanosecond, and Micky Dolenz took on the serious topic of the Monkees playing their own instruments. It is now 15 Monkee Minutes past the hour. They seemed to genuinely enjoy being DJs for the day. At 6, a very excited John Hamilton took over for Tac Hammer as the gang headed out to the concert.
Back in St. Louis Park, Phil Kitchen recorded over four hours of the show on his reel-to-reel. That material, with additional material from their arrival at the airport provided by Curt Lundgren, is available Here.
Interesting were the musical ads by big stars, including Spencer Davis for Great Shakes. Ray Charles and Los Bravos each did ads for Coke. A frequent ad was for Dad’s Root Beer: “That’s My Pop!” But someone explain why KDWB would advertise a Ray Conniff album? For that matter, why is a Ray Conniff album on the wall of the “A Date With Dino” set?
LEAPING, SCREAMING TEEN-AGERS CHEERED ROCK GROUP
Opening the concert were Australian pop star Lynne Randell and New York band Bobby Dick and the Sundowners (Google them!). Mike played the Sundowners’ song “Always You,” which was very Association-like. Over 15,000 Monkees fans attended the concert (the Minneapolis Tribune’s Brian Anderson reported 10,800.) Anderson’s review relied mostly on the opinions of 16-year-old Keith Follese, a member of the local group the Youngsters. The review was much like that of the Beatles’ visit in 1965, with remarks about how the screams from the audience drowned out the music.
Micky Dolenz did “some sort of strange, unintelligible impersonation” which Keith though was some rat from King Leonardo’s cartoon show. Peter Tork sang a song that sounded like “Jimmy Crack Corn” – “Keith didn’t know what it was either, but agreed it was ‘a mess.’ Monkee Mike Nesmith then poured a bucket of paper (ha-ha) over Monkee David Jones to the delighted screams of the early and pre-teens.” They flashed movies of their zany antics interspersed with scenes from the Alabama freedom rides. All agreed that the screams prohibited judgment of their proficiency and probably was responsible for a bunch of mistakes. Oh well, who cares??
A Facebooker remembers: “I saw the Monkees when they were at the Roy Wilkins auditorium. I remember the bucket of paper being “poured” over Davy. Davy then took off his shirt and everyone screamed. Oh, how fun it was being young.”
Another Facebooker, Paul Zafke, posted his ticket!
MIKE BARICH WAS THERE!
New in 2021 are the photos below, recently scanned after resting in Mike Barich’s basement for 50 years. He probably took them to be included in the Insider, but to my knowledge they were not. Thanks, Mike!
WHERE WAS JIMI HENDRIX?
An oft-repeated story is that Jimi Hendrix once opened for the Monkees. Was that really true? According to this article in Mental Floss magazine by Kara Kovalchik, published on July 17, 2012, it was, and Jimi was supposed to have come to our town.
It sounds like an elaborate joke today: legendary acid rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix working as the warm-up for a teenybopper group like The Monkees? But back in 1967, the pairing actually made a little bit of sense for both acts.
Micky Dolenz was the first Monkee to “discover” Hendrix; while visiting New York in the spring of 1967, a friend advised him to check out this amazing musician in the Village who played the guitar with his teeth. Dolenz was impressed but didn’t remember the guitarist’s name until he saw The Jimi Hendrix Experience onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival several months later. The Monkees were about to embark on a U.S. concert tour and Dolenz strongly recommended hiring Jimi Hendrix and his band as their opening act. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith supported the choice; both were anxious to be accepted as serious musicians and believed that Hendrix would lend them some credibility among rock critics and older record buyers. “Besides,” Tork would later say, “it would give us the chance to watch Jimi Hendrix perform night after night!”
Jimi, on the other hand, thought The Monkees’ music was “dishwater,” but his manager convinced him to sign on for the tour. Hendrix already had three hits in England but was virtually unknown in America. His manager wanted to capitalize on the buzz generated by his client’s Monterey Pop performance, and The Monkees were just about the biggest act in the country at that time. What could go wrong?
Plenty, as it turned out.
The Monkees’ young fans were confused by the overtly sexual stage antics of Hendrix, and when he tried to get them to sing along to “Foxy Lady” they stubbornly screamed “Foxy Davy!” The Jimi Hendrix Experience played just eight of the 29 scheduled tour dates; then, on July 16, 1967, Jimi flipped the Forest Hills, Queens, New York, audience off, threw down his guitar and walked away from Monkeemania.
INTERVIEW WITH MONKEE MIKE
On August 5, 1967, the day after the concert, an interview appeared with Mike and Brian Anderson in the Tribune which was held just before the concert. It was most distressing to a Monkee fan. He called Monkee music “inane, banal,” and “tripe,” saying that the Beatles is where to go for good music. “Our only point is no point.”
“These 13-year-old kids just want to use us for growing up, and that’s fine with us. God willing, they will have forgotten about us by the time they’re 20, and that’s the way it should be.” When asked about the future, he predicted that the group would go on for about three years, the kids they’re playing for now would grow up, and they would make way for a new group. The kids may not remember us, but they’ll know there was something that brought them some fun back in their teens.” [Be sure to see my comments on their 2021 Farewell Tour below.]
Nesmith said that the guys on TV were the same guys in real life. The TV show made no sense, and the guys would do anything for a gag. He also said that the audience at their shows only hear a “rumble” on stage, but they try to spice it up a little with movies, costume changes, and other diversions. “These kids have been cheated so many times by groups who just play for 12 minutes, that we want to give them a real show.”
The article did mention that Mike was “super-rich,” with seven cars and a Lear jet. This was all Monkee money. Once he quit the Monkees, things weren’t so easy. But as many people know, his mother, Bette Nesmith Graham, was the inventor of Liquid Paper, in Texas in the 1950s. She sold the business to the Gillette Corporation in 1979 for $47.5 million and ongoing royalties. She died in 1980 and Mike got his inheritance of $25 million at that time. In 2000, the Liquid Paper product and brand name was acquired by Newell Rubbermaid (now Newell Brands).
The Duluth News Tribune blog tells us: The first time [the Monkees came to Duluth] was on Sept. 6, 1969. They performed twice at the Duluth Auditorium. A story that ran the next day said, “The afternoon audience was small but enthusiastic. Attendance in the evening was better, and Arena-Auditorium officials said 3,806 youngsters in all saw the group. “Earlier in the day, Superior police had to disperse a crowd of young girls — about 200 — who had gathered near the motel at which the group was reportedly staying. They were disappointed. The Monkees already had left for their afternoon show.”
The Monkees made a sweep through Minnesota in 1975, with stops at:
- The Bel Rae Ballroom on June 22, 1975
- The Gibbon Ballroom on June 26, 1975
- The Paradise Ballroom in Waconia with Butch Automatic and the 4-Speeds, on June 27, 1975
They must have had a good time at the Bel-Rae, because they came back on Christmas Day, 1975.
The Monkees’ first reunion (without Mike Nesmith) was in 1986. It was their 20th Anniversary, and reruns on MTV had made them a hot property again. They embarked on an 86-city concert tour, stopping at the Carlton Celebrity Room in Bloomington. (The Mall of America sits near that site now.) One show turned into three, on August 20-22. Jon Bream of the Strib gave his approval, sprinkling words like “goofy” and “zany” liberally into his review.
Also on the bill were Gary Puckett, Herman’s Hermits (without Peter Noone), and The Grass Roots (with Rob Grill).
The show came to Duluth on November 9, 1986.
The Monkees appeared at the State Fair, on the Grandstand on August 30, 1987, with Weird Al Yankovic, two shows. The Strib’s review said that the trio cut down on the antics and concentrated on their music, which seemed “misguided and disappointing to fans,” but the approach also misfired because the singers were “overpowered by their nine backup musicians.” (September 4, 1987)
The Monkees performed at the State Theater on August 9, 1997. (I couldn’t verify this.)
Micky, Davy, and Peter toured in 2011, appearing at the Weesner Amphitheater at the Minnesota Zoo on July 1 and 2, despite the fact that a government shutdown had closed the Zoo to the general public. After an initial 25 minutes there was an 80 minute rain delay, but they resumed for another 55 minutes. The delay cut their set list from 37 to 23 songs, but nobody was complaining, reported StarTribune music reporter Jon Bream, who generally gave the concert a good review.
Jon Bream was not so impressed with the 2012 Happy Together tour at the State Fair on August 27, 2012, which included Micky as a solo act.
THE MONKEES WITH MIKE AT THE STATE THEATER, 2012
The Monkees concert on November 12, 2012, at the State Theater in Minneapolis was Pre-Fabulous!! Perhaps it was because they had fun here in 1967 that the Monkees made Minneapolis one of only 12 shows on their historic 2012 tour. Davy Jones had died of a heart attack on February 29, and Mike finally decided to join Micky and Peter for a reunion tour. Here are my observations from this landmark show:
- Their show was met with screams after every song. I got my Primal Scream therapy out of the way for the next year. I pity our neighbors. And Steve, although he said he had a good time. He was 17 in 1967..
- The audience was decidedly gray, but there were lots of people of all ages there too.
- There was only one guy at the merchandise table and he was swamped, taking in money hand over fist. T-shirts were $35 and “programs” were $25. I say “programs” because they were pretty much worthless. I didn’t get mine until after the show, hoping it had a song list in it, but it didn’t have much of anything.
- I called Ticketmaster within the first five minutes tickets were available and we were about a block away. What is the secret?
- They didn’t engage is a lot of chatter, but they did Monkee around a little bit. When Peter’s keyboard didn’t work Mike threatened to go out for a sandwich.
- When they say “She,” everyone joined in at “Hey!” That was fun.
- The program was basically chronological, with efforts to take turns with each of their songs. (i.e., Micky would sing one of his, Mike one of his, and Peter with one of his few)
- Video and photos were on a center screen at all times.
- They started with a full band, then did a set with just the three of them: Mike on guitar, Micky on drums, and Peter on bass. Sounded great!
- There was a substantial set of songs and a video montage from “Head.” Peter marveled: “And that was just from one movie!”
- They did “Daily Nightly” live for the first time ever on this tour, citing problems in the past reproducing the sound of the Moog synthesizer. (“Daily Nightly” is the one that goes “questions with no answers.” Like Dylan’s song, lots of Monkees’ song titles have nothing to do with the song.) Micky said it was the first rock ‘n’ roll song done with a Moog. They showed a picture of it – Mike said it was as big as a Buick. Micky needed to read the words, and kept looking at Mike (who wrote the song) as if to say “what the heck does this mean?” Mike just shrugged. Just my impression. Very funny!
As hoped, Mike did a LOT of his songs. They each basically did their own songs, except Mike did one of Micky’s. Mike played the same 12-string the entire show, and played keyboards on one song. One song – “Sweet Young Thing?” was unusually dirge-like, but otherwise they were all just like the records. Mike’s son Christian played guitar and did backing vocals. Mike is a bazillionaire and doesn’t need the money – this was a real gift to Monkee fans. Mike’s official web site is www.videoranch.com
Peter was great! His silly dance during “Auntie Grizelda” was a hoot. He did everything: rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, banjo. “For Pete’s Sake” was a highlight. He did one song I didn’t know – it was a weird segue from another song where Micky’s mike wasn’t working very well and may have been an ad lib or a new song he did. Peter seemed to be having the best time. Peter’s web site is www.petertork.com
Micky sang most of the songs, as expected. He also played drums, but didn’t do a lot of that at the same time. He explained the origin of “Randy Scouse Git” and donned a replica of his old poncho to hit the big drum when he did it. He was amazing doing “Goin’ Down.” His sister Coco did background vocals. His web site is www.mickydolenz.com
The band paid tribute to Davy by showing two full-length videos and another montage. The “Head” segment featured Davy’s black-and-white song and dance number that he did with Toni Basil. It was nice, respectful, but not maudlin. At the end Micky explained that they didn’t know how they were going to sing “Daydream Believer,” and then Mike suggested that the audience sing it. Two young fans came onstage and did a great job, and of course everyone knew the words. The band didn’t do any of his other songs.
It was a perfect venue and a wonderful show – thank you, Monkees!!
Mike Nesmith did a solo show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on April 5, 2013. The audience undoubtedly included some pure Monkees fans like me, but by and large these were hard core MIKE NESMITH fans. He played only songs that he had written, and introduced each one with a “mini-movie” setting. He started off with a Monkees song, “Papa Gene’s Blues,” but did only one other, “Some of Shelley’s Blues.” “Different Drum” was done as a French waltz, and he only attempted the high note on “Joanne” once. The rest were songs I didn’t know, I’m ashamed to say, but the audience reacted with glee at every one and he seemed genuinely touched at the reception. Nonetheless I’m glad I went, if only to hear that familiar Texas drawl again. Peter Tork was also touring solo – I didn’t heard of any Minnesota dates.
THE DEATH OF PETER TORK
Peter died on February 21, 2019, after a long battle with cancer. He was 77. This was a huge story nationally and locally, sparking many tributes on Facebook and discussions and memories of the Monkees. Peter was much loved.
And Peter had a significant connection to Minnesota. Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born in Washington, DC, in 1942, and he graduated from high school in Connecticut in 1959. From there he enrolled at Carleton College in Northfield. Upon his death, the school shared some information about his time there, as reported by Chris Reimenschneider of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 22, 2019:
Carleton representatives have shared a photo from the 1963 edition of the Algol yearbook that shows the young P.H. Thorkelson standing alongside his dorm mates from the fourth floor of Burton Hall. Judging by the photo, it looks like that may have been the party floor that year.
The future rock and TV star is pretty easy to spot in the picture, not only because of the similar smirk and haircut that would appear on television sets across the nation just three years later, but also because he’s wearing a sweatshirt that reads “Tork.”
A 1982 article on Tork from the school’s newspaper, the Carletonian, was also dug up following his death. In the interview with then-student Sam Delson during a period when he was playing solo acoustic gigs, the Monkee recounted his rather abysmal academic performance but otherwise fun time while studying in Northfield – which included an initial stretch in 1959, followed by a break and then two more years before he was finally kicked out in 1963 “for low grades and missing chapel,” he said in the article.
Originally from Connecticut, Tork declared himself an English major at Carleton and was also an intramural wrestler, but apparently neither of those were his main pursuit while at the school.
“There were no women in my home town, but there were women at Carleton,” he enthused in the story, “even though they lived on the other side of campus in closed dorms and visitation was allowed only two or three times a year.”
The October 1967 issue of Flip Magazine apparently contains this quote from a classmate: “About the only place where Peter didn’t take his banjo was class, when he went to class. When he did attend classes, he usually went barefooted. All the teachers and professors thought that he was tremendously intelligent, but they would get mad at him because he wouldn’t study.”
The 1982 article also described the dedication that later students had to their famed alumnus. In November 1979, the “Gang of at Least Three and Not Over Sixteen Hundred” absconded with the portrait of the college’s first president and demanded return only if the Great Hall be renamed after Tork. After negotiations lasting five months, the students settled for a ceremony and plaque dedicating the Sayles-Hill game room as the “Peter Tork Memorial Pinball Area.”
Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz performed at Mystic Lake Casino on March 14, 2019. This show was only a month after the death of Peter Tork, and must have been extremely difficult for the two remaining Monkees. In fact, the show was billed as, “The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show.” It had been booked months before Peter’s death. Both Peter and Davy were given tributes during the show. Mike sang a good number of songs that he had written, although reviewer Chris Riemenschneider noted that he was a bit rusty and had to read lyrics from an iPad all evening.
Riemenschneider ended his review with this:
Without Jones and Tork, the canned comedic aspects of past Monkees tours was largely absent. Even with the tinge of sadness behind it, though, this wasn’t a heavy-hearted show by any means. Nobody would ever want to see that from the Monkees. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 16, 2019)
The Monkees Farewell Tour began on September 10, 2021, in Seattle, and ends at the Greek Theater, “Where it all Began,” in Los Angeles on November 14, 2021. The two surviving members of the Prefab Four stopped by the State Theater in Minneapolis on November 7. I was lucky to be there.
Reading my notes now from the 2012 concert, it wasn’t as great, but it was more emotional. They started with “Good Clean Fun,” which ends with “I told you I’d come back and here I am.” It was just Micky and Mike – Micky called him “Nez,” and so will I. Neither of them played any instruments, except that Micky played some tambourine and his usual timpani on “Randy Scouse Git.” The roadie who brought them out wore the poncho, though. Nez walked kind of hunched over, but was funny and sang well. The audience was subdued during the first half, perhaps because of the absence of Davy and Peter, and the lack of Monkee business. The band was fantastic! I didn’t know that Micky’s sister Coco was singing backup until he introduced the band during “Goin’ Down.” She’s great.
We weren’t supposed to take photos, and the lighting washed out their faces anyway, but Gary Hubbell’s clandestine shot was better than mine.
In a lot of ways, this concert was about how we’ve changed, but the Monkees have stayed with us. The second half belonged to Nez. He talked about how he imagined us listening to their music as eight-year-olds (I was nine), and how something in their music stayed with us all through our lives. As he sang the next song, “While I Cry,” he made everyone (including himself) cry, and he barely got through it. I just typed in his 1967 interview (above) how he was so flip about how we would forget the Monkees, and he was so wrong.
It’s true that we did change. “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was a put-down about our parents’ generation living out in the suburbs, and now it’s about (most of) us, taking care of our lawns and barbequeing in back yard. Nobody cared. It’s part of our youth, and we all loved the song and always will.
“She” and other songs were reworked into emotional ballads that hit the heart. A newer song written by someone associated with Oasis didn’t appeal to me – not a Monkees song. Lots of Nez’s songs were done, including “Diff’rent Drum.” Love that song.
Fortunately most people (at least in our section) stayed seated. Not that I oppose dancing or gratitude, but I’m old, as were most of the audience. “I’m a Believer” got people the most excited. Also “Stepping Stone.” There was no encore. Masks were required, as was proof of Covid vaccination. Our tickets were about $100 each, on an advance deal through radio station WDGY.
Goodbye, Monkees. I’ve loved you since I was nine, and will forever.
THE DEATH OF MIKE NESMITH
Not even a month after their last concert, Mike was gone. It was announced on Friday morning, December 10, 2021, that Mike had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 78. This was shocking news to anyone who had just seen him so recently. It was revealed that he had had a quadruple bypass three years ago, and that he had been in hospice care a few days before he died.
My observations were that he had seemed frail and stooped over as he walked across the stage, but his voice was strong as ever. He did, however, leave the stage several times, and it was hinted that he needed to sit down and/or take a hit of oxygen.
More important, during his monologue in the second half, he had come to terms with his legacy and finally understood that Monkees music was not for grown men his age, but for those 8-year-olds in their basements.
When the news of his passing came out, so many of my friends contacted me to let me know – I guess everyone who knows me knows what a huge Monkees fan I am. I’m glad I was able to see that last show, and be in the same room with my favorite Monkee. Rest in peace, Nez.