What’s the difference between a Micky Dolenz concert and a Monkees concert? “Not a lot,” says Micky Dolenz, laughing. Dolenz was one of the four original members of the Monkees, a band put together for a TV show, The Monkees, that first aired starting in 1966.
“I sang lead on a lot of the Monkees songs, so in my show I do a lot of the same songs.” That would mean Monkees hits like “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone.” “I even use the same band,” says Dolenz, although this performance won’t include his fellow surviving Monkees, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith. A fourth original Monkee, Davy Jones, passed away in 2012.
East Enders will get a chance to experience Micky Dolenz live on Sunday, July 17, at Suffolk Theater in Riverhead. It’s a pretty exciting time to see Dolenz, as the show comes amidst celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Monkees, which is being marked by the release of a new album on Rhino Records, called Good Times! (which hit number 14 on the Billboard chart), and a full-fledged Monkees tour coming in the fall.
After 50 years, the controversy surrounding the Monkees and its members—in the ’60s, the band was criticized by purists for relying on session musicians to play on their records—has eased quite a bit. What remains is an appreciation for the legacy of endearing pop songs, written by the likes of Carole King and Neil Diamond, that the Monkees brought to the world. Happily, it is these classic songs that form the backbone of Dolenz’s live set.
And the new Monkees album promises to add to this legacy. “I’m so, so proud of the new album,” says Dolenz. “It happened very quickly—the stars aligned.” The record, which reunites Dolenz with Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, was spurred by the discovery, in a vault, of several incomplete tracks recorded in the ’60s. “They were churning out material for the show, trying to keep up with demand, and then the show got cancelled and it just got filed away.”
Among the newly discovered material was what became the title track of the new album, “Good Times,” written by a young Harry Nilsson. The multi-track master was complete with the late Nilsson’s own inimitable lead vocal. It now appears on the album as a virtual duet between Nilsson and Dolenz. “I later became very good friends with Nilsson,” says Dolenz, “so it was like singing a duet with one of my best friends.”
In addition to mining the rediscovered tracks for material, the word went out to songwriters that a new Monkees album was in the works, and some great songs poured in—all tapping into that tuneful Monkees vibe. “We met with Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne fame) and we loved his sensibility.” Schlesinger penned a few of the album’s new songs and served as producer on the project. Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman, Ben Gibbard, provided “Me and Magdalena,” a beautiful duet for Dolenz and Nesmith that appears not once, but twice on the new album. (“We couldn’t decide which version we liked more,” says Dolenz.) Rivers Cuomo of Weezer also contributed a song, “She Makes Me Laugh.”
Poignantly, the album includes the never-released “Love to Love,” featuring the late Davy Jones on lead vocals, originally recorded in 1967 and then shelved. Here it appears augmented with newly-recorded backup vocals by Dolenz and Tork. “During the concert we project Davy up on a screen and we play along to his singing,” says Dolenz.
What Monkees fan wouldn’t want to see that? So dust off your Monkees fan club buttons and get over to Riverhead for the Micky Dolenz show. It’ll be a great way to prepare for when the rest of the Monkees come along. “Here they come, walking down your street…”
On July 17 at 7:30 p.m., Micky Dolenz will perform at the Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street, Riverhead. For more information, visit suffolktheater.com or call 631-727-4343.