Micky Dolenz remains one of the most iconic pop culture figures of the 1960s. Back then he held a starring role alongside Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork in the outrageously successful television comedy series called “The Monkees.” The show, which was a heavy nod to both the Marx Brothers and The Beatles, aimed to chronicle the misadventures of a fictional rock-n-roll band whose members all lived together in a two-story Malibu beach house. Despite being assembled via casting calls, as music-makers the Monkees would go on to deliver a very real run of era-defining radio hits including, “I’m A Believer,” “Last Train To Clarksville,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” The multimedia act also used its unprecedented platform for promotion to help turn the world on to other worthwhile artists such as Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Jack Nicholson. In advance of his headlining set at Abbey Road On The River, we caught up with Dolenz by phone for a quick look over his shoulder.
LEO: Looking back, how would you characterize the interpersonal dynamic that existed within the Monkees?
Micky Dolenz: We clicked in many ways, right away. In retrospect, the casting decisions that the TV producers made probably had a lot to do with it. They likely were able to see certain indefinable qualities in each of us that they knew would work well together.
You were the primary vocalist but also the drummer for the Monkees. How did you arrive at the unconventional technique of playing right-handed but left-footed?
Well, I went in for my audition piece and afterwards they said, “OK, you got the part, you’re the drummer.” To which I said, “But I’m a guitar player!” That didn’t matter to them because they had already cast Michael and Peter and they didn’t need another guitar player. So, I started taking drum lessons immediately. But I had this condition called Perthes as a child and my right leg has always been a little bit weaker and shorter than my left. Because I had never really learned to play either way before, my drum teacher said I could just switch things over.
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart contributed some of their all-time best work to the Monkees project. Did you see them as an extension of the band?
Absolutely. We were all very close. They had been the record producers and songwriters for most of the early stuff including the theme song and a lot of the big hits. Later on, after the show went off the air and there was no Monkee business, so to speak, someone came up with the idea for Davy and I to join them for an album and tour as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart.
What was the Laurel Canyon scene of the late 1960s like for you?
A lot of interesting people lived close by in those days. Alice Cooper became a very good friend, for example. And right down the street you could find Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash in the house that he wrote the song about.
Given that there is a Fab Four connection to the song, would you mind unpacking your lyrics for “Randy Scouse Git?”
That one arrived after The Beatles threw us a party one night. I went back to my hotel room and just started noodling on my guitar. Lyrically, it’s kind of a stream of consciousness thing, I think you would say. There is a reference to The Beatles, of course, as they are the four kings of EMI sitting stately on the floor. But the fun part about that song is the fact that I was forced to change the title. Our English record company said they really wanted to release it as a single. However, they insisted that we have an alternate title because the Monkees had such a young following. That’s when they informed me that the phrase “Randy Scouse Git,” which I had only heard in passing on a British television program and thought that it sounded cool, basically means “horny Liverpudlian putz.” In the end, we gave in and we literally released it under the name, “Alternate Title,” over there and it briefly went to number one on the charts, only to get knocked off by….guess who?…The Beatles! •
Micky Dolenz appears at Abbey Road On The River on Thursday, May 25 at 7:45 p.m. For festival details and ticket information visit arotr.com.