Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith of The Monkees were supposed to be on tour this month to help promote their new album, The Mike & Micky Show Live. But like the rest of the country, both are at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I live in an area that’s … quite secluded so if we walk around, there’s nobody around,” Dolenz told Billboard in a phone interview. “But we’re still hunkered down. We’re not going out and doing anything.”
On April 1, the coronavirus claimed Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, who was chief producer of both The Monkees’ 2016 album Good Times! and their 2018 Christmas Party album and also wrote songs for each. Dolenz called his passing “just terrible.” The virus also touched another associate of Dolenz’s — Grammy and Oscar-winning singer Christopher Cross, who Dolenz toured with last year. Dolenz told Billboard Cross was recovering and a spokesperson for 21st Century Artists confirmed Cross “is doing better.”
The just-released The Mike and Micky Show Live album has a full, rich sound not heard on the original Monkees albums, which both Nesmith and Dolenz credit to Christian Nesmith, Mike’s son, who mixed it. “Christian Nesmith (who also played guitar on the album) did an amazing job mixing,” Dolenz said. “I’m very pleased with the way (the album) came out.”
“I’m hopeful that he will get his kudos for this,” said Nesmith, “because he had a stack of tapes and some half-baked ideas from me and Mick and the band. And I had no idea — ‘how the hell is this thing going to go together?'”
He acknowledged that The Monkees, in their TV days, did a lot of learning. “It was tough. We had to get in there and learn and do it. They (the original albums) were the best that The Monkees’ records could be at the time,” he said.
The repartee on the album also demonstrates the long-lasting friendship between Dolenz and Nesmith. “We really have always gotten along considering we were just introduced to each other one day,” said Dolenz. “We always hit it off musically and in the comedy. And it shows.” The album takes a trip down memory lane for Monkees fans with the group’s three Billboard No. 1 hits — “Last Train To Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer” — and some deep cuts as well. It also brings reminders of a few stories from The Monkees’ past, one being the controversy over “Randy Scouse Git.”
It all began while The Monkees were touring in England in 1967 and Dolenz was watching a show called Till Death Us Do Part, which later became All in the Family in the U.S. “The Archie Bunker character calls the boy randy scouse git. And I was in the middle of writing that song. I had no idea what it meant. I just thought it sounded cool in a very ’60s kind of a thing. I later got a phone call and it was the publishing company. And they said you have to change the name of the song.” It was changed – to “Alternate Title.”
The story has a recent postscript Dolenz said he hadn’t revealed before. A few years ago, he received an envelope with a note from Olivia Harrison, the widow of Beatle George Harrison, saying, ‘Micky, I found this in George’s stuff. Derek Taylor (former Beatles press officer) had given this to George on his birthday.’ The envelope contained a note Screen Gems in London had sent at the time addressed to one of The Monkees’ producers revealing the phrase in the U.K. meant “an oversexed illegitimate son of a prostitute from Liverpool.”
Along with The Mike and Micky Show Live, another recent release featuring Nesmith is Cosmic Partners: The McCabe’s Tapes, a very intimate 1973 performance recorded at a Santa Monica guitar shop and featuring the late O.J. “Red” Rhodes, whose spacey pedal steel guitar was heard on records with Nesmith beginning with The First National Band’s debut album Magnetic South in 1970. “I think Cosmic is more cosmic than anything I’ve ever done,” Nesmith said. The album, produced by Ed Heffelfinger, features nice live versions of “Some of Shelly’s Blues,” “The Grand Ennui,” “Joanne” and “Silver Moon,” among others.
Dolenz called a planned July return to touring for him and Nesmith “optimistic.” “I think everybody’s waiting for some sort of a drug … or vaccine. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’m going to be too crazy about going out unless something of that nature happens.”
But Nesmith, who underwent a quadruple bypass in mid-2018, said he feels great and is looking forward to getting back on the road. “I’m ready to get up there and do the best job I can,” he said. “I love this band. I love going out on the road with them,” he said, “When I go out on that stage I look at that crowd and they’re all more or less my age. This thing strikes off in their eyes and I watch as the flames come up. And then for the next hour and a half, I watched this most amazing phenomenon of The Monkees’ crowd turning into a Monkees crowd, and that has delighted me since the first day I saw it.”
Asked to make a comment about the country’s situation with the coronavirus, Dolenz said he preferred to stay out of politics, but Nesmith, in his folksy style, commented, “I think the political landscape is like those wires that show up in the bottom of everybody’s closet after about two years that used to hook up the stereo, but does it hook up to anything now? And you can’t get it to play. That’s the way I feel about the presidency right now. This is a broken guy. And he’s not making decisions that make me comfortable or make me want to stay here. I’ll always be an American, but I’ll tell ya, this has made it hard, harder than ever in my lifetime.”