The Monkees are rightly celebrated as an American Pop Culture phenomenon. They are less celebrated as musicians—and for band members Davey Jones, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz, this was something of a bone of contention, right from the start.
The band was formed specifically for the TV show, which ran for two years, from 1966 to 1968, and at first the members were allowed very little time in the recording studio. Peter Tork, who died earlier this week, was able to contribute some guitar work to a few sessions allotted to Mike Nesmith. But these were essentially token contributions. The band insisted that this had to change.
All four had been musicians prior to the creation of The Monkees. Peter Tork, notably, had performed in Greenwich Village with Pete Seeger. And yet the producers of the show wanted Mickey Dolenz, a singer, to play the drums—despite having no experience. Peter Tork showed him a couple of beats so he could mime convincingly, and Dolenz then learnt to play.
Still, the bank members fought for and won the right to oversee all musical work on the show, and continued to record until 1971. They toured extensively during and beyond the TV show years, and during their tour of 1967, they created perhaps the most extraordinary pairing in pop history—The Monkees supported by Jimi Hendrix.