Ear Candy Music
JULY 2005 ISSUE
Interview with Micky Dolenz (7-12-05)
The Beatles, The Monkees and The Archies. When it comes to my childhood exposure to pop music, those are my first musical memories as a child (in that order as well!). Watching The Monkees became a vital part of my Saturday morning TV ritual (of course this was reruns-I was too young to remember the original TV airings)! It didn't hurt that The Monkees also released some of the pop music classics of the '60s. Sure, they were shouts by the musical elite that the band were "manufactured", not the real thing. It might have started that way, but as luck would have it, the members also had talent. But you can only "manufacture" things to a certain degree and at some point you have to weigh "talent". And the timeless appeal of Monkees music shows a certain degree of pure talent.
When interviewing former Monkee Micky Dolenz, I wanted to ask some questions that he hadn't been asked a million times before. Also weary of a Monkees-heavy line of questioning, I tried to balance out the Monkees questions with ones about the other aspects of his career. I enlisted the help of Gary Pig Gold (regular Ear Candy contributor) and Donnie Thompson (bubblegum-pop trivia enthusiast extraordinaire…and employee of CIRCLE SKY RECORDS - yes, named after that Monkees song!) to add to my already amassing list of questions.
Armed with a couple of pages of typed questions, I called Micky at the previously designated time during my lunch break (yep, have a non-musical day job). For someone who must have been interviewed a million times, Micky had no problem answering my numerous questions with sincerity and straight forwardness (and a bit of humour). Ha ha, if only ALL musicians (sorry Micky but you are a musician, too!) were this easy to interview!
Also, thanks go out to Lee Valentine Smith, for hooking me up with Micky's publicist David Salidor!
E.C.: While you should be proud of your work with the Monkees, does it bug you that you are best known for something you basically did while still in your 20's?
Micky Dolenz: Well, not really. I don't really give it much thought to be honest…except when I do interviews! (laughs)…and people remind me. I don't really pay much attention, I suppose if that's the only thing that I've ever done in my life I might feel differently about it, but the Monkees was really a very short episode and period of my life. In fact, last year when I was doing a musical here in New York called AIDA - the Elton John musical, I did that on the road for like 6 or 8 months, and did it here in New York for 6 or 8 months…and I added it up one day and it worked out that I had worked on AIDA longer than I worked on the Monkees.
So, it [time with the Monkees] was great and fun, and I'm very proud of the work. And I had a great time - but it was really a very short period of my life. So, I don't give it much thought…I mean having said that of course, I love going out and doing the concerts, singing the songs. It's a lot of great fun.
Like I said, if it was the only thing that I had ever done in my life I might not feel the same way about it.
E.C.: Well yes, not all of my questions are going to be about the Monkees…
Micky Dolenz: (laughs) O.K.! That's all right, I mean I'm coming there to do a concert. [Atlanta area show on Saturday]
E.C.: If the legalities haven't all been cleared yet to issue the "Circus Boy" series on DVD, can we at least one day see some of your childhood Sugar Pops commercials?
Micky Dolenz: (laughs) Ha ha…I have no idea what the status is on "Circus Boy". People ask me that all the time. I don't really know who owns the rights, if there are rights, or even if the episodes still exist…in any kind of pristine form. I've seen bad copies and bootleg copies and tapes of this and that over the years - but I've really never seen any good copies. I have a couple of originals myself that I've managed to acquire over the years. I don't know - I think it'd be fun obviously to see those old episodes again.
As far as the Sugar Pops commercial…I have a copy of that lying around somewhere, too. But I don't know why anybody would actually release it. I don't know why they would bother, you might see it on one of those collector's shows.
E.C.: This question is about your pre-Monkee combo The Missing Links. There are two recordings circulating throughout mp3 land, "I Told You I Love You" and "When I See My Baby." Can you confirm your participation in these recordings?
Micky Dolenz: I don't recall either of those…to be honest. I did record back then with different bands. The two recordings that I recall - I remember them because I just saw my friend Glen Campbell in concert here the other night and he played on 'em - but this is as a solo, just me as a soloist. One was called "Don't Do It" and the other was called "Huff Puff". But to be honest, I don't remember much about that - it was a long time ago. I don't recall those titles that you mention at all…what are the two titles again?
E.C.: "I Told You I Love You" and "When I See My Baby."
Micky Dolenz: Yeah, I don't recall those titles at all…
E.C.: Actually, you just mentioned another title I was going to ask you about - Did you sing lead on the single "Huff Puff" that is credited to you ?
Micky Dolenz: I sang lead on both of them, I was the only singer. That was a solo session…my first solo recording session that somebody put together in Los Angeles. It was about a year or so before the Monkees.
E.C.: There exists a classic circa-1974 photo, taken upstairs at the Troubadour legend with you alongside alongside John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Harry Nilsson, and even Anne Murray. PLEASE tell me that you five later that night sped off to the nearest recording studio (making sure to pick up Keith Moon and perhaps even Phil Spector en route), where you all proceeded to make The Great Lost proto-Traveling Wilburys album !!
Micky Dolenz: (pause)…No…(laughs) I don't remember what we did that night. We were there watching some acts I guess.
E.C.: Any truth to the rumors as well that there is a second Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart studio album sitting in the can?
Micky Dolenz: No, not that I remember. We might have recorded a couple more tracks for that album and didn't put them on the album for some reason. There certainly isn't more than one or two tracks lying around.
E.C.: About your move to the U.K. - Can you isolate one seminal event, which caused you to relocate to the U.K. during the mid-Seventies?
Micky Dolenz: Absolutely. My friend Harry Nilsson had written a little musical and he'd done it as an animated movie on television, on ABC actually, it was called THE POINT. He called me up and asked me if I would go over there and co-star in it in England. It was going to have a Christmas limited run at a theatre. It was actually a wonderful theatre called the Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars. I said 'yes' immediately. And my girlfriend at the time, who I had married actually, happened to be English. So we went over to England, it was only going to be for a few months. But since I was over there I brought my directing reels, which I had at the time. I thought, "You know, what the heck…I'm here, I might as well see if I can get any work". Because I had decided that I wanted to get into directing in the early '70s. I directed an episode of the Monkees, some commercials, and a few other things. So I bought 'em over, showed them to a producer at the BBC and he gave me a job directing a film drama. I did that and it was well received - then I started directing multiple camera sitcoms for all the British Television Company. And I did that for nearly 12 years.
E.C.: Plus, you went by 'Michael' instead of 'Micky' correct?
Micky Dolenz: Yeah, I did and that was just coincidental. One of the shows that I produced and directed was a show called METAL MICKEY and the name was just totally coincidental about a robot that this guy had invented. We thought that just for clarities sake we would use the word 'Michael' so people wouldn't think that I was the robot.
E.C.: Were you still in contact with Harry Nilsson at the time of his passing?
Micky Dolenz: Oh yeah. I talked to him actually just a couple of weeks before.
E.C.: Had MTV never aired their mega-successful "Pleasant Valley Sunday" Monkees marathon in 1985, were you considering returning to the U.S. nevertheless to commemorate the band's twentieth anniversary with reunion tours and recordings?
Micky Dolenz: No, that was entirely propagated by the fact that they did run that then.
E.C.: And the album that resulted?
Micky Dolenz: Yeah, I had no intention of coming back for that. I was supposed to start production on a new television series.
E.C.: You covered many classic Beatle songs on your "Micky Dolenz Puts You To Sleep" album…
Micky Dolenz: (laughs) Yeah…
E.C.: …and even recorded another version of the lovely "Pillow Time." Is it true that your mother actually co-wrote that song?
Micky Dolenz: Yeah, she did. She wrote it when I was a little kid, little baby, and she sang that to me my whole life.
E.C.: Is your daughter Ami still acting or performing?
Micky Dolenz: You know, she's staring up again. She had stopped for a little while - Got married, I think was the reason. She starting up again, she got an agent in Los Angeles and looks like she's gonna get back into it.
E.C.: How did you enjoy hosting the morning show on WCBS-FM earlier this year? [Peter Tork actually called in his regards during the inaugural broadcast].
Micky Dolenz: It was fun - it was great fun, great people. I wasn't too crazy about waking up at 4:30 in the morning to be honest (laughs)…it was lifelong dream to be a disc jockey and I did it and I had fun. I'm not sure I would want to do it again. But, you never know.
E.C.: Did WCBS treat you and the rest of their departing on-air talent fairly and squarely when they suddenly switched from an Oldies to the dreaded Jack format?
Micky Dolenz: Oh yeah, I mean they fulfilled all their contractual obligations…absolutely, sure.
E.C.: And of course the inevitable question…do you foresee any future work with Davy, Peter, or Mike?
Micky Dolenz: Well, not at this point…there isn't anything on the books. You know I've learned 'never to say never'. Cause every time I say that, something comes up. At this point I'm fairly booked up for quite awhile. I have a number of projects, I'm hopefully going into another Broadway show here in New York City. I don't see it happening anytime soon…if ever. Like I say, there's no plans at all.
E.C.: So it wont be a contest to see who has the very last live show, either The Monkees or the Stones?
Micky Dolenz: (multiple laughs!)
E.C.: Do you own a tape of the Monkees jamming with the Animals & Hendrix?
Micky Dolenz: Nope…I certainly don't. I have some basement tapes in my studio at home, but I don't think that Jimi [Hendrix] was on any of them.
E.C.: When Hendrix opened for the Monkees on that ill-fated tour, did he play with full-volume Marshall stacks?
Jimi always had a reputation for playing very loud…
Micky Dolenz: (laughs) Well, I wasn't in the audience, I couldn't tell ya. I assume so, yeah.
E.C.: Were there dates on the Monkees 1969 tour with Sam & The Goodtimers recorded for a live album and were the Monkees given dubs of it?
Micky Dolenz: No, we never recorded that…I recorded Sam & The Goodtimers as an act, and was trying to sell them to a record company. But we never recorded - I wish we had, it was funny, it was really great having that band, they were a great band.
E.C.: Did The Monkees record with Donovan?
Micky Dolenz: Nope. Again, he was at my house a number of times and I might have him on some tapes. But, I never recorded professionally, if that's what you mean, no.
E.C.: What about "St. Valentines Angel"?
Micky Dolenz: It sounds familiar, that title…I don't recall because I haven't heard that…(says out loud) "St. Valentines Angel"…I recall that title and I have no idea what it was now that you mention it. I don't recall anything specific about it, sorry.
E.C.: I also heard that there was a dispute with Colgems over the original cover for the BIRDS & BEES & MONKEES LP?
Micky Dolenz: Well, if there was I don't remember anything very specific about it. By that time we had sort of got the right to approve our album covers - well approve all of it. Up until HEADQUARTERS we had little or nothing to say about anything. I don't remember a dispute about that cover. There might have been a number of different submissions or something.
E.C.: Here's a rumor that I've heard two versions of. One said that The Monkees never saw or heard MORE OF THE MONKEES album until after it came out. The other one claims the Monkees played an advance copy for fans at a party before the release?
Micky Dolenz: Of course we heard the music because we sang on it…
E.C.: The finished album?
Micky Dolenz: We never saw or approved the finished albums - any of the albums - until HEADQUARTERS. We had little or no input on the cover, or the liner notes, or the order of the songs, or which songs they had decided to put on the album. We had very little control or influence over that until HEADQUARTERS.
E.C.: Why was there no single pulled from JUSTUS?
Micky Dolenz: Well…Rhino Records who made the album - and I thought it was a great album - they really weren't in the business of releasing and marketing and distributing top, new, contemporary stuff. It was really meant to be an album. We talked a little bit about which of the songs, if any, might be able to get broken out as a single. Rhino at the time really didn't have the mechanism to do that with all the contemporary radio stations. I wanted to release "Admiral Mike" - I liked a lot on that album.
E.C.: In your book ("I'm a Believer") you mentioned auditioning for The Fonz for the Happy Days series. IF you had gotten that role, do you believe you would have stayed with the series as long as Henry Winkler did?
Micky Dolenz: Yeah, I probably would have.
E.C.: Also in your book, you mention an LSD trip at a Malibu beach house with Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson & John Lennon (during John's "lost weekend"). A few weeks ago, in a televised interview, Brian said that he took LSD "only once" in the '60s.
Micky Dolenz: Well, maybe that was the one time. (laughs) I dunno.
E.C.: You'll be performing with your sister Coco this Saturday?
Micky Dolenz: Yep. And by the way, we'll be doing all the Monkee hits. And we do some other stuff, a few surprises. So even if you're not necessarily a Monkees fan, you'll still get a good show