Monday, July 16 , 2018, 12:46 am | Fair 66º


Jeff Moehlis: More Monkee Business

The surviving Monkees put on a fab show at the Arlington Theatre

At the Arlington Theatre last Wednesday night, Peter Tork was seen in the fascinating documentary The Wrecking Crew talking about the session musicians who laid down the backing tracks on many of The Monkees’ songs.  It’s a historical curiosity that The Monkees received a lot of criticism for this practice, considering how common it was among other well-known acts.

In response to such criticism, The Monkees played virtually all of the instruments on their third album, Headquarters. A successful “safe-edelic” stab at artistic authenticity, this album was featured prominently on the program when the surviving Monkees Micky Dolenz, Tork and Michael Nesmith performed, also at the Arlington, on Friday night. And, yes, they did play their own instruments (Nesmith played a beautiful 12-string electric guitar throughout the evening) accompanied by a fairly large band that included Dolenz’s sister Coco and Nesmith’s son Christian.

This show was part of a tour that is notable for being the first after Davy Jones passed away, and also the first Monkees shows Nesmith has participated in since 1997.

After an instrumental intro by the backing band featuring bits of The Monkees’ best known songs, the show kicked off with “Last Train to Clarksville,” the band’s first hit single. As for much of the rest of the concert, the screen behind the stage showed the corresponding clips from the Monkees’ TV show.

Next, Nesmith got his first of many turns in the spotlight by singing his song “Papa Gene’s Blues,” the only Monkee-penned tune on the band’s first album. (Incidentally, the original studio recording of this song included contributions by The Wrecking Crew.) This was followed by Tork singing the zany “Your Auntie Grizelda” while dancing/prancing amusingly around the stage.

The next big hit on the program was the timeless “I’m a Believer,” penned by a pre-fame Neil Diamond and originally produced by now-local hit-maker Jeff Barry. Dolenz amusingly introduced the song by informing the young attendees that he sang the song before Shrek did.

This was followed by “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” a potent garage rocker that made it into the repertoire of various punk rock bands, including the Sex Pistols.

After a video of Davy Jones singing “I Wanna Be Free,” a string of Nesmith-penned songs followed (“You Told Me,” “Sunny Girlfriend,” “You Just May Be the One,” “Mary, Mary,” “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”), the first three from the aforementioned album Headquarters.

Another Headquarters song was “Randy Scouse Git,” written by Dolenz after a party thrown by “the British Royal Family” (The Beatles), at which Dolenz joked he was told he had a good time. “Randy Scouse Git” was a hit in Britain, but because of the title (which Dolenz said translates to “horny Liverpudlian putz”) it went by the name “Alternate Title.” For this song, Dolenz wore a hippie poncho like he had for the video for the song decades before.

One of the show’s highlights was “Daily Nightly,” which in its original studio recording featured one of the first uses of a Moog synthesizer on a rock recording. This was introduced with a joke that Nesmith was supposed to get a Moog for Dolenz to use for the song’s performance, but failed to. So instead, Nesmith sang the Moog parts, to hilarious effect.

Another highlight, for me at least, was the nearly complete performance of the songs off their surreal 1968 film, Head, including the trippy “Porpoise Song” and Nesmith’s garage rock gem “Circle Sky.” “Daddy’s Song” was represented by the film’s video of Jones dancing; I feel lucky to have seen Jones dance along with this video when the band (sans Nesmith) visited the Chumash Casino Resort as part of their 45th anniversary tour in 2011.

But the biggest highlight of the evening was the late Jones’ signature song, “Daydream Believer.” Dolenz introduced it by saying that “we don’t own this song anymore,” so instead of the band singing it, he chose two ladies from the audience to come up onstage to do it. This one certainly brought tears to many an eye in the audience.

The show closed with their hit “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a fab (or is it pre-fab?) way to end the evening. The concert was a fitting reminder of the tremendous body of work the Monkees gave to us, written and recorded with, and sometimes without, a little help from their friends.


Last Train to Clarksville
Papa Gene’s Blues
Your Auntie Grizelda
Sweet Young Thing
I’m a Believer
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
I Wanna Be Free (video)
You Told Me
Sunny Girlfriend
You Just May Be the One
Mary, Mary
The Girl I Knew Somewhere
For Pete’s Sake
Early Morning Blues and Greens
Randy Scouse Git
Daily Nightly
Tapioca Tundra
Goin’ Down
Porpoise Song
Daddy’s Song (video)
Can You Dig It?
Circle Sky
Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?
Daydream Believer
What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?


Listen to the Band
Pleasant Valley Sunday

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >