As the boy band who stole the hearts of young audiences in the 1960s and is still turning new generations into Daydream Believers, The Monkees are one of the top American rock groups. The so-called “made-for-TV band” was so successful its albums outsold that of The Beatles in 1966 and 1967. This year the group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a US tour and a new album. Here are 10 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about the band you love:
1. Beginnings. On Feb. 9, 1966, NBC commissioned a full season of The Monkees and promotion, show taping and music recording began.
2. Early success. On August 28, 1966, The Beatles performed at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and The Monkees’ first single, “Last Train to Clarksville” was released. It was a successful hit even before the first episode was broadcast that year on Sept. 12.
3. The crowd goes ape. The promotion campaign for the show proved successful when the Monkees made their first public appearance on Sept. 9, 1966. The New York Times described the screaming crowd as “too old for Barbie dolls and too young for mini-skirts.”
4. Clarksville. The band performed for the first time on Sept. 11, 1966 at Del Mar, California, which was renamed Clarksville for the day.
5. An American Phenomenon. American groups such as The Beach Boys and The Lovin’ Spoonful tried to duplicate The Beatles’ success, but they were not lucky. Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider – the show’s creators – sought to create an American phenomenon with The Monkees, and they did.
6. The creation of a fictional band was created before the rise of The Beatles. The idea of The Monkees TV show started as a folk-rock group based on Rafelson’s adventures in Mexico in 1953. Watch the episode “A Nice Place to Visit.”
7. The Monkees or Gilligan’s Island? That’s the question kids and teens had to ask themselves in September 1966. Despite low ratings during the TV debut, The Monkees later won audiences and an Emmy Award in 1967.
8. For Pete’s Sake. “It wasn’t Father Knows Best,” Schneider had said. “It was the kids know best. The heroes were young people and the heavies were older people.” For the first time in TV history there was no parental or authoritative figures telling the youngsters what to do.
9. “In this generation, in this lovin’ time.” The series aimed to capture the counterculture of the time and the freedom movement of the young generation: rock and roll music, mod fashions (later in the series it was psychedelic/hippie) and independence.
10. “Most TV is like dope,” Micky Dolenz told Seventeen magazine in 1967. “It’s just there to put people into a state where they’ll believe anything anybody says – like the announcer of the six o’clock news. Our show gives you the idea of being an individual. That’s what we represent to the kids: an effort to be an individual, an attempt to find your own personality.”
For more Monkees facts, check out Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-for-TV Band by Eric Lefcowitz.