NOTE: Books by and about the Monkees have proliferated since they first went on the air in 1966. From cheap, dime-store novels, to comic books and teeny-bopper fan mags to later, more introspective examinations of what made the Monkees click; as well as biographies from the band members themselves about the one-of-a-kind experience of being a Monkee. I've tried to list only the books that are readily available, but hope to add more rarities soon.
The Monkees Scrapbook (1986)
By Ed Finn and T. Bone;
Last Gasp Press, 63 p.
REVIEW: The first book to be published after the Monkees popular resurgence in 1986, The Monkees Scrapbook is pretty much what it claims to be: an odds-and-ends assortment of information, trivia, pictures, interviews, biographies, and more, that swerves from moment to moment without much rhyme or reason, other than to celebrate fan's renewed interest in the Monkees. Although the introduction above thanking Monkees fans for their devotion is disingenuous at best, (why not just thank them for spending their money?) the authors don't waste time on silly frivolities, they dive right into a timeline of Monkees 'happenings' in 1986, from the MTV reruns of orginal Monkees TV episodes, which led to the 1986 Summer Reunion Tour, to Rhino Records releasing all the Monkees albums, Arista records putting out their best-selling "Then and Now" hits collection, video tapes of the original series sold through Columbia House, conventions, new books and more... it's an interesting read, seeing how the whole event steamrolled into something far larger than anyone could've imagined. Next comes a complete Monkees discography, listing both released and unreleased (at the time) compositions; a couple of pages devoted to listing artists who've been influenced by the Monkees, including The Bangles, Duran Duran, The Go-Gos, Squeeze, REM and the Violent Femmes. A very brief bibliography follows, and then a 50-question trivia page ("How Many Neil Sedaka songs did the Monkees record?") and the 'exclusive' Mike Nesmith inteview where his terse and sometimes bitter answers adequately show how much he regarded the Monkees. Next comes a quick guide to episode songs, followed by quick profiles of each Monkee member, a lengthy profile of Monkees fan and popular DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, some video trivia questions (based on specific episodes) and finally, a tour itinerary for their 20th anniversary. So a quick, painless, and sometimes illuminating time capsule of 1986, and a pretty fun way to remember the Monkees return to fame.
Hey, Hey We're The Monkees (1987)
By Mary Anne Cassata;
Sharon Starbooks, 64 p.
REVIEW: Released soon after the Monkees' successful reunion tour, this thin fan guide by Mary Anne Cassata does a good job of summing up the Monkees' careers and lives up to that point, although the writing style is simplistic, it's certainly enthusiastic, and the book is full of stock black and white photographs from the Monkees hey-day, as well as several familiar publicity photos from 1986-87. Divided into seven chapters, the book begins with "That Was Then" which chronicles the formation of the Monkees, quickly punching out a description of the auditions, the success of the TV show, the albums' rocketing to the top of the pop charts, and the direction the show took in the second season. The entire two-year series boiled down into a dozen paragraphs - that gives you a good idea of the depth of the book. The second chapter, "Changes" discusses the cancellation of the show, the movie HEAD, the breakup of the Monkees and their spotty reunions and projects over the years; all in about four pages. The next four chapters put the spotlight on each Monkee, giving super-brief biographies covering both pre-and post-Monkees activities, with each member getting about four pages of type, along with numerous black and white photographs. The final chapter brings the narrative up to 1997, with rehashes of MTV's Monkees marathon, the reunion tour, Rhino's CD reissue program and the usual speculation about projects that would never materialize. The author's writing is strictly minor-league, with too much gushiness to distinguish it as a serious biography. A minor entry in the Monkees' biographical canon.
They Made A MONKEE Out Of Me: The Only Authorized Story (1987)
by Davy Jones;
Dome Press, 240 p.
REVIEW: Although the Monkees had severally given numerous interviews about their time with the Monkees, Davy Jones was the first of the Monkees to go public with his experiences in a published autobiography, and this candid, sometimes bitter book, is revelatory not only about the business part of show business, but also in showing just how naive Davy Jones was about the whole process. He clearly recounts his childhood, growing up in Manchester, his working-class parents, his normal upbringing, including his early penchant for acting in shows like "Tom Sawyer" and his early fascination with horses. Davy's personality, centered around 1.) himself 2.) his career, and 3.) his family points out both his strengths as a performer and his failures in other areas of life. In particular, Davy's not afraid to point fingers at nearly everyone around him, whether it be the people in charge of Monkees production and merchandising, his fellow Monkees, his business manager - about the only time Davy takes any blame upon himself for his failures in with his personal relationships; but even those he softens with "well, it was the pressures of show business". The book isn't laid out in an easy format for reading - often the text is interrupted with pictures, photocopies of letters or contracts, and quotes from Peter Noone. In fact, the book is more like a personal scrapbook of reminiscences, with scatterings of ephemera cut and pasted willy-nilly throughout the text, making it somewhat of a chore to plow through the entire book, but fans of course will no doubt have no problems wading through the quagmire of Davy's life. This particular edition is out of print, having been supplanted by the updated Daydream Believer (see below), but this first version was the first to blow the doors off of the Monkees idealistic facade.
Davy Jones: Daydream Believin' (January, 2000)
by Davy Jones;
Hercules Productions, 395 p.
REVIEW: The flabbergasting chutzpah of Davy is amply shown in the paragraphs above. He was bitterly opposed to the long-A.W.O.L Mike Nesmith appearing at the Greek Theater with the touring Monkees, and publicly lambasted him in Monkees' fan magazines afterwards as being a glory hound and not interested in The Monkees at all. But here, in his revised and updated autobiography, it's all fairy dust and stars-in-their-eyes press releases. Also, check out the list of stars he names at the MTV Music awards - how many of them have disappeared or self-destructed? It's an ironic touch in this expanded and revised book. Davy's disingenuous remarks run all the way through Daydream Believin' (a vastly improved title), which increases the number of pictures, brings Davy's life story up to date (at least up to 2000), and softens some of the more venemous remarks that were cast about in his first book. Davy comes across as a doting father, inept businessman, fervent horseman, all with that undeniable touch of egomaniacal tendencies that make him so endearing, and frustrating, to his many fans. Davy's life story is mostly the story of unfulfilled ambitions, and to a large degree, wasted talent, as his pixie charm and broadway sensibilites were mostly squandered after his stunning star turn with The Monkees: his bankruptcies, divorces, reunions, guest-star appearances and missed opportunities are all chronicled with a touch of regret, and seasoned with his still-intact sense of humor and even a little self-deprecation. The reformatted book is larger and easier to read this time around, all for the good - and this book, self-published and promoted, is exclusively available through Davy's official web site.
The Monkees Tale (March 1990 - Revised Edition)
by Eric Lefcowitz;
The Last Gasp of San Francisco, 119 p.
REVIEW: "The Monkees Tale" by Eric Lefcowitz is a blow-by-blow recounting of the Monkees history using numerous interviews and articles culled from dozens of magazines, newspapers, and other sources. Written in a fast-paced, fluid style, "Tale" is a quick read that doesn't spend much time analyzing the events as they happen, but merely reels them off and allows the reader to make their own conclusions about how and why. It this sense, this slim book is an ideal introduction to the Monkees for people who are just beginning to discover them, and want a timeline of events and the people who made it all happen. Beginning in 1966, with Bob Rafelson and Burt Schneider's germ of an idea, and following the Monkees from the beginnings of the show up to 1989, readers who are looking for more biographical information on each Monkee will want to look elsewhere, since "Monkees Tale" skims over this time of the band members' lives, diving straight into their careers, but the author does spend more time in the post-Monkees lives of Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike, revealing how despite spending only a few years as Monkees, it has branded each of them for life. A fine book, and a quick read. Sprinkled with black & white photographs throughout.
Mutant Monkees Meet The Masters Of The Multimedia Manipulation Machine! (1992) by Davy Jones & Alan Green;
Click! Publishing, 176 p.
REVIEW: Undoubtedly the strangest book ever produced about the Monkees, this one-off charity promotion (helping Missing Children be reunited with their families), is an explosion of manipulated images of the Monkees (using MacIntosh computers) and various quotes from Davy about his experiences with the group all all seemingly tossed together into a salad shooter and the published. photos are stretched, cut out, and warped - colors are mixed and mingled, snapshots are given off-the-cuff captions by Davy, and The Monkees are transformed into christmas ornaments, flowers, ghostly images, and yes, even Monkeys! Davy is shown undersea as King Triton, a collage is formed of all the girls he kissed on the TV show, The Monkees are shows popping out of the infamous "Black Box" they were kept in during the filming of the show, and much, much more. There are numerous candid shots of the Monkees, both from their heyday, and more recent reunions, all taken from Davy's private archives, and a plethora of quotations, (with no notes as to when or where they were expressed) pepper the pages. I suppose that the intent of this new format was to show off the possiblilities of MacIntosh imaging software, but now, only a few years after it was produced, many of the images look static and clumsy - the progress in computer graphics has advanced miles beyond what was possible in 1992; and the confusing whirlwind of colors and words make the book hard reading from cover to cover - most readers will want to browse different pages instead of devouring it front to back. But still, there is a zany 'Monkees' element about the book - a 'what will they do next' sort of tension that's produced that's not unlike the Monkees themselves, so in that respect, it succeeds, and curious Monkees fans can still order this book through Davy's official web site.
Monkeemania (Feb. 15, 2000)
by Glen A. Baker;
Plexus Publishing, 144 p.
REVIEW: I consider "Monkeemania" to be the flip side of "The Monkees Tale" above. Written with about the same style, and almost the same content, the two books could almost be considered interchangable, with a few exceptions. "Monkeemania" spends several pages on the Monkees' childhoods, while spending less time on the aftermath of the experience, which gives the reader a little more appreciation of the Monkees as individuals, and helps the reader to understand how the sudden fame and notariaty affected each one, but shrinks on how the aftermath of being a Monkee has been both a blessing and a curse. Other than that, I really can't recommend one book above the other in terms of the facts and how their presented. "Monkeemania" seems to have more in-person interviews to spice up the text, and the pictures, though still all in black & white, are more informal and behind-the-scenes. Monkeemania also includes full episode guides, discographies, chart information, and other indexes which readers may find helpful. A great introduction to the band, but you still need both books for the most complete portrait.
The Monkees, Memories & the Magic (March 15, 2000)
By Edward Wincensten;
Wynn Publishing, 171 p.
REVIEW: A dull, unimaginative read, author Ed Wincensten makes a hobby of producing rock 'n' roll books for the masses which lean heavily on the words of other people. Here, all Ed has done is interview dozens of Monkees fans and put their words in his book. Loosely tied together into sections entitled "The Fans," "The Monkees In Concert," "Alan Green, Davy Jones and a Book," "How To Touch A Monkee," "Monkees Good Deeds," and "Abby Alterio's Story About a Special Friend," the only chapter to feature the author is the Davy Jones chapter, where he recounts his experience in putting together the second of Davy's autobiographies. Most disturbing is the account "How To Touch A Monkee" which describes the rabid accounts of a fan to get close to each Monkee. The author describes it as hilarious, but it's actually somewhat disturbing to see the lengths some fans will go to to intrude upon the Monkees' lives. The rest of the book is paragraph after paragraph of Monkees fans of all ages, means, and types discussing why they love the Monkees, moments they've had with the Monkees, when they first watched the Monkees on TV, and what the Monkees have meant to them in their lives. I know that many of these fans have honestly sincere and deep feelings for the Monkees, but having to plow through them is hardly the best use of ink and paper. If fans want to discuss their love of the Monkees, the best place is with other fans, but here, there's no reason for it, other than the author to cash in on the Monkees' name. Also included in a short section of color photographs of concert appearances, some color plates the author made, and a short fan-drawn cartoon (in german); also sprinkled throughout are pictures of the various fans, stock photos of the Monkees from their TV show, concert pictures, and various photos of fans with the Monkees. I suppose if you contributed to this book, you would want a copy for your own library, but for all others, this is akin to reading the same fan letter over and over - a sure cure for sleepless nights.
I'm A Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music, and Madness (1993, revised July 25, 2004) By Micky Dolenz and Mark Bego;
Cooper Square Press, 232 p.
REVIEW: What a fun biography this is! written in a free and easy style, reading this autobiography is like sitting right next to Micky and getting to chat with him for a couple of hours. Micky's natural exuberance comes though loud and clear in his first book, and although it has some interesting idiosyncracies, it's a real page-turner, and gives readers a true first-hand look at the experience of being a Monkee. Micky's opinions on everything from his bandmates (see above) to the worth of autobiographies in general (regards them as obituaries) ring through every page, and his first-person account of the sheer ridiculous enormity of Monkeemania is enlightening. Every few pages, Micky turns to an unusual device to shed light on a situation, or character: he writes as if he's penning a screenplay, and so the narrative breaks into dialogue, with some truly funny stuff going on. Yes, it's a conceit, but I found it refreshing and written, like most of the book, very tongue-in-cheek. Micky speaks candidly of his upbringing, "Circus Boy" which first catapulted him to fame; his attempts at singing in a band (before the Monkees), and of course, the eventual golden ticket of becoming a member of the Monkees. Seen with his jaundiced eye, the experience takes on a jaded sheen, with lots of "this is how it really was" hindsight, Micky makes the most of his memories, and delivers a tome worthy of a Monkee. The newly revised edition adds an updated section on Micky's films and discography, and is easily the most enjoyable read you'll find about the Monkees.
Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees (1996)
Edited by Harold Bronson;
General Publishing Group, 160 p.
REVIEW: "Hey, Hey, We're The Monkees" can be considered the Monkees version of the Beatles' Anthology book. Filled with first-person narration by all four band members (gleaned from interviews taken from the documentary of the same name), as well as contemporaries and others involved, this book is a fine "in-their-own-words" autobiography, with several different viewpoints, giving a nice overview of the entire experience. There are snippets of how each Monkee viewed the others, how major events are perceived by different players, accompanied by lots of photographs (mostly black & white, some color) and divided into thematic chapters ("The Beginning," "Boyce & Hart," "Jimi Hendrix" etc.). I have a couple of gripes with the layout of the book itself. Even with all of the people involved, it feels skimpy, with all of the text triple-spaced, so there's LOTS of white space on each page; and the text itself is rather clumsily blocked, so that some quotations spill over onto other pages, without telling who's being quoted, and other simple editorial blunders that show the general lack of professionalism that went into this book. That said, this is still indispensable for Monkees fans, since these interviews are all exclusive, and can be found nowwhere else. Add to that the nice, rosy reminiscent glow that is over everything, and it's a very pleasant read. I just wish the same money had been poured into this as was the Beatles' Anthology - then it would have been definitive.
Total Control (Nov. 1, 1997; revised January 2005)
Randi L. Massingill;
Flexquarters.com LLC, 300 p.
The Monkees Collectables Price Guide (Dec. 1998)
by Marty Eck;
Antique Trader Books, 207p.
Micky Dolenz' Rock 'n Rollin' Trivia [Buzztime Trivia Series] (May 15, 2006)
Square One Publishers, 288 p.
REVIEW: For fans of the Monkees, this book will probably be something of a disappointment, since there is actually very little of Micky Dolenz within the pages. Compiled mostly by the staff of the Buzztime Trivia Series, Micky gets copyright credits for four pages of brief reminiscences, and the introduction, as well as the standard acknowledgments and book dedication, and that's about it. How much of a hand he actually had in compiling and choosing these questions I can't say for certain, but the cynic in me says that he was paid for the use of his name and the few brief passages I've mentioned, and laughed all the way to the bank. Also, for fans hoping that this book is chock-full of Monkees-related trivia, you will also be disappointed, since this book is a wide-ranging tableaux of trivia, one small section of which is related to the Monkees, but even these questions aren't terribly challenging ("The Monkees' logo had the band's name spelled out in the shape of a _________?"). The questions don't even seem to get harder, and at a scant twelve questions, Monkee fans are going to rip through this section in no time at all. That's not to say it's a bad book - if you're really into music trivia, you'll have a fine time perusing the wide-ranging questions, testing your knowledge of everything from Motown to Fake Bands, One Hit Wonders to The Piano Man, Charity Songs to Rock Romances. The answers can be informative and interesting, but unless you are really into trivia games (didn't they go out of style with Trivial Pursuit?), this book will only be of interest to a narrow audience. Now, if the Monkees would get together and put out a full-bore Monkees Trivia book - that I would wholeheartedly dive into.
Gakky Two-Feet (May 18, 2006)
Putnam Juvenile, 32 p.
REVIEW: In the lengthy introduction to his debut children's book Gakky Two-Feet, author Micky Dolenz recounts how he has "always been fascinated with anthropology," which, if you stop and think about it, is ironic, considering that for the majority of is life, Mr. Dolenz has been associated with the anthropomorphically-titled rock group The Monkees. That self-professed love for paleoanthropological theory has resulted in this book which is a story about a monkey-like creature who prefers to stand on his hind legs, much to the derision of his fellow critters, only to be ultimately lauded for his unique ability after saving his tribe from a prowling lion. I wish I could say that this first children's outing by Micky is as wacky and clever as his Monkee-days antics, but sadly, it's not the case. Gakky Two-Feet is not much more than a somewhat dry, "what-if" scenerio that tries to show in simple terms how an erect hominid is the next step on the evolutionary chain, being better suited to defend his colony and thus advance the species. Unfortunately, the book is about as fun as this description makes it sound. Micky has succeeded in producing a competent look at current scientific theory, but he's failed at making it fun and lively. The illustrations, by David Clark, are good, with the chimps all looking somewhat bug-eyed and having an indefinite "slack-jawed yokel" look about them, but with such dry prose to illustrate, the spark of real whimsy is pretty much extinguished. And I question the ending in which the females of the tribe suddenly find the erect Gakky more desireable as a mate as appropriate for young children. In short, this Monkey-to-Man storyline penned by Man-to-Monkee Dolenz is sorely lacking in that divine touch of humor and wit that could have elevated it to the next level.
REVIEW: The second Monkees-themed book by author Eric Lefkowitz (the first being 1990's The Monkees Tale), his new book Monkee Business (with the Monkees portrayed on the cover as the heads of vintage coins), treads much of the same ground as his previous book, telling the story of how the Monkees came together, their success and ultimate flame-out - adding little details and focusing on one of the more obscure sides of the entertainment industry: the business. It's no secret that the Monkees were conceived as a stepping stone for producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider to eventually make movies - and the author takes pains to explain their tactics and plans to make their dream succeed. That they did, in fact succeed, beyond even their expectations, is an established fact, but this book is the first to look at the complex, behind-the-scenes machinery that made the Monkees a financial success. In this aspect, the author both succeeds and fails in his ambitions. Some details are revealed: the percentage rate that Don Kirschner demanded for his "golden-ear" services; the contract deals with the television studio; the personality snafus that nearly derailed the Monkees initial promise are all investigated; but since exact payment amounts and contract details aren't presented, most of the business here is glossed over in general terms, or not mentioned at all. Still, this is a fascinating book - filled with quotes, back room dealings, and personality clashes, most of which have been documented in other sources, but many of which were new to me. Still, I wish the author had delved more deeply into the details, and after the demise of the Monkees original series and recordings, he tends to skim over the rest of the Monkees' career, puttering over their reunion(s), which to my view, would have been just as interesting, business-wise, as their original successes. A good book which could've been much better if the author had dug even deeper.
REVIEW: Unlike other artists, The Monkees have never had a book dedicated to examining their musical out-put album by album, song by song. Andrew Hickey, known to me by his long-time participation in Beach Boys musical forums, has released an informative, interesting, and valuable book on the Monkees musical legacy. Woven into the personal thoughts and analysis on each Monkee album and track are background information, composer involvement, chart history, and much more. Did you know that the Monkees comeback single "That Was Then, This Is Now" was a cover of a song released a year earlier by another band called "The Mosquitoes"? I didn't. Or that "Hard to Believe" was co-written by Davy and a couple of their touring band and a roadie? Cool little tidbits like that are littered throughout the book, and if the author just so happens to diss a song that is one of your favorites, so what? It's cool to read along while listening to an album and see just how much you didn't know about one of the Sixties best, and most intriguing rock bands. Although the author tackles bonus tracks which have been included on recent reissues, he doesn't address the recent "Deluxe" editions that Rhino has put out, and he doesn't touch any of the individual members' solo albums, both of which would have made this book truly definitive. Still a worthwhile read, and a valuable addition to your Monkee book shelf.
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