Happy 70th birthday to Micky Dolenz, a true Renaissance man of our era. He’s been a mainstay of stage, screen, and television since his debut in 1956 (as Micky Braddock) as the ten-year-old star of Circus Boy. He’s published three books, worked extensively as a director, and become a successful radio host. Of course, Dolenz is best known from the show The Monkees, which ran on NBC from 1965 to 1967. The Monkees spawned a number of bonafide hit singles, many of which feature Dolenz on lead vocals. The history of the Monkees as a band is complex indeed, and has been known to evoke strong feelings in music fans and even the members themselves. I have been an unabashed fan of both the show and the music since I watched Monkees reruns as a child, and Micky Dolenz’s performances have a lot to do with that. Dolenz himself seems more positive about the show than many of his cohorts, approaching it with refreshing good humor over the years. I still love his cameo in “The Grungies,” the classic 1992 sketch from The Ben Stiller Show:
(Why, yes, that was Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk as one of the bandmates! But back to the topic at hand…)
Dolenz wrote (with Mark Bego) one of my favorite memoirs ever, 1993’s I’m A Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music, and Madness. The anecdotes make it appeal to any fan of music or television, but Dolenz’s honesty and easygoing humor make it much more than a Hollywood novelty. It’s especially clever when Dolenz presents personal traumas (his Vietnam draft physical, battles with the Monkees show producers) as film scenes or seriocomic dream sequences. This is why I was thrilled to see him brought in as a last-minute replacement in the Celebrity Autobiography shows at San Francisco Sketchfest this past February. (For the record, he was equally compelling as Joe Namath, Tommy Lee, and Loni Anderson’s pool boy. I admired his willingness to appear in a show that sends up celebrity memoirs, but then he must know that his own is too good to ever become fodder for the show.)
In August 2005, Dolenz played two free shows at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as part of their annual summer concert series. While I would have substituted songs such as “Goin’ Down” and “Randy Scouse Git” for some that he performed, Dolenz sounded great and had real stage presence. The woman singing backup had a phenomenal voice, and I couldn’t wait to find out who she was. I was delighted to learn that she was none other than Micky’s older sister, Coco! Their take on “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was the evening’s highlight for me.
This leads to the second installment of the “Song In My Head” series here on the blog. First of all, I want to apologize to anyone reading this who attended the early show at the Boardwalk that night in 2005. You see, I was screaming “Play ‘She’ll Be There’!” every five minutes (to no avail, sadly) at Micky and Coco. (The rest of you will understand why in a few moments.) I first heard this song on a mix tape sent to me by my Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth editor David Smay when I was in college, and I was knocked out by its beauty. Featured on volume three of Rhino Records’ Monkees 1996 rarities collection Missing Links, this understated gem deserves a much bigger audience. Thrill to the delicate acoustic melody and the perfect harmonies of Micky and Coco: