“Oh no, that’s like asking if you have a favorite Beatles album,” laughed Micky Dolenz of The Monkees when asked if he had a favorite song from The Beatles (better known as The White Album). “It’s impossible.”
Dolenz, Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Jason Scheff of Chicago and Joey Molland of Badfinger will perform White Album songs as well as some of their own material at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m.; and the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m.
“There’s so many great songs off of the album,” says Dolenz. “I know I’ll be doing ‘U.S.S.R,’ which I love, and ‘Rocky Raccoon,’ which I used to sing to my children as a lullaby (laughs). … gosh where do you start?”
The five musicians on this tour come from varying musical tastes, backgrounds and experiences; perhaps they’re best described as an eclectic mix.
“I think ‘eclectic’ is all right,” said Dolenz with a hearty laugh. “I was asked to do this maybe because it had something to do with my connection to The Beatles and having been around during that period, and having been to a lot of Beatles sessions. They (tour producer Flower Power Concerts) called my agent last year and asked if I’d be interested in doing something like this. They mentioned that Todd was considering it, and a few months later they called, made me an offer, and I was available, and here we are.
“This has turned into one hell of an adventure. They’re about ready to announce a second leg and I’m thrilled to be doing The White Album, of course, because I was a huge fan of The White Album, and I’m thrilled to be working with Todd and Christopher and Jason and Joey. But you are right, it’s a very interesting, eclectic combination of people.”
Paying tribute to such an iconic record can be a bit precarious even for the most seasoned performers. The songs have literally defined an era of rock and pop music. So how will the evening be handled?
It will be mostly The White Album, Dolenz said, “then in addition we will be doing a couple of our own solo kind of tunes. For instance, I’ll probably be doing (The Monkees’) “I’m a Believer’ and ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday,’ and Todd, I’m sure, will be doing ‘Hello.’ So you’ll get a bit of that, too, not only The White Album.
“Oh, it will be a total mix and match. I’m not playing drums. I will be playing some guitar and Todd, I’m sure, will be also, but there will be a core rhythm section which is Rain, the Beatles tribute band. They’re the core band, I guess we can call them. Jason is playing a lot of bass, Todd some guitar, I don’t know about Joey. I’ll be playing a little acoustic guitar, and we each have, like, five songs off of The White Album, and we each have a couple of our own individual things.”
Today’s instant gratification music world is rife with instant downloads and click-of-a-mouse or app streaming services, but during the days of The White Album, this was not in existence. Can one imagine downloading a song or two from an album such as this?
Dolenz sees the validity in that question and has an appreciation for the resurgence in vinyl sales.
“Very good point; great point. One of the reasons that I’m loving the idea that vinyl is coming back is I think the millennials are recognizing the value of having not only the music, of course, but having the artwork and the visuals and the liner notes and the physicality of an album. I have a couple of nephews ages 16, 17 years old, and that’s all they do is get vinyl and old vinyl, besides the new stuff, and they frame them and put them on their walls.
“That’s what I remember so much about buying albums: It was the whole package. You got all of the artwork and liner notes and photographs and it was pretty cool.”
During the height of their popularity, The Beatles inspired many of their fans to play instruments, and many bands to try and imitate their style and success. The Monkees were often compared to the Fab Four, and not always fairly.
According to Dolenz, The Beatles themselves were among those who “got it.”
“I was a fan, of course, a huge Beatle fan, and I did get to know them all. And The Beatles got … what The Monkees were about. It was John Lennon who was the first one I heard say, ‘The Monkees are like the Marx Brothers,’ and he was absolutely right. The Monkees was much more about The Marx Brothers than it was the Beatles …
” ‘The Monkees’ was a television show about this band that wanted to be The Beatles, and on the TV show, we never made it. I believe that was part of the charm of the show. All of those kids out there around the States and the world … it resonated with them because they were out there in their basements, garages and living rooms practicing and trying to become famous, and on ‘The Monkees,’ you’ll notice that we were never famous … It was that struggle for success that endeared us to that generation, and The Monkees were not really of that generation. Our fans were the younger brothers and sisters of The Beatles (fans).
“I did meet them all and they were very gracious. They got it, they understood what it was all about. I saw Paul just a couple of years ago, Ringo and I used to hang out a lot, and they got it.”
Here are some videos from previous tour stops:
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