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Hey, hey, we were the Monkees

They were the young generation, and they had something to say

Band members Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith in the studio.

The Monkees are rightly celebrated as an American Pop Culture phenomenon. They are less celebrated as musicians—and for band members Davey Jones, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz, this was something of a bone of contention, right from the start.

The band was formed specifically for the TV show, which ran for two years, from 1966 to 1968, and at first the members were allowed very little time in the recording studio. Peter Tork, who died earlier this week, was able to contribute some guitar work to a few sessions allotted to Mike Nesmith. But these were essentially token contributions. The band insisted that this had to change.

All four had been musicians prior to the creation of The Monkees. Peter Tork, notably, had performed in Greenwich Village with Pete Seeger. And yet the producers of the show wanted Mickey Dolenz, a singer, to play the drums—despite having no experience. Peter Tork showed him a couple of beats so he could mime convincingly, and Dolenz then learnt to play.

Still, the bank members fought for and won the right to oversee all musical work on the show, and continued to record until 1971. They toured extensively during and beyond the TV show years, and during their tour of 1967, they created perhaps the most extraordinary pairing in pop history—The Monkees supported by Jimi Hendrix.

Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith in the studio.
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Peter Tork on vocals.
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Davey Jones and Tork
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The Monkees perform on stage at Wembley Empire Pool, London, July 1967. Peter Tork on bass.
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Tork on banjo at Wembley.
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At Wembley.
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A poster advertising The Monkees supported by Hendrix.
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Singer and guitarist Michael Nesmith drinks a Coke while holding a guitar in the recording studio in Los Angeles.
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Davey Jones, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz in the studio as a TV producer looks on.
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Mike Nesmith and Davey Jones.
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Monkee Fans at Wembley.
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The Monkees perform at Wembley with Peter Tork on keys.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

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