February 1986: MTV Reignites Monkeemania

The Monkees in 1986
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Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

On Feb. 22, 1986, MTV created a brand new generation of Monkees fans by delivering a marathon of 58 consecutive episodes of The Monkees - yes, that’s all of them, in case you were wondering - and creating such profound Monkeemania in their viewership that Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork couldn’t help but get back together and embark on a new tour...or at least that’s how it seemed to most folks at the time, anyway.

Here’s a fascinating and highly underreported fact: not only had Dolenz, Nesmith, and Tork already agreed to do a reunion tour before MTV’s so-called “Pleasant Valley Sunday” had aired, but - and this is gonna kill ya, Monkees fans - if the marathon hadn’t been the insane success that it was, then the reunion tour would’ve included Mike Nesmith, too!

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We’ll get to that second shocker in a minute, but first let’s discuss the tour in general. In 1985, music promoter David Fishof was finding significant success with his “Happy Together” tours, package tours which brought together several bands from the ‘60s, and he had visions of bringing the Monkees aboard for the ’86 tour, which would coincide with the band’s 20th anniversary. His first stop was Peter Tork, who - after saying “no” at first - agreed to attend one of the “Happy Together” shows before giving a final answer, but Tork walked away from the show so impressed that not only did he say “yes,” he agreed to go along with Fishof when he pitched Dolenz and Jones on the idea...and despite some hesitancy from both gentlemen, they eventually agreed as well.

This is where pure coincidence enters the picture: having purchased the rights to all 45 episodes of The Monkees, MTV decides to air their “Pleasant Valley Sunday” marathon, resulting in a reaction which was downright stupefying even to the network. “We’ve never received such a volume of mail,” Tom Freston, general manager of MTV, admitted to Rolling Stone. “We were dumbfounded by the whole thing.”

As you might imagine, so was everyone else. With the sudden influx of new fans, however, the impending Monkees reunion tour suddenly vaulted from likely to be a modest success into one of the hottest tours of the summer. In turn, the number of dates jumped dramatically as well...and this is where Mike Nesmith exits the picture before anyone even knew that he’d entered.

"When the whole [Monkees reunion] first started off, there were 10 or 12 dates, and I was on them and looking forward to it," Nesmith revealed in a 1991 Goldmine interview. "Well, because it was the 20th Anniversary and nobody knew it was going to get as big as it did, it went from 20 dates to 200 in just a matter of weeks.” This proved problematic, since Nesmith - owner of the Pacific Arts Corporation - was in the middle of producing the film Square Dance. "I'd planned on being able to tuck and roll the movie in between the [Monkees] dates,” he explained. “But the next thing I know, it had gone from going out for a few weekends to going out for four months solid. So the time constraints just conspired against me."

Unfortunately, those constraints were still in place on May 28, 1986: when Dolenz, Jones, and Tork held a press conference at the Hard Rock Café in New York City to announce the dates of their upcoming reunion tour, Nesmith was supposed to be in attendance to explain why he wouldn’t be part of the tour but to show his support for it, but work-related scheduling conflicts kept him from making it.

Ah, but here’s the happy ending: on Sept. 7, 1986, when The Monkees performed at the Greek Theater, Mike joined them, providing fans with the reunion they wanted...and, as it turns out, the one they could’ve had sooner if MTV’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” hadn’t been so darned successful!

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