Against the backdrop of The British Invasion, a different kind of rock band came calling in the mid-'60s: The Monkees! Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork had all the fun-loving charm of The Beatles with some killer pop tunes to match - though some critics cried foul when it soon became clear that the group were put together for a colorful television show instead of the latest hungry ensemble to make it.
But the cries of "Pre-Fab Four" were wildly unfounded: though their origins were unorthodox, there's no denying the joy and excitement of the group's hits-packed catalog. They're absolutely the real deal, and time has certainly been kind to this group of musical misfits made good. (One can only hope the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will wise up and give them their due.)
Whether you're a believer or have yet to take the last train to Clarksville, here are some terrific facts you may or may not know about this special band.
- They released four straight No. 1 albums. 1966's The Monkees and 1967's More of The Monkees, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. all reached the top spot on the Billboard charts.
- And they issued three No. 1 singles. Their first two single releases, "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer," both topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966. "Daydream Believer" followed a year later.
February 1967: The Monkees Return to No. 1 with "I'm a Believer"
- Nesmith got that paper. Liquid Paper, to be exact - when he was 13, his mother invented the famous correction fluid, which helped earn the family a small fortune.
- They gave Jimi Hendrix a break. The band was a fan of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and recruited them to open their first tour of America. Audiences didn't get it, and Hendrix pulled out after six shows.
- They made one crazy movie. The New York Times said of Head, their trippy feature film debut (co-written by Jack Nicholson), that it "might be a film to see if you have been smoking grass." But it remains a cult classic today - kind of a deconstruction on '60s art-house cinema.
Read More: November 1968: Monkees Fans Get 'Head'
- Of course they could write hits! Much was made about legendary songwriters penning The Monkees' greatest hits, but members had success as songwriters as well. Nesmith's "Different Drum" became a hit single in 1967 for The Stone Poneys, a folk trio that introduced the world to Linda Ronstadt.
- Micky was too tall for The Fonz. Garry Marshall wanted Dolenz to play the friendly greaser in his new show Happy Days, but at just over six feet tall, Micky would've towered over most of the cast. Henry Winkler was cast instead and became a star from the role.
- They may have invented MTV... Ever the innovator, Mike Nesmith created a TV program called PopClips that would broadcast the then-novel idea of "music videos." Within a year, the idea evolved into an entire channel known as Music Television.
- ...And MTV returned the favor. In 1986, MTV aired a weekend marathon of The Monkees' TV show, helping introduce them to a new generation. Davy, Peter and Micky found their planned 20th anniversary tour grow considerably that year - starting in theaters but ending in arenas.
- They've kept the good times rolling. While fans have said goodbye to two of the members - Jones died in 2012 and Tork in 2019 - the surviving members all came together in the 2010s to release two stellar studio albums: 2016's Good Times and 2018's Christmas Party. Both featured a keen mix of new and updated recordings, plus songs written by power-pop icons like Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and others.