Written by 4:43 am Audiophile Music

The Monkees Complete Series Blu-ray Box Set (Part III): Bonus Discs Astound

Mark Smotroff feels not guilty about more Monkee pleasures…

Some of the perhaps unexpected joys of buying in The Monkees – Complete Series — a $200 set only available at the band’s website or at their concerts (where I got my copy) — are found in the two discs of bonus goodies. Now, some of you, Dear Readers who are not converted Monkee fans, might question whether these Blu-ray Discs of mad Monkee-mania should warrant your attention here at Audiophilereview dot com, as for the most part they feature basic mono and stereo recordings supporting video of varying quality from rough early color video to pristine film. 

I think they should, for numerous reasons historical, hysterical and sometimes phantasmagorical…

AR-Monkees33RPMStillcopy.jpgThe reason you might want to watch programs like 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee — the much misunderstood (maligned?) TV show produced in late 1968 and aired in 1969 — is simply to witness the joy of a bevy of crazy talented “real” artists and performers from the period supporting the Pre-Fab Four in a wonderfully misguided slice of post Summer of Love tripped-out madness. If The Monkees’ movie Head aimed to kill off the mythology behind the band, this TV show found the band stamping gleefully on their own cinematic graves. 

Peter Tork apparently (according to the wiki) left after the production of this show.

33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee’s charms include numerous songs unique to this show such as funky soul-flavored arrangement of Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer” done with Julie Driscoll (and backed Brian Auger!). Mike Nesmith’s “Naked Persimmon” is a weird but nifty face off between country and rock (featuring Mike playing both roles courtesy of video special effects). Davy Jones’ innocent “Goldilocks Sometime” is a sweet slice of storybook nursery rhyme music fantasy (remember, Davy came out of the formal theater world performing as the Artful Dodger in the London and Broadway original productions of Oliver, a Tony-nominated role). 

“Wind Up Man” is a goofy weird ditty that finds the band anticipating the robotic performer concept 10 years before Devo’s debut.  

AR-MonkeesGlenCampbell225.jpgSpeaking of de-evolution, the show eventually devolves into a surreal old-tyme rock ‘n roll rave-up complete with performances by none other than Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard!  A year before Sha Na Na wow’d crowds at Woodstock, here are The Monkees repackaged as a 1950s doo-wop group — in slick suits and greased back hair — doing “At The Hop,” “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Little Darlin’.” 

Death of The Monkees’ image, for sure here, for anyone who actually saw the program air… 

“Listen to the Band” starts out really great with Mike Nesmith plugging his black Les Paul into a stacked Marshall amplifier to getting down with the band (yes, they are all playing live here). Then, one by one, dancers join them on the set and before you know it the whole thing devolves into a groovy wild jam, a noise fest that falls somewhere between a Ken Kesey acid test, Coltrane’s Ascension and one of John and Yoko’s Plastic Ono jams in Toronto.   

Look closely you’ll see The Buddy Miles Express jamming in there! 

So… if you are even the least bit Monkee-curious and have already seen their movie Head, you really need to see 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee to see how far out they really went; chances are if you already are a Monkee fan you know about this show but, if you are like me, never got around to actually seeing it. 

But wait… there’s more!  On this Blu-ray disc, you not only get the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee TV show, but you get two versions: an unedited original program as well as a full recording of the actual broadcast complete with commercials from the period (including a classic 7-up Uncola ad!). 

Indeed, according to The Monkee’s website, this 1969 NBC television special has been “restored from newly discovered video elements,” so if you have seen earlier versions this may be as close to definitive as we’re bound to get in our lifetimes.

You get all this and more as part of the price of admission.  

It slices… it dices… 

AR-MonkeesPilot225.jpgThere is a second bonus disc which has all sorts of cool rarities including fascinating screen tests leading up to the choice of the final four original Monkees.  There is an unaired pilot of the TV show, early and alternate versions of songs and promo spots. You also get outtakes from Head and 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. Heh heh, this includes an outtake of Neil Sedaka’s “I Go Ape,” which already looked like train wreck outtake on the original version from the show — yes, there the producers put the Monkees in actual gorilla suits doing a high-camp, uber-cheesy version of the song…

Too much Monkee business, indeed…

The disc also contains different versions of many songs that appeared on re-runs of the regular Monkees TV programs, and there are even actual on-stage appearances by the band on The Johnny Cash Show and Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Hour program.  

You’ll hear and see Glen — one of the respected members of The Wrecking Crew who played on numerous Monkees hits — introduce them as “One of the most professional groups to ever hit show business…” as they play a medley of hits and lip sync to new tracks (“Teardrop City”) as a power trio (Davy on bass!). “Nine Times Blue” on The Johnny Cash Show is a charming acoustic guitar piece Mike leads with lovely three part harmonies from Davy and Mickey.

This is all great fun. And its also a fascinating slice of ’60s pop music history at the cross roads of art and commercialism. These Monkees programs are arguably one of the birth places of a style of music video that later became commonplace on MTV in the 80s.  

Its all here on The Monkees – Complete Series… 

Shock and awe…  

Spectacular spectacle…

Free-form, freak-flag flying from a group that was never expected to be anything more than a cash-in on The Beatles fame… a made-for-TV entity which bit the hands that fed them, rebelling against the Hollywood studios and — ultimately — earning much respect from their musical peers (including The Beatles’ themselves). Together, The Monkees made some timeless music before splintering apart as the decade turned. 

Fascinating time capsule stuff here, kids. Check it out.

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