There are certain anniversaries that tend to take Baby Boomers by surprise. Fiftieths are like that. Now that 2017 is in full swing, 50th anniversaries of one sort or another are sprouting up quicker than whiskers on a hipster. This past week, Micky Dolenz of the 60's prefab pop band The Monkees announced the 50th anniversary of the release of Headquarters.
Big deal, some say. The Monkees were a lightweight, bubblegum-flavored artificial confection pulled together for a teenybopper television show and didn't play their own instruments on their albums, they say. Detractors note that the Monkees were brought into being with the sole purpose of making money, not music. All true, until the release of Headquarters on May 22, 1967. For the first time in Monkees history, drummer Micky Dolenz, multi-instrumentalists Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, and singing percussionist, Davy Jones, contributed virtually all the instruments and vocals on an album. And they did it after Nesmith nearly punched Monkees musical director Don Kirshner in the nose.
In 1967, the Monkees were one of the top-selling acts in the world. Critics complained that they weren't a "real band" and it's true that with the exception of Nesmith, none had shelled out the sort of musical dues paid by other contemporary combos. Each of the frolicsome foursome answered a classified ad in the hopes of becoming a TV star. Each had acting experience and/or musical talent, but that wasn't what the producers were seeking. Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson wanted a "look" and attitude that would rival the omnipresent Beatles, and he found exactly that in Davy, Mike, Micky, and Peter. The four young hopefuls were hired to be exuberant and silly while attracting the attention - and babysitting dollars - of teenage girls from coast to coast. Musical coordinator Don Kirshner perceived the four as vocalists only and never intended to let the boys actually play their own instruments.
This particularly aggravated Michael Nesmith who fervently quibbled with Kirshner on behalf of the band. During one confrontation before the recording of Headquarters, Nesmith put his fist through a wall within inches of Kirshner, noting "That could have been your face" to the shocked musical director, reports Ultimate Classic Rock magazine.