Even in 2014 we still sometimes here the question asked - particularly when “baby boomers” gather - “Beatles or Stones?” On the playground in 1966 it was “Beatles or Monkees?” Was this the beginning of the endless partisanship that we see in our culture today, perhaps?
Conceived in 1965 and inspired by “A Hard Day’s Night”, “The Monkees aired on September 12, 1966. Their first hit, “The Last Train to Clarksville” bore an uncanny resemblance to the Beatles “Paperback Writer" and so the debate on the playground began. For the girls it was simpler - who was cutest, but for this boy it was about musical credentials. The Beatles wrote their own songs and actually played their instruments. “A Hard Day’s Night” was a fictional story about a real band, “The Monkees" was a fictional TV show about a fictional band. There was no debate.
But, the Monkees were ambitious and eager to learn how to play and perform their songs. Mike Nesmith a guitarist from the outset would go on to write and produce for the band. Peter Tork also played quitar, Davy Jones was an actor and singer, and Mickey Dolenz quickly learned to play drums. In 1967, there was a summit of sorts when the Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein, invited the Monkees to Abbey Road. The Beatles in their inimitable way applauded the musical progress that the band was making and were enthusiastic about their success. Dolenz was present during the recording of “A Day in the LIfe” while Peter Tork apparently sat in on a session for “Wonderwall”, a solo George Harrison project underway at the time. Such diplomacy went a long way to ending the ongoing squabble at McKelvie School. Apparently there was plenty of room in the world for Monkees, Beatles, Byrd’s and Stones.
The Monkee’s “Headquarters” held the #1 position on the US Charts until the release in early 1967 of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.