No Monkee business allowed in the Rock Hall of Fame?

The Monkees

But seriously folks, the Monkees aren’t worthy of the Hall of Fame?

(No. 40 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder

They’re back. On tour & getting rave reviews. More fans than a Hunter warehouse. More fun than a barrel of…well, you know.

Hey Hey … it’s the Monkees!!

Perhaps the second most popular band of the 1960s and yet another testament to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ignoring one of our true Rock & Roll legends. For whatever you may think of the Monkees, you certainly are aware of who they are and when they were massive. And you probably even know the names of all four.

What the hall … That’s fame!!

But does fame matter to the Hall of Fame nominating committee? Does it matter if an act is one of the best selling of all time, reportedly selling more records than The Beatles and Rolling Stones combined in one stretch? Does it matter that a band whose heyday was the mid ‘60s still draws major crowds to concerts in 2011? What does matter as far as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is concerned?

Certainly, there are arguments against The Monkees being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The most common heard are that the group did not play the instruments on their records and that they did not write their own material.

Their detractors insisted they were, in essence, The Prefab Four.

I remember bringing home the first album and thinking, “These guys are really great. And the production…the cuts seemed to leap from the speakers.” The second LP was just as impressive. Then, the bombshell. Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork weren’t playing on the records. All they did was sing.

At first, I was disappointed. But it didn’t stop me from listening to and enjoying the records. But in the ‘60s, to many it was a big deal for a band to be capable of replicating its studio recordings live on stage. The Beatles used just such an excuse for giving up touring, claiming they no longer were capable of duplicating their studio efforts on stage.

That seems almost laughable today, especially where The Beatles and The Monkees were concerned. After all, there was so much screaming going on, who could tell who was playing or what they were playing? Today, bands think nothing of using supplemental players or even pre-recorded music on stage. And the fans don’t seem to mind unless an absolute fake is concerned. As long as it sounds great and the key players actually are playing and singing…rock on.

So today, if the Monkees appear on stage with an eight-piece backing group, what’s the difference? Does Davy sing “Daydream Believer?” Does Micky sing “Last Train To Clarksville?” Do they sound great?

And go through the list of Hall of Fame groups that did not play their own instruments…most of the great vocal groups didn‘t. Even The Beach Boys and Byrds used studio musicians.

True, The Monkees didn’t write much, but the Hall of Fame has many artists who were not prolific writers and Nesmith, in particular, did contribute some memorable tracks.

Mark Deming, writing in, noted, “The Monkees were talented singers, musicians, and songwriters who made a handful of the finest pop singles of their day (as well as a few first-rate albums) and delivered exciting, entertaining live shows. But at a time when rock music was becoming more self-conscious and “serious,” the hipper echelons of the music press often lambasted the Monkees, largely because they didn’t come together organically but through the casting process for a television series, and they initially didn’t write the bulk of their own material or play all the instruments on their records. The fact they later took creative control of their music was often overlooked, and the quality of their music, which featured the work of some of the finest session players and songwriters of the 1960s, often seemed to be beside the point. Time has ultimately vindicated the Monkees, and their music still sounds fresh and engaging decades after it was recorded, but in some circles they never fully shook being branded as “the Pre-Fab Four,” no matter how far they moved from the circumstances that brought them together.”

The opposing viewpoint is presented by Paul Evans, evidently one of those “hipper” characters, in (the new) Rolling Stone Album Guide, which, by the way, rates every Monkees’ album from the debut to 1970’s “Changes” disastrous or fair to poor. Evans wrote, “Clever and tuneful, along the lines of knockoff Turtles, this was teenybop fare that provoked shudders from anyone who took the Beatles at all seriously.”

But none other than Brian Wilson said The Monkees provided him with inspiration and Geoffrey Stokes wrote in Rock Of Ages: The Rolling Stone History Of Rock & Roll, “Even The Monkees’ biggest detractors would have to admit that their albums have worn considerably better than some contemporaneous offerings from ‘serious’ groups.”

Which view is more accurate?

As a record buyer, I can tell you I purchased every Beatles’ album and took them seriously. After all, how could one not take seriously “I Am The Walrus,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Yellow Submarine,” “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” and countless others?


Serious stuff indeed. Meanwhile, the third and fourth albums by the Monkees, “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” hit number one as did their first two long-players even though the shocking truth had been revealed and now the Fake Four was playing their own instruments as well as singing.

Were they any good? Well, it’s just my “unhip” opinion, but I thought both were solid efforts and, evidently, much of the “unhip” public did, too. Of course, what does the public know? It’s made up of millions of “unhipsters” who don’t take the Beatles seriously. Thankfully…could you just imagine all the shuddering?

And in the Beatles’ homeland, the Monkees impact was almost as significant, the first four LPs going 1,1,2,5 on the charts. With all this “unhipness” prevalent, it’s a wonder The Beatles sold any records.

The sales obviously were buoyed by that crazy TV show, to which most televisions were tuned faithfully each week. Granted, there were only three stations in those days, but there were many other options to watching “The Monkees” on TV…help dry the dishes or mow the lawn, for instance. Or we could be listening to serious music…”Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” for example. But even the group’s fifth album, “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” reached No. 3 while the TV series that supported the group’s recording efforts was crumbling.

Album sales also were boosted by a steady stream of hit singles. “Last Train To Clarksville” was not a smash in Britain, but went straight to the top in the States and the follow-up, “I’m A Believer,” achieved a rarity, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously. “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” just missed the top in both the U.S. and U.K. “Alternate Title (Randy Scouse Git), penned by Dolenz, also hit No. 2 in Britain, though not released as a single in the States. Tim Sendra, in his review of “Headquarters,” called this track “thoroughly amazing (and surprisingly political)” and added “Alternate Title” ” … showed just how truly out-there and almost avant-garde Micky Dolenz could be when he tried.”

A serious Micky Dolenz? Now that thought really makes me shudder.

There were other gems, of course, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Words,” “Daydream Believer,” “Valleri,” all still staples of today’s oldies’ stations.

Rolling Stones’s Rob Sheffield, reviewing The Monkees’ June appearance at New York City’s Beacon Theater, wrote, “…the Monkees have never been far from the heart of American culture. People are always glad when they show up. Their hits have never left the radio. You can’t accuse the Monkees of phoning it in – this was an excellent show from a legendary pop band giving out much, much, much more than they had to. Hardcore crowd, too – the kind of Monkeemaniacs who roar when they see the roadies wheel a kettledrum onstage, because they know that means it’s time for Micky’s psychedelic rant “Randy Scouse Git.”

In summation, the Monkees are a great part of our entertainment history. They were/are immensely popular because they made us laugh and their music made us sing along. The TV show was a hoot and their recordings, then and now, stand up with the best of their era.

Why are they not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

25 thoughts on “No Monkee business allowed in the Rock Hall of Fame?

  1. The Monkees should be in the Hall of Fame, without a doubt!
    Yes, some of their songs were written for them, but you look at some of The Beatles’ early albums and you’ll see quite a few tracks that weren’t written by Lennon and McCartney (or Harrison and Starr for that matter). Elton John’s another example… how many of his songs are not his own, yet he’s in the Hall of Fame.
    The enduring nature of The Monkees alone, after all these years, surely merits their induction into the Hall of Fame and the sooner the better!

  2. It’s laughable that The Monkees — and scores of other obviously deserving artists — continue to be ignored by the so-called Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They really should just go all the way and re-name it “The Special Club For Artists That Jann Wenner Likes”. The way the hall has handled itself by continually shunning some of the most worthy acts (in favor of some not-so-worthy, in my humble opinion) is shameful. I think at this point, most real music fanatics recognize that the Hall Of Fame is somewhat of a joke. Their handling of the Dave Clark 5 debacle a couple of years ago is testament to that. It took them 15 years after eligibility to even consider Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath. Kiss, Chicago, Yes, and Deep Purple are still shunned by the hall, yet Metallica made it in their first year they qualified. While it’s nice to see a band honored by the industry insiders, those who are “in the know” realize that there’s more to a band’s legendary status than being in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The Monkees’ legacy — the vast catalog of great music, the visionary television show — speaks for itself, and serves as a reminder that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is rather insignificant after all.

  3. My diatribe on the Monkees not being in the Hall.

    Three of the Monkees played to a packed house at the Beacon in NYC last month, with roars, standing ovations and a lot of love & respect.

    Here were three out of four guys from a band made for TV- singing, playing, joking around- cranking out hits, TV favorites, B-sides, cult favorites and other rarities for 2 straight hours, with one Monkee occasionally leaving for a break while the others entertained. The only top 40 hit they didn’t seem to do was DW Washburn.

    Sure there were moments where the three would just be in front of a large band ensemble, which included guitars, horns, keyboards and percussion. But, they were entitled.

    Peter was a big highlight of the evening. He sang an on an equal amount of songs with the other two. He sang his material and some of Nesmith’s. He played lead keyboards on several songs, lead and rhythm guitar, banjo and even a flugelhorn. This man has been through hell and here he was for two hours entertaining. That courage alone should get the band into this “hall” (but more on that later).

    Micky played drums on almost half of the songs and stayed pace with the band drummer. His vocals weren’t vintage 60s, but he still had that distinct 60s voice, on which that alone should put this band in the “hall” (but more on that later). The humor was still there as was the energy. He played acoustic guitar later in the night.

    Davy was funny, flamboyant, with some “diva” moments, and just being Davy. Though he is not my favorite Monkee, he HAS to be there more so that the ever missing Nesmith (my favorite, but attendance not required). Davy got all the middle aged ladies in the audience to dance and sing along. I knew Davy played some acoustic gutitar and he didn’t disappoint, but was shocked me most was when he got on the drum kit. I zoomed in from the upper balcony with my little binoculars. He REALLY was playing folks. He wasn’t Neil Pert, but hey hey.

    The Nes, while it would have been great for a guest appearance, really isn’t required for this show set up. I saw them without him in 86 and 89, but this show was far more entertaining, and more musicianship from the three. Several of his originals were in, so he was there in one way.

    There was no faking or lip syncing here.

    Now the um “hall” thing. My Mike Lovean rant:
    These guys have toured as four, three, two and one since their 86 comeback. They got approval last month from one of the toughest cities in the business. I don’t see “hall” contemporaries Creedence, Beach Boys, the Animals, the Byrds, the Young Rascals and Lovin Spoonful with many surviving members on the tour circuit other than portions , pieces, fake replacements and fragments. Two of the above mentioned bands also relied heavily on the Wrecking Crew for studio material. There has to be some merit at longevity, even if it is only rehashing old hits. That was them, playing now.

    They sang so many hits it was dizzying. From day one, that was Micky mostly on those hit singles, with Davy and Mike on occasion. So he did it for a TV show- it was still HIS vocal. Yeah his own drumming came later, but he did it. You don’t get up in front of thousands if you can’t.

    The energy was electrifying. A bunch of 60 year olds on the rock stage-like to see some of the above mentioned hall of fame bands collectively try it. Hell they can’t even sit in a room together. Get over it. Look at Mr. Tork- that is just pure courage and inspiration.

    Hall of Fame? I think the three gentlemen would prefer the massive accolades showering on them on this tour after all of these years than to rust on a elite hand picked wall in Cleveland like the rest of the groups mentioned.

    Read more:


    Despite the snobbery against them by that overrated “Serious Sixties” crap. What hypcrisy especially when all along The Beatles sang some silly gibberish, and even wore costumes as walruses, bears, and chickens! WTF!?
    And Beatles had been marketed as a KIDDIE TV CARTOON.

    That’s more “respectable” than the Monkees project? Sure…..

    1967’s Magical Mystery Tour is a lame bus wreck by the Beatles attempting to copy the success of The Monkees. But the Monkees had did it better — AS MUSIC TELEVISION.

    Induct Nesmith, Dolenze, Jones and Tork.

    They have every right to be honored (as did Neil Diamond, a Monkees songwriter himself).

    When’s the last time you heard the Monkees on the radio?
    Today. Any given day. They endure in the soundtrack of Americana.

    The Monkees episodes with ‘reality cam’ commentaries often were political and youth-topical. (Oh, how Rolling Stone Mag worships any artist who gets more political… right?) So, if BEING POLITICAL counts, The Monkees deserve respect there too.

    And overall, they ROCKED, are fun, still, and are genuine entertainment. Viva la Monkee!

    And when the topic comes around to does KISS deserve to be in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame….. YES they deserve it too. They are rock stars.


    Despite any snobbery from that overrated “Serious Sixties” crap.
    The Beatles did sing some silly gibberish, and wore costumes as bears, chickens and walruses. WTF?!? And they were marketed as a Kiddies TV CARTOON. Um, that’s the “respectable” route for a band?

    Magical Mystery Tour is a lame bus wreck by McCartney & Beatles trying to copy the success of The Monkees. But the Monkees were doing it better — as MUSIC TELEVISION.

    And since “getting political” seems to be a requirement for respect from Rolling Stone Mag Crowd, the Monkees episodes often had a ‘reality cam’ interview that was political and youth-centric. OK, give them the respect they deserve IF political is so ***** important for an Artist.

    Induct Nesmith, Dolenz, Tork and Jones. They earned it and they should be honored. A class act, which did ROCK, and is still genuine fun entertainment.

    Surely yet another skanky ‘bar’ band got inducted again by now anyway.

  6. I totally agree with KevinD on this whole farce of denying the Monkees entrance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jann Wenner only puts in artists that he likes, and anyone who he thinks is not worthy might as well forget about EVER being inducted. That’s why I joined the write-in petition on Facebook.

  7. I saw The Monkess back in ’67, when Hendrix opened for them (it was indeed the stuff of legend, folks) and they were most definitely singing and playing all the instruments LIVE, so yeah, one could argue that they were pre-fabbed, but they had more than enough skill to pull it off in front of an audience, even back then.

  8. I recently saw Micky, Davy and Peter in concert in Cincinnati and they were fantastic!! Their music today is just as great as it was in the 60’s and I feel that they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Jann Wenner needs to have his head examined. All their fans feel that this is an honor well overdue. PUT THE MONKEES IN THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME!!

  9. Aaron –

    See the article on KISS previously in this series…Great Blogs of Fire

  10. I agree with KevinD! It’s all Wenner’s personal politics that are keeping so many worthy acts out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Monkees definitely deserve to be there. You can’t ignore their contributions to music and pop culture.

  11. Even though the Monkees were created for a TV show, they didn’t just ride the wave of fame and wealth. They took control of the music and tried to make it their own. Sure, it wasn’t a successful as the Neil Diamond and Carole King penned material, but it was spirited, and it was GOOD. The Monkees embodied the true spirit of Rock n’ Roll. Here are three strong reasons they should be in the Hall:

    1. Micky Dolenz is simply one of the best all-time Rock vocalists.
    2. Michael Nesmith’s protest of Don Kirshner’s control, with a fist through the wall of the Beverly Hills Hotel; “That could have been your face, mother******!”.
    3. Refusing to record “Sugar, Sugar”.


  12. Hey Melissa – Wilson Pickett recorded “Sugar Sugar” & he’s in the HOF (deservedly).

  13. Ooo, didn’t know Wilson recorded that! Well, I do think it would have been a seriously bad move for the Monkees.

    Thanks for the info!

  14. Melissa –

    You might be right…By the way, Pickett’s excellent version went to No. 25 in 1970.

  15. If you look at the Sex Pistols,(in the hall), they were every bit manufactured by
    Malcolm McLaren who cynically wanted to make a a buck off of the burgeoning punk scene by putting together a band to exploit the vibe. And he did.
    Those guys could barely play a note or sing in tune at all yet made a great first record before imploding completely.
    Ironic as one tune that they decided to do was a cover of Steppin Stone which was punk before Johhny Rotten was out of his nappie!
    Wenner has no argument.
    He has a personal thing about The Monkees that doesn’t make sense.
    Maybe Nesmith went to his office at some point, punched a hole in the wall and said “Put us in Mfer!”
    Wenners being an elitist twit and also not seeing the big picture.
    From a purely business standpoint, if The Monkkees were in the hall with their own large exhibit of artifacts etc. he would get more tourist traffic into the Hall from those of us crazy fans that would travel to see it! I am surprised that the Hall board of directors has allowed him to cut into the profits like that.
    Let alone a Kiss exhibit and many people that would bring in.
    Get over yourself Jann. It isn’t an attractive trait and it tarnishes the actually good work you had done with the Original Rolling Stone magazine.

  16. As the writer mentions, the fact that the Monkees did not play on all their cuts is similarly true of such acts as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Association, The Mamas and Papas — indeed most other LA-based rock acts of the day. It was practically standard to have members of the Wrecking Crew sit in. Even Ringo Starr was replaced by a session drummer on the first Beatles session at EMI. Jackson Browne has been inducted to the R&RHoF, but does he play every instrument you hear on his records? (Is he even rock ‘n’ roll?) Browne is a songwriter and front man, like Neil Diamond or Carole King, who both wrote for The Monkees — and each of The Monkees has met those qualifications time and again. The Monkees have been crucified over this long enough. They did record two albums (HEADQUARTERS and JUSTUS) entirely on their own, and their individual wishes were pretty much carried out after the first two albums, which were recorded under Don Kirschner’s control. Sure, they were pre-fabricated, but really no more so than any other group of young people who decided to start a band after seeing A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and kept auditioning players till they found the right combination of talents. The only difference is that a production team assembled The Monkees. That’s the only pre-fab aspect. What is unquestionable is that all four members have proven themselves over decades of popularity as musicians and front men in their own right. I would also add that The Monkees’ catalogue has inspired more serious scholarship and annotation and record company support than many groups who are taken more seriously by the cognoscenti. It stands up to close examination and the story of their longeivity as a group is BASED on wresting artistic control away from the suits who spawned them! Theirs is not a flimsy or superficial achievement, and their work as a unit gave reason for some tremendous session talents to record together. They made great music that people have loved for close to half a century, and that’s why they belong in the Hall of Fame.

  17. Joe –

    Look at the Sex Pistols?? I’d rather not. I’d rather not listen to them, either.

  18. Join our page and join in out write in Campaign to get the Monkees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

    We want the Monkees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Facebook page

  19. I think The Monkees should be in The Hall of Fame! I have been a fan since I was 9 years old! I am about to go see them on their 56th Anniversary Tour, and I saw them on tour from 1997-2004 when they toured. They defenatly belong on the Hall of Fame!

  20. The Monkees should definitely be in the r and r hall of fame.The group playing their own instruments on Headquarters is proof enough that they were very capable musicians.They couldve easily played on the 1st 2 lps if it weren’t for Kirshner.I also feel that The Turtles and paul Revere and The Raiders should also be in the r and r hall of fame.The turtles played on all their records and contrary to many rumors the raiders played on most of their own stuff as well.

    The use of studio players on some artists records has been greatly exaggerated over the years.The Beach Boys Pet Sounds guys,but there is 1 track that has the bb playing.They played on a lot of their early hits as well.As for The Byrds,please let it be clarified again for the upteenth time,they only used studio guys on the Mr.Tambourine Man single.McGuinn played w/the studio guys and sang w/Gene Clark and Dave Crosby.They do all the playing on the rest of the 1st lp and play on everything up to Notorious Byrds Bros.when Crosby and Michael Clarke left and the lp had to be padded out w/studio guys.If people really looked into the details of things,it’ll be found out that most groups did a substantial amt. of playing on their records.Back to The Monkees,Mike and Peter play on Mike’s songs on the 1st 2 lps.

  21. The Monkees have earned the right to be in the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame…Just go see a concert of theirs and that will seal anyone’s opinion on the matter. Or, just turn on Antenna TV on Saturday and Sunday’s to see two hours worth of Rock’n Roll music, entertainment and Music Videos (yes they were on the video forefront). Go rent the movie “Head”. Michael, David, Micky and Peter just plain out should be in there…It’s been 45 years and it’s about time!

    Can I join Nesmith and punch a wall on this…lol

  22. The Monkees deserve to be there. So do Three Dog Night, The Moody Blues and The Guess Who. All were chart legends, all of them are still constantly on oldies, classic hits and classic rock radio and all of them are awesome talents. When LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash are in there, there’s no justice at all. Put all of these bands in there too. They belong, and have for years!

  23. I’d like to see the Small Faces inducted first. I’m guessing they were eligible the same year, and I can’t see the Monkees as being more worthy than the Small Faces. After that, sure, why not?

  24. The Monkees should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with several other snubbed groups and artists plus alot of ealy influences and side and session people who belong there as well. I am sure the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Turtles, the Grass Roots, Mott the Hoople, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Cars, Jethro Tull, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Cars, KISS, Def Leopard, Deep Purple, Petula Clark, Sonny and Cher, Jan and Dean, The Association, the Moody Blues, the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman’s Hermits, Connie Francis, The Guess Who, Bachman, Turner Overdrive, Rush, Dick Dale, and several other snubs will go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is time for the fans to pick who should go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We, the fans will have our say who should go in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  25. It’s obvious that they belong in the Hall of Fame. It’s well past due, to be honest. As for the Monkees not writing their own songs at the start of their career, I find that means absolutely nothing. I’m black and I love their music. Writing music or playing instruments isn’t a requirement to be in the Hall of Fame, it is a great thing to be able to do and shouldn’t be overlooked. However, I’m not as knowledgable of the Temptations but they are in the Hall of Fame and didn’t play a single instrument. Michael Jackson and eventually Whitney will be in as well. I find it silly to use those excuses. It’s called singing, if you sell large quantities of records/cds for a long time and your music still hits the heart of people you should obviously be in. It’s just sad that when they get in, Davy will not get to enjoy it with his friends in this realm.

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