INTERVIEW: Micky Dolenz of The Monkees on living through the ‘horrible cloud’

Micky Dolenz, The Monkees

Micky Dolenz, Courtesy photo.

Micky Dolenz of The Monkees doesn’t remember another time in years that he’s gone more than three days without having to pack a suitcase. Instead, he’s been spending the shelter-in-place to stop the spread of COVID-19 by tending to his vegetable garden and working in his woodshop.

“Yesterday I slept ‘til 2!” he says.

The Monkees (Micky Dolenz and and Michael Nesmith)
8 p.m., Wednesday, July 15
San Jose Civic
Tickets: $65-$85.

It’s just him and his wife at their home in the Los Angeles hills. The two have been spending time at home, getting deliveries every once in a while—like most people.

“This phoner with you is the first thing that’s been on my calendar in, like, a week,” he says.

At the end of the week, Dolenz and Michael Nesmith will release their new live album, their first without late Monkees’ members Davy Jones and Peter Tork, The Mike & Micky Show Live. But a spring tour has already been rescheduled for later in the summer—if the coronavirus threat is beaten back by then. Both Dolenz and Nesmith are in their 70s, a high-risk demographic, after all.

“It’s a worry. I personally don’t have any serious preexisting medical issues. I’ve got a bit of high blood pressure, mainly just because of my age,” Dolenz says. “But it’s still a worry because I am smack in that demographic. So I’m just being extra, extra careful. I’m not going out, not mingling, not doing anything social, keeping my social distance and mitigating everything I can.”

But the silver lining for Dolenz is the rest he can get right now. He’s had a very busy career, even without considering his original hit TV show, “The Monkees,” and the band it bore. He’s acted in several films and TV shows, such as “Boy Meets World,” and done voice-over work for animated shows like “The Scooby-Doo Show” in the ’70s, 1994’s “The Tick” and “Batman: The Animated Series.” He’s also been a radio DJ and acted in and directed theater.

“Most of my life is usually packing, unpacking, traveling, touring, planes, cars, boats, trains; you know?” he says. “That’s been interesting; to get up in the morning and not have anything on my calendar.”

Dolenz and Michael Nesmith have been touring together for several years and in that time, they’ve had to cancel and postpone shows and tours. In 2018, Nesmith underwent a quadruple bypass heart surgery mid-tour. Missing time on stage comes with the territory for them.

Micky Dolenz, The Monkees, Michael Nesmith

Michael Nesmith (L) and Micky Dolenz, Courtesy photo.

“It’s out of our control when that happens. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Dolenz says. “It doesn’t do any good to bitch and moan. You just have to accept it and move on knowing that down the line the shows will be performed, and the fans’ tickets will be honored. … Like the old joke: They pay us to travel; we sing for free. There’s a lot of truth in that. These days, that’s the last thing that anybody would be doing, and of course you have a concert situation, which is a bunch of people packed into a big venue. We’ve just got to wait it out.”

He and Nesmith pushed all but a couple of their April dates to July and August. Dolenz also performs solo shows and has rescheduled those as far into the future as 2021. They are making their best effort to help flatten the curve right now.

“Things will eventually get back to normal,” Dolenz says. “The fear of the unknown is the worst thing about this.”

The new album should provide home-locked fans some entertainment and diversions in the meantime. Recorded at a 2019 concert, the album came about after The Monkees’ longtime label, Rhino, approached the duo. The band had released several previous live LPs, but never as a duo. Their most recent studio effort, 2018’s Christmas Party, included Peter Tork, who passed away in 2019. It was produced largely by Adam Schlesinger, who died of complications of COVID-19 last week at 52.

The two had also asked fans online if another album that only involved the two of them was something they’d want to listen to, and if seeing them perform Monkees material on stage was of interest.

They were met with overwhelming assurance.

“I’ll be honest, Nes and I … before we decided to go out on tour, we were like, ‘What are we going to do?’” Dolenz says. “But Nes wrote so many great songs for the Monkees, many of which I sung, [and others] he did. I sung … probably the majority of the hit songs and a lot of the album cuts.”

So Nesmith, who’d left the Monkees decades earlier, and Dolenz got together privately to parse through their material. A show wouldn’t be complete without hits like “Last Train To Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

Then it was onto the deeper cuts, much of which includes the Nesmith-penned songs. Setlists at some shows include Nesmith’s critically acclaimed solo country material with The First National Band, such as the hit “Joanne” and “Different Drum,” which Linda Ronstandt later covered. It became her first hit song.

Dolenz describes building a Monkees show setlist as a potluck.

“The problem has been kind of ‘what not to do,’ because there’s so much incredible material written by all these incredible writers,” he says. “I was blessed to have writing for me: Neil Diamond, Carole King, and Gerry Goffin, Boyce and Hart, David Gates—just incredible writers. In a way it’s kind of hard to screw up the songs because they’re so good.”

On stage, Nesmith and Dolenz have surrounded themselves with a talented cast of “studio cats and Broadway hit cats and family” like jazz drummer Rich Dart and Paul Revere & the Raiders’ singer Mark Lindsey.

Dolenz’s sister Coco, who performs at his solo shows, sings back-up and plays percussion with the band, and Nesmith’s son Christian plays guitar. His other son, Jonathan, has played with the duo as well.

“It is a bit of a family affair, to some degree, and a big band. It’s like 10 pieces,” Dolenz says. “There is a huge wall of sound going out there, which makes it a lot of fun, to be honest. It’s very exciting to have that kind of power band behind you.”

Dolenz doesn’t know how he’ll react when he and Nesmith get back to playing shows and when life returns to some semblance of normal.

“I’ll have to tell you when I do it,” he says, laughing.

He also doesn’t want to overlook the people who in worse situations now; those who are sick and medical workers, but also other musicians more desperate for a paycheck now and those with other jobs and businesses.

“Whole industries are suffering,” he says.

And that’s why he’s using the quarantine to hit “refresh.”

“Even as a 20-year-old, [touring is] tough. At my age, at 75, it can be very brutal, especially on my voice,” he says. “So there is a silver lining to this horrible, horrible cloud. It’s giving me a chance to recuperate a little bit. I’m looking forward to getting back. I’m getting antsy. I don’t want to disappoint the fans.”

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at

(16) Comments

  1. Kevin Stephens

    Mark Lindsay was the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Different Drum was recorded first by the Greenbriar Boys, then by Linda Ronstadt. Mike's first recorded version was a snippet of the song on the Monkees TV show, and then he recorded his version well after Linda's. Not to snipe, merely report.

  2. Rita May Reyes

    I love Micky and Mike. Such awesome talent. I will never forget Peter and Davy, they were both do wonderful.

  3. Al

    Mickey came to mason ohio one year for our festival he was great as always I feel like a brother to him even though we have never met. I still listen to the monkees songs grew up with that music guess my favorite would be randy scougest live long and God bless Mickey thanks for all you gave the Usa

  4. Lynn Hall

    I've loved the Monkees forever. But it drives me crazy how many times I end up arguing with someone who thinks they were frauds. One guy actually said that because they didn't write their own music, they weren't a real band. I sent him a list of all of the famous artists who don't write their own music, and can't play instruments either, plus a list of the music they did write. I haven't heard from him since.

    1. Kimberly Setser

      Micky dolenz is the most underrated singer of all time!!! He could scat he could do it all. I have always loved the Monkees! Great songs.

  5. angela emerson sollats

    don't Micky Dolenz and Micheal Nezsmith, this virus will go away soon and things will get back to normal real soon. you guys are amazing. RIP Davy Jones and Peter tork u are deeply missed. may god bless u always,angela

    1. Cathy Gillespie

      Love you Mickey since I was eight. I had a terrible childhood but you made it so much better when I watched the shows and listened to the music. You got me thru and now at 62 I'm going thru a rough time since my husband of 39 years passed. I listen to you everyday. It takes me back to a happier time.

  6. Jackie foster

    Micky I saw the Monkees perform when I was 13 yo at the Hirsch coliseum in Shreveport, la. It was my first concert. I have never forgot it. That was 1967. I saw Davy with the teen idols in 1996 at isle of Capri casino in Shreveport. I love u guys.

  7. David

    The Monkees are a legit band. They fought and gained control to be their own musicians on their albums. They could have easily played the songs on their first 2 albums but weren’t allowed . Even George Harrison acknowledged they had the talent to be the best group ever . Mike sang and wrote a lot of their songs . Peter was a fantastic musician and played banjos, guitar , keyboards and flugle horn . Micky became an excellent drummer and David learned to play bass and drums . They have nothing to prove . They played every note on Headquarters. They played live for thousands of people . They are best group of all time . They even played psychedelic songs like Tapioca Tundra, Circle Sky , Writing Wrongs and Do I have to do this all over again? Better than even the Beatles . Just listen to the Pisces album . Its the greatest record ever made ! Every song is awesome ! God bless the Monkees!

  8. Denise m birnvenue

    I grew up with you guys saw a lot of you're concerts. That's when music was good'no disrespect.Micky you nailed Rocky racoons.iwould love to see the miky an Micky show,. God bless you all and stay safe you guys !

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