Squelching Rumors About The Monkees


The Monkees

Like most US rock and pop groups of the sixties, the Monkees didn’t play on their hits, they only did the singing. They were in good company: The Beach Boys, the Mama & Papas, the Ventures, the Carpenters, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Byrds and many more relied on studio musicians.

In Hal Blaine’s biography (studio drummer from Los Angeles) there’s an amusing part about how the Monkees’ record company tried fighting the rumors that were going around in 1967, that the Monkees didn’t play their instruments on the records:

I remember one day in Studio A at RCA we were making Monkees records in a studio the size of an aircraft hangar, with all the doors locked and “closed session” signs all over. Next door, in Studio C, The Monkees sat at their instruments making music for the press. The studio bosses had set up the session to squelch the ugly rumors, and the boys gave a convincing performance. Eventually, things cooled down, and later that year I got a call from band member Michael Nesmith (he of the drawl and knit cap) asking me to contract some musicians for a few dates.

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Source: Hal Blaine / Mr. Bonzai: Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew, Rebeats Publications. Alma, Michigan, page 86

Related link

Typing Errors Helped Starting The Monkees’ Career

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9 thoughts on “Squelching Rumors About The Monkees

  1. WRONG!WRONG!WRONG!WRONG! The Monkees DID play their instruments!!!!
    How do i know that? Well i watched many videos of them playing instruments, they said that they even play their instruments, and some can even play more than one instrument!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sorry, i just kinda got mad because i LOVE the monkees so much and i just wanted to watch out for them. I love the monkees and im only 12

  2. Yes of course they did, but I think what Hal Blaine is saying is that it was a performance which had to be set up with the press because of all the rumors, to show them the can play…whilst at the same time recording was going on elsewhere for their records by session musicians…the guys were quite busy recording and filming throughout the run of the show…and then they had to take 5 to prove to the press that they were legit in the midst of all these deadlines….

  3. Hate to burst your bubble, Mingle, but the Monkees did NOT play on their records. There are many good musicians who play great live but who cannot cut it in the studio. As a recording engineer on some famous sessions, I can attest to the fact that great live players often either freeze up, or simply don’t know how to keep the rigorous time necessary in making a recording. Being in the studio is like being under the microscope. You’re very aware that your performance, once committed to tape, is there forever and unchangeable. I’ve seen many a great player ‘go south’ when the red light came on. Studio playing is nothing like live performing, and the really smart artists know it’s better to hire the studio guys to make records even when they have great backing bands to tour with. The Monkees ultimately did go out and perform adequately as a band. Their one attempt to play on their own album – and establish their credibility as musicans – failed miserably.

  4. “Their one attempt to play on their own album – and establish their credibility as musicans – failed miserably.”

    Which album are you referring to? Just curious.

  5. Actually, they were involved with the instrumental recordings from “Headquarters” onward. So that’s 9 out of 11 albums. You are right about the first two records though, they were barred from playing on them (though Nesmith and Tork were able musicians) at the producers demand.

    Could be wrong, though. I don’t really care, the Monkees are just fun pop music to me. Nesmith’s solo career proves him a damn good lyricist and musician, good enough for me.

  6. I don’t think Chuck has all his faders turned up – or perhaps his stereo bus is not on. The Monkees “failed” attempt to play on their own record was a #1 record. It was called “Headquarters” and was knocked into the #2 spot by SGT. “friggin” PEPPER’S!!!!! Where it remained #2 for many weeks…to the greatest album of all time….

    My God… give these guys a friggin break. They OWNED 1967… the “great year of rock” was OWNED by the Monkees… The biggest year ever artistically in this genre… They had the biggest sales numbers… and released 2 great LPs (Headquarters and P,A,C, and Jones LTD). So their record was #2 to Sgt Pepper (!!!)… Most mere mortals would take that as a victory. Only snobs would point out Headquarters as a failure… keep in mind it had NO SINGLES and little promotion…

    The Monkees are the redheaded stepchild of the music industry. The child went out and got a college degree and became CEO, but when he came home, he”s still the redheaded stepchild.

  7. On the other side, Chuck is absolutely right about sessions being much different than live playing. I’ve done both on multiple levels, and he’s right. Most live players (myself included) get emotional about their playing…and maybe even too introspective. Session players can bang stuff out with no real emotional tie to the music…its a paycheck. I’ve had good luck in the studio, but many do freeze up… thinking too much.

    Keep in mind too, the Monkees were doing the work of three bands. Filming a weekly TV show is MORE than a full-time gig in itself. Making a record is a double-time gig. Touring is essentially your LIFE… And these chaps did 3 at once… suddenly their use of session ringers becomes much more reasonable.

    They are lucky they did not become statistics of drug abuse… most people can not even handle ONE of these things without losing it.

  8. “The Monkees are the redheaded stepchild of the music industry. The child went out and got a college degree and became CEO, but when he came home, he’’s still the redheaded stepchild.”

    That is quite possibly the BEST way that anyone has ever summed up the Monkees. I agree that calling “Headquarters” a failure is insane. It is a great album in itself- I PERSONALLY prefer it to “Pepper’s” and being # 2 to that album is nothing to ignore. (I mean no disrespect for The Beatles- they are amazing.) Today, no one would think twice about an artist not playing their own instruments.

    I’ve been in the studio as well- I’m a bass player. I don’t know what the methods were then- I’m 19, I can’t claim to know. As for now, we went back and listened and every mistake that was the littlest bit off needed to be fixed, things you wouldn’t notice in a live performance. With an album people are hearing it over and over. It needs to be fixed, and it can take a lot of time. Obviously, as stated before, The Monkees had a very difficult schedule as it was.

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