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Here they come (again)

The Monkees return to TV in documentary, film

The four members of the Monkees were picked out of more than 400 hopefuls who answered an open casting call in late 1965 for "The Monkees" TV show  

June 27, 2000
Web posted at: 3:16 p.m. EDT (1916 GMT)

(CNN) -- So what if they weren't allowed to play instruments on their own records? The Monkees are getting the rock 'n' roll nostalgia treatment this month on VH1, just like any other band from yesteryear.

First, there's the "Behind the Music" episode on the Monkees, which premiered Sunday. It documents the history of the band formed around a TV sitcom that debuted on American television in 1966, then went on to very real pop-music success.

If that's not enough, the Monkees' story is retold in the VH1 original movie "Daydream Believers: The Monkees." It airs Wednesday.

Capitalizing on the hype is Rhino Records, which recently sent out a press release titled "Monkees Mania 2000!" It promotes the record company's compilation of Monkees hits, released in 1995 and now at gold-record status with more than 500,000 copies sold.

All this, more than 30 years after the pre-fab four made international headlines.

A brief evolution of the Monkees

The original version of the manufactured boy band, the Monkees were Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork. They were picked out of more than 400 hopefuls who answered an open casting call in late 1965 for "The Monkees" TV show, which was created by television producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson to capitalize on Beatlemania.

The executives took no chances on the foursome, even though they had musical experience. Professional songwriters, including Tommy Boyce, Carole King and Neil Diamond, penned songs for the quartet; session musicians filled in for them on albums.

The efforts paid off: From 1966-68, the Monkees released four albums that reached the top of the charts. "Last Train to Clarksville," "Daydream Believer," and "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" quickly became No. 1 hits.

At the same time, their zany sitcom was a hit with American teens.

From TV to DVD

Now, in today's media-aware culture, it's only natural that a movie be made about this television/music phenomenon. In the VH1 telefilm, the Monkees are played by Jeff Giddis (Nesmith), George Stanchev (Jones), L.B. Fisher (Tork), and Aaron Lohr (Dolenz).

From 1966-68, the Monkees released four albums that reached the top of the charts  

Fisher and Tork recently talked about the movie with CNN's Sherri Sylvester. Fisher says he used a very modern appliance to help him with his research of that dated t era.

"I went out and got a bunch of the episodes on DVD and watched it on my computer," he says.

The film offers nostalgia buffs some Monkees memories they may have forgotten. For instance, who recalls that a relative unknown named Jimi Hendrix once opened for the Monkees, facing the wrath of teenyboppers?

"We understood that he made an obscene gesture at the fans before throwing his guitar down in disgust and stomping off," Tork recalls. "But I wasn't there."

The experience of reliving a pop culture life from 30 years earlier will stay with Fisher. "I had 500 girls screaming my name," he says.

"No," Tork corrects him, "they were screaming my name."

Correspondent Sherri Sylvester contributed to this report.

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VH1: 'Daydream Believers: The Monkees'

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