Monkees 50 is upon us! Yes, that’s right, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike joining together as The Monkees – and you can bet that the good people at Rhino Records aren’t about to let the year pass without a return of Monkeemania! Yesterday, on the 50th anniversary of the first announcement of The Monkees’ casting call, Rhino announced the first project of the golden celebration: a limited edition, website-exclusive Blu-ray set dedicated to all things Monkees! This upcoming collection, due on January 29, 2016, includes all 58 episodes (two seasons) of the group’s television series, the trippy film Head, the 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee television special, and more!
The winner of the 1967 Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series (besting The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Get Smart and Hogan’s Heroes!), The Monkees set a new standard for sitcom irreverence. The show might have depicted the foursome as constantly struggling to make it as musicians, but the truth couldn’t be any further. The Monkees debuted on NBC on September 12, 1966, and the next month, debut album was in stores. It yielded the hit single “Last Train to Clarksville,” penned by the band’s in-house team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. A scant three months later, More of the Monkees arrived, replacing its predecessor at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and remaining at the top spot for a staggering eighteen weeks on the strength of another smash, Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer.” (It took Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ Sounds Like… LP to dislodge the Monkees from the top spot!)
It still comes as a surprise to many that the men behind The Monkees went on to produce some of the most important films of the “New Hollywood” in the late 1960s and early 1970s: Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970) and The Last Picture Show (1971) among them. Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, under their Raybert Productions banner, envisioned a freewheeling weekly romp that would take the best elements of The Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and further develop the techniques used by those films’ director, Richard Lester. Quick cuts, jump cuts and improvisation would be applied by Rafelson, Schneider and director James Frawley to loose storylines and embryonic music videos to create hip, cutting-edge and fast-moving comedy week in and week out.
The series was, of course, designed to sell records. Screen Gems, the television arm of Columbia Pictures (also the production company of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie), drew on the best talent from its music publishing department headed by the legendary Don Kirshner. That meant that Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer (pre-Sager) and many other Brill Building notables would be given a crack at creating the pop confections performed onscreen by Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith. The Monkees’ albums would be released on Colgems, the studio’s own label. The Monkees became a one-show industry, even challenging the chart supremacy of The Beatles. The series has been released previously on DVD by both Rhino and Eagle Rock; this first-time Blu-ray debut features:
- All 58 episodes on 10 Blu-ray discs
- Newly remastered in HD from the original negatives for the very first time, plus the 1969 TV Special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee
- The 1968 Monkees film HEAD in HD with never-before-seen outtakes
- Also includes bonus material, commentaries from all four Monkees, original Kellogg’s Monkees commercials and more
- An exclusive 7″ featuring two previously unreleased TV mixes
- Strictly limited to 10,000 individually numbered sets
You can find more information on the upcoming Blu-ray box of The Monkees here at the band’s official website store; you’ll, of course, also find a pre-order link there. Watch this space for more information on the Monkees 50 celebration as news breaks!