| Revolutions per Monkee|
|Created by||Jack Good|
|Written by||Jack Good|
|Directed by||Art Fisher|
Jerry Lee Lewis
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||60 mins.|
|Original release||April 14, 1969|
|Preceded by||The Monkees|
|Followed by||Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees|
Revolutions per Monkee is a television special starring the Monkees that aired on NBC on April 14, 1969. Produced by Jack Good (creator of the television series Shindig!), the musical guests on the show included Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Little Richard, the Clara Ward Singers, the Buddy Miles Express, Paul Arnold and the Moon Express, and We Three in musical performances.
Although they were billed as musical guests, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger (alongside their then-backing band The Trinity) found themselves playing a prominent role; in fact, it can be argued that the special focused more on the guest stars (specifically, Auger and Driscoll) than the Monkees themselves. This special is notable as the Monkees' final performance as a quartet until 1986, as Peter Tork left the group at the end of the special's production.
The title is a play on " revolutions per minute".
The story follows Brian Auger and his assistant (Driscoll) as they take The Monkees through various stages of evolution until they are ready to brainwash the world via commercial exploitation. Trapped in giant test tubes, the four are stripped of all personal identity and names: Micky Dolenz becomes Monkee #1, Peter Tork becomes Monkee #2, Michael Nesmith Monkee #3, and Davy Jones Monkee #4.
Each Monkee (under Driscoll's watch) attempts to regain their stripped personal identities by thinking a way out of captivity into their own world of fantasies. Monkee #1 (Dolenz) performs an R&B up-tempo duet remake of "I'm a Believer" with Driscoll; Monkee #2 (Tork) reclines on a giant cushion in Eastern Garb and, to the lilting backing of sitar and tabla, performs "I Prithee (Do Not Ask For Love)," a gentle number concerning spiritual values. Monkee #3 (Nesmith), in an inventive blue-screen number, sings a country tune with himself, "Naked Persimmon"; and a toy-sized Monkee #4 (Jones) sings and dances to the tune of "Goldilocks Sometime."
Next, the Monkees perform "Wind Up Man" in the stiff-legged form of robots (dressed similar to the outfits they debuted in). Auger, criticizing their performance, introduces a four-part piano harmony in a unique piano-stacked set up with Auger and his electric keyboard on top, then descending to Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and finally Fats Domino on the bottom. Disapproving Auger's brainwashing method, Charles Darwin steps in and inexplicably switches to Paul Arnold and the Moon Express' "Only The Fittest Shall Survive", a psychedelic dance performance. Then the Monkees, clad in ape costumes, perform Neil Sedaka's "I Go Ape". With his work done, Darwin allows Auger, Driscoll, and the Trinity to work from there, while singing the Young Rascals' "Come On Up".
With the process complete, Auger introduces the Monkees to a gig at the Paramount Theater on December 7, 1956, and describing them as "idolized, plasticized, psychoanalyzed, and sterilized". The four, dressed in outlandish 1950s vocal group gear, are then immediately launched into a classic '50s rock medley: "At The Hop," "Shake A Tail Feather" "Little Darlin'," "Peppermint Twist," backed up by Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, We Three, and The Clara Ward Singers. The guest performers contributed their own songs to the medley, with the Ward Singers performing "Dem Bones" as the segment's finale. Peter Tork's girlfriend Reine Stewart stood in as drummer for Fats Domino when his regular drummer couldn't attend.
At the end of the medley, Auger and Driscoll break character and say that the brainwashing concept has gone out of hand and would rather see The Monkees have "complete and total freedom" which Driscoll describes as "utter bloody shambles".
The rest of the special takes place in a warehouse full of instruments and props. It begins with Davy standing atop a high staircase performing Bill Dorsey's "String For My Kite". Peter enters the scene next and performs, on a Hohner Clavinette harpsichord, Solfeggietto by C.P.E. Bach. Finally, Mike and Micky arrive and perform "Listen To The Band," with Nesmith on Black Beauty guitar (Gibson Les Paul Custom), Tork on keyboards, Dolenz on drums, and Jones on tambourine (in what would turn out to be their final appearance as a quartet until 1986 as well as their final network television appearance as a quartet until 1996). As the song progresses, they are joined by extras (Good sent buses down to Sunset Strip to round up about 100 extras for "a party") and all of 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee's guest musicians from The Trinity to the Buddy Miles Express resulting in a climactic frantic cacophony, similar to the crescendo in "Revolution 9"; it pans aside to a book with "Chaos is Come Again" on the next page. The book closes with "The Beginning of the End" on the back cover.
The closing credits feature a reversed scene from the Moon Express' dance sequence, with Tork singing "California, Here I Come" over the credits as California is nuked killing off the fictional Monkees.
-Glenn A. Baker, author of Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees
The general opinion of the viewers and participants of Revolutions per Monkee claim the special to be chaotic, both on-screen and off-screen. The Monkees went into rehearsals for the program one day after their return from their Australasian tour in October 1968. Production on the program began in November 1968, after completing a press tour promoting their film, Head. Music sessions with Bones Howe and Michael Nesmith producing commenced in mid-November, with the final taping of the special occurring at the end of the month. Before production started, a strike at NBC almost meant that the special could not be taped; however, stage space was found at MGM Studios in Culver City, and the sets were transported there. Because it was a last-minute change of location, the special was directed from outdoor broadcast trucks parked outside the soundstages.
The Monkees were reportedly[by whom?] angry with producer Jack Good and director Art Fisher's script for Revolutions per Monkee, calling it "too sloppy, too fairy-tale like," while Davy Jones felt that, for a TV special starring the Monkees, it emphasized rather largely the guest cast over the group itself.
Peter Tork, in liner notes for The Monkees Anthology CD compilation, called "the TV Version of Head". Tork was, at one point, the only Monkee working on Head; but, ironically enough, it would be Tork that would buy out his Monkees contract at the end of production of Revolutions per Monkee (on December 20, 1968), reportedly suffering from exhaustion. Tork's departure reduced The Monkees to a trio, and the group would not be seen on network TV as a foursome again until 1997. After production wrapped, Tork was given a gold watch as a going-away present, with the inscription "To Peter, from the guys down at work."
Negotiations were originally made in early 1968 for The Monkees to star in three NBC-TV specials to air in 1969; Revolutions per Monkee was the first. Unhappy with the final edit, NBC decided to air it on the West Coast opposite The 41st Academy Awards on ABC. Further damage was done to the telecast by an engineer who accidentally presented Revolutions per Monkee out of sequence. These incidents prompted NBC to cancel plans to produce the remaining Monkees specials. Because of the technology of the time, the Hawaiian broadcast of the special was delayed for two weeks. At the time, television stations in Hawaii received network programming via film and videotape, as there were no telephone connections capable of television broadcasting; it was finally shown there on April 28. Its telecast in Great Britain occurred on Saturday, May 24 on BBC2.
In the 1990s, Revolutions per Monkee was released commercially by Rhino Home Video (parent company Rhino Entertainment owns the rights to The Monkees) in two different versions. The version of Revolutions per Monkee released individually in January 1997 (R3 2284) has been on file for years at The Museum of Television & Radio (now known as the Paley Center for Media) in New York City, with good sound quality, a fuzzy picture and the segments in original broadcast order.
The DVD version features two commentary tracks; one by Brian Auger and the other by Micky Dolenz, who has mixed feelings about the program.
The special was remastered for the Monkees' 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray box set, but due to licensing restrictions, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" was edited out from the medley.
No official soundtrack has been released, nor was such a soundtrack planned because of the technology of the time, wherein a singer would sing live vocals over prerecorded tracks. It has also been said[by whom?] that many of the songs were left at MGM when production finished. Some songs, however, have been officially released as bonus tracks on recent deluxe editions of Head and Instant Replay. The versions of songs with vocals have been lifted directly from the television audio.
A number of low-quality demo recordings are known to exist, including versions of "A String for My Kite" and "Wind Up Man" and unused songs "Buttoning the Buttons", "I Am a Fish", "Lucky You" and "The Bus & The Crocodile" - all performed by the same musician, probably the show's main songwriter Bill Dorsey. "I Am a Fish" was recorded by Tiny Tim under the title "The Other Side" in 1968. Tracks "I Ain't No Miracle Worker" and "I Wish That I Were Dead" (a.k.a. "But Now I Find") were officially-released singles by The Brogues but have been erroneously listed as demo recordings for Revolutions per Monkee, as has "My Community", written by Roger Atkins and Carl D'Errico, which was recorded by Tiny Tim under the title "Community" in 1968. A vinyl bootleg, possibly recorded by placing a microphone in front of a television speaker while the program played, was produced by Zilch Records.[better source needed]