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Two of four original band members play two shows at coast

COURTESY: HENRY DILTZ - Time has treated Micky Dolenz (left) and Peter Tork pretty well, and they're touring as the Monkees again, playing at Lincoln City's Chinook Winds Casino, Sept. 23-24.Quickie quiz: What was the only musical act in pop/rock music history with four No. 1 albums in a 12-month period?

No, not Elvis Presley. Not the Beatles. Not Taylor Swift or Beyonce.

It’s the Monkees, whose burst of fame carried them to the top of the music charts in the late 1960s.

Now the band is on its 50-year anniversary our, with a stop at Lincoln City’s Chinook Winds Casino for a pair of shows on Sept. 23 and 24; for more:

Americans Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith and British singer/actor Davy Jones were cast from among 437 applicants for the NBC television sitcom “The Monkees,” which aired for two seasons from 1966-68. All had musical backgrounds, but, at first, the quartet was allowed only limited roles in the recording studio. Eventually, they earned the right to collectively supervise all musical output under the band’s name.

And once they began touring, they took the musical world by storm, with No. 1 singles such as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” Their first four albums rose to No. 1 on the Billboard chart. At their peak in 1967, the Monkees outsold The Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. All told, they have sold more than 75 million records over the years.

Tork left the band shortly after the TV series was cancelled, then Nesmith dropped out, and by 1971 the Monkees had split up to go their separate ways. But they’ve gotten together often through the years, beginning with a 20-year anniversary tour in 1986.

Dolenz, a drummer, guitarist and singer, and Tork headline the current incarnation of the band that will play at Chinook Winds. Jones died of a heart attack in 2012. Nesmith is working on a memoir of the band’s heyday due out next April. He’ll play one last show on the Monkees’ current 24-date domestic tour Friday, Sept. 16, in Los Angeles, which he says will be his final appearance with the band.

Lots of things are happening besides the tour.

On Sunday, Antenna TV is running 22 episodes of the ‘60s TV show as part of the “Monkees 50th Anniversary Marathon.” In May, the band — with Nesmith contributing guitar — came out with its first new CD in two decades, “Good Times,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard Vinyl Albums chart and received a 3 1/2-star rating in Rolling Stone magazine. It features songs written by artists from such bands as Weezer and Death Cab for Cutie and contemporary Noel Gallagher, but also tunes originally written for the group in the ‘60s by the likes of Harry Nilsson, Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart, Carole King and Neil Diamond. In August, a three-CD greatest-hits package was released.

COURTESY: RHINO ENTERTAINMENT - The Beatles ruled, but the Monkees weren't too far behind in the 1960s - (from left) it's Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith.Dolenz, 71, recently took time for a phone interview with the Portland Tribune from his Los Angeles home:

Tribune: How does it feel to be doing a 50th anniversary tour?

Dolenz: Weird. Having said that, we’ve been pretty consistent through the last 50 years. It’s not like we disbanded in 1968 or ‘69 and nothing ever happened after that. The first reunion tour was the biggest tour of all the acts in 1986. Every 10 years or so, an agent or manager or promoter tracks us down and says, “You guys want to go on the road?” We have a record company now that does a wonderful job of keeping the catalog alive. But think of this: We started in 1966. If you’d done a 50-year reunion tour back then, it would have been from someone who was a hit in 1916. Maybe Al Jolson or Enrico Caruso. So yeah, it’s mind-boggling.

Tribune: Have you been to Oregon before?

Dolenz: Many times. We played Portland on our first tour in 1967.

Tribune: How much of the Monkees’ music was your own in the beginning on the TV show?

Dolenz: Mike and Peter were playing on the records right from the beginning on some of them. (The producers) clearly had in mind that they wanted us to sing and play and eventually go on the road. In order to get in the audition, you had to be able to sing and play an instrument. I was a guitar player from having played classical music as a kid. My audition piece was (Chuck Berry’s) “Johnny B. Goode.”

When they started filming the TV show, they needed an enormous amount of material, and we hadn’t rehearsed as a band, so they used studio musicians. Initially, we had absolutely nothing to say about the music — not who was going to play, the song, the writer, not even the album cover or notes. That was especially frustrating for Mike, who had gone into it thinking he was going to be able to write and sing his songs. He spearheaded a palace revolt, and by the third album, we got the right to do the music.

Tribune: I never realized the first Monkees’ song, “Last Train to Clarksville,” was an anti-Vietnam War song, although I should have because of the line “And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Dolenz: It was subtle. It was about all we could get away with at the time. The Monkees wasn’t about protests and anti-war. It was a TV show about this imaginary band that wanted to be The Beatles. It was always a struggle for success, which was one of the things that endeared us to the fans. John Lennon was the first one who said “The Monkees” was much more like the Marx Brothers than The Beatles. It was music/theater/comedy on TV.

Tribune: How much did the criticism that you were just a manufactured band bother you?

Dolenz: When you’re successful as we’ve been, I really don’t give a spit. But it wasn’t a manufactured band. It was a TV show. Have you seen the show “Glee”? They’re not a real glee club. They’re actors and actresses. Would you call that a manufactured glee club? But back in the ‘60s, it was very unusual.

COURTESY PHOTO - The Monkees were quite the TV and stage stars in the 1960s.Tribune: You guys were thrust together as a group and didn’t know each other before the audition. How did you get along together in those years of the TV show?

Dolenz: We got along quite well. We were stars on a television series. Some of us hung out with each other more than others. I had a lot more in common with Davy. He’d been a child star, and I’d done (the TV series) “Circus Boy.” We had families about the same time and kids about the same age.

Tribune: How much fun was it to meet The Beatles?

Dolenz: Oh my God — pretty incredible. I was, and still am, a huge Beatles fan. I met Paul (McCartney) first, but went on to spend more time with Ringo (Starr) than any of the others, because he was in L.A. a lot. But I got to know John also. It was amazing. What could you not like about that?

Tribune: How crazy was it when you went on tour?

Dolenz: Very crazy, to put it bluntly. We hadn’t played anywhere live except in rehearsals. I remember the first concert well, in Honolulu. There were thousands of women screaming. You couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear myself sing. It was pretty raw back then when you toured live. No monitors. Before and after the shows, we couldn’t really go outside and wander around. We had to stay in our rooms unless we went out with an entourage. It was nuts.

That’s the funny thing about the whole story. It was almost like we were two groups. One group was on the TV show and lived in that little beach house in Malibu. Then there was the other group, which went on the road and played all this stuff live and toured and recorded. Mike said it was like Pinocchio becoming a real little boy.

Tribune: Does it bother you that the Monkees aren’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Dolenz: Not at all. I don’t really chase that stuff myself. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a wonderful organization. I do a lot of work for their charity foundation. But it was started by three guys, two of them in music and one in publishing, and it’s like a private country club. They have the right to have in whoever they want. That’s their prerogative.

Tribune: How long do you intend to continue to tour and perform?

Dolenz: I have no intention of retiring. I’ve slowed down a lot. We’re more selective of the things we do. But I don’t see myself ever pulling the plug and growing orchids.

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