Today the last episode of the second and final season of The Monkees — entitled “The Frodis Caper” a.k.a. “Mijacogeo” — aired in the U.S. Why, you may ask, did such a successful show last only two seasons?

In a way it was a victim of being too successful; the members of the band had become famous enough to start pushing back against the constraints that the show placed on them. After successfully lobbying to have the laugh track removed, they wanted to change the format to more of a variety show. When NBC refused, the Monkees quit.

But that was not the end of the story; Pinocchio-like, the Monkees had by now become a real band. They would carry on for a couple more years, recording four more albums and starring in the psychedelic demi-classic Head — for which this episode, directed by Monkee Mickey, seems like a warmup. It is possibly the weirdest thing to appear on network TV until Twin Peaks came along; it’s certainly better than Magical Mystery Tour, and a damn sight shorter. If you have 25 minutes to spare….

You’ll notice that a snippet of The Beatles’ “Good Morning, Good Morning” can be heard right at the beginning — this song had a special meaning for Mickey Dolenz, who had heard an early playback while visiting The Beatles in the studio in 1967. According to IMDB,

The Beatles were such fans of the show that when they learned the Monkees wished to use this track, they graciously licensed it free of charge, with no royalties owed. This was the only time the Beatles allowed any of their recordings to be used in a film or TV show royalty-free.

There’s also a clear Beatles reference in this exchange, about 10 minutes in:

Mike: A chant you learned while studying transcendental meditation under an Indian mystic, right?

Mickey: No, it’s a chant I learned when I sent in a cereal box top.

Then at the end, Tim Buckley shows up and sings a tune. Pictures of Kellogg’s products appear over the closing credits, and that’s all, folks.

One final note: In a previous post I repeated the widely circulated story that in 1967, the Monkees outsold The Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. In doing research today, I discovered that this isn’t true. Mike Nesmith made it up in an interview for an Australian newspaper:

As we sat down for the interview, before he asked the first question, I told him that I was going to lie to him. He was taken aback, then seemed a little nonplussed and asked why. I said it was because I didn’t trust the press, that I didn’t expect him to tell the truth, so neither would I …

I said that some of the things I would say would be true and some false, and it was up to him to figure out which was which, according to the normal standards of journalistic responsibility. He asked how he would tell the difference between when I was lying and telling the truth, and I said, “You won’t. That is the point of the lie …”

Then came a point where he asked me about the sales of the Monkees records, and I saw the chance. It isn’t too well known, I said flatly, that we sold over thirty-five million records in 1967. More than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined … he diligently wrote all this down, and I wondered for a moment if I had chosen too outrageous a lie to tell, but it turned out it had been just right.

The next day in the paper, there it was, printed as fact.

I would love to correct the record but it is not easy to figure out exact numbers for worldwide album sales; the internet has failed me on this one. I can tell you that More of the Monkees was the top-selling album in the U.S. for 1967, while Sgt. Pepper was #1 in the UK. Given the relative sizes of the markets, this means it is actually possible that the Monkees outsold The Beatles that year.

At this point it hardly matters; Nesmith’s claim has been repeated so often that it might as well be true. So sure, the Monkees outsold the Beatles and Stones combined; Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone; and Paul McCartney was replaced with a lookalike in 1966. If there really are an infinite number of universes, everything’s true somewhere.

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