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Life on the set of NBC’s The Monkees wasn’t all dance romps, musical performances, and fun hijinks for Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, and Davy Jones. While the prefab four romped happily for the camera, behind the scenes, some tough situations dominated the work involved in getting each episode made. However, Mike’s temper got the best of him at one point. In retrospect, he said he acted “arrogant” and “ridiculous” during a heated on-set moment.

Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones on 'The Monkees' set.
Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Mike Nesmith took it to heart when The Monkees weren’t considered real musicians

The Monkees faced accusations they could not play their musical instruments. These remarks came after studio musicians played on most of the band’s first two records. The series leads recorded vocals separately. The Monkees’ first two albums were seen as an extension of the show. Thus, the recordings were overseen by the show’s music supervisor, Don Kirshner.

However, Mike and Peter played guitar, and Micky took drum lessons, eventually becoming proficient in the instrument. Therefore, the musical talent was there. However, Kirshner, who used the era’s best songwriters for hits and sold these songs to top artists, didn’t want to give the foursome any control of the music that generated millions for the network and himself.

Although Mike understood how the network and Kirshner wanted to run the band, that didn’t stop him from expressing his opinions regarding the machine in which he, Peter, Micky, and Davy had involved themselves. A fateful interview sealed the deal when Mike opened up about his real feelings as a member of The Monkees.

Mike Nesmith said he acted ‘arrogant’ and ‘ridiculous’ during a heated moment on ‘The Monkees’ set

Mike Nesmith poses solo on the set of 'The Monkees' in the late 1960s.
Mike Nesmith | Fotos International/Getty Images

Mike Nesmith Confesses The Monkees ‘Were Not Brothers or Especially Close’ Despite Their Happy on-Camera Personas

The Monkees’ guitarist lobbied hard to remove Kirshner from his work on the band’s records. In January 1967, he spilled the beans to The Saturday Evening Post, calling the Monkees’ first two albums “totally dishonest. Do you know how debilitating it is to sit up and duplicate somebody else’s records? That’s what we were doing.”

Mike believed in the group’s creative ability: “tell the world that we’re synthetic because, damn it, we are. Tell the world we don’t record our music. But that’s us they see on television. The show is really part of us. They’re not seeing something invalid.”

His comments fired up the series producers and Kirshner. Backlash ensued, and Mike told producer Bert Schneider that he would walk off the show unless the Monkees were allowed to play on their records, the book Monkeemania explained.

“It was an arrogant and ridiculous thing for me to have done, and it was probably terribly offensive to Bert,” Nesmith admitted in the book. “But I was not impelled by a feeling of self-aggrandizement or a play for more cookies. It was an artistic impulse.”

The Monkees producers fired Kirshner after he issued an unauthorized Monkees single. After that, Mike, Davy, Peter, and Micky were allowed to write, play on, and produce their recordings.

What albums did the band have control over?

After the release of The Monkees and More of the Monkees, Headquarters became the first Monkees album the band had complete control over. The LP hit the charts during a hiatus between seasons one and two of their television series. The album quickly soared to No. 1 on the charts and then settled comfortably at the second position to The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. followed in Nov. 1967. The Birds, the Bees & The Monkees was released five months later, in 1968. The soundtrack to The Monkees’ only feature film, Head, made its debut in Nov. 1968, the last to feature Peter as a member of the band.

These albums showcased the band member’s genuine songwriting and performing skills, merging traditional pop tunes with psychedelia, folk, and country rock. Headquarters, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., The Birds, the Bees & The Monkees all achieved platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America.