Why Mike Nesmith Wasn’t 1 of The Monkees’ Lead Singers

TL;DR:

  • The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith was not a lead singer of the group.
  • Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were the lead singers of the Prefab Four instead.
  • Nesmith had hits without the group.
The Monkees' Mike Nesmith in front of a curtain
The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith | Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

The Monkees‘ Mike Nesmith sang on some of the group’s hits. In addition, he performed songs with his group The First National Band, including the classic track “Joanne.” Despite this, a songwriter said Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were chosen to be the Prefab Four’s lead singers instead.

What The Monkees’ songwriter thought of Mike Nesmith’s and Peter Tork’s voices

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote many songs for The Monkees, including “(Theme From) The Monkees.” In his 2015 book Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem Into Miracles, Hart discussed hearing Jones’ and Dolenz’s voices. “When we first heard and got to work with the sounds of our new lead singers, I told Boyce, ‘I think we just hit the jackpot!'” he said.

Boyce explained why Nesmith and Peter Tork were not the group’s lead singers. “Picking the two voices that we wanted to interpret our songs was critical,” Hart wrote. “It wasn’t that Peter and Michael didn’t sing well; they both had good voices and were gifted at musical expression. But every member of the band can’t be its lead singer.”

The Monkees' Davy Jones in front of a Union Jack
The Monkees’ Davy Jones | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Bobby Hart said Davy Jones brought British Invasion appeal to The Monkees without sounding like The Beatles

Hart elaborated on Jones’ voice. “And with Micky and Davy we had a wealth of talent and everything we needed to work with in the studio,” he wrote. “David Jones’ voice plunged his young, worldwide audience into a subliminal familiarity that the British Invasion had created over the previous two years, but without sounding like one of The Beatles.” 

Hart also had high praise for Dolenz’s vocals. “And, Micky Dolenz, blessed with an exceptional vocal range and natural soul qualities beyond his years, would turn out to be one of the most memorable and enduring classic pop voices of the decade,” he said.

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How the Prefab Four’s songs and Mike Nesmith’s songs performed on the pop charts in the United States

The Monkees were successful in the United States. Six of the group’s songs reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The tracks were “Valleri,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” “Daydream Believer,” “I’m a Believer,” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” The latter three songs reached No. 1.

After leaving The Monkees, Nesmith formed a group called The First National Band. Three of the band’s songs hit the Billboard Hot 100: “Joanne,” “Silver Moon,” and “Nevada Fighter.” None of the songs reached the top 10.

Nesmith wasn’t one of the lead singers of The Monkees — but he still had a career of his own.

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