Only 1 Member of The Monkees Had a Hit Without The Monkees

The Monkees were inspired by The Beatles, however, the former Monkees did not attain the level of success the former Beatles did. In fact, only one of The Monkees had a hit after the band broke up in 1970. Here’s the tale of that song — and why The Eagles managed to get a former Monkee so upset.

The Monkees in front of a poster of The Monkees
The Monkees | James Jackson/Evening Standard/Getty Images

A former member of The Monkees takes on a new genre

Like The Beatles, The Monkees made music in numerous genres. Go through their discography and you’ll find everything from bubblegum pop to psychedelic rock to baroque rock. With that in mind, it shouldn’t have been surprising when Mike Nesmith took a sharp right turn into country music and left the Prefab Four to form his own group, The First National Band. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Nesmith revealed he had high hopes for the group.

“[What] I wanted it to be was one of the great bands in the world playing some of the great music in the world with some of the great people in the world,” Nesmith recalled. “Nothing less than that. I thought, ‘Well, why can’t I play stadiums with The First National Band?’”

The First National Band in front of a wall
The First National Band | GAB Archive/Redferns

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How the public and Mike Nesmith reacted to ‘Joanne’

The First National Band are known for one song and one song only: “Joanne.” The track reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 meaning it was a modest hit. However, it would be the group’s only hit. While “Joanne” was somewhat successful in the 1970s, it didn’t have the longevity of many other hits from the time.

At the very least, it proved Nesmith had the ability to make music which sounded nothing like The Monkees’ hits. In a 2013 Rolling Stone interview, Nesmith revealed he’s fond of the “primitive” song, adding it’s from a “simpler time.” While Nesmith likes “Joanne,” he’s not totally happy with how The First National Band’s trajectory went.

“Joanne”

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Why The Eagles, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Byrds upset Mike Nesmith

Nesmith was very disappointed when the band’s first three albums — Magnetic South, Loose Salute, and Nevada Fighter — failed commercially. Oddly enough, The First National Band released these three albums within a single calendar year. Nesmith was especially upset when bands who sounded similar to The First National Band took off.

“I was heartbroken beyond speech,” Nesmith said. “I couldn’t even utter the words ‘The Eagles’ and I loved Hotel California and I love the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, all that stuff. That was right in my wheelhouse and I was agonized, Van Gogh–agonized, not to compare myself to him, but I wanted to cut something off because I was like, ‘Why is this happening?’ The Eagles now have the biggest selling album of all time and mine is sitting in the closet of a closed record company?”

The First National Band didn’t reach the commercial heights of The Monkees or the Eagles but they managed to show off Nesmith’s versatility. In addition, “Joanne” is still a pretty good classic country song. Nesmith can take pride in The First National Band — no matter how well Hotel California did.