The Monkees: Mike Nesmith’s Unique Telegram Message Led to a Fast Friendship With John Lennon

The Monkees guitarist and songwriter Mike Nesmith was a fan of The Beatles long before The Monkees television show aired on NBC in 1966. However, it wasn’t until after the show was on the air that Nesmith and then-wife Phyllis took a trip to England in the late 1960s to see the cultural shift occurring in London for themselves. Before arriving, Nesmith sent a telegram to John Lennon and signed it in such a unique manner that it led to a fast friendship with The Beatles guitarist and his wife, Cynthia.

John Lennon and Mike Nesmith in a set of side-by-side photographs.
John Lennon and Mike Nesmith | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images/Redferns

The Monkees’ television show didn’t copy The Beatles’ rise to success

The book “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the ’60s TV Pop Sensation” revealed that the television series conceived by producer Bob Rafelson predated the Fab Four’s rise to success in America.

However, after the show’s success, the idea generated steam. Alongside Bert Schneider, Rafelson pitched the idea to Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, in April 1965.

Subsequently, Screen Gems hired Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Nesmith, and Peter Tork to portray a struggling musical group that always seemed to get into madcap adventures.

The Monkees’ television show ran for two years, spawned a series of successful record albums and singles, and made bonafide stars of its quartet of male leads.

After this success hit, Nesmith and his wife booked a trip to England to absorb the culture and music that was sweeping the nation.

Mike Nesmith’s strange telegram led to his friendship with John Lennon

Mike Nesmith wears a cowboy hat and winks on the set of The Monkees.
Mike Nesmith | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In his biography “Infinite Tuesday,” Nesmith spoke of his first meeting with Lennon and their subsequent friendship.

“Before I arrived in London, I had not met John Lennon and didn’t even know how to contact him. So I thought if I could meet him it would be a great addition to the trip,” Nesmith wrote.

Nesmith sent Lennon a telegram so it would arrive separately from other fan mail.

“I wrote something like, ‘Hi, I would like to meet you if you have time. I am at the Grosvenor House in London.’ I signed the letter, ‘God is Love,’ Mike Nesmith,” the guitarist concluded.

Nesmith explained he didn’t know what part of the message worked. However, Lennon called several hours after receiving the telegram to invite Nesmith and his wife to say at his home.

The Monkees songwriter and guitarist said upon his arrival, Lennon was checking out the cover of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s album “Safe as Milk.”

Nesmith admitted he was pleased Lennon had the album as he attended its sessions and was a friend of Beefheart.

Lennon asked Nesmith if he wanted a beverage. The Monkees guitarist replied he would like a glass of milk.

Lennon said to his wife of Nesmith, “Well, we’re in for a good time, aren’t we?”

The Monkees member was embarrassed and felt Lennon was upset that he refused to drink with him.

However, Nesmith later clarified, “I’d love a drink of something in a moment. I really would like a glass of milk to settle my stomach from the ride out.”

The musicians subsequently realized they shared the same wry sense of humor.

John Lennon was a Monkees fan

John Lennon in a 1967 photo.
John Lennon | Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Ironically, Lennon later revealed he was a massive fan of The Monkees television series.

Mental Floss reported Lennon had this to say about the comedy series.

“They’ve got their scene, and I won’t send them down for it. Try a weekly television show and see if you can manage one half as good!”

NME reported Nesmith once asked Lennon his opinion of the television show and The Monkees’ music.

“Do you think we’re a cheap imitation of the Beatles, your movies, and your records?” Lennon’s reply? “I think you’re the greatest comic talents since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.” 

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