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Mike Nesmith became famous through his work with The Monkees, however, that doesn’t mean he enjoyed every facet of his experience with the band. For example, issues relating to The Monkees’ music once caused him to punch a wall. Here’s the story behind this incident.

Mike Nesmith | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

How successful were The Monkees in the beginning?

In their book Psychedelic Bubble Gum, Bobby Hart and Glenn Ballantyne say The Monkees were the “largest money-making project for the giant Screen Gems organization.” They revealed Screen Gems retained “the lion’s share of the royalties, allotting a small agreed-on percentage to the group.” They added “According to their contracts, when they toured, even when they were selling out large arenas, each Monkee still received only his regular weekly salary of $400. Adding insult to injury, when the second album was released, most of the group had never heard most of the music on it.”

Mike Nesmith tries to take control of The Monkees’ music

Don Kirshner was in creative control of The Monkees’ music. He had placated the band members upset over this by allowing them to record whatever they wanted at the studio – never expecting anything to come of their productions. However, Nesmith wanted to wrestle control away from Kirshner and was able to get Peter Tork on his bandwagon. Hart and Ballantyne state “The two musicians who had become actors now had to convince the two actors who had become musicians to get on board” with their thinking.

“Last Train to Clarksville”

Kirshner hoped to calm the brewing storm by holding a celebration of The Monkees’ success at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “There he hoped to brighten their collective mood by handing each member of the group a royalty check for nearly a quarter of a million dollars,” Hart and Glenn Ballantyne recalled. “Their reaction was not what Kirshner had expected.”

The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith punched through a wall and said he could’ve punched this person’s face instead

Nesmith, as the spokesman for the band, relayed the group’s dissatisfaction surrounding the “recording process” with Kirshner. The response from Kirshner was a reminder ”that contractually he had no say in the matter.” Then, Nesmith exploded. “Making a point with his arm instead, Nesmith put his fist through the wall of Kirshner’s hotel room, punctuating his physical blow with a verbal explosion aimed at Donnie, ‘That could’ve been your face,” Hart and Ballantyne recalled.

Don Kirshner at a podium
Don Kirshner | Stephen Lovekin/WireImage for Songwriter’s Hall of Fame

The Monkees: Did Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith Hate Each Other?

After this contentious meeting, The Monkees were able to convince Bert Schneider, the TV producer, that group recordings should at least be on the B sides of their singles. Schneider agreed to this request. But Kirshner did not honor Schneider’s agreement on The Monkees’ next single. This led to Kirshner being “unceremoniously relieved of his duties.”

How successful was The Monkees’ music?

This raises an interesting question – just how successful were The Monkees? The Monkees released 17 albums that charted on the Billboard 200. Five of them hit the top 10 and four took the No. 1 spot – The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd. Whether they were in control of their music and finances or not, The Monkees clearly resonated with the public.