The Monkees: This Hit References a Classic 1950s TV Show
The Monkees gave us one of the most famous TV shows of the 1960s. In addition, they referenced classic 1950s TV show in one of their songs. Here’s a look at that track — and how one of The Monkees starred in another classic TV show.
The member of The Monkees who was a child television star
Of the four Monkees, three only became nationally-known television actors once they joined the Prefab Four. Micky Dolenz was the exception. He was a television star as a child.
“When I was 10, my mother told me there was an audition for a show called Circus Boy and asked if I’d like to go,” Dolenz wrote in The Guardian. “I remember saying no at first – I had a baseball game. But I must have changed my mind because I got the part and that changed my life in one swell foop [sic]. Even at 10 I knew it was a game-changer.” The show is about an orphan who is adopted by an entire circus and works as a water boy for an elephant.
So why did Dolenz leave the show? “I was in the show for two or three years, but my parents kept my feet on the ground,” he said. “When it finished, they took me to see an educational psychologist. I’d been out of school a long time. He must have said, ‘Get him out of the business immediately’ because they did. Overnight, I was back in the local school. That was probably the best thing they ever did.” Dolenz said it would have been difficult for him to go through puberty in the television industry.
The ways the Prefab Four referenced ‘Circus Boy’
While Dolenz went from being a circus boy to being a Monkee, he didn’t leave his roots behind. The Monkees released one of their most famous psychedelic rock songs for their movie Head: “Porpoise Song (Theme from Head).” The oddball lyrics include the lines “Clicks, clacks, riding the backs of giraffes for laughs/S’alright for a while.” According to the book Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories that Shaped Our Culture, the lyrics of “Porpoise Song (Theme from Head)” reference Circus Boy. The song resonated, reaching No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In fact, that was not the only time The Monkees referenced Circus Boy. According to the book Why The Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television and American Pop Culture, the episode “Monkees at the Circus” contains multiple callbacks to the show. When the gang goes to the circus, Dolenz says being at the circus reminds him of his childhood. In addition, Dolenz sings the Circus Boy theme song before and says it’s a song from an old TV show. How exactly this all fits into the canon of the Monkees universe is up for debate. Regardless, Dolenz never shied away from his past as a circus boy.