Why the Monkees Turned Down ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by the Archies

The Monkees almost recorded the Archies’ most iconic hit but they rejected the song. Monkees member Mike Nesmith had a pivotal role in this development. Eventually, however, fans would get to hear one of the Monkees record a version of “Sugar, Sugar” many years after its initial release.

The Monkees | James Jackson/Evening Standard/Getty Images

Why a firing sealed the fate of ‘Sugar, Sugar’

The Monkees and the Archies have plenty in common. Both are bubblegum pop groups that originated in kid-friendly 1960s sitcoms. In addition, they each produced enduringly popular hit songs even though they were only famous for a brief period of time. Interestingly, the Archies might not be the same if not for a decision the Monkees made.

Specifically, Micky Dolenz told MusicRadar the Prefab Four made the decision not to record “Sugar, Sugar.” Some claim this is just a rumor, but Dolenz is setting the record straight.

“As you know, [the Monkees’ producer] Don Kirschner presented that as [our next] tune,” Dolenz said. “I was going to record it. That’s when Mike Nesmith led the palace revolt and we fought for the right to have at least some sort of control over the music. I didn’t go to the session – I’d gone to England, and that’s when I met the Beatles. Don Kirschner got fired, but then he recorded the song with the Archies.” Kirschner joked the Archies wouldn’t talk back to him — after all, they were a cartoon band.

“Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies

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How the Archies’ ‘Sugar, Sugar’ performed commercially compared to Monkees songs

According to the book Long Title: Looking for the Good Times; Examining the Monkees’ Songs, One by One, “Sugar, Sugar” became a bigger hit than most of the Monkees’ other hits. If the Prefab Four really did lose out on the opportunity to record the track, it was a real waste, particularly since they struggled after their television show was canceled in 1968. NPR reports “Sugar, Sugar” became the most successful song on the Billboard charts in 1969. In addition, it was a No. 1 hit in Belgium, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Had the Prefab Four recorded it, it would have been precisely the sort of smash they needed to keep them commercially relevant. 

A member of the Monkees records ‘Sugar, Sugar’

According to MusicRadar, the connection between the Monkees and “Sugar, Sugar” did not end in the 1960s. Eventually, Dolenz relayed the anecdote about his band rejecting the song to producer David Harris. Harris decided to help Dolenz record his own version of “Sugar, Sugar” for his 2012 album Remember. Dolenz liked this version of the song, deeming it similar to the music of Coldplay. Dolenz’s cover is considerably more stripped-back than any of Coldplay’s hits — or any of the Monkees’ hits, for that matter.

“Sugar, Sugar” by Micky Dolenz

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“Sugar, Sugar” remains a classic of bubblegum pop. It’s been referenced in everything from Riverdale to The Simpsons to Nitty’s “Nasty Girl,” which samples part of the chorus. The song still resonates to this day — Prefab Four or no Prefab Four.