The Monkess started out as a parody of The Beatles, created for TV in 1965. But in a short time, the other Fab 4 –Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Michael Nesmith-– mastered playing and taught themselves to write their own original songs.
In the summer of 1967, at the height of Monkeemania, the band went on a 28-city tour through the United States and England. They opened at the Hollywood Bowl only five days after their TV show picked up two Emmy awards.
And for just eight dates –now a rock legend, then a virtual unknown here–Jimi Hendrix, opened for the band with his newly formed band Experience. Really!!? Why?
The Monkees needed cred and Hendrix needed an American audience.
But Dolenz had saw him play and was impressed. (Peter Tork saw him too, but not so much.) When Dolenz suggested Hendrix for the tour, his manager Mike Jeffery jumped at the chance, thinking he could leverage The Monkees’ huge crowds to break Hendrix in the US. Hendrix himself was not thrilled, after having called The Monkees’ music “dishwater” in an interview.
But Monkees fans, mostly kids, had no idea what to make of Hendrix. Dolenz says in his autobiography,
“Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break into ‘Purple Haze, and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with, ‘We Want Davy!!’ God, it was embarrassing.”
Peter Tork later came around, it seems and was ecstatic to have Hendrix on the tour, be recalls the pairing as a singularly bad idea:
“This is screaming, scaring-your-daddy music compared with The Monkees. It didn’t cross anybody’s mind that it wasn’t gonna fly. And there’s poor Jimi, and the kids go, ‘We want The Monkees, we want The Monkees.'”
Hendrix got on very well with The Monkees, just not their tween fans. On July 16, 1967, Jimi flipped-off the Forest Hills, Queens audience, threw down his guitar and walked off stage.
A few months later, Melody Maker presented Hendrix with a “World’s Top Musician” award, and his music hit the U.S. mainstream market. The Monkees finished the tour and went on to make Head, the soundtrack to the Jack Nicholson directed film that regularly lands on Strangest Movies Ever Made lists.
Photos, publicity, snapshot; via Open Culture)