The passing of Davy Jones on February 29, 2012 has given me some time to reflect on the phenomenon on what the Monkees were at the time, and the role of marketing played in turning actors to beloved and still well-known musicians to this day. Although not in the rock and roll hall of fame, if you ask someone today who grew up in the 60s to name famous rock groups of the 60s, more than likely, you’ll hear Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and Monkees.
For those who don’t know the story, I’ll be brief. In the mid-60s, NBC wanted to do a TV show based on the “Hard Days Night” Beatles and hired 4 mostly unknown actors to play a rock band. Only Mike Nesmith had any real musical talent from a playing standpoint. The show was very successful although lasted only 2 years (66-68). For the Monkees first two albums, the very best songwriters and studio musicians accompanied the Monkees vocals. Wanting to be more than actors, the rest of the Monkees took music lessons and eventually played their own instruments on their remaining albums. After the show was canceled, they made one psychedelic movie and made a few more “average” albums until disbanding in 1970; 42 years ago!
Davy Jones was one of the lead vocalists and sang on such hits as “Daydream Believer” and “Valleri.” He was just as known as a teenage heartthrob just as Justin Bieber is today. When the Beatles and Stones went “sophisticated” and the Beach Boys stopped making “fun” hits, teens were left with the Monkees, and their records outsold the Beatles and Stones in 1967.
Because the Monkees were considered “manufactured” due to the formation of the TV show; that image has softened over the years. Back in the 60s before social media (yes there was a time!) promotion was purely ads (TV, radio) and articles/interviews (teen magazines) and the personalities of the Monkees themselves on their show. Davy wasn’t “liked”, “followed, ” or “shared.” Viral marketing back in the day was the girls calling their friends over the phone or discussing their favorite Monkee at school lunch.
To me, the key to the long-lasting remembrance was those records. They were smartly produced, well-written, and catchy. If you consider the Monkees TV show as their “website” and their songs as their “content” then together you have an engaging phenomenon that cemented their legacy. Like a good website or good content, the Monkees TV show was
- focused (website reference- a simple story that gets to the point quickly)
- fast paced (website reference- bullet point messaging and short paragraphs )
- engaging (website reference- made you want to read or watch more )
If you have great content (like a greatly written song) and that that content is designed, packaged and promoted properly (like a great music album), then your message/brand may be long-lasting (as the Monkees musical legacy is)and desirable (like Davy Jones was to teenage girls) as well.