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TV Theme Songs: The Monkees

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale" of a time when television shows began with awesome TV Theme Songs. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name" and sometimes you want to go back to when TV Theme songs were special. "Here's a story... of a lovely" time when TV Theme Songs served to identify, distinguish and set the stage for the television program that followed. "You take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have" what unfortunately has become a lost artform. "Believe it or not", sadly it seems no effort or pride is taken in the TV Theme Song ever since Seinfeld proved a short synth-bass riff could be used instead. “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” This regular feature may not "make all our dreams come true", but it will remember some of the best TV Theme Songs from years past (with a focus on the '80s decade). "Come aboard, we're expecting you."

This time we will cover the theme song for The Monkees. "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees and people say we monkey around. But we're too busy singing to put anybody down." The Monkees television series actually debuted back in September of 1966 and ran for two seasons and 58 episodes. The concept of the show was to follow a fictional rock and roll group very similar to The Beatles, but the Monkees developed into a real band with real hit songs. The show introduced a number of innovative new-wave film techniques to series television and won two Emmy Awards in 1967, including Outstanding Comedy Series. And the Monkees became a pop culture sensation in the late '60s. The band has sold more than 75 million records worldwide making them one of the biggest-selling groups of all time with international hits, including "Last Train to Clarksville", "I'm a Believer" and "Daydream Believer" among others on their four chart-topping albums. So why are we talking about the theme song in regards to the '80s?

If you don't remember, The Monkees became hugely popular again in the mid-to-late '80s. In February of 1986, MTV aired a marathon of The Monkees television series. The show seemingly struck a chord with a whole new generation. Within months, the 58 episodes were airing regularly throughout the United States on MTV, Nickelodeon as well as many local stations. The group's music returned to the U.S. pop charts and their 20th Anniversary Tour suddenly went from playing small clubs to stadiums as the series caught back on. The popularity led Columbia Pictures to create a "reboot" version of the franchise in 1987 called New Monkees, but it surprisingly flopped and was cancelled after a half season. I guess people just preferred to watch the original episodes from the '60s.

"(Theme from) The Monkees" was written by somewhat prolific songwriting duo Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Boyce and Hart also wrote much of the music used for The Monkees television show including some of their big hits like "Last Train to Clarksville". It was Boyce and Hart who wrote, produced and recorded, accompanied by their backing band (the Candy Store Prophets) backing tracks for a large portion of the first season of The Monkees as well as the band's accompanying debut album. The Monkees themselves re-recorded their vocals over Boyce and Hart's when it came time to release the songs. For the theme song, two versions were recorded; one for their first album The Monkees and the second shorter rendition designed to open the television show. Both feature vocals by Micky Dolenz. The theme song was surprisingly never released as a single in the U.S., but that did not stop it from receiving radio airplay and becoming one of their most recognizable tunes - even in the '80s twenty years after first airing.

Since the show returned to such popularity in the '80s, I think it counts as an '80s TV Theme Song as well. Here are the opening credits for The Monkees featuring "(Theme from) The Monkees" performed by The Monkees...

It is amazing that The Monkees experienced this resurgence 20 years later and became a part of '80s pop culture. The Beatles saw a similar resurgence especially for one of their songs that same year when "Twist and Shout" returned to the charts after being featured in the films Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Back to School. I remember watching The Monkees TV show only a little bit when it was airing again in the '80s, but better recall a group of girls at my school who became obsessed with the Monkees and their music at the time. For me, I always remember their song "I'm a Believer" because it was played back at old Milwaukee County Stadium following any Brewers win. If you heard that song playing, it was a good feeling. But the theme song is also pretty memorable. "We're the young generation, and we've got something to say. Hey, hey, we're the Monkees." Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!


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