Had things been different, the Archies classic pop song “Sugar, Sugar” would have been recorded by The Monkees.
“During the heyday of The Monkees, I was offered a song called ‘Sugar, Sugar,’” Monkees lead singer and drummer Micky Dolenz said. “But we turned it down because that was when we were having the big battle with the powers that be about controlling the music, so I didn’t record ‘Sugar, Sugar.’ That was supposed to be the next Monkee hit.”
Years later though, Dolenz did record the song. It appears on his 2012 album, “Remember,” a collection of songs from the ’60s and ’70s.
“‘Remember’ is sort of a musical scrapbook of my life,” Dolenz said. “All the songs are songs that had some influence on me or meant something in my life. For instance, I do a version of ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ but I do very different versions. I don’t cover the originals. We re-envision all the songs.”
Dolenz will perform Monkees hits including “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville,” along with solo material when he appears at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles May 2. In addition, he will share stories behind the music.
“What I found is that if I do something that is non-Monkees, it helps to have some sort of a story, some sort of a reason,” he said.
The audience may wonder why he is covering a particular hit, such as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
“It’s because this was my audition piece for ‘The Monkees.’ This is the song that got me the gig,” he said. “Then the audience comes along with me. They get a little bit of history there.”
The title song “Remember” was written by his dear friend Harry Nilsson, Dolenz said.
“I was there when he wrote it. There’s a bunch of other tunes on there that had some sort of influence in my life,” he said.
Dolenz’s Arcada show will mark the first time he holds a question and answer session with the audience at a concert.
“I like to be able to get more personal and tell stories and interact with the fans,” Dolenz said.
While Dolenz has several solo shows scheduled this year — including another performance at B.B. King’s in New York, where he recorded a live CD last year — he will also be on the road touring with The Monkees.
“We’re going out again for a short tour in the middle of May to the middle of June. It’s great fun. The Monkees shows are just amazing, and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
When asked what makes The Monkees popularity endure over the years, Dolenz said it is difficult to point to just one thing.
“I don’t think you can really reduce it in a scientific sense, you know, take it apart, analyze it and say it was the lyrics of the songs, or the director or it was the writer or it was my voice or it was Davy being cute,” he said. “What happens is you put together a bunch of people and you do your best and you try to surround yourself with talented people and you just start working at it. And every once in a while, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It just ignites. In fact, when one of the producers of ‘The Monkees’ was asked once years after the show was on the air, he just put it simply, ‘We caught lightening in a bottle.’”
In the case of The Monkees, there was obviously something there that people responded to, he said.
“There are certain elements of it that I think were significant, like the songs,” he said. Among the song writers were Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, David Gates, Harry Nilsson and Paul Williams.
“One interesting element of the TV show that I think was a wise choice that the producers made, was that in the original brief of the show they gave the writers, was that the comedy must not be topical or satirical,” Dolenz said. “And if you watch an old Monkees episode it’s more like the Marx Brothers than say, ‘Laugh-In.’ The comedy wasn’t topical and satirical. So that seemed to have legs and stand up over time.”
Viewers could also identify with The Monkees quest for success.
“On the television show, we were never successful. It was about the struggle for success. And I think that’s something might people, kids at the time, and even now, respond to. Mostly everybody is struggling for success,” he said.
Along with his solo shows and those with The Monkees, Dolenz has appeared on stage in a variety of musical productions over the years. He has appeared on Broadway in “Aida” and was in “Hairspray” on London’s West End. He hopes to return to the theater soon as well.
When he’s not performing, Dolenz is busy building furniture. With a workshop in his house, the hobby is “something I just like to do that counteracts all of the showbiz craziness, building stuff with my hands,” he said.
But recently that hobby turned into a business. The idea came while working on a project with his youngest daughter, Georgia.
“One day we were in my shop building a coffee table for her boyfriend. I jokingly said we should start a company ‘Dolenz & Daughters Fine Furniture,’ and she just ran with it,” he said.
When she set up the business website and Facebook page, there was a quick response.
“We put it up on Facebook and the Internet, and lo and behold we got like 20 or 30 orders immediately,” Dolenz said. “Suddenly, like every day, we were in the shop for months. Finally she had to post on the site ‘we can’t take any more orders, because Daddy’s going on tour.’”
Every piece is handmade, signed and numbered. A portion of the proceeds from the furniture sales are given to charities Dolenz donates to including Make-A-Wish, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Bright Horizons Foundation and the Davy Jones Memorial Equine Fund. The fund was set up after Jones died to take care of racehorses, which was his passion.
“It’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve done in my life,” Dolenz said of the furniture business. “Doing that with my daughters is just unbelievable.”