33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee is the name of a television special starring The Monkees that aired on NBC on April 14, 1969. Produced by Jack Good (creator of the television series Shindig!), the musical guests on the show included Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Clara Ward Singers, The Buddy Miles Express, Paul Arnold and The Moon Express, and We Three in musical performances.
Although they were billed as musical guests, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger (alongside their then-backing band The Trinity) found themselves playing a prominent role; in fact, it can be argued that the special focused more on the guest stars (specifically, Auger and Driscoll) than the Monkees themselves. This special is notable as The Monkees' final performance as a quartet until 1986, as Peter Tork left the group at the end of the special's production.
The title is a play on 33 ⅓ Revolutions Per Minute.
The story focuses around Brian Auger and his assistant (Driscoll) as they take The Monkees through various stages of evolution until they are ready to brainwash the world via commercial exploitation. Hatched in giant test tubes, the four are stripped of all personal identity and names: Micky Dolenz becomes Monkee #1, Peter Tork becomes Monkee #2, Michael Nesmith Monkee #3, and Davy Jones Monkee #4.
Each Monkee (under Driscoll's watch) attempts to regain their stripped personal identities by thinking a way out of captivity into their own world of fantasies. Monkee #1 (Dolenz) performs an R&B up-tempo duet remake of "I'm a Believer" with Driscoll; Monkee #2 (Tork) reclines on a giant cushion in Eastern Garb and, to the lilting backing of sitar and tabla, performs "I Prithee (Do Not Ask For Love)," a gentle number concerning spiritual values. Monkee #3 (Nesmith), in an inventive blue-screen number, sings a country tune, "Naked Persimmon (The Only Thing I Believe Is True)"; and Monkee #4 (Jones) sings and dances to the tune of "Goldilocks Sometime."
Next, the Monkees perform "Wind Up Man" in the stiff-legged form of robots (dressed similar to the outfits they debuted in). Auger, not satisfied, introduces a four part piano harmony in a unique piano-stacked set up with Auger and his electric keyboard on top, then descending to Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and finally Fats Domino on the bottom. Disapproving Augar's brainwashing method, Charles Darwin steps in and inexplicably switches to Paul Arnold and the Moon Express' "Only The Fittest Shall Survive", a psychedelic dance performance. Then the Monkees, clad in ape costumes, perform Neil Sedaka's "I Go Ape". With his work done, Auger and Driscoll, with the Trinity, take it from there, while singing the Young Rascals' "Come On Up".
With the process complete, Auger introduces the Monkees to a gig at the Paramount Theater[disambiguation needed ] on December 7, 1956, and describing them as "idolized, plasticized, psychoanalyzed, and sterilized". The four, dressed in outlandish 1950s vocal group gear, are then immediately launched into a classic '50s rock medley: "At The Hop," "Little Darlin'," "Peppermint Twist," backed up by Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, We Three, and The Clara Ward Singers. The guest performers contributed their own songs to the medley, with the Ward Singers performing "Them Bones" as the segment's finale. Peter Tork's girlfriend Reine Stewart stood in as drummer for Fats Domino when his regular drummer couldn't attend.
At the end of the medley, Auger and Driscoll, still not satisfied, break character and say that The Monkees should have complete and total freedom instead of being brainwashed; or as Driscoll puts it, "utter bloody shambles".
The last few bits of the special takes place in a warehouse full of instruments and props. It begins with Davy standing atop a high staircase performing Bill Dorsey's "String For My Kite". Peter enters the scene next and performs, on a Hohner Clavinette harpsichord, Solfeggietto by C.P.E. Bach. Finally, Mike and Micky arrive and perform a rousing finale of "Listen To The Band," with Nesmith on Black Beauty guitar (Gibson Les Paul Custom), Tork on keyboards, Dolenz on drums, and Jones on tambourine (in what would turn out to be their final appearance as a quartet until 1986 as well as their final network television appearance as a quartet until 1996). As the song progresses, they are joined by extras (Good sent buses down to Sunset Strip to round up about 100 extras for "a party") and all of 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee 's guest musicians from The Trinity to The Buddy Miles Express, resulting in a climactic frantic cacophony, similar to the crescendo in "A Day In The Life"; it pans aside to a book with "Chaos is Come Again" on the next page. The book closes with "The Beginning of the End" on the back cover.
The closing credits feature an outtake from the Moon Express' dance sequence, with Tork singing "California Here It Comes" over the credits as California is nuked killing off the fictional Monkees.
"If the Monkees' self-mockery went over the heads of their dwindling fans in Head, it was brutally shoved down their throats in the television special."
General opinion of the viewers and participants of 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee claim the special to be chaotic, both on-screen and off-screen. The Monkees went into production on the program on the day immediately following their very last full concert as a quartet, at The Festival Hall in Osaka, Japan. Before filming started, a strike at NBC almost meant they could not film it; however, stage space was found at MGM's Studios in Culver City, and the sets were transported there. Filming took place in November and December 1968. Because it was a last minute change of location, the special was directed from outdoor broadcast trucks parked outside the soundstages.
The Monkees were reportedly angry with producer Jack Good and director Art Fisher's script for 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, calling it "too sloppy, too fairy-tale like," while Davy Jones felt that, for a TV special starring The Monkees, it emphasized rather largely on its guest cast than the group itself.
Peter Tork, in liner notes for The Monkees Anthology CD compilation, called 33⅓ "the TV Version of Head". Tork was, at one point, the only Monkee working on Head; but, ironically enough, it would be Tork that would buy out his Monkees contract at the end of production of 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee (on December 20, 1968), reportedly suffering from exhaustion. Tork's departure reduced The Monkees to a trio, and the group would not be seen on network TV as a foursome again until 1997.
Negotiations were originally made in early 1968 for The Monkees to star in three NBC-TV specials to air in 1969; 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee was the first. Unhappy with the final edit, NBC decided to air it on the West Coast opposite The 41st Academy Awards on ABC. Further damage was done to the telecast by an engineer who accidentally presented 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee out of sequence. These incidents prompted NBC to cancel plans to produce the remaining Monkees specials. The Hawaiian broadcast of the special was delayed for two weeks—at the time, television stations in Hawaii received network programming via film and videotape, as there were no telephone connections capable of television broadcasting; it was finally shown there on April 28. Its telecast in Great Britain occurred on Saturday, May 24 on BBC2.