Forty five years ago this month, a young band from Liverpool made a landmark appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Watching them from the wings on the same programme in 1964 was a fresh-faced young singer from down the road in Manchester.
The singer was Davy Jones, who was starring as the Artful Dodger in the Broadway production of Oliver.
The group, of course, were the Beatles.
Jones, only 18 at the time, was blown away by the sheer adulation of the Beatles’ fans – both inside and outside the studio.
He later said of the night: ‘I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage. I saw the girls going crazy and I said to myself, this is it. I want a piece of that.’
A piece he certainly got as two years later he shot to superstardom as lead singer of global pop sensations the Monkees.
The reception from young fans around the world was rapturous. Jones rapidly became a teen idol, his popularity guaranteed by the Monkees’ TV show.
Many thought the Monkees were the Beatles ‘lite’ – a pale imitation put together by Screen Gems to make a TV sitcom based on the life of a band.
But the quality of their songs and performances soon put paid to that notion.
The TV show ran from 1966 to 1968 and featured Jones as lead singer, Micky Dolenz and drums, Peter Tork on bass and Mike Nesmith on guitars. Like Jones, Dolenz had been a child star playing Corky in the TV series Circus Boy.
What the producers didn’t bank on was the enormous success of the group. They sold more than 75 million records worldwide to become one of the biggest bands of all time.
Classic hits sung by Jones included Daydream Believer, Last Train to Clarksville, Pleasant Valley Sunday and I’m a Believer. Their first album, The Monkees released in 1966, went to Number One in the US charts. So did the next three!
In all, the group made nine albums before disbanding in 1971. The last was Changes in 1970.
Even the Beatles themselves appreciated the group’s true quality. The Fab Four hosted a party for the Monkees when they visited England during the recording of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.
The party inspired a Monkees’ tune written by Dolenz which included the line ‘the four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor.’
George Harrison praised the talent behind the Monkees’ own music when he stated: ‘They’re doing a TV show. It’s a difficult chore and I wouldn’t be in their shoes for the world. When they get it all sorted out, they might turn out to be the best.’
Tork played Paul McCartney’s five-string banjo on Harrison’s album Wonderwall Music and Nesmith spent a few days with John and Cynthia Lennon, both at their home and in the studio.
It was at this encounter that Lennon famously described the Monkees as ‘the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers’. But he also admitted that he hadn’t missed one of their TV programmes.
The Monkees played three dates at the Empire Pool, Wembley, in July 1967 and were sponsored by Liverpool-based NEMS record shops as our archive photo of their press conference shows.
Although Davy Jones appeared in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Empire Theatre in December 1979, the Monkees didn’t play Merseyside as a group until their 45th anniversary reunion tour in May 2011.
Jones, Tork and Dolenz were present at the Liverpool Echo Arena, but Nesmith stayed away.