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The Chicago Connection For 'The Monkees' TV Show

There has been a great deal of talk about the Monkees this week, due mainly to the unfortunate passing of Monkees co-vocalist Davy Jones, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 66. "The Monkees" television show, though it only ran for two seasons (Fall 1966-Spring 1968), was extremely popular and has found its audience grow over the years, thanks to reruns and syndication. What many people do not know is that much of the music sequences for Season Two were shot right here in Chicago.

The Monkees were doing a concert tour in the Summer of 1967, from late June through late August, to promote the band's best-selling singles and albums, as well as to drum up excitement for the upcoming Season Two of the television series.

Side note: This was the infamous tour that had a then-little-known guitarist named Jimi Hendrix open up the shows for the band. Monkees member Mike Nesmith convinced his fellow Monkees Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz to see Jimi Hendrix perform live at the now-famous Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. They all became instant fans of his and convinced their manager to hire Hendrix as their opening act. He joined the tour on July 8th, but due to a poor reaction of fans who only wanted to see their favorite pop TV show band, left the tour on July 17th after only seven dates, frustrated by the boos and lack of audience respect for his skills. Hendrix was replaced as opening act by a safer, British Invasion-esque band called The Sundowners.

The middle of the Summer 1967 tour had the Monkees touring the American Midwest. On July 29, 1967, The Monkees were scheduled to play a concert in Detroit, MI, but due to riots happening there and a police-enforced curfew law that was enacted, that concert was canceled because of safety concerns. The band instead went ahead one day early to the next stop on their tour, which was Chicago. The band was going to stay in Chicago for a few days to not only do the Chicago show, but also a Milwaukee, WI concert a few days later, before traveling on to Minneapolis, MN for an August 4th show. The sold-out concert on July 30th at the Chicago Stadium took place with no problems. The Milwaukee concert, scheduled for August 2nd, was cancelled, however, for reasons much like the Detroit cancellation. Ugly race riots, resulting in four deaths, forced that Milwaukee show to not take place.

With all this free time on their hands, the producers of the Monkees television show booked time for the band at the Fred Niles Studios, a giant film and production studio facility in Chicago's West Loop area. (Fun fact: The building that was once Fred Niles Studios is now the home of Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios. Previously, long before Fred Niles converted the building, it was the location for Chicago's Second Regiment Armory.) Inside Fred Niles Studios was a production area known as the Rainbow Room, a largely robin's egg blue-colored room with multiple thick stripes of color painted vertically on the walls, curving out from the center of the room. On August 2nd, 1967, The Monkees filmed most of the music sequences that would later be included in much of the second season of "The Monkees" episodes. Among the music videos shot in the Rainbow Room that day were: "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Randy Scouse Git," "Love is Only Sleeping," "She Hangs Out," and most famously, "Daydream Believer." Being bored with using the psychedelic Rainbow Room all day, the band and the Chicago film crew used different backgrounds to then record a video for Mike Nesmith's "What Am I Doing Hanging Round." Some of the completed versions of these songs were not even ready yet, so the band sang over the basic tracks of the recordings at the time. A promotional photo session also took place within the Rainbow Room.

Most of the main show sequences for Season Two of "The Monkees" were filmed earlier that Spring in 1967 at the Screen Gems Studios, in Hollywood, with some scenes shot on location at beaches and a few spots around Los Angeles, CA. However, the many of music sequences for that season were shot on this one day, August 2nd, 1967, here in Chicago.

Additionally while staying here in Chicago, the band worked on some tracks to help finish up the recording of the album "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd." at Chicago's RCA Recording Studios, located near Navy Pier. Producer and background vocalist Chip Douglas flew into Chicago to meet with the band, recording additional parts to some already recorded songs, including "Salesman" and "Cuddly Toy," along with working on the traditional Spanish Christmas carol "Riu Chiu."

While here in Chicago for these few days in the Summer of 1967, the Monkees gave interviews to WLS-AM and the Chicago Daily News. They supposedly enjoyed some time at local museums during the daytime and at Chicago's Playboy Mansion, with members of Buffalo Springfield and the Association, at night. On July 31st, they traveled north to an Indian reservation near Hayward, WI to watch a concert by their friends Buffalo Springfield, with Micky joining the band onstage, before they all headed back to their Chicago hotel rooms.

It may only have been around five days that The Monkees spent in Chicago, but those days here made an impact on the history of one of the biggest bands in pop music and their famous television show.

Chicago-based classic television networks will be saluting the late Davy Jones and The Monkees all weekend long. It begins tonight with eight episodes of "The Monkees" being shown on Me-Too, along with other "Monkees" and Davy Jones television shows this weekend on Me-Too and Me-TV. Antenna TV is doing that salute one better by showing a non-stop marathon of all 58 "Monkees" episodes, as well as the Monkees' movie "Head," starting tomorrow. Be sure to look for the Rainbow Room music sequences throughout the Season Two shows.


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