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"33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee" is the name of a rarely-seen 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.


This article is going by the arrangement of Rhino Entertainment's VHS release (R3 2960). The original broadcast features The Monkees' solo performances preceding the "Wind-Up Man" sequence.

The story focused around Charles Darwin (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.

The Monkees perform "Wind Up Man" in the stiff-legged form of robots (dressed similar to the outfits they debuted in). Darwin 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. Next, in an attempt to break them down by his own hypnotism, Darwin then 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", followed by Darwin and his assistants (Auger, Driscoll, and the Trinity) maintaining control through a cover of The Young Rascals' "Come On Up".

The next segment has each Monkee (under Driscoll's watch) attempting to regain his stripped personal identity by thinking his way out of captivity into his 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 splitscreen 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."

Later on, they are regenerated to Darwin's taste and, "hypnotized, plasticized, psychoanalyzed, and sterilized", they make their debut at the Paramount Theater on December 7, 1956, dubbed "the greatest rock 'n' roll singers in the world." 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.

At the end of the medley, Auger and Driscoll inexplicably break character and interrupt the proceedings. Deciding that they "want no part of this", Auger announces that they have decided to give The Monkees complete and total freedom; with Driscoll uttering, "utter bloody shambles". The result is a brief snippet of Davy Jones singing Bill Dorsey's "String For My Kite", followed by Peter Tork's "harpsichord" (played on a Hohner Clavinette) rendition of Solfeggietto by C.P.E. Bach.

The finale of the show has all four Monkees perform "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 the song progresses, they are joined by extras (Good sent buses down to Sunset Strip to round up about 100 extras for a live audience) 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; 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 Come" over the credits.

Production and Broadcast Issues

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 Citymarker, and the sets were transported there. 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, 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". It should be noted that 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, 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 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 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 Britainmarker occurred on Saturday, May 24 on BBC2.

In the 1990s, 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee was released commercially by Rhino Home Video (parent company Rhino Entertainment owns the rights to The Monkees) in 2 different versions. The version of 33⅓ released individually in January 1997 (R3 2284) has been on file for years at The Museum Of Television & Radio in New York City, with good sound quality, a fuzzy picture and the segments in original broadcast order, whereas the version of the special released with the 1995 Monkees Video Box Set (R3 2960) has a sharp picture, murky sound quality, and the segments running in an alternate non-broadcast order (the order that this article is based on). Rhino failed to locate the original 2-inch monaural first-generation videotape to which 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee was committed, and so they had to rely on two 1-inch NBC-TV broadcast masters with quality so substandard, they featured glitches. Rhino used both masters to concoct something of at least viewing quality. The dvd version features an interesting commentary track by Dolenz, who has mixed feelings about the program.

Musical Numbers

  • The Monkees: "Wind Up Man"; "Darwin"
  • Paul Arnold & The Moon Express: "Only The Fittest Shall Survive"
  • The Monkees: "I Go Ape"
  • Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity: "Come On Up"
  • Micky Dolenz & Julie Driscoll: "I'm a Believer"
  • Peter Tork: "I Prithee (Do Not Ask For Love)"
  • Michael Nesmith: "Naked Persimmon (The Only Thing I Believe Is True)"
  • David Jones: "Goldilocks Sometime"
  • Medley: The Monkees: "At The Hop"; Fats Domino: "I'm Ready"; Jerry Lee Lewis: "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"; Little Richard: "Tutti Frutti"; We Three & The Monkees: "Shake A Tailfeather"; Fats Domino: "Blue Monday"; The Monkees: "Little Darlin'"; Jerry Lee Lewis: "Down The Line"; The Clara Ward Singers: "Them Bones"
  • David Jones: "String For My Kite"
  • Peter Tork: "Solfeggietto" by C.P.E. Bach
  • The Monkees & Entire Cast: "Listen To The Band"
  • Peter Tork: "California Here It Come" (End Titles)

Show Credits

  • Written by: Jack Good and Art Fisher

  • Associate Producer: Gene Marcione

  • Art Director: Gene McAvoy

  • Choreography: Jaimie Rogers

  • Unit Manager: Tom Hulbert

  • Costume Designer: Ray Aghayan

  • Production Assistant: Lillian Tobinson

  • Assistant To The Producer: Jud Phillips

  • Assistant Director: Bud Grace

  • Technical Director: Ray Connors

  • Lighting Director: Bob Boatman

  • Audio: Jack Tenhoor

  • Stage Manager: Frank Crawford

  • Music Coordinator: Brendan Cahill

  • Recording by: Doc Siegel

  • Special Film by: Castle Lighting

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