Hey, what ever happened to the New Monkees?
Remember Dino, Larry, Jared and Marty?
Image: The Everett Collection
First, let's clear up a couple of things. Yes, there was really a sequel to The Monkees in 1987 called New Monkees. No, it did not involve Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones nor Michael Nesmith. But the Professor from Gilligan's Island did show up.
Larry, Jared, Dino and Marty failed to reach the stardom of Peter, Micky, Davy and Michael. The syndicated series lasted a mere 13 episodes. Warner Bros. Records released a tie-in album, also titled New Monkees, that flopped. Part of that was perhaps due to the music itself. With cavernous gated drums, pulsing synthetic bass, and shrill guitar solos, the tunes took a deep dive into the plastic pop and hair metal of the era. Prog and jazz fusion musicians, alongside slick producers with ties to acts like the Carpenters and Gordon Lightfoot, while well-intentioned, were crafting the songs. Essentially, the music sounded like yacht rock session dudes trying to mimic the Cars while appealing to kids who just wanted to hear Def Leppard.
Why not mine the happy '60s jangle of "Last Train to Clarksville?" R.E.M. would prove months later that the public was still hungry for such stuff, when it's bubblegum throwback "Stand" became its biggest hit to date. Heck, the top hit of 1987 was "Walk Like an Egyptian," the crossover hit by the Bangles, a contemporary pop band that had sprung from the Los Angeles "Paisley Underground" scene, a collective of like-minded acts nostalgic for the 1960s. There was a way to make this work. It wasn't a crazy idea.
Unfortunately, New Monkees misjudged the key appeal of the original Monkees. On the 1960s series, the band struggled to make it. Their desperation fueled the comedy. In the reboot, the four live in a massive mansion that would make the Fresh Prince and Ricky Stratton drool. A butler tended to their needs. Heck, there was even a diner inside their house, complete with a retro soda fountain and a waitress named Rita. It was the '80s. Everybody wanted to be a yuppie.
Oh, and there was a reason for all that soda. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this attempted syndicated reboot was its parent distribution company: Coca-Cola Telecommunications. You would have thought they learned their lesson with New Coke.
Coca-Cola Telecommunications had a thirst for reviving the past. Around the same time, the production house, a collaboration between the Coca-Cola Company and Columbia Pictures, was launching reboots like The New Gidget and What's Happening Now!! At the end of 1987, Coca-Cola Telecommunications folded as Columbia slurped up the remains. The soft drink giant found far more success in the apparel industry. Every kid wanted a Coca-Cola branded rugby shirt in 1987.
Speaking of fashion trends, it's easy to chuckle at the New Monkees' look in hindsight. Especially the hair. A poofy pompadour mullet perched atop Dino's head. Larry used enough hairspray to supply a Mötley Crüe green room. Their wardrobe contained plenty of gaudy sweaters and acid-washed denim. But the young guys in the band certainly had charm and talent.
Marty Ross had been playing in bands since he was a kid. At the dawn of the '80s, Marty sang for the Wigs, a power-pop band in the vein of the Knack or the Romantics. The Wigs' 1981 album File Under: Pop Vocal could have easily served as a New Monkees record. Konstantinos "Dino" Kovas, the drummer, was a Michigan rocker who had been playing in basements, touring in vans and delivering pizzas. Like Dino, Larry Saltis, the youngest, came from the Midwest. He had a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, dug U2, and put aside studying music at Kent State to join the New Monkees. Army brat Jared Chandler showed his affection for '50s rockabilly with his slicked-back hair. He landed a few small roles in films and surfed before joining the band.
Coca-Cola planned to make 22 episodes but only ended up with a baker's dozen. So what happened to the boys?
Larry fronted Tower City in the '90s. The band strived to keep the '80s alive and seemed to garner a following in Japan. Dino hopped to the other side of the camera. In 2018, he directed a film called Sleeping Dogs Lie. Jared Chandler served in the Army Reserves and used his military experience to become a technical advisor in Hollywood. He was a military advisor on flicks like Clear and Present Danger and xXx: State of the Union. Marty stuck to the realm of television music, composing for the screen.
But the most fascinating development has been the melding of the New Monkees with the original Monkees. Marty Ross began playing concerts with Micky Dolenz. At first, Marty and Micky merely shared a bill. Finally, in August 2018, Marty performed with Micky, marking the first time a New Monkee played with a Monkee.
Finally, in February 2019, all four New Monkees hit the stage at a pub on Hollywood Boulevard called the Pig n’ Whistle. The reunited New Monkees welcomed Micky Dolenz onstage. The hybrid Monkees ripped through "Last Train to Clarksville." You can see for yourself.
If the New Monkees have earned the respect of Micky, perhaps its time the rest of us give the '80s dudes their due.