Can you believe the 50th anniversary of “The Monkees” as both a TV show and as a recording act was five years ago? Tell me it’s not true. Seriously how can that be five years ago already? A lot can happen in five years. Just take a look at The Monkees.
Since all the hoopla of their fiftieth anniversary and the release of their well-received album “Good Times!” the group managed to put out their first Christmas album, “Christmas Party” in 2018, as well as release what I would consider their best live album “The Monkees Live – The Mike and Micky Show” just this past year.
As you may have noticed by the title of “The Monkees Live – The Mike and Micky Show” The Monkees are now sadly down to two members as group stalwart and perennial class clown Peter Tork passed away in 2019. Nesmith himself has also had a few bouts with health issues culminating in quadruple bypass heart surgery during the first leg of “The Mike and Micky Show” tour in 2018.
Indeed a lot can happen in five years.
As a matter of fact one of the weirdest things to happen since 2016 has been the disappearance of the best (in my humble opinion) Monkees reissue of all-time. I’m talking about the crème de la crème collection of the bulk of their video work from the 1960’s– “The Monkees – The Complete Series” a 10-disc Blu-Ray set.
Not I know I can be prone to hyperbole on occasion but let me say that this 2016 box set of The Monkees complete series has got to be not only one of the best executed Monkees sets ever and as it now turns out it may be one of the rarest as well.
I remember when this set was first announced by its compiler Andrew Sandoval I dutifully followed its progress for several months as the episodes were being scanned in HiDef by Sony and as the bonus material was being selected. I, for one, from the get-go always thought that this set would be (and definitely is!) worth the $200 asking price.
(Note: Plus the set comes with a 45 vinyl single in a groovy picture sleeve (again, see photos) that contains the TV mixes of “Goin’ Down” (with a live vocal by Micky Dolenz) as well as “Star Collector”.)
Unfortunately “The Monkees – The Complete Series” set was greeted with much skepticism, online at least, from many diehard Monkees fans.
First there was the main issue the price. Yes, $200 was steep BUT these episodes are never going to look better and they are by far better looking than any other transfer of the series I’ve ever seen. The colors really pop and the sound even in its original mono presentation is crisp and clean and not muddled like the previous Rhino DVD issue of the episodes.
Then of course there was a lot of complaining about the bonus content.
First off fans were miffed that there weren’t as many alternate soundtracks available as advertised. Second there were issues with some minute footage missing from the “33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee” show. (Note: On both counts neither issue was a big deal to me. I would have loved more alternate soundtrack songs but the rest of the bonus material was so good it didn’t matter to me).
But as I look at it what you did get was FANTASTIC! Here are my favorites from the bonus content disc which I play and enjoy quite often:
- Monkees camera and screen tests
- A host of outtake footage cut to songs like the alternate “I Can’t Get Her Off of My Mind” – this includes some great footage of Davy on a huge piece of ice being pulled through downtown LA by the other three Monkees
- A truly pristine looking print of the unaired pilot episode with the alternate opening and closing credits with Boyce and Hart providing the vocals on the songs in the episode
- A lot of “HEAD” outtake footage with great looking yet silent footage paired with songs from the movie along with lesser looking footage with sound but including some of the footage with Davy and Micky in front of the mirror (from a deleted sequence in the film) as well as footage from inside the black box. Truly some terrific stuff!
- Outtakes from the “33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee” TV special including the uncut live take of “Listen to the Band” which may be some of the best live footage ever captured of the group and the last time the original foursome would play together live until 1986.
- Rerun versions with alternate mixes of “French Song”, “I Never Thought it Peculiar” and “Midnight Train”.
That is no means the complete list of bonus content (see photo above) but this bonus disc alone is worth the price of the set let alone the stunning transfers of the original Monkees TV episodes.
Then of course there were also issues with damaged boxes. It seems the weight of the discs caused the inner gold cardboard holder to rip and tear. The outer box cover photo of The Monkees with the lenticular 3D photo also came off on several sets and needed to be glued back in place, again a weight issue I’m guessing.
I have to admit these issues were a bit more of a problem. I too received a ripped inner holder and a loose lenticular photo but emailed Rhino Records and they quickly sent me a brand new box with an intact inner holder and cover (see above). For me the issues with the box were solved but I do wish that Rhino had packaged the set in a plastic holder and included a deluxe book instead of the packaging they chose but the box as is is truly lovely.
Because of all of the complaints about content and the manufacturing errors this magnificent box set became tainted in the eyes of quite a few fans. The set was limited to 10,000 copies manufactured and sold exclusively on Monkees.com but after selling about half of the 10,000 copies the set was taken down for sale from Monkees.com.
Andrew Sandoval who put the set together for Rhino said recently that when Rhino moved the location of their shipping facilities they lost track of the rest of the manufactured run of 10,000 blu-ray sets not sold and the unassembled boxes that came with them.
How does this happen? I have no idea. I hope that someday Rhino tracks the rest of the unsold discs and sells them in a smaller and more sturdy packaging. It’s truly a shame that all the work that went into making this set is only available to the few thousand that managed to purchase the box.
I guess the new HD transfers will be used by Sony in the future as they own the rights for broadcast of the series so hopefully the sparkling new transfers will be out there for streaming someday.
As for the blu-ray set it does crop up for sale on ebay but it goes for WELL beyond the $200 asking price. For those of you who may want to splurge on the set it is indeed a lovely and wonderful thing to behold. Worth the money that it now goes for, that’s up to you. I love my set and am so glad I got it when I did.
I would hope that even a new DVD release of these transfers by Rhino would be great and cheaper than the blu-ray set but I don’t hold out much hope for that in the current sorry state of DVD sales. Plus Rhino/Warner Brothers who own The Monkees rights now seem to have lost interest in Monkees releases so that really makes a new DVD set unlikely.
Anyway, I thought I’d share some thoughts and photos of this really great blu-ray set.
Until next time be well and I hope you’ve managed to get the Covid-19 vaccine!
Bye until next time.