It’s perfectly fitting that Micky Dolenz‘ solo appearance at ArtsQuest was rescheduled from the dog days of summer (and too close to the Monkees’ tour stop at the nearby Sands casino) and recast in the holiday lights of “Christmas City” in mid-December. It made this unique show especially magical and memorable. Hallelujah!
Escorted onto the Musikfest Café stage by a sexy elf and Santa Claus himself, Micky joined his vocally gifted sister Coco Dolenz and a rockin’ sextet led by musical director/guitarist Wayne Avers with John Billings on bass for a superbly satisfying show that included a first-time-ever intermission Q&A session (“intercession”?) with Dolenz. Among other things, we learned that Dolenz plays drums “ass backwards,” played in more Aida shows on Broadway than Monkees TV episodes, recently starred in the world premier of “Comedy Is Hard” (opposite Joyce DeWitt), always considered his hair “as sort of a prop” and that Miracle On 34th Street is his favorite Christmas movie.
Musical surprises and highlights of the vibrant night were “White Christmas” (the Drifters’ 1954 soulful, playful R&B version), the splendidly rendered love ballad “Sometime In The Morning” and “Riu Chiu,” a Spanish/Portuguese villancico/vilancete song that the Monkees sang live, acapella, in perfect four-part harmony at the end of “The Christmas Show” (season 2, episode 15) that first aired on December 15, 1967. On this holy night, Micky and Coco were joined center stage by keyboardist (and Santa!) Dave Alexander, his wife (and jingle belling elf!) Jennifer Dawson, drummer Rich Dart and saxophonist Aviva Maloney to perform this distinct, noteworthy, and exceptional six-part vocal “Riu Chiu” showstopper!
The only song performed on this night that was neither a Christmas song nor a Monkees song was, according to some sources, supposed to be a Monkees song, their follow-up single to “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” in 1967. But, as Micky explained, because of the “palace revolt at the time,” the song was recorded, released and became a Number One hit for another group instead. Micky then did the most erotic, low-down, slow, sexy, killer-diller perversion of that song—The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar”—ever!
Dolenz then did the most erotic, low-down, slow, sexy, killer-diller perversion of the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” ever! This was supposed to be the Monkees’ follow-up single to “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” in 1967. But, as Dolenz explained, because of the “palace revolt at the time,” the song was recorded, released, and became a #1 hit for another group instead.
Born in L.A., the future Circus Boy star and Monkees drummer George Michael Dolenz was blessed with, and still possesses, one of the best sets of pipes in showbiz. Whether he’s singing Christmas classics, Monkees hits, pop, jazz and blues standards, even lullabies, Dolenz’s voice is the god-given gift that he’s been sharing with the whole wide world for nearly half a century. Amen!
– Dennis McDonough