Entertainment & Arts

'Lost' material by Monkees star Micky Dolenz released

Mickey Dolenz Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dolenz has given the project his blessing

An album of "lost" songs by Monkees star Micky Dolenz has been released after fans tracked down the master tapes.

Recorded immediately after the band split up in 1970, the music contains collaborations with Harry Nilsson.

It was thought to have been discarded but TV presenter Iain Lee managed to track it down via an online campaign.

"It's been a five-year project to make this happen," he said. "And it's finally here. It's a proper record."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Front Row, Lee explained the music had sunk without trace when it was originally released.

"A lot of this stuff came out as singles after the Monkees split up and they sold about seven copies," he told Samira Ahmed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Monkees were put together as an attempt to make an American version of The Beatles

The Monkees were one of the most successful groups of the 1960s, with singles including Daydream Believer, Last Train to Clarksville and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.

But they were stigmatised by their formation - having been put together for a TV show, and banned from playing on their early singles.

Although they fought against the manufactured image, it haunted them even after the group disbanded.

"The thing with the Monkees when they split up is they had no respect," Lee explained.

"No-one knew how to categorise them. Even Micky Dolenz didn't know what he was. Was he an actor? Was he a drummer?

"He auditioned for the part of the Fonz [in Happy Days] but came second because they thought, 'well, he's a drummer.'

"Frank Zappa wanted him to join his band and play drums, but the rest of the band said, 'we don't want an actor in there.'"

Even Dolenz did not know the whereabouts of his recordings, and many had presumed they were lost forever.

"For the last 20 years, people have been trying to make this compilation," Lee said. "No-one's been able to do it.

"The master tapes had gone missing, no-one knew where they were - but by me talking about this on Twitter and on Facebook and on various other forums, I got this weird anonymous email from a guy who said, 'I cannot tell you who I am, but I think I know where the master tapes are'.

"I just thought it was some fruitcake on the internet - but we followed his lead and he located the master tapes - and these songs came from the original master tapes in LA."

Image caption Iain Lee is a "massive Monkees fan" who took it upon himself to track down the tapes

Lee has formed his own record company to issue the recordings - which went on sale last week as Micky Dolenz: The MGM Singles Collection.

It features a track, called Daybreak, which was written and produced by Harry Nilsson - famous for the hits Everybody's Talkin' and Without You.

Another track, called Easy On You, was recorded in Dolenz's home studio and features one of the first ever Moog synthesizers.

"Dolenz owned the third ever Moog synthesizer," Lee said. "It's a really weird [song]. It's not pop, it's not rock. It's kind of electronica before electronica."

The Monkees star has given his blessing to the compilation, Lee added.

"He's such a nice man. He was completely surprised when I sent him an email. But he's really honoured. He loves it. He's over the moon with it."

Lee, formerly of Channel 4's 11 O'Clock Show and currently a presenter on BBC local radio, said he had funded the release "out of my own pocket" and hoped to break even.

He said he hoped to release more rare Monkees material in the future.

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