When the Monkeys embarked on their inaugural tour in 1967, playing to crowds of screaming teenagers – and at least one FBI informant. “During the concert subliminal messages were projected on the screen which, in his opinion, [informant’s name redacted], was “left-wing interference of a political nature,”’ a document in the Monkees’ FBI file states. “These messages and photos were delayed by riots in Berkeley, anti-US messages about the Vietnam War, race riots in Selma, Alabama, and similar messages that received an adverse response[s] from the public.”
This tiny portion of the band’s FBI file was released to the public just over a decade ago, and now Micky Dolenz, the band’s only surviving member, has filed a lawsuit against the FBI (See the full lawsuit below). The 77-year-old musician is hoping to see the rest of the file after failing to get his hands on it through a Freedom of Information Act request. “This lawsuit is designed to gather any records created and/or held by the FBI about the Monkees as well as its individual members,” the lawsuit states. “Sir. Dolenz has exhausted all necessary administrative remedies with respect to his [Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act] Application.”
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The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dolenz by attorney Mark S. Zaid, an expert in Freedom of Information Act cases. He was also a key part of the team that represented the administration’s whistleblower in the Donald Trump/Ukraine scandal in 2019, which set the stage for Trump’s first impeachment. But long before Trump helped blow the whistle, he was a young Monkees fan.
“My babysitter, who was about ten years older than me, gave me her collection of Monkees albums in 1975 when I was just a toddler,” he says. “That made me a big fan and I went to see their original reunion tour in 1986. I’ve seen them about eight times since then, and even met Davy Jones right before he died.”
He met Dolenz through mutual friends some time ago and suggested to the musician that it might be fun to see if the FBI had a file on him or his former bandmates. At the time, he didn’t even know that a tantalizing seven-page section of the archive had been released in 2011. “That just reinforced for me that there really was something here,” he says. “It’s not just a fishing trip. I mean, we’re still fishing, but we know there’s fish in the water.”
The Monkees might not be the kind of band that would attract the attention of the FBI, especially at a time when groups like Country Joe and the Fish and the MC5 were leading the movement against the Vietnam War. But the Monkees were one of the most popular bands in America in 1966 and 1967, and they spread anti-war sentiment in songs like “Ditty Diego-War Chant” and even “Last Train to Clarksville,” a song about a man who left. in the war he fears he will never see his love again.
“The Monkees reflect, especially in their later years with projects like [their 1968 art house movie] Heada counterculture from institutional power at the time,” says Zaid Rolling rock. “And [J. Edgar] Hoover’s FBI, particularly in the 1960s, was notorious for tracking the counterculture, whether they were committing illegal acts or not.”
Zaid filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request in June to see the full FBI file on the band along with any individual files on Dolenz, Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith. The FBI is required by law to comply within 20 business days, but that rarely happens as the agency is swamped with similar requests and overwhelmed by more pressing issues due to Covid and the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.
“This means we are being taken to court,” says Zaid. “I tell all my clients, ‘If you’re serious about getting your documents, then we need to put this in court.’ What happens from here is that we’ll be assigned a judge within a few days. the process”.
What exactly they will find at the end of the process remains a big mystery. The Monkees’ public, seven-page document is heavily redacted and refers to a second document that was “ordered in its entirety.” This might conjure up crazy images of the Monkees working undercover for the Weather Underground or the Black Panthers, but the truth is definitely more mundane. “Formulated information may be peripheral to them,” says Zaid. “Some of it probably reflects the identity of an informant, who was probably the person attending the concerts.”
“Theoretically, anything could be in those files though,” he continues. “We have no idea what records there are. It could be almost anything. But we’ll see soon.”
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