Having only ever been to two gigs there previously, it was off to the Live Lounge room of the Cavern Club for the second time this month where I was due to have my first live encounter with one of The Monkees in the form on Micky Dolenz.
I arrived in time to join a ridiculously slow queue to get in, with it rapidly becoming clear that I was at the younger end of the age spectrum, and surrounded by foreigners, especially Americans and Finns.
This gig was actually part of International Beatleweek, in fact being effectively the closing show. The Monkees had several ties to The Beatles, including being initially labelled as the Prefab Four, as well as releasing a single about them (1967’s Randy Scouse Git, actually the first Dolenz-written song to be released).
When I was finally let in, I spent some time in the main, smaller part of The Cavern (the bit that’s the replica of the original club) where a Beatles tribute band was playing – I only later found out that this was The GoodFellas, from Washington DC.
This was the ninth of ten gigs they were playing in the space of seven days, and they were a very competent, enjoyable tribute band, playing a nice mix of songs, unsurprisingly mainly from 1964/65, seemingly the core of all Beatles tribute bands’ sets.
Less usual choices included Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock, famously the song that Paul impressed John with at their first meeting by knowing all of the words, and a very good version of Twist And Shout, performed as a request for a bunch of Finns the band had met at a previous gig.
When I Get Home was sung by drummer Jon Sullivan who struggled a bit for some of the high notes, while bassist Frank Murray reminded me of my friend Larry. Guitarist Ray Futran took on the majority of the vocals, with able harmonies from the rest of the band, with fellow six-string merchant Mark Loveland singing I Feel Fine.
The band was joined by Neil Goldman, sporting a GoodFellas t-shirt, to belt out Mr. Moonlight, originally recorded by blues pianist Piano Red as Dr. Feelgood And The Interns and released by the mop tops on the 1964 album Beatles For Sale. He then stuck around for the rest of the set, to no great effect.
The drummer sang I’m So Tired, an unusual choice, as the venue got progressively sweatier. The set closed with two early numbers, One After 909 and then I Saw Her Standing There (or Just Seventeen as it’s known by My Beloved Wife).
I then headed into the sweltering Live Lounge where The Tearaways were in full swing. They apparently “combine the influence of the British Invasion with the California Surf sound”.
The first song I caught was I Don’t Know And I Don’t Care, which led the woman next to me to text someone to the effect that the song title summed up her opinion of the band! Meow. And yes I was doing a bit of rubber-necking to read that!
The highlight of their set for me was a cover of power pop legends The Plimsouls’ fabulous A Million Miles Away, (off 1983’s second album Everywhere At Once), though I couldn’t place it at the time.
The drummer (who I sadly only later realised was the wonderful Clem Burke from Blondie) was wearing a CBGBs tee but they were a bit rawk for my tastes, performing a few cover versions, ending with an extended version of The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It).
As the Live Lounge was even hotter than the other part of the club, I headed to the bar for a cooling pint of Hop House 13 Lager, while The Tearaways finished their last number.
Next up was Mark Hudson, producer and songwriter who was no doubt booked due to his close links with Ringo Starr, working with him on five studio albums between 1998 and 2008. He’s also worked extensively with Aerosmith, but we won’t hold that against him too much.
As well as singing some songs, he told many (often lengthy) stories about his interactions with various Beatles and other aspects of his career in music.
The first number he performed was Here, There And Everywhere, which he introduced by telling the tale of when he met John Lennon in the early 1970’s, who told him that this was his favourite Beatles song that he didn’t write himself.
Hudson was then joined by backing band McDonalds Farm, telling a rambling Ozzy Osbourne tale before singing two songs I’d already heard played by The GoodFellas, You Can’t Do That and Can’t Buy Me Love.
A touching but slightly facile Ringo song (as is his way) about his mate George Harrison followed, Never Without You, that Hudson had co-written and produced for the 2003 Ringo Rama album.
A highlight of his set was a wild version of Slow Down, the Larry Williams song covered by The Beatles on their 1964 Long Tall Sally ep. After a godawful solo version of a song recorded by Celine Dion (no wonder I hated it then), The Reason, that was apparently rejected by Joe Perry for Aerosmith despite Steven Tyler liking it, came a decent segue of Long Tall Sally and I’m Down.
He then closed with Aerosmith’s Livin’ On The Edge, another of his co-writes. It had been a relatively entertaining set, but I was ready for the main event (after a trip to the loo).
Before Micky Dolenz’s arrival on the stage, out came his backing band, who were his usual guitarist Wayne Avers and a local band called The Rockits, complete with two female backing singers who really helped to fill out the sound.
The set was largely made up of classic Monkees tracks, most of which he originally sang, as I and no doubt everyone else in the rest of the crowd was hoping. He interspersed the songs with some clearly well-rehearsed stories about his long career in the music and entertainment business – but when you’ve not heard them before, that’s OK.
Dolenz coped well with a malfunctioning microphone over the first few songs, with an early highlight being the raucous (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone, originally recorded by Paul Revere & The Raiders, and first coming to my attention via the Sex Pistols, but the Dolenz-sung Monkees version is a classic.
He spoke for the first time after playing the somewhat forgotten Leiber & Stoller-written D.W. Washburn, their last ever UK Top 20 hit in 1968, paying the first of many tributes to the songwriters behind his biggest successes.
He then covered Purple Haze, after describing how they had been supported by Jimi Hendrix on tour. There was only one song off The Monkees’ new album Good Times!, You Bring The Summer, one of several tracks I’ve heard off the record, all of which have sounded very good.
He dedicated Daydream Believer to the original singer Davy Jones’ sister Hazel who was in the crowd. A real highlight was of course when he sang (and drummed a little on) Randy Scouse Git, the song he wrote about a party thrown for The Monkees by The Beatles at the Speakeasy nightclub which hit #2 in the UK charts (renamed Alternate Title).
Dolenz then told a story about being in awe at the Sgt. Pepper sessions (with John calling him “monkey man”), before introducing the next song as one he’d heard them recording. Sadly, he had carried over this story from when he used to cover Good Morning, Good Morning, instead singing Oh! Darling, which wasn’t recorded until two years later!
As everything was running a little late, I had to leave during Pleasant Valley Sunday in order to make my last train home. I found out later that this was actually the closing number of the main set, so fortunately I didn’t miss all that much.
It was a great shame to miss even that much, but I was to some degree pleased that he hadn’t sung bandmate Mike Nesmith’s Different Drum, which he often performs.
His voice is still in fine form at age 71, and it was nice to finally get to see a real life Monkee, hearing him sing so many great songs.
I wore my red Parlophone t-shirt in honour of the venue, with there unsurprisingly being lots of Beatles tees amongst the crowd, as well as Paul, George and Pete Best ones. I also spotted Metallica, Green Day, Ramones and Mersey Cats t-shirts.
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Here is most of the music from the night on Spotify: