This story appeared in the Journal on Jan. 13, 1980. Tork died Thursday at age 77.
Whatever happened to the Monkees?
"Nothing," says Peter Tork rather bluntly.
The former member of the hottest American rock group of the mid '60s ought to know.
When the band split in 1968, he, like Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones, didn't go on to bigger, more important projects.
He didn't even wallow around television's wasteland as a guest star on half a dozen situation comedies.
Instead, while Mickey and Davy were appearing on "Hollywood Squares," Peter was "bumming around" California as a folksinger, a school teacher and a dish washer.
The experience wasn't exactly enlightening.
"Oh, teaching wasn't so bad," Tork admits, "but washing dishes.. .that was pretty awful."
Now, however, the 37-year-old is back as a professional musician. "Thanks to an offer I couldn't refuse," he says, "I'm part of a group trying to make the old Monkees' hits sound as fresh and as new as possible."
For the other members of his band (called "The Monkees, featuring Peter Tork"), that might not be much of a problem. "They're new to the Monkees' sound," Peter explains which, in translation, means the other musicians probably aren't old enough to vividly remember the group's three years of success.
Nevertheless, the old Monkees' hits (which Peter terms "good '60s pop") are trotted out each night throughout the country (they stopped in, Sioux City Friday).
"We've got bigger equipment," Peter smirks, part of a non-stop show he inadvertently gives everytime he talks, "and, we're willing to take chances."
The latter difference, he believes, is what caused the demise of the old group. "Even though we could have been one of the top groups around -- on par with The Who, just behind the Beatles -- none of the others wanted to continue after the television series ended. They wanted to do their own things."
Peter disliked the decision, but accepted it because he "wanted to get back on the streets."
"I was fed up with the little kids who followed us. There wasn't a contemporaneity between them and me. I always felt I wasn't among friends."
Battling his fellow Monkees wasn't exactly fun, either.
"I hated them all, each in his own, turn." '
Mickey, he says, "was probably the most brilliant member of the group. But he had no courage to repeat his efforts. He would do something once and that was it.
"Underneath his nasty exterior, Davy had a heart of gold. He'd always fight for what he wanted. I'd have to say he had the most -feeling of any of the members of the group. Next to him, the other two looked like robots.
"Now Mike, he was the most skilled. He could do something right to the point of boredom."
Despite a mutual admiration, The Monkees, according to Peter,' fought constantly.
"But that's OK. When a lot of tension is created, you get interesting art. You don't get it from single mindedness."
Unlike his television image,' Peter wasn't the empty-headed fourth man of the group. "I tried to be the leader," he says. "Believe me, playing dumb in order to make three real dummies look smart wasn't easy."
After the group made its first movie, "Head," and the album, "Headquarters," ("The only thing at the time I wasn't ashamed to play for my friends") the decision was made to disband. "The others said, 'Sign with our manager or go your own way."'
Tork took the farewell option.
Since then, he still gets album residuals (which, he says, are "respectable") and occasionally talks with the other Monkees.
"They, however, didn't want to be a part of this new group. Apparently the manager made them an offer they could refuse."
That doesn't bother Peter, "If people think I'm capitalizing on my former involvement, they can eat dirt. It's a joke, nothing more."
Still, he'd like to see the new band do well.
"You don't get credibility with one success," Peter explains while running his. right hand through his "shorter-than-ever" hair. "You've got to have two. Let's Just say I'm working on my second."