Monkeemania in Australia celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Australian tour by the American band, The Monkees, in 1968.

More broadly, it also provides a snapshot of everyday life in Australia at a very eventful time in history. 1968 was a roller coaster of a year, as a series of tumultuous events—including assassinations, heroic victories in sports, a bloody war, the publication of Myra Brekinridge, a devastating famine, and the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey—caused people to celebrate one day and despair the next. Monkeemania in Australia consists of an exhibition and a series of public talks by the exhibition’s curator, Dr Derham Groves, about The Monkees, their Australian tour, their eponymous TV show, their music, and their film Head (1968), a surreal masterpiece. The exhibition is on the ground and third floors of the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne, while the talks take place in the Dulcie Hollyock Room on the ground floor of the library. The exhibition runs from 1 August 2018 to 31 January 2019.

Exhibition Dates

1st August - 31st January 2019

Exhibition Opening

Time : 5:30 - 7pm
Location: Dulcie Hollyock room, ground level, Baillieu library, Parkville


Public Programs 

Time: 12- 1pm
Location: Dulcie Hollyock room, ground level, Baillieu library, Parkville

Wednesday 8 August
Monkeemania in Australia
A talk about the exhibition by its curator, Dr Derham Groves.

Derham will give an overview of the exhibition and its main themes. He will discuss the formation of The Monkees (Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork) for the band's eponymous TV show in the mid-1960s, at the height of the ‘psychedelic era’. He will explain why The Monkees have been depicted as surrealist glove puppets in the exhibition. He will describe some of the ‘highlights' of The Monkees’ tour of Australia in 1968, such as the ‘wild' behaviour of their local fans and the time that Davy doused a TV reporter with water and was in turn doused himself. Derham will also discuss the popularity of Monkees merchandise and memorabilia, including what every Australian teenage girl wanted to own in 1968—a pair of Australian-made Monkees pantyhose! He will play some film clips showing The Monkees’ press conference in Melbourne and the band playing a couple of their biggest hits on The Monkees TV show. He will ponder the mystery of the Monkeemobile, The Monkees’ car, which also toured Australia in 1968, but suddenly vanished in 1969. Finally, he will put The Monkees’ tour of Australia into the political and social context of 1968, a very extraordinary year. All in all, Derham’s talk will be an hour-long dose of Monkeemania in Australia.


Wednesday 5 September
The Monkees on television 
30 minute bursts of pop surrealism

In this talk, exhibition curator Dr Derham Groves will concentrate on The Monkees TV show (1966-68), which starred Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork. At the time, most parents of The Monkees' adolescent fans who watched the band’s 30-minute sitcom thought it was just more of the same 'visual chewing-gum' on Australian television at the time, intended as babysitting for teenagers, however, The Monkees was a lot more sophisticated than that. Besides thoroughly enjoying The Monkees' music, which featured prominently on every episode, the youthful viewers of the show also enjoyed The Monkees' surreal sense of humour. Take the beginning of episode 57, ‘The Monkees blow their minds’ (1968), for example, when Frank Zappa, the lead guitarist and singer with the hit US rock band The Mothers of Invention, dressed as Mike Nesmith interviewed Mike Nesmith dressed as Frank Zappa. Now, how surreal is that! Furthermore, no other show on television then or ever since has had a male authority figure quite like The Monkees' Mr. Schneider.  Derham will also introduce him—a jolly-looking life-size mannequin, who usually sat silently in The Monkees’ living room until someone pulled the string emerging from his chest, prompting him to dispense pearls of wisdom such as "It’s a shame to waste youth on children". Once again, how surreal is that?


Wednesday 3 October
Monkees music 
It's probably a lot better than you think!

In "Monkees music: It’s probably a lot better than you think!”, Dr. Derham Groves, the curator of Monkeemania in Australia, an exhibition currently showing at the Baillieu Library, will focus on the music by the mid-1960s American rock and roll band The Monkees (1966—present), as well as looking at an eclectic mix of other bands and performers of the era, including The Beatles (1960—70), Bobby Goldsboro (b. 1941), Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys (1965—68), Richard Harris (1930—2002), and The Archies (1968—73). Because The Monkees were put together artificially so to speak for a TV series, instead of forming organically like a garage band was supposed to in the 1960s, many people played down the band’s musicianship and songbook from the beginning, even though The Monkees produced smash hits like “Last train to Clarksville” (1966), “[Hey, hey, we’re] The Monkees” (1966), “I’m a believer” (1967), and “Daydream believer” (1967). The fierce running battle over control of The Monkees’ musical output between the band itself, led by Mike Nesmith (b. 1942), and the band’s musical director Don Kirshner (1934—2011), who was known in the musical industry as “the man with the golden ear”, didn’t help the situation either. However, looking back 50 years to when The Monkees first toured Australia in 1968, it is now much easier to assess the merits of the band and its music and also to appreciate just how emblematic The Monkees were of the 1960s.


Wednesday 7 November
1968: The year of the Monkees  
Putting the Monkees' tour of Australia into context.

In “1968: The year of The Monkees”, Dr. Derham Groves will review some world events from 1968, the same year the American pop band The Monkees toured Australia. According to the author of 1968: The Year that Rocked the World (2005), Mark Kurlansky: ‘There has never been a year like 1968, and it is unlikely that there will ever be one again’. It was certainly a roller coaster of a year, as a series of tumultuous events made people celebrate one day and despair the next. On the plus side for example, NASA was quickly working towards a moon landing; inspiring things happened in the world of sports including Australian victories by Ralph Doubell (b. 1945) on the running track, Rod Laver (b. 1938) on the tennis court, Lionel Rose (1948–2011) in the boxing ring and Rain Lover (1964–1989) on the racetrack; the publication of some influential books including Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal (1925–2012) and The Margaret Fulton Cookbook by Margaret Fulton (b. 1924); the release of some groundbreaking films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes; and the debut of Julia (1968–71), an American TV sitcom about a black nurse starring Diahann Caroll (b. 1935). While on the down side, there was fierce fighting in Vietnam; the senseless murders of American civil rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King Jr and US Senator Robert Kennedy (1925–1968) in the USA, a devastating famine in Biafra; and the end of a brief move towards democracy in Czechoslovakia. Dr. Groves’ talk will put The Monkees’ tour of Australia in 1968 into a wider cultural, political and social context.


Wednesday 28 November 
The Movie, Head (1968)
The screening of the Monkees' surreal masterpiece

The reason why The Monkees—both the pop band and the TV show—were created in the first place was to earn producers Bob Rafelson (b. 1933) and Bert Schneider (1933 – 2011) enough money to make their own feature films. Mission accomplished. The first feature film Rafleson and Schneider made was The Monkees only film, which was incongruously named Head (1968). On release it was mercilessly panned by film critics everywhere, however 50 years later it is definitely worth another look. Indeed, few films encapsulate the mid to late 1960s as well as Head does. The 110-minute film contains many hidden (and not so hidden) references to all sorts of things, including contemporary art and artists, The Mickey Mouse Club (1955 – 58), The Beatles' album Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), classic Cold War science fiction films such as The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), the psychedelic drug culture of the 1960s, and, of course, the Vietnam War, which was raging at its peak in 1968. Join Dr. Derham Groves, curator of Monkeemania in Australia at the Baillieu Library, for the screening of this surreal masterpiece.