American pop band The Monkees began their tour of Australia and Japan in September 1968. The Monkees had achieved worldwide success with a string of chart topping singles and a television comedy series which was originally influenced by The Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night“. By 1968 The Monkees were in decline, their television series had recently been cancelled and record sales had slumped. The band had also completed shooting their debut feature film “Head”, a psychedelic comedy. Released several months after the tour, the movie was a commercial failure and alienated many of their loyal, teenybopper fanbase. Despite this, fans were ecstatic to welcome The Monkees during their first visit to Australia.
After performing in Melbourne and Sydney the group travelled on to Brisbane, arriving on Sunday 22 September 1968. Over 3,000 screaming fans were at the Brisbane Airport to greet them from behind a safety fence with police keeping a close watch. The Courier Mail reported that “a cavalcade of five cars carried the entertainers and their party from their plane past the yelling, waving crowd“. The band made a slow procession along the tarmac to wave at fans. This procession came to an abrupt end when two girls managed to evade security and ran toward The Monkees’ black imousine. The Monkees made a speedy retreat to the main exit.
During their Brisbane press conference The Monkees were very outspoken about their opposition to the Vietnam War and National Service. Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz discussed the fact that they were both classified 1A (which was the highest classification for the draft) and could be called up for service at any time. Dolenz believed that as a celebrity his drafting would be made a priority. “They’ve admitted they want to get me in” he told reporters. Guitarist Peter Tork also commented that the US had recently cut the budgets of “visionary projects in favour of military ones“.
During this press conference an unfortunate incident occurred between Davy Jones and a Channel Nine television reporter named Keith Sharpe. The Courier Mail reported that Sharpe “riled the group from his first question” – “When do you think you might break up and try something like music?” – “It was a losing battle but Sharpe kept on“. According to the Sunday Truth newspaper Sharpe had also questioned The Monkees on why they shouldn’t be sent to Vietnam. As the interview deteriorated Davy Jones picked up a glass of water and began to pour it over Sharpe’s head. In turn this provoked Keith Sharpe who grabbed another glass of water and hurled it into the face of Davy Jones. Keith Sharpe was immediately ejected from the press conference by “two bouncers“. The next day the Courier Mail published a photograph of Davy Jones with a wet shirt and hair with the headline – “Monkees’ Davy dries off after water-throwing”
The Sunday Truth newspaper went further by interviewing Keith Sharpe about the incident, “..I’d do the same again in the same circumstances“, he told the newspaper, “I didn’t think it was funny then, and I don’t think it’s funny now…nobody does that to Keith Sharpe and gets away with it“. The Truth devoted nearly an entire page to the story.
The Monkees concert took place at the Brisbane Festival Hall on the evening of 23 September, with two performances starting at 6pm and 8:30pm. The Monkees were supported by two Australian bands, The Cherokees and Marcie Jones and the Cookies. The latter was originally formed in Brisbane, later moving to Sydney.
Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland