Micky Dolenz, the sole surviving member of The Monkees, is suing the FBI for failing to hand over the entirety of the agency’s file on the band, Rolling Stone reports.
The backstory of this case dates all the way back to The Monkees’ 1967 inaugural tour, which an FBI informant attended: “During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which, in the opinion of [informant’s name redacted], constituted ‘left wing intervention of a political nature,’” reads a document in the band’s FBI file that was made available to the public a little over a decade ago. “These messages and pictures were flashed of riots, in Berkley, anti-U.S. messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma, Alabama, and similar messages which had unfavorable response[s] from the audience.”
Dolenz filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to see the rest of The Monkees’ FBI file, which apparently, the FBI didn’t honor: “This lawsuit is designed to obtain any records the FBI created and/or possesses on the Monkees as well as its individual members,” reads a portion of Dolenz’s suit. “Mr. Dolenz has exhausted all necessary required administrative remedies with respect to his [Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act] request.”
The Monkees were just one of many American rock bands who used their platform to protest the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam war throughout the ’60s. Though they’re probably known better for their seemingly innocuous hits, they also weaved some anti-war messaging into songs like “Ditty Diego-War Chant” and “Last Train to Clarksville.”
The Monkees made fans out of likeminded young people during their heyday, and in the ’70s, attorney Mark S. Zaid received a stack of the band’s albums from his babysitter. An instant lifelong superfan, he’s now representing Dolenz in his lawsuit. (He was also on the team that represented the government whistleblower in Donald Trump’s 2019 Ukraine scandal, setting the precedent for his first impeachment.)
“The Monkees reflected, especially in their later years with projects like [their 1968 art house movie] Head, a counterculture from what institutional authority was at the time,” Zaid told Rolling Stone. “And [J. Edgar] Hoover’s FBI, in the ’60s in particular, was infamous for monitoring the counterculture, whether they committed unlawful actions or not.”
On behalf of Dolenz, Zaid submitted a standard FOIA request in June to see The Monkees’ complete FBI file along with any individual files for Dolenz and late bandmates Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith. Legally, the FBI is required to comply within 20 business days, but more pressing matters like COVID and the January 6th Capitol attack have left them swamped.
“This means that we’re headed into court,” Zaid added. “I tell all my clients, ‘If you are serious about getting your documents, then we need to litigate it.’ What happens from here is that we’ll be assigned a judge within a matter of a couple of days. After that, the process will start.”
Back in April, Dolenz embarked on a tribute tour in the US in honor of his late bandmates. Nesmith died in December 2021, just weeks after he and Dolenz concluded a farewell tour. Jones passed away in 2012, and Tork died in 2019.