Dolenz, 77, filed a lawsuit Tuesday through his lawyer Mark Zaid requesting the Department of Justice disclose copies of records the FBI has on the group, including “a 1967 Los Angeles Field Office memorandum on anti-Vietnam war activities and a second document redacted entirely.”
The lawsuit, obtained by USA TODAY and first reported by Rolling Stone, says Dolenz already made efforts to get the documents by requesting them through the Freedom of Information Act, which provides the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency, but has not received a response.
The Monkees, a ’60s era pop band, rose to fame on NBC sitcom “The Monkees,” which centered on the antics of a rock ‘n’ roll foursome. Their television debut in 1966 turned the group into overnight rock stars, scoring chart-topping albums and No. 1 hits including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer.” The band was made up of Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith. With Nesmith’s death in December 2021, Dolenz is the last living member.
With the success of the show, the band embarked on a lengthy concert tour where members sang many of their own songs and played their own instruments before crowds of adoring fans. Jimi Hendrix was sometimes their opening act. The group broke up in 1970.
According to Dolenz’ lawsuit, the FBI “maintains responsive records regarding the Monkees, including information that continues to be withheld.”
FBI records online show seven highly-redacted pages on The Monkees, including reports from an FBI agent who apparently attended a 1967 concert.
“‘The Monkees’ concert was using a device in the form of a screen set up behind the performers who played certain instruments and sang as a ‘combo.’ During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which in the opinion of (name redacted), constituted ‘left wing innovations of a political nature.’ ” the Monkees file reads. “These messages and and pictures were flashes of riots in Berkeley, anti-U.S. messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma Alabama, and similar messages which had received unfavorable response from the audience.”
Both the FBI and a rep for Dolenz declined to comment.
Dolenz’ lawyer Zaid provided a statement to USA TODAY, saying he came to the case as “as a lifelong fan of the Monkees for half a century.” Zaid is an expert in Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts, according to his firm’s website. Zaid was part of the legal team representing the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry against former President Donald Trump in 2019.
Zaid says the Monkees lawsuit “seeks to expose why the FBI was monitoring the Monkees and/or its individual members.”
“We know the mid-to-late 1960s saw the FBI surveil Hollywood anti-war advocates and those who represented the counter-culture of the flower/hippie/drug use movement,” Zaid’s statement reads. “And the Monkees were in the thick of things spending time with musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, both of whom were in the sights of J. Edgar Hoover.”
He adds that he wishes for the FBI “to reveal its secret Monkees files and help the public learn more about an important era of American history.”
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Contributing: Edward Segarra, USA TODAY; The Associated Press