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Peter Tork says only one thing is keeping his band out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner.
Published Apr. 22, 2007

"So you better get ready," shouts the theme to the Monkees' 1960s TV series, "we may be comin' to your town!" Unless your town is Cleveland.

Peter Tork says the Monkees merit consideration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but one man opposes their induction.

"The only person . . . holding a grudge is Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone," says the former Monkee. The magazine editor "has never written a gracious word. He personally has the veto power to keep us out."

How does his group, whose Emmy-winning show aped the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night, rank against other inductees? Neither the Animals, the Rascals, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Dells, Del Shannon, Frankie Lymon nor Black Sabbath have more Top 20 singles than the Monkees' 10. Ratings aside, classics such as Pleasant Valley Sunday have aged better than the likes of Shannon, whose Hat's Off to Larry seems laughable as hall of fame justification.

Bands as disparate as the Sex Pistols (Steppin' Stone) and Run-D.M.C. (Mary, Mary) have covered Monkees' songs. Even Radiohead's Go to Sleep eerily channels Micky Dolenz's vocals.

"I'm convinced that Micky is one of the great singers of our time," Tork says. "He's always been something of a genius."

One notable fan is Michael Stipe, who reportedly vowed to bar R.E.M. from the hall of fame until the Monkees get in. Stipe declined to comment, but in 1994 he did tell Rolling Stone that the Monkees "meant a lot more" to him than the Beatles. R.E.M. was inducted last month.

Wenner, who didn't reply to an interview request, is said to scorn Tork, Dolenz, Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith because they didn't play their own instruments on the first albums.

In this American Idol era, when acts are "manufactured" like toasters, fewer critics crucify the Monkees for being a TV show that spawned a band. So have they faced an unfair standard? Were they, in fact, a "real" group?

"I've not heard the slightest murmur about the Monkees being fake," Tork, 65, says from his Connecticut home. "Everybody's forgotten it, except Wenner. He's been vicious."

Backed by producer Don Kirshner's songwriting stable - Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart - the band unleashed four straight No. 1 albums and three chart-toppers. They eventually penned their own catchy pop.

"George Harrison used to say he wished his best songs were as good as the worst of Lennon-McCartney," Tork says. "So, we used to hope our best songs were as good as the worst of the Brill Building."

Tork's fame, however, is more about musicianship than songwriting. So said Jimi Hendrix, who called him the most talented Monkee. The guitarist opened several Monkees' gigs, including a '67 show at New York's West Side Tennis Club. Was his compliment accurate?

"I'm not sure it's quite true," says Tork, who plays guitar, banjo, piano and bass. "I'm far and away the best-trained musician, but I'm in awe of all three (Monkees). Jimi meant that I was the most (receptive) to his kind of music."