From copyright infringement suits to large-scale gang RICO cases, there's much to keep up with on the legal side of the music industry. For the most part, the majority of cases tend to be squabbles over who wrote what first and tabloid-y defamation suits, but a new lawsuit filed by Mickey Dolenz, the last living member of The Monkees, is suing the FBI for their files on the '60s sitcom band.
It turns out that The Monkees ended up on the FBI's radar in 1967 while they were in the United States and an informant that attended a Los Angeles tipped them off about "subliminal messages" in projections that played behind them during live sets. In their opinion, the images "constituted ‘left wing intervention of a political nature.” According to a partial file the FBI made public in 2011, “these messages 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[s] from the audience.”
The Monkees, along with The Beatles' John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and several other artists, were all under scrutiny by the J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI as red scare McCarthyism swept through D.C. and had the department surveilling various counterculture figures for possible communist sympathizers. The lawsuit alleges that Dolenz and his bandmates “were known to have associated with other musicians and individuals whose activities were monitored and/or investigated by the FBI.”
Now, Dolenz is suing the FBI in order to obtain the full file after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request failed to have any sort of timely response, which may have been the result of backlog due to the pandemic and January 6th insurrection. The lawsuit looks to produce un-redacted versions of the 2011 document as well as any other files the FBI might have on The Monkees that may have peripheral information on any of its members. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Dolenz's lawyer Mark S. Zaid said, “Theoretically, anything could be in those files, though. We have no idea what records even exist. It could be almost nothing. But we’ll see soon enough.”
Photo via Getty/Michael Ochs Archives