It may come as a surprise to hear that a lot of important Monkee milestones occurred in Chicago. Some of their most famous photos were taken in Chicago in the fall of 1966 when they were in Chicago on a promotional tour. Many of these shots were included in their 1967 tour book and in teen magazines.
In 1967, The Monkees spent a fair amount of time in Chicago during their tour, where they did some recording for PACJ, filmed their iconic Rainbow Room music videos, partied with the Buffalo Springfield, almost got plaster casted, and of course played to nearly 20,000 people.
Astor Towers Hotel— 1300 N Astor Street (Astor/Goethe- former location, it is now condos)
This building is designed by famed architect Bertrand Goldberg and was a popular hotel with celebrities in the 1960s and 1970s.
Astor Towers is most famous for being the site of the infamous 1966 press conference where John Lennon defended his “bigger than Jesus” comments, (“I wasn’t knocking it or putting it down,” Lennon said. “I was just saying it as a fact … I’m not saying that we’re better, or greater or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is, you know. I just said what I said and it was wrong, or was taken wrong. And now it’s all this.”)
But the Monkees had some legendary times at Astor Towers as well. They stayed here and hosted a press party in September 1966 during their first promotional tour, with Bert Schneider in tow. Later that night, the group had a jam session/drunken night of fun of which many photos are in existence: http://www.monkees.com/media-gallery/detail/46/420
The Monkees continued the shenanigans when they stayed at Astor Towers the following year, in late July 1967. They partied at the hotel’s club Maxim’s the first night, requesting that only Beatles records were played. The next few nights at the hotel, the Monkees were joined by Buffalo Springfield and the Association, and at some point, legendary groupie/artiste Cynthia Plaster Caster who was hoping to plaster cast Davy Jones before settling for Peter Tork. Unfortunately Cynthia sliced her finger and Peter was never cast, though she remarked that he sat and played piano naked while she was there. It’s rumored that Dewey Martin hooked up with one of her “girls” at this time. Not sure who else was a part of the entourage at this point, so if you have more info about that, let me know!
John Lennon in 1964 and Nez in 1966 at Astor Towers
WLS Chicago— 190 North State Street
The Monkees appeared on-air at WLS in both 1966 and 1967. If anyone has recordings of those shows, let me know!
The Art Institute of Chicago— 111 South Michigan Avenue
The Monkees hanging out with the lion in front of the Art Institute in 1966. According to the HEAD commentary track, the silver Mylar balloons in the dream sequence were inspired by an exhibit that he saw at the Art Institute, but I can’t find out when that would’ve been. Maybe during the summer of 1967 when they were on tour?
Chicago Riverwalk— Just off Wacker/Michigan
I actually eat lunch a lot in this exact location, haha. It looks very different now, and the Chicago Sun Times Building is now Trump Tower, and the boat tours don’t board on this side of the river anymore.
Wrigley Building— 401 North Michigan Avenue
The Monkees pose in front of the Wrigley Building. The Tribune Building is also in the background
Marina City— 300 North State Street
The Monkees with Marina City in the background.
Marina City was designed by Bertrand Goldberg and is one of Chicago’s most distinctive buildings, appearing in numerous movies and most famously on the cover of the Wilco album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”.
RCA Recording Studios— 445 North Lake Shore Drive (former location)
Since their gig in Detroit was canceled due to rioting in the summer of 1967, the Monkees had some extra time to spend in Chicago and they sure didn’t use that time to rest! Instead they went to RCA Recording studios (located at Navy Pier) and recorded overdubs for “Cuddly Toy” and “Salesman”, among others, with Chip Douglas. Other classics that were recorded at this studio include “American Woman” by the Guess Who, Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” soundtrack, and stuff by Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and more that I’m probably leaving out. RCA studios moved from this location in the 1970s.
Prudential Building— 130 E. Randolph Street
The Monkees pose in front of the Prudential Building in 1966. Fun fact: The Prudential building was most recently the headquarters for the Obama re-election campaign.
Fred Niles Studio— 1058 West Washington (former location— it is currently Harpo studios)
On August 2nd, 1967, the Monkees film some of their most iconic videos, including “Daydream Believer”, “Randy Scouse Git”, “Love is Only Sleeping”, “Salesman”, “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?”, “No Time”, “She Hangs Out”, and “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
Playboy Mansion— 1340 N State Parkway
According to The Monkees Day by Day book, the Monkees visited the Playboy Mansion while they were in town in July 1967.
-I should also point out that at the beginning of “Don’t Call On Me”, Micky riffs that they are in the Pump Room at the Palmer House Hotel. These are two famous Chicago landmarks that are actually not connected in any way. The Pump Room was a hotspot in the 60s for celebrities and rich people and is located at 1301 North State Parkway. It recently reopened and still caters to the same type of crowd. The Palmer House Hotel is a historic hotel in the Loop (17 East Monroe Street). So yeah, typical Micky just spouting nonsense:)
-During their 1967 trip, Davy and Micky allegedly also visited the Museum of Science and Industry, which is pretty rad and worth checking out in general.
The Monkees, the day by day story of the ’60s TV pop sensation, by Andrew Sandoval