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Micky Dolenz
Courtesy of Micky Dolenz

Physics footage from a Monkee

1970s video footage recorded by musician Micky Dolenz when he visited the then-nascent Fermilab is now available on YouTube.

You probably know the band the Monkees (of “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” and “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!” fame). But you might not know that Micky Dolenz, actor and Monkee drummer and vocalist, is also a huge physics fan. So much so, in fact, that he visited Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in 1970, during its initial construction, and again in 2017 as the lab celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In 2016, Dolenz reached out to Fermilab archivist Valerie Higgins and let her know that he had recorded some 16mm video footage during his first visit to the lab.

“I will try best I can to dig out the footage from ‘my’ archives, (which consists of a storage unit down the street!) and deliver it to you,” Dolenz wrote.

He made good on the offer. Dolenz donated a copy of the film to the Fermilab archives earlier this year, and it’s now available to view on the lab’s YouTube channel—complete with an intro by Dolenz himself.

Dolenz wandered with his camera all through the burgeoning lab. Among the clips he donated are views of the entrance signs (from back when the lab was called the National Accelerator Laboratory), a monument to the residents of Weston (a small village that became part of the laboratory site), people drafting plans, a walk through the linear particle accelerator, and construction workers moving giant concrete sections of the tunnel that would house the Main Ring (and later, the Tevatron particle collider).

“This is definitely very exciting,” Higgins says. “We don’t have much footage of Fermilab from that time, and what we do have is mostly pretty cut-and-dried footage of construction.

“I love this material because it not only includes some great construction footage, it also shows other details of daily life at the lab—things like people working, signs on the walls, etc. I also love the playfulness of the footage—Micky Dolenz’s personality definitely comes through.”

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Many know Micky Dolenz for his work as an actor and musician for the Monkees – but he’s also a huge particle physics fan. Dolenz captured some 16mm footage during a 1970 visit to the burgeoning Fermilab, then known as the National Accelerator Laboratory. In 2018, Dolenz donated the footage to the Fermilab archives, along with a brief introduction to the material. Enjoy this glimpse of America’s particle physics lab in its infancy.