For some reason, the year so far has really filled the line into Rock and Roll Heaven. The latest entrant is former Monkee Davy Jones. There are still a few people who roll their eyes at his name, as though maybe the Monkees were somehow not as pure as the Bob Dylans and the Paul McCartneys, but today Scott hopes to pop that ridiculous bubble and pay tribute to a guy who knew more rock stars than Pamela Des Barres. He'll start off at the beginning, and as always, click on the image to see the video.
It's hard to say "Davy Jones started
as (EDIT: he means in) Oliver Twist" without summoning up images of a little kid on stage. But guess what? Davy Jones was nineteen in that performance above, making him arguably the Gary Coleman of his day. Jones had considered being a professional horse racing jockey before moving to acting, and that probably helped him find work as a singing orphan. But since his Ed Sullivan appearance was on February 9th, 1964, that meant Davy Jones was quietly waiting in the wings when The Beatles first hit America. And as nineteen year olds are wont to do, he took a look at a million screaming girls and decided he was going to be a rock star.
That's how it started, but where did it go from there? Come on inside and see a little more as we memorialize Davy Jones and, quite honestly, his bandmates as well.
It's impossible to talk about Davy Jones without mentioning his band. Just like any random Beatle, one invoked the entire quartet. Most people probably think of Davy Jones as "the voice" of the band because that's how he was presented, but look through the discography and you'll see he's just backup on many of the hits. Even still, who can picture the show without his natural charm? Dead center in this clip, he's got the McCartney-style down pat.
Even thought they started as a manufactured band, the Monkees began to change as they toured and filmed and learned and grew. Mike and Peter were already multi-instrumentalists, and Davy and Mickey knew a little bit as well, so they only got better with time. As other bands went toward Pet Sounds and Revolver, the so-called Pre-Fab Four wanted to do things a bit more adventurous than, well, this stuff:
Of course, a studio would never ever interfere with a formula they created, and they told the Monkees to get back into their box and shut up. Naturally this lead to a whole bunch of drama, and it finally exploded with a feature film that… well, if you care you can read a little more about their ill-fated movie here. I'll just say that there aren't many movies that make less sense while being so very, very interesting. And, except for one last television special, that was it for The Monkees. But that wasn't it for Davy Jones.
Davy was the real ac-tor of the group, so he did what any respectably unemployed actor would do: he went and found himself some work! While still making music, Jones showed up in wholesome shows like The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo. Naturally that got him a reputation with the Lester Bangs crowd who thought rock was always srs bsns. However, for the rest of the world, he was just this nice guy who always tried to entertain. In a way, maybe Davy Jones had that in common with another fellow who shared similar name, a fellow who ended up choosing a pseudonym for his career. That other Jones boy? Maybe you've heard of him.
And that's a good segue to talking about Davy's street cred. When people dismiss the Monkees, they always make it sound like they were four guys who just staggered in and cashed the checks. The truth is, these were guys who tried hard, learned their lines, figured out their instruments, fought their corporate masters, and eventually walked away… well before The Sex Pistols did the same exact thing. The Monkees worked with Frank Zappa, toured with Jimi Hendrix, partied with The Beatles and even funded Easy Rider, often called the movie of their generation. For a guy often dismissed as bubblegum, Davy Jones sure kept cool company, don't you think?
By the 80s, all those Monkee-hating too-cool-for-school boomers were watching Thirtysomething and their kids were ready to rebel. If MTV didn't consider this when they bought The Monkees, they sure lucked out. Kids could enjoy four zany housemates who formed a band and annoy their parents, all at the same time! Of course, I'm exaggerating for a joke, because it wasn't all kids going to those reunion shows, but it also wasn't the original fans who rediscovered how sample-ready early songs were. And the idea of a bunch of best friends who live in a house and play music on the side? That's the teenage dream! The Monkee renaissance was on, and Davy was a rock star again. Before you click below, get ready for some screaming.
In the years to come it would be rare that all four Monkees would share a stage, and even then, would only in Los Angeles. Of course they sniped at each other sometimes, because that's just what families do. But every time anyone would ask about their relationship, all four seemed to have the same answer, and that answer made it clear they were brothers until the end. And when you think about it, that makes sense. Because just like only four guys knew what it was to be The Beatles, only four guys knew what it was like to have the respect of their peers and the scorn of the people they were trying to entertain. Only four guys knew how it felt to leave the hottest party in the city and then get called sellouts by some kid across the street.
Through it all, Davy Jones never once seemed to doubt he'd done good work. He'd do Spongebob and sitcoms, play Fagin in Oliver! to show he still had stage chops, then do a solo record just because. By all reports he was a pretty nice guy, and even when he got frustrated with critics, he still did his part to smile at a real fan.
Not many people this side of Lou Reed saw the things Davy Jones saw, but everyone remembers him as being clean-cut. Maybe that's the magic of television, or maybe that's the kind of guy he really was. But even if you hated his songs, you gotta admit, he had one hell of a life. And he could sing a pretty, pretty song. R.I.P. Davy.
After you enjoy these videos, why not join us in the Music Monday Turntable.FM room? And feel free to leave your own tribute to Davy in the comments below. We've all got a Monkees story, don't we?