1945 - 2012
I admit it. It’s a dark secret, depending on how well you know me. I am a 1.5 generation Monkees Maniac. I wasn’t quite young enough to hit the 2nd generation fanbase, and definitely not old enough to hit the 1st generation’s hype. My sisters, who were 7-12 years older than me, were on the cusp of the first generation fanbase.
Today is a very, very sad day for me. While I was at work, a co-worker rang my office and told me she'd heard that Davy Jones, one of the members of The Monkees, died today, of a heart attack at 66 years of age.
For those of you who don’t know who Davy Jones is or who The Monkees are... or why I like them... a little history:
The Monkees were a “made for TV” musical “band”. I put that in quotes because in the beginning, not all of them were adept at a musical instrument. The producers of the show advertised for fun-loving boys of a certain age. It is rumored that Steven Stills (Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young)’s fame) audition, among other not-yet-well-known-musical-now-famous-stars.
The TV show was based around this foursome trying to live on their own (in a beach house that I dreamed of living in one day) and “make it” as a musical band. In every half-hour show, it had music, romping around, usually some sort of “bad guy vs. good guy” theme and girls. Yes, there was always that 30-minute romance and it was typically Davy, here, who “got the girl” in the end. Two of the group, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, were actually musicians. The other two, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were up-and-coming actors. Micky was a previous child actor in a television show, while Davy was a horse jockey and dabbled in musical stage productions such as Oliver! The foursome together made the half hour of their show fun-loving, romping, slightly slapstick, free-spirited, live-life-on-your-terms pure entertainment.
Due to the success of the show with pre-teens, an album resulted. While the four sang on the album (and messed around), the music was performed by studio performers. Same with the 2nd album. It wasn’t until their third album that all of the members played the instruments and sang for every song. And from the history I know, it was a battle to be allowed to do that. their first three albums were all released within one year's time. When concerts were demanded by their fans, the two non-musical-instrument members learned to play so that when they were on stage they were authentic.
Many people hated The Monkees. There were those who felt they were imitating The Beatles, and poorly so. I believe that’s what the television producers hand in mind when they created the show… to create an Americanized version of the playfulness that The Beatles exuded. But just because they were hired to do that job, is that a reason to hate? Others felt that they should be hated because “they can’t play their own instruments” and therefore didn't qualify for the label "musicians" or "band". (This well predates the Milli Vanilli lip-synching scandal of the 80's.) Not having musical ability was true for two of them, in the beginning… but when they saw the importance and popularity of the TV show and how much of a fan base they developed, Micky learned to drum and dabbled on the synthesizer and Davy took up other percussion instruments, leaving Peter and Mike to strum the guitars and play the pianos. People who felt The Monkees were in direct competition with The Beatles thought there was a hate affair between the two groups. In fact, while I’m sure they weren’t best of friends, I do know of accounts of some members of The Monkees partying with some members of The Beatles and there wasn’t any animosity. It was a different playing field.
As a group, they didn’t stick around together for very long. The TV show cramped the style of the more musically inclined Peter and Mike. It got under their skin that they couldn’t have more “say” in what they sang and played. Peter, a very intelligent man, was perpetually cast as “the dummy” and that added another stressor to his involvement. Over time, one by one the “musical” members left… first Mike and then Peter, until it was just Davy and Micky still singing long after the TV show was cancelled.
Some Random Trivia:
- Mike Nesmith had money in his family. His mother created what is now known as Liquid Paper, the typewriter correction fluid. Mike inherited this money after she died.
- Mike also became an entrepreneur after leaving The Monkees, and a producer and is the one member of the foursome who did not go on their reunion tour (or any tour thereafter).
- Peter went on singing, forming and joining different bands, and sings to this day.
- Micky Dolenz continued acting and directing, mostly from the UK, where he moved after The Monkees disbanded. I actually saw him when he was playing in a touring musical Grease.
- Davy Jones wanted to be a horse jockey, probably because of his diminutive stature.
- The Monkees made one movie, called HEAD. While it is a cult classic today, it was a flop at the box office. Many very famous (now) people were involved in the making of this movie, either behind the scenes, or acting in the film itself including, but not limited to: Jack Nicholson (!), Terri Garr, Annette Funicello, Jamie Farr (Klinger from MASH) and Frank Zappa.
So, you probably now realize (as I have inundated you with Monkee talk) that while I did not grow up in “the” generation to love the Monkees… I am, and always will be a devoted Monkees Maniac.
Stop back by this Sunday for my storytelling Sunday. But be forewarned… it has a Monkees theme…
In the meantime, Davy Jones, Rest in Peace. What a life you lived! You will be missed by many!
|Davy Jones (2011)|