Posts Tagged ‘Peter Tork’

Davy Jones in 2011

The same chirpy grin, the same good-natured twinkle in the eye

How sad to hear that the Monkee’s Davy Jones has died of a heart attack at just 66 years young.

I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, and the Monkees were simply part of my life. Discussions about whether they were a “real” pop group or merely a manufactured confection are surely irrelevant.  They were enormous fun and took to their roles with huge enthusiasm – in an era when much “popular” music was created by hard headed folks with an eye for what the public wanted. I have heard it argued they were the first “boy band”. Whatever.

What mattered is the lads themselves oozed talent – you can’t fake that – and none less than irrepressible young Brit Davy Jones, who instantly won a huge following in the US and elsewhere with his Beatles-style haircut, natural good looks and elfin charm.

Here’s a great clip of the lads performing in New York just last year, and obviously having a great time. The reaction of the crowd reveals their genuine appeal.

They copped a lot of flak – included being called the “Prefab Four” as opposed to the Beatles, but the criticism seemed carping and mean-spirited then and still does.

That they went on to create a genuine following and deliver some of the best pop tunes of the era was their sweet revenge.

If you want to enjoy the original, too, here it is. The bit at the end where the boys vie to be in the front was kicked off by prankster Mickey Dolenz, (it starts at about two minutes in), and whilst it might have been scripted it looks spontaneous, and as this particular video became very well known it obviously explains why he and Davy and larking around in the same way in the 2011 show. And you know what? It’s still funny, all these years later. I defy you to watch it and not smile.

The success of the band should not be under-rated. As David Bianculli noted in his Dictionary of Teleliteracy, “The show’s self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group’s first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes.” Quite some record.

Well someone thought they were good. This is the Monkees in 1967. From left: Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz pose with their Emmy award at the 19th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in California. It's not as well-known that Jones had previously been a child star in England and been nominated for a Tony for his role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver, on Broadway. Pic: AAP Source: AP

And though initially the Monkees weren’t allowed to play their own instruments, they were supported by enviable talent: Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday, and Neil Diamond penned I’m a Believer. Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston (who only later played with the Beatles), Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young. That they had their own musical talent is undoubted – Peter Tork wrote the piano arrangement of Daydream Believer himself.

The outpouring of grief at the death of this much-loved 60s icon seems entirely genuine, and of a more proportioned and thoughtful – and gentle – nature than that which greeted the news of Whitney Houston’s equally untimely demise a couple of weeks back.

Rather than a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, the world simply seems to have paused for a moment and breathed a collective sigh, and to my mind that sigh reflects a wistful sadness at a symbol of the passing of a simpler and somehow less fraught era when not every media appearance was attended by a cavalcade of “fucks”, messy unwanted pregnancies, world-weary cynicism, and endless stories of foolish drug-taking and idiot drunken-ness.

That this feeling is also the product of the rose-tinted spectacles that accompany any retrospective view makes it no less true. The world has become a harsher place, and the death of Davy Jones and what he stood for just makes it more so, by a tiny but perceptible increment.

A lot of us are still Daydream Believers as we waddle grumpily through and past our middle age, and if the song comes on at a party or in a club are suddenly transformed into carefree teenagers again, belting out the lyrics with delighted abandon. What bigger compliment could a band want? Thanks for the memories, Davy.