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cheer up, sleepy Jean

March 2, 2012

Okay, the bummer month is over and I want to concentrate on cheerier topics

than Agent Orange.  I don’t even have to leave the 60’s to find something about

as far from Vietnam as possible: the Monkees.

 

Davy Jones, who sang and played guitar, tambourine AND maracas for the band,

died in Florida Wednesday from a heart attack.  He was already established in show

business when he was hired for the TV series in 1965, having been nominated for

a Tony Award for his performance as The Artful Dodger in Oliver!

 

He appeared with the rest of the Oliver! cast on the February 9th, 1964, broadcast

of The Ed Sullivan Show.  That show also featured the U.S. debut of the Beatles.

As he watched the hysteria from off-stage, Jones said he told himself “I want a

piece of that.”

 

He got it.  The Monkees debuted September 12, 1966, a few weeks after “The Last

Train to Clarksville” had been released.  The song and the show were smashes.

Jones and fellow Monkees Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork did not

play their instruments at first, although Nesmith and Tork were skilled musicians.

Jones showed some aptitude with the drums, but was barely visible behind them.

 

He was so short (5′ 4″)  he once trained as a jockey.

 

Dolenz was trained on drums and Jones went to the front, often singing lead.

The group eventually developed their chops well enough to play on the show

and go on tour.  But it was a short ride.  After their first four albums hit number

one, the show was cancelled in February of 1968.  It continued to run through

September, during which time their fifth album went gold.

 

The group then made a film, Head, directed by Bob Rafelson, who co-created

their TV show.  Jack Nicholson helped with the film script.  He and Rafelson

would later collaborate on Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and The Postman

Always Rings Twice.

 

Head is described by IMDb as “a psychedelic, surrealist, plotless, circular bit of

fun fluff”.  Wikipedia says it failed commercially, “in part because it was the

antithesis of The Monkees television show, intended to comprehensively de-

molish the group’s carefully groomed public image.”

 

What little advertising was provided for the film didn’t even mention the band.

Not even cameos by Annette Funicello and Frank Zappa could save it.  It died a

quick death, but now it’s a cult classic.  Members of the band, especially Nesmith,

regard the soundtrack album as one of the group’s crowning achievements.

 

Despite the cancellation of the TV show, the Monkees were still under contract.

Tork bought out the last four years of his in 1969.  Nesmith left in 1970.  Jones

and Dolenz recorded two more songs as the Monkees later that year, but when

it was released in 1971, they were denied rights to use the band name.

 

The group reunited in various permutations over the ensuing years, and had a

significant revival in 1986 when MTV  and Nickelodeon reran the series.  Jones,

Tork and Dolenz started touring again.  They became one of the top-grossing

acts on the road, earning much more than they did in the 60’s.

 

Jones also released a solo album in 2001.

 

Subsequent tours didn’t fare as well.  The band’s last tour ended prematurely

last August due to internal conflicts.   It was the third consecutive time the

Monkees failed to finish a tour without losing members or cancelling dates.

 

But all that rests easy on Davy now.  The vegetarian and avid jogger was the

frontman of one of the famous pop bands ever, and was rated as “number one

teen idol of all time” by Yahoo Music in 2008.  How odd that he died the day

before the 18th birthday of challenger Justin Bieber.

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8 Comments
  1. Charlotte Wales permalink
    March 2, 2012 3:04 pm

    It’s not even a contest between the two – talent vs. NO talent. As far as I’m concerned, beiber is now and will always be an “also-ran” puff of smoke; much as I love being a Mom, I’d find it hard to love that little no-talent, full-of-himself puppy!

    • March 4, 2012 2:04 pm

      Far be it for me to spring to Justin’s defense, but I would like to point out that every 18-year-old boy was, is and will be full of himself.

  2. March 2, 2012 5:25 pm

    I remember watching the Monkees, and buying that nasty bubblegum just for the trading cards! The backs of them made a picture of them when you put them together correctly!

    • March 4, 2012 2:06 pm

      Do you still have the cards, Beanie? I hope you got rid of the bubble gum.

  3. March 3, 2012 7:00 am

    Allen,

    I loved the Monkees, even though my parents wouldn’t let me put up a poster of them in my room. Somehow, however, I was allowed to display the politician Pierre Trudeau. Maybe that was some kind of statement from my parents. If so, I may have been influenced by it because I have much more interest in politicians, (and overall respect, yes really!) than I do towards Hollywood people. Thanks for featuring Davey and the group.

    Since autotune and lip synching have become popular, anybody can be a star without actually being a good singer. I figure if you listen to live shows, you can tell if someone is capable of singing on key. For some of us old fogies, that would still be important.

    Back to politicians, the Republican race in the US isn’t getting that much respect from me because none of the candidates are good. (Here’s where you admire my sense of verbal restraint!) Go, Obama!

    Julie

    • March 4, 2012 2:29 pm

      I think lip synching is common in live shows, particularly in songs with a lot of choreography. Madonna and the Jacksons Michael and Janet have done it. Ashlee Simpson got caught in a 2004 appearance on Saturday Night Live when the first song she’d “sung” was played again for her encore. Milli Vanilli based their mercifully short career on it.

  4. beth reed permalink
    March 4, 2012 7:22 am

    Great review on The Monkeys Allen.
    It is truely sad that he is gone. What a sad time for his family and fans.
    We seem to have had a lot of deaths recently.
    I am still playing catch up on my blogs, and thank you for your suppoert on fb the other day. Iwll be checking back soon.

    • March 4, 2012 2:31 pm

      Thanks, Beth. Hang tough, dear lady. Remember that we still have three live Monkees.

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