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Davy Jones remembered

Screen Gems
Davy Jones in 1967, playing drums and chimes on the set of the video for "Words."
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COMMENTARY

OKLAHOMA CITY – Ten days ago, Davy Jones, a member of the Monkees, performed what would turn out to be his final show down at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. It was a solo date and I had considered going …

But opportunities come and go. No one would think 66-year old Davy Jones was having any health problems. He was always so energetic, athletic even. And then there was Peter Tork’s cancer scare a couple of years ago.

But thanks to social media – Twitter, specifically – I found out, as one Twitter follower had written, Davy had “taken the last train to Clarksville.”

I couldn’t believe it. I immediately looked for me information. TMZ.com, The Daily Item out of Pennsylvania (where Davy lived), and other reputable media sources were saying Davy had had a heart attack in Florida.

And being such a big fan of the Monkees since 1986 when MTV, and later Nickelodeon, brought The Monkees TV show (1966-68) to a new generation – the Gen X’ers then primarily in their teens and those younger – and I for one fell head-over-heels for the show and for their music. I even managed to find a VHS copy of their 1968 film Head, a film I would finally review in 2008 in The Norman Transcript.

What’s funny is that I was more familiar with Davy Jones from Scooby Doo and The Brady Bunch, two 1970’s shows I was obsessed with. I had come across Monkees reruns a few times in those earlier days but it wouldn’t take until the mid-80’s and I learned Davy’s history on stage in Oliver in his native England and in the U.S. and ultimately being cast in 1965 to play the role of “Davy Jones the Monkee” a handsome lad who could sing and play maracas and tambourine (he was originally going to be the drummer but was thought too short to be seen over the drums!).

By late ’86, when I got a copy of Arista Records’ Then and Now … The Best of The Monkees, I was playing their songs constantly. I would tape the episodes on our brand-new VCR and memorize each episode. The one where Davy unwittingly buys the red maracas that the Russian spies want. The one where Davy nearly has to return to England to be with family. And the one where Davy gets the girl ...

Me being me, I would fast become a fan of droll Texan Mike Nesmith, but I always admired Davy’s spark and English wit. He added a unique dimension to what was the American answer to the Beatles.

Davy, of course, would always get the girl. A romp would ensue and at the end they would play a song or two. Like the groovy “She” or the aggressive “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” a song I would learn to play on drums. And I wish I still had that tambourine I bought in 1988 so I could emulate Davy and his little "Davy dance," you know, the one Axl Rose would emulate with Guns N' Roses in the "Sweet Child O' Mine" video.

I would finally see the Monkees live in July 1987 at the Kansas Coliseum in Wichita. “Weird Al Yankovic opened up for them and I recall how excited I was to see them, doing songs like “Valleri,” with Davy on lead vocals and the guys dressing up in overly exaggerated hair-metal outfits and pink mohawk hairdos. Always the entertainers. Sadly, Mike didn’t join them on that tour. But even during the ‘80s incarnation, Davy was the focus. He just “popped” on stage, with Micky Dolenz just a little less so. At that show I picked up Davy’s autobiography, They Made a Monkee Out of Me. It was a great book and “the Manchester Cowboy” was the first Monkee (we’re still waiting, Peter Tork!) to release an autobiography or book. I still have it.

And I would sport my bright blue Monkees T-shirt in 8th grade, while most of the guys wore Motley Crue and Beastie Boys T-shirts. I was a bit of a nerd, obsessed with Monkees and ‘60s pop music. Out of step, for sure.

I would see them a second time, on their 30th anniversary tour in 1996, when they played in Tulsa. Another great show and this time I had a better view of them onstage. It would be the last time I saw them. For their 45th anniversary tour, in 2011, it was clear trouble was afoot. The band members were bickering and the tour was canceled early due to “unspecified internal issues.” It was disappointing and from interviews I came across, Davy seemed sad and even a little lonely. This was the pop icon whose mere popularity forced another David Jones to change his name to David Bowie. But it was clear something was bothering Davy. I guess we'll probably know the full story. It's still not entirely clear what happened during last year's short-lived tour.

But this had happened before. Davy could be unpleasant at times, but once on stage he entertained the crowd and belted out the hits. He could be humble as well.

In fact, in a 2011 Spinner.com interview, the reporter asked Davy about the Beatles reportedly being fans of the Monkees. Davy replies: “It means something that anybody likes us. Paul McCartney called me up in the ‘60s and asked me to send some stuff to his daughter, who was a fan of the Monkees. And Micky has tapes and videos of George Harrison and Ringo Starr at his house, in the Canyon, in the late ‘60s, down in his little studio, playing. Those tapes must be great to listen to. It’s great the Beatles loved us.”

And of course Davy was seen as the heartthrob and the visual focus of the band. I mean he could sing – check out “Forget That Girl” from Headquarters (1967) or his cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy” (from 1967’s Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.) or “You & I” (either version 1969 Instant Replay version or 1996 Justus version) for example - and he was part of a phenomenon that few have forgotten, the merging of primetime television and music during the wild Sixties. Maybe it's time the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame will finally induct the Monkees. Someone else agrees with me.

Watching a 2011 video of The Monkees performing “Daydream Believer” at a Liverpool, England gig, Davy sings lead and as the song ends, he says, “I hope you sing these songs for a long time, you know what I mean? Just keep singing these, these happy little songs and it’d be okay, all right?”

Happy little songs. I love that.

Rick Press at DFW.com wrote a 2002 article about bowling with Davy Jones at Cowtown Bowling Palace, which he re-posted today. Press said Davy’s goal in life was to bowl a 300.

And Mike Nesmith posted a touching tribute to Davy on his Facebook page, expressed in a way that only “Papa Nez” could convey: “All the lovely people. Where do they all come from?

So many lovely and heartfelt messages of condolence and sympathy, I don’t know what to say, except my sincere thank you to all. I share and appreciate your feelings.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.

That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane.

David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us.

I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels.

We all wish you safe travels, Davy.

Copyright 2012 West Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from... read more

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