"OH, YES IT'S TRUE. IT'S TERRIBLY TRUE. ENGLAND DOES SWING LIKE A PENDULUM DO." @ 29 February 2012 10:14 PM
That's one of the strange but funny lines spoken by Davy Jones on the iconic '60s series The Monkees, a show which completely fabricated a pop band for TV yet ironically, in catching the lightning in a bottle, launched a real, albeit dysfunctional, pop legend.
One fourth of that lightning, perhaps the most assured and polished one -- aka the "cute one" -- was Davy, the Manchester-born song-and-dance man who, according to several accounts, would "do forty-five minutes if the refrigerator light went on."
Already a contract actor/singer with Columbia Pictures (he released his own album on the Colpix label before The Monkees), Davy was the first signed for the series. Another experienced young actor (and emerging singer), Micky Dolenz, was combined with musician/composers Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork. With some improv training and backed by Don Kirshner's dream-team of music writers and producers (including Neil Diamond, Carole King, Harry Nilsson and other icons), The Monkees burned up the music charts and the TV ratings right out of the gate.
In about a year, the eager young performers rebelled against Kirshner, asserted themselves as a genuine group and became one -- almost following a Beatles-like rise and fallout about half the time. Their albums went from hook-driven solid gold to eclectic, experimental head-scratching curios, but always fascinating and beguiling. Their sole movie, the free-form Head (co-written by Jack Nicholson), literally featured the "pre-fab four" leaping off a bridge to a suicidal end, symbolically drawing a curtain over the original group as it was first concocted.
But Davy Jones remained the most accessible in the ensuing years, from appearances on The Brady Bunch to in-jokes on Spongebob Squarepants. He'd always be one of whatever three or sometimes four Monkees who reunited. He wrote his biography and kept recording albums for his own label, many of which are found on his website.
I was privileged to interview Davy for various Disney Parks articles, as he was an annual fixture performer at the Flower Power Concert Series at Epcot (he was scheduled to appear this May). He was a wonderful talker, his mind moving so rapidly that his thoughts would overlap. The Epcot audience adored him and the feeling was mutual, not only during performances, but for autograph sessions at The American Adventure. Much what he told me wasn't just about himself and performing, but about his wife and his daughters.
The Monkees TV show, like the original TV Batman, still holds up astonishingly well, for sheer, fearless, brash lunacy. Even though The Monkees' show owed much to Richard Lester's Beatle films, watching a show every week, or every day in syndication, is different than watching movies, especially when you also have records to listen to between broadcasts. That was life as a kid in the mid-sixties. My friends and I sat around and listened to Monkee records, watched the show, collected Monkee bubble gum cards and so on.
Seeing them in concert for the first time in 1986 was like seeing the cast of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie live on stage. And the songs held up a hundred times better than the show.
Davy soloed on several of the biggest hits, particularly Valleri and Daydream Believer. These and other Monkee songs have been remade by other performers, and likely will last so long that few will even realize there was a "pre-fab four" that struggled for an artistic level and peer respect that always seemed a little out of their reach. But that didn't matter to the public, who love them and always well.
Davy's career, of course, encompassed more than The Monkees (his TV appearance as Broadway's Artful Dodger in Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show occurred, surprisingly, on the same night that The Beatles performed). But to most of us, he'll be the one who, when asked to stand up, would say "I am standing up" as a running Monkees gag. He never seemed to mind poking fun at himself or looking silly, as long as he was entertaining.
Somewhere up above, a refrigerator light has just lit up.
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