Back in third grade at St. Nick's in Evanston, if you could rattle off the names of all The Monkees, you were cool. And I still can! Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and, of course, Davy Jones—the man who’s immense popularity made another David Jones change his name to David Bowie.
The Beatles? I remember trying to watch the Beatles perform at Shea Stadium on TV only to repeatedly ask my father why all those silly girls were screaming so much that you couldn’t even hear the music. For years, that was it for the Beatles for me.
But, on Monday night, if you turned on your black-and-white TV to Channel 5, you could enjoy 30 minutes of the adventures of the Prefab Four who took up residence in a two story beach house at 1334 Beechwood Drive in Malibu. Never mind how four struggling band members could pull off paying the rent for those kind of digs.
Of course, most of our third-grade female compatriots couldn’t get enough of Davy Jones and, even though he always seemed to get more girls than all the Beatles combined, you just couldn’t dislike him. How could you hate a guy who seemed to be the victim of his own cuteness?
But as fast as that Monkees Saturn IV rock ascended, it came down even faster. After a mere two seasons, the show was canceled and the band lasted about a year after that.
We did see him perform at a dance with Marcia Brady in 1971, but it wasn’t until MTV resurrected the show in the mid '80s that The Monkees music received its due. The band would regularly reunite and break up after that, but as his manager said, “demand for Jones at nostalgia shows was brisk.”
Some might see a song like Daydream Believer as a guilty pleasure, but not me. It was one of the first songs I learned to play when I picked up a guitar in my 40s.
Fast forward to September 2006 in downtown Geneva, IL, when my longsuffering wife asked me, “Why don’t we head down to the courthouse lawn and see the Davy Jones concert tonight?”
Being the curmudgeonly soul I am, my quick response was, “Have you seen how abysmally people behave at concerts these days?” But between the look that threatened a lifetime of celibacy and my love for his music, we grabbed a few portable chairs and headed east.
Despite some rain, of the vast amount of concerts I’ve attended (to which my continually ringing ears can still attest), this one clearly ranks in the top 10.
Here was a guy who was famous long before he joined The Monkees. Jones had appeared In Oliver! both in London and on Broadway, earning him a Tony Award nomination.
But while so many musical artists have egos the size of Montana and chafe at the thought of being frozen in a moment in time, Jones was well grounded and actually embraced his eternal Monkees fame.
The concert announcer introduced him by proclaiming Jones to be “the greatest tambourine player in the world,” and then he bounded up on stage quipping, “I look a lot shorter on television, I know that.”
And that kind of self-deprecating sense of humor set the tone for the entire proceedings. Typically, I’m ready to leave a concert long before the artist is ready to go, but not this time. I was sad to see Mr. Jones take his final bow.
“He loved the fans, he loved spending time with his fans,” his manager said. “He often got on stage and performed at these shows. The lines for him were always out the door.”
I’m not surprised.
And don’t try and tell me his music didn’t influence other artists, either. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child O’Mine video. There was Axl Rose dancing just like Davy Jones.
Sadly, on Feb. 29, stricken by a heart attack at the too-young age of 66, David Thomas Jones left us with just his music and those memories. But if the measure of a life is doing what you love and making people happy in the process, then that teenage Monkee heartthrob certainly did all right.