Thursday, March 1, 2012
Fond Farewell to the Daydream Believer: Davy Jones, 1945 - 2012
I write a blog snarking on the episodes of a scripted musical television show called Glee. Today, a tribute: before there was Glee, before there was Fame, even before there was The Partridge Family, there was one of my life-long guilty pleasures: The Monkees.
They were on the air for only a blip of pop culture time: two years, from 1966 - 1968, but the Pre-Fab Four left a huge pop culture impact. Even today, you can hear covers of their upbeat, lively hits in movies like Shrek, covered by some of the most unexpected artists. The Monkees were silly, superficial, lightweight bubblegum, but they were some of the best silly, superficial, lightweight bubblegum ever. Justin Beiber can only pray to be remembered as long and as fondly as the original Teen Heart Throb, Davy Jones.
How does this impact me? Well, I discovered the Monkees in college, during the period when MTV was showing reruns of all their old television episodes. I absolutely loved that silly show and never missed an episode for the entirety of its run in 1986. I even went to see three of the them in concert when they were riding the wave of that first, most successful nostalgia tour. It's not the best concert I've ever been to - that honor will almost certainly belong, permanently, to Paul McCartney - but it might have been the most fun. The most memorable Davy memory I have from that night: He came onto the stage for his trademark song, " I Wanna Be Free". It's a weird love song, combining sweet come-hither messages for the girl(s) he's serenading with repeated pleas that he never have to commit to anybody. He had long shoulder-length hair at the time as he worked every female in the front row, and one of the things that struck me about him was how well he had aged and how charming he was. His quip to start the show did bug me a bit: "This song takes you back to a time when BOYS liked GIRLS, and the only one who swung both ways was Tarzan!" but it got quite a laugh. Still, it must have been an effective line: I went to see that show back in 1986, and I still remember it.
Davy Jones was not my favorite Monkee, but that is not his fault; he was far and away the most popular, and I have a stubborn tendency to champion whomever is not the person we are "supposed" to like the most. If every girl in three generations is crushing on Davy, I am going to give shout-outs to Nez and Tork instead, just to be different. Let there be no mistake, however: Davy's sunny, bouncy personality, adorable looks and sweet vocals were extraordinarily important to the success of the Monkees, and I think it is very likely that it would not have become the cornerstone of pop culture that it is without him. So thanks to you, Davy, for every song you sang, every joke you cracked, every smile you flashed, every tambourine you shook for our entertainment. I will always be a Daydream Believer.
It was a very enjoyable ride.