The shock wave that followed the news of Davy Jones’ passing last week shook loose this realization: There have always been four Monkees. You thought there always would be four. Now there are three. There will never again be four.
It was the same shock wave that followed the news of John Lennon’s death in 1980. There had always been four Beatles. You thought there always would be four. Then there were three. And then, 21 years later, there were just two.
Davy Jones was the man the Monkees could not lose, just as John Lennon was the man the Beatles could not lose. Davy Jones and John Lennon in the same breath? Absolutely. Going on without them? Unfathomable.
Time proved Davy Jones irreplaceable. Girls who loved the young Davy Jones kept that torch burning for years. Fans — including some remarkable names — kept finding the Monkees’ music fresh and vital decades later.
In his solo shows and on Monkees reunion tours, the 60-something Jones gracefully navigated fans’ expectations as he — and they — grew older. He’d walk out on stage, hear the cheers, smile and announce:
“Hi, I’m Davy’s dad. Davy will be out in a minute.”
Only the most fearless, confident entertainers can pull off a self-deprecating line like that with such ease and charm, immediately winning over an audience not sure what to expect from a man who long ago was a teen heartthrob.
Micky Dolenz is a better singer. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith are better musicians. But Davy Jones was a great entertainer, the straw that stirred the drink, and that’s why it’s impossible to imagine the Monkees without him.
Davy Jones and John Lennon were friends. Lennon enjoyed “The Monkees” TV show and thought the lads to be a bit like the Marx Brothers. High praise.
In a fascinating 2006 interview with a suburban Chicago newspaper, Jones said:
“He was a very big influence on my life, John Lennon, you know?
So were all the Beatles, and Ringo’s a good friend still.”
So when you think of the Monkees and the Beatles, remember their mutual admiration. “There’s talent there,” George Harrison was to have said.
But please, may we set the record straight on one thing? “The Monkees” TV show was not inspired by the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night.”
So says Bob Rafelson, who with Bert Schneider created the show. Rafelson told the Los Angeles Times’ Randy Lewis:
“This was a show I had written six years before the Beatles existed, and the pilot was based on my own life as an itinerant musician when I was 17 years old. What the Beatles did was to create a kind of permission for any rock ‘n’ roll to be a popular subject for television.”
And if the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, as Lennon suggested in 1966, then the Monkees must have been, too. Rafelson explains:
“This was a massive thing, They sold something like 23 million records in 1966 — and that was more than the Beatles, more than the (Rolling) Stones that year. They had more No. 1 hits. I tell this to people now, and they say ‘What are you talking about?'”
Ah, what a time it was. Imagine.
“Paperback Believer,” Mark Vidler (Go Home Productions), 2004, from “This Was Pop (2002-2007),” a free collection of the British producer’s mashups.