Saturday, March 3, 2012

Losing Davy

Losing Davy

When I was ten years old, a friend and I hatched a plan. We knew that - sadly - we were too young to catch the attention of Davy Jones, but my sister Sherry was perfect: 21 years old and beautiful beyond compare, in my eyes. So we rushed into her room and asked her if she would marry him. She laughed and said he didn’t even know him! We were crushed and confused. What difference did that make? Just show yourself, he will want to marry you!

I guess I’m glad she didn’t marry Davy. I guess. Pop star marriages are risky business; Davy was on his third when he died. It might have been worth her taking the risk, though - worth it to me, anyway.  But not too much later I realized it was Peter Tork I really loved, and switched my allegiance. I never asked Sherry to marry him. He was mine. If only he would wait ten years for me, we would be golden. Ah well...

When Davy Jones died last week, there was an outpouring of grief and reminiscence on Facebook the like of which I have never seen before. He was on the young side for death (66) but I’m not certain the response would have been different if he had died twenty years later. I didn't hear anyone lament that he died so young. It was just his death - Davy is dead! - that rocked us.

Saturday mornings in the late ‘60s, I still watched cartoons but with some impatience, because the last Saturday morning show was not a cartoon but “The Monkees.” I remember sitting in the rocking chair in the living room glued to the TV for that magical half-hour, volume as high as my parents allowed, rocking in time to the music, full of joy and a strange bittersweet sense of longing, like premature nostalgia for something that isn't yet in the past. Saturday was mom’s cleaning day, and she inevitably (as I remember it) fired up the vacuum cleaner right around the time the show was wrapping up, forcing me to get down onto the floor and get as close to the TV as possible to hear during the last few precious minutes. I would have crawled inside it if I could have. I’m not sure if I wanted desperately to be with them, or to be them. Either way, it was a truly bitter let-down when the show was over.  Good-bye magic, back to reality. The one Monkees song I never listen to, to this day, is "For Pete's Sake;" even all these years later it evokes rolling credits and the end of the show.

Lyndsey Parker of Stop the Presses! wrote:
“The Monkees” seemed not like a sitcom, but like a reality show to me: a totally realistic rockumentary serial chronicling what it must surely be like to be in a band, what the rock’n’roll lifestyle was supposedly all about. And to this day, I still choose to believe that bands are sort of like gangs: that they all live together in psychedelic “Real World” -style houses, sleep side-by-side in twin beds, cruise around in custom cars emblazoned with band logos, and get into all sorts of madcap adventures soundtracked by their own awesome pop songs, walking down the street and getting the funniest looks from everyone they meet. That’s  what a band should be, right? I secretly suspect all bands aspire to be the Monkees in real life.”

Wait a minute ... does this mean that all bands aren't like that? I'm not sure. The Fools Face boys seemed to live a bit like that; no psychedelic house or logo-ed car, but shared hotel rooms (the only places I ever saw them, so it was close enough to the Monkees template), madcap adventures, cheerful camaraderie on and off stage, and fun, infectious music. Thanks FF, for letting me live a bit of the Monkees dream.

My generation got its prepubescent knowledge of the social changes of the 60’s from the Monkees. We were too young to understand what was going on with those interesting-looking hippies, but we enthusiastically latched onto the Monkees’ lyrics about peace and love and the need to be free. We had no comprehension of the psychedelic scene of the day, but grooved to the boys’ paisley tunics and bell bottoms. Our hard rock was "She," our message-laden folk rock was "Shades of Gray." We had no clue about the sexual revolution, but our budding sexuality thrilled to the ambiguous lyrics of “She Hangs Out” (what was she doing? And when would we be old enough to do it, and attract the attention of someone like Davy?). 

My friends across the street, Bird and her sister Denise, were big Monkees fans too. Bird loved Mike, and Denise originally liked Peter best, but when I gave up Davy for Peter she obligingly traded Monkees with me. We couldn’t have more than one representative for each Monkee, because when we went into my basement and put their LPs on the record player, we became them, positioning ourselves as we saw them perform on TV, dancing and singing along. I always liked to be in the spotlight, so it was hard to give up being Davy, with his frontman charisma and his strangely sexy dance that I loved to imitate -- I was Davy when I did that dance. But it was worth playing imaginary keyboards at Rear Stage Left if I could have, I mean be, Peter.

There was always something about Davy, though. He was small, a more appropriate object of affection to a 10-year-old's eyes than a taller man. He had the most delicious accent, so exotic and exciting to us Midwestern American girls. He was, or at least seemed, quite a bit younger than the other three Monkees, almost accessible in age. He was both cute and sexy ... cute as a button and almost childlike while cutting up during the show, but smoky and sensual singing "Hard to Believe" and "Forget That Girl." There was no one else like Davy. There never has been anyone else like Davy since then, either.

I saw the three Monkees who deigned to tour together - no Mike, ever - in the late 1980's at the Washington State Fair. I was drawn like a moth to flame but was also filled with trepidation; what if they were awful, decrepit and paunchy and jaded, clearly just doing this for much-needed cash? In fact they were great: full of joy and fun and performing as well as they did in their prime, possibly better. They were so good that I burst into tears back home that night in the knowledge that they would be performing one more time, the next afternoon, and I would miss them ... so I drove back down and saw them again. I'm so glad I did. Both concerts together were like one of those rare, incredible dreams that allow you to completely recapture the feelings and experiences of a great time in your life. Watching and listening to the Monkees filled me with a pure and soaring happiness that seems to me still to be a rare and precious thing. 

Whither goest thou, Davy? His death left me so shocked and sad that Shane went out and bought me flowers. While writing this piece, though, I suddenly realized that all is not lost. I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine a better afterlife than waking from death to find myself in Monkeesworld. I am going to choose to believe in that afterlife - waking in my own twin bed in that psychedelic house, riding in that cool car, running around having zany adventures with the boys, and singing and dancing side by side with Davy into eternity.

"Oh yeah ... come on .........WOW!!!"


  1. *sniff* It broke my heart to hear this news, too. I didn't really discover the Monkees until their show had been off the air for several years, and my friend D. and I were shocked to realize we'd missed all the fun and that they had disbanded...but we made up for lost time, watching the show every afternoon at 4 pm (in reruns), drawing cartoons about them in which she and I took part in their adventures (I am pleased to say I still have all the cartoons), writing to them (never sent the letters, though) and plotting and scheming ways to get to the Empire State Building's upstairs lounge, where Davy and Mickey were performing with two guys called Boyce and Hart (we didn't know who they were, saw them as intruders, and decided they were keeping Davy and Mickey captive, under mind control, and we could spring them).

    They just seemed so fun-loving and accessible--we knew we could never romp around with the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night," but the Monkees were local, less-well-known (we thought) fellas, so just maybe we could link up with them!

    Wish I could've seen even 3/4 of the band perform as you did...would've loved that.

    And how marvelous is it that Davy used to sing "Daydream Believer" to his horses, or so I've heard? :)

  2. I saw "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart" perform, too, and bought their one album. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote many of the original Monkees songs, so the combo wasn't an unnatural one. A couple of the songs on that album, long lost, I can still hear in my mind; the rest were forgettable. They didn't try to be the Monkees, thank goodness, but they didn't click well enough to become a real group of their own, either.