Shades Of Grey: Sadly Remembering Davy Jones’s Musical Legacy
It is with a very heavy heart that I find myself today, for the first time ever, in the regrettable position of having to write about the death of a celebrity crush. My very first celebrity crush, in fact: Davy Jones, aka the Cute Monkee, who tragically died of a heart attack this week at only age 66. Today I am feeling a personal loss, but more importantly, Davy's passing is a huge loss for music in general, even if he and his bandmates didn't initially get the critical respect they deserved.
photo: Everett Collection
photo: Everett Collection
But that's exactly what music critics thought of the Monkees when their TV show made its debut 46 years ago. The series, inspired by the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, was put together via an open casting call for "4 insane boys," advertised in the Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, which read: "Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series." Twenty-year-old Davy, a former horse jockey and established stage actor, was one of 400 applicants, along with actor Mickey Dolenz and two men who were primarily musicians, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork. And thus, a band was born, and on September 12, 1966, the Monkees were introduced to America on NBC. It was hardly the most organic way for a band to develop--and the Monkees weren't really a band in the true sense of word, at least not back then, although that would soon change--so it's no wonder that skeptical music critics scoffed at the time, dubbing the Monkees the "Pre-Fab Four."
Of course, when I was a wee child and first discovered the Monkees, I was blissfully unaware of what music critics had to say about them. Or that such a thing as a "music critic" even existed, really. All I knew was that I loved Davy's music. The Monkees' Greatest Hits was the first album I ever owned, a Christmas present I begged Santa Claus for at age 5, after my parents let me switch the channel from PBS for the first time and "The Monkees" quickly replaced "Sesame Street" as my childhood TV obsession. "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.