The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: Davy Jones On Fronting the Monkees

Barney Hoskyns

Davy Jones was the cheeky-chappie pretty boy from England that all female Monkees fans fell for. His untimely death at the age of 66 is a desperately sad loss for anyone who loved the wacky antics (and often wonderful music) of TV's "Prefab Four." Here is a delightful encounter with the Manchester lad, as written up by NME's Keith Altham in February 1967——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages

Davy Jones — the little Monkee with a big heart — arrived via Nassau last week wearing a battered black top hat, purchased from a hotel doorman, and accompanied by his friend Stephen Pearl, who was once a journalist and is now a karate expert "for the use of!"

Davy is the Monkees' front-man, diplomat, humorist and honorary press relations officer for the group — a kind of mini-McCartney to Nesmith's long-legged Lennon.

He prefaced most of his remarks like, "They tell me I should be a millionaire by Christmas" with "and here's something else you can't print" when I found him besieged by 300 screaming girls outside the Grosvenor House hotel last week and surrounded by BBC camera crews, pirate radio people, publicists and photographers inside.

Davy was reading a national newspaper report where he was alleged to have said: "Dad used to call me a cheeky monkey and now I am one." He looked pained!

"I'm sure I never said that!" he said, shaking his head. But he now accepts the fact that the Monkees have reached that unenviable position where quotes can be invented for them, and commercial enterprises present them with gifts.

"Like the Honda motorbike I've got. I've just had it modified to the tune of $1,000 and now they want it back," said Davy ruefully. Then he smiled: "Which is cool with me because Triumph want to give me one anyway!"

Monkee Jones is a good-hearted character. He gets his biggest kicks being able to look after his father financially and help those friends who knew him before his success.

He took the younger members of the Monkees studio staff up to San Francisco recently to see the Monkee concert and maintains that there are a lot of other people he wants to take care of when the big money begins to come rolling in.

"So far we haven't really seen a penny of it," admitted Davy.

"A great deal of money has to be deferred over several years because of taxes, and things like record royalties just take time. The only one of us who has really had any big money is Micky, who got a fat cheque when he was twenty-one for Circus Boy, under that child-actors law which holds so much money in trust until you are of age."

Gradually the day's Press were melting away and Davy left the room to locate Micky — "he's got about 500 girls in his room!" and added consolingly: "I'll be about three hours!"

In fact he made the return trip in under twenty minutes, to find we were down to a small nucleus in the lounge. This comprised Monkee-men Hugh Alexander from International Artistes, and music publisher Cyril Black, from the ever-present, ever-watchful Screen Gems; Marion Rainsford, the Monkees' lady publicist via RCA-Victor (who is much too nice to have to be nasty to all those fake Paul McCartneys ringing up for Davy), and an affable American photographer with a shiny head and the splendid name of Bob Custer. Not exactly intimate, perhaps, but Davy is a far-from-inhibited conversationalist. He answered my questions with much zest.

Not puppet!

Firstly, we dealt with the subject which most people appear to be ducking — the resentment felt very strongly in some show business quarters that the Monkees are really non-playing puppets and have no right to their success as a pop group. (Before I get swamped with letters, may I say that the Monkees in my opinion are 'what's next' and I go happily around with the wheel.)

"I can only speak for myself," said Davy. "I am an actor and I have never pretended to be anything else — the public have made me into a rock'n'roll singer. No one is trying to fool anyone!

"People have tried to put us down by saying we copy the Beatles. So all right, maybe The Monkees is a half-hour Hard Day's Night! But now we read that the Who are working on a TV series around a group. Now who's copying who?

"In our show we all play ourselves with the exception of Peter Tork, who plays a 'thick' and he's not. Pete doesn't really dig the teeny-boppers scene. Some fans wrote to him that they were watching his house through high-powered binoculars and now he has the curtains drawn all day!

"There are 32 Monkees programs now completed and in about two programs' time you should notice about 180 per cent improvement. We really began to get on top of it — ad-libbing and taking the script from the top.

"Originally the show took five days to film. Now we've got it down to two-and-a-half. But people still have no idea how hard we work or they'd never put us down."

There has also been considerable speculation over how much the Monkees are masters of their own destinies. How much say does the group have? Or are they completely controlled by management? Davy side-stepped this one and, bearing in mind our company, it was forgiveable.

"Look," he went on, "we're just out to make people happy and enjoy ourselves at the same time!"

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