I'm going to need Paul Newman to help me get through this; his family does make a pretty good California Cabernet Sauvignon, and this article is by far the hardest in terms of the icons I’ve chosen to write about – after their passing through whatever’s on the other side of the Big Wall. Davy Jones was a huge piece in the overall jigsaw puzzle that makes up what I consider my generation. I’ve often talked about how much The Monkees mean to me over the years, but to put Davy’s contribution into a clearer light, I’m going to try and illustrate just how intense and intricate his contribution played out in such a short period of time.
The Monkees originally aired on TV, September 12, 1966 on NBC, Monday nights, and ended on Labor Day, 1968. I was just a little kid at the time, just a few months away from turning three-years-old during that initial broadcast. Yet, the culture of The Monkees was already becoming “my” culture. The recall of that show being on from time to time is vague at best, but some of my earliest memories of enjoying music were definitely: The Monkees, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys, and they still exist inside my spirit with the highest importance – right up to this very moment. However, my generation captured the actual show in very much the same way the cast of Looney Tunes was dropped inside our magical TV sets.
The Monkees episodes were repackaged in September of 1969 and served up (with new commercials from Kellogg’s cereal featuring The Monkees no less) to the same group of kids that were about to experience Scooby Doo, Where Are You? for the very first time in its original run. To be more specific, here is exactly the way Saturday mornings played out between my brother and I in 1969, with minor variations happening each year in the early ‘70s as shows changed:
Unless you were totally lazy and devoid of the magnitude of importance of Saturday morning pop culture as it happened … you got out of your bunk by 8:00 a.m., filled a bowl with one of the many delicious varieties of cereal available from either Kellogg’s or Post, (usually Kellogg’s, I mean, hey, they had a Monkees endorsement and the coolest cartoon mascots), turned on the TV, and watched The Jetsons on CBS. These episodes were re-runs, too, of course, but that was our bread & butter, or more precisely, our milk & cereal. If your show wasn’t good enough to watch a zillion times – forget about it.
Okay, after The Jetsons, if you were hip enough to get up that early, you watched a full hour of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. Abso-fucking-lutely mandatory. Now, the next few shows would rotate between networks depending on which show my brother and I could agree on or argue about. (Ended up that my brother and I had to take turns each Saturday). I would control the programs one Saturday, my brother loving to turn the channels around the next week.
Therefore, at 9:30, you either got Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines or Pink Panther. At 10:00 a.m. it was between The Perils of Penelope Pitstop or H.R. Pufnstuf. 10:30 was really tough, because that new show “Scooby-Doo” was up against The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. Usually we’d watch Scooby and then the last half of the Splits, which would then cut into half of The Archie Comedy Hour. I’m telling you it was rough. Fortunately, a few years later The Banana Splits played in re-runs after school at 4:00 p.m. A bowl of Campbell’s Chili soup and it’s all good.
All right, this brings us to the magical hour of 12 noon, and the all-important Saturday morning broadcast of The Monkees! It’s only major competitor was The Flintstones, also in morning re-runs after its original primetime showing. However, who the hell didn’t watch The Flintstones straight up at night time? Saturday at 12:00 p.m. was Monkee time, Kool-Aid time, and then you might be happy to know that we went outside and played.
The Monkees is one of those shows that captures a place and time you want to be a part of. At least that’s true if you watched and liked the show, irrelevant if you didn’t or don’t relate. Some shows create a rare magic within their imaginary landscape that can truly become a lifetime alternate reality in terms of where you want to be, where you want to go, who you want to know.
Some key examples of this phenomenon are:
Star Trek. We dreamed of living on the Enterprise and going “where no man has gone before.”
Batman. What kid in the late ‘60s didn’t wanna be Batman? The cool car. The bitchin’ batcave. The gadgets. The secret masks. And the cat women.
Why was Gilligan’s Island a hit? Stranded with Ginger? Could be worse …
The Brady Bunch, even they were a fantasy, lots of brothers and sisters living in a big house in Los Angeles with really nice parents …
Anyway, living in a beach house in Malibu, playing fun music with my friends, hanging out with groovy chicks, and driving a boss Custom GTO Monkeemobile … Yeah, that seemed pretty darn okay to me.
We lived in that beach house through the Fall of 1972, and then, well, it all sort of went away. The Monkees had been evicted, slowly, as the show had gone from Noon to 12:30, 1:00, and then just … gone. Life went on. The next year, in 1973, we would have The Super Friends, and we would grow up wondering why the show wasn’t called The Justice League of America; we’d go to junior high, high school, some of us off to college while others (like me) joined the military or got lost somewhere else with the Smurfs in the 1980s … but then, the magic in what Micky Dolenz called “bottled lightning” started to stir again.
We started to hear The Monkees on the radio again. It’s odd and funny to think that The Monkees were “retro” in the late ‘80s, but a twenty year reunion was what brought them back. I saw them live, twice, during that era, and true to the outsider that I had firmly become, I saw them alone. After my service in the United States Navy, I started college in Sacramento, California in the summer of 1984, and by the time of the 1986 Monkees reunion I did not know anyone interested in seeing the old “TV” band come alive again. My roommates at the time were from New Jersey and thought all popular music revolved around Bruce Springsteen. I could have dragged a buddy along or took a kooky date, but I didn’t want the experience tainted by a non-believer.
Even my punk friends at the time didn’t quite understand, even though The Monkees were a huge influence on punk rock. Most notably, The Sex Pistols covered “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” in 1978 and released it on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle in 1979 and The Dickies do a great version of “She” on their first full album, The Incredible Shrinking Dickies, also from 1979.
Davy, in particular, was great at the live shows. He was a nut and born to be on stage. He would enthusiastically run out on stage, wearing a big pink wig while singing/screaming, “Valleri,” and still making the crowd go wild for his Number 1 Hit: "Daydream Believer."
Over the years there would be other reunions, solo acts, and team-ups by two, three Monkees, sometimes even all four; new albums as well as “best of” compilations and rarity records kept coming over the years, and I bought ‘em all. The Monkees were a permanent part of my internal landscape. But before we get out of here, if you’ve stayed with me this far, I want to talk a little about Davy’s particular influence on the overall motion picture of our lives.
I mentioned Star Trek earlier. Did you know that the character of Pavel Chekov was a direct result of Davy Jones’s popularity? Gene Roddenberry wanted a younger Starfleet officer to appeal to younger audiences, so they brought in Walter Koenig and gave him a wig that looked like Davy’s, which was also sort of a Beatles haircut. Keep in mind, in 1967, The Monkees sold more records that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. The Monkees first four albums went to Number 1 on the Billboard charts, with their fifth album hitting Number 3. Sgt. Pepper would bring The Beatles back to the top of the charts, but that’s a different story.
Also, earlier, I mentioned the Sid & Marty Krofft show, H.R. Pufnstuf as a part of the Saturday morning lineup. The show’s main character, “Jimmy,” played by Jack Wild, was another kid version of Davy Jones. You put a cute English kid in there that looks like Davy with a Beatles haircut and away you go … Jack Wild came from the movie version of Oliver, the same role that Davy Jones made famous on Broadway. In fact, Davy was nominated for a Tony for his performance as Oliver – before he ever became a Monkee.
Due to Davy’s fame as “Oliver,” a young David Jones changed his name to David Bowie – true story!
Of course, many of you remember Davy from his great appearance on The Brady Bunch, and that happened a year after the last original Monkees album, Changes, was released in 1970. There wouldn’t be another official full Monkees album with new material until 1987’s Pool It!
The very memorable song, “Girl,” comes from that Brady episode and was released as a Bell single in November of 1971, and later revamped by Davy himself for The Brady Bunch Movie in 1995. Amazing, after all that Monkees stuff, Davy still made us want to be in his shoes when Marcia Brady kissed his cheek.
I once had the opportunity to meet Davy Jones when he was signing books at some bookstore in downtown Sacramento. When I stuck out my hand to shake his, he seemed sort of surprised. For the most part, people had just been chattering at him about loving The Monkees, and moving on. He seemed to appreciate that small, personal, connection. He smiled and said, “Great to know you, mate.” He seemed almost uncomfortable with all the attention around his table, as if he wasn’t quite sure why all these people were still interested in the Monkee magic. But hey, man, you were prefabricated just for us. What did you expect?
May the Manchester Cowboy ride for all eternity, or at least until the next good landscape opens wide before you.
Adios, Davy Jones, and many happy returns.
Bradley Mason Hamlin
Mystery Island Publications
March 1, 2012