“You must be joking!” — (One of) Davy’s catchphrases on The Monkees and my reaction to the news of his death
It has now been more than a week since Davy Jones died at age 66 of a heart attack. My sister informed me via text message, musing, “The moobs is dead? Wtfruit.” She also wanted to know when I was ever going to post about Davy’s death, and I’ve hesitated, mostly because I’ve had trouble grasping why his death has had such a saddening effect on me. It wasn’t as if he were my favorite Monkee. It wasn’t as if I were going to attend one of his concerts. It wasn’t even as if I could not remember and enjoy his talents again and again through the music and my habitual marathons of The Monkees. But his death was still a grave shock, a shock that numbed my senses and ran twelve knives into my heart, seeming to kill part of my youth, which was full of love for his band, their wacky television show, and their music.
Davy was always my least favorite Monkee–but that is not to say that I loathed him or failed to recognize his talents and value as a member of a very unique group. This is the man who absolutely makes my all-time favorite episode of The Brady Bunch (yep, I have ranked the episodes), which is saying something, considering the episode is packed with so many great moments: Bobby’s impersonation of Davy, Peter Brady (that’s it…just Peter Brady), Greg and Marcia posing as busboys, Carol stating definitively that Davy Jones is “the hottest thing since pepperoni pizza,” Alice reminiscing about her teenage love for Frank Sinatra, the younger kids mimicking Davy and Marcia’s smoochies, the younger kids singing “Girl” and prompting Mike to pay them a dollar to leave the house so he doesn’t have to listen to them. No, the best moments of the episode involve the real Davy Jones–recording “Girl” and overhearing Marcia’s plead with his manager and showing up at the Brady home. Reflecting on this episode recently, I found that it is actually very telling of who Davy Jones was.
Here, Davy is overhearing Marcia explain her predicament to Davy’s manager–how Davy wrote a letter to her personally, promising if there was anything he could ever do for her to simply let him know and how, because of this letter, she has promised her school he would perform at their prom. Davy’s manager isn’t buying it, but Davy is listening intently, aware of the torment he has caused Marcia. And he is prepared to take responsibility for his actions. Sure, this was all scripted, but it mirrors Davy’s real personality. He was always very generous to fans, making time for them and not making them feel inferior or as if they were inconveniencing him by asking him for a photo or autograph. There are several accounts of him visiting terminally ill fans of The Monkees during the 1960s, and he even flew to Arizona to visit a fan who had been holding a Monkees album when she was hit by a car. (Wow! That girl puts my obsession to shame.) He was also incredibly generous and loyal to his family and friends, which, of course, included the other Monkees. Davy was always the most popular member and thus was immediately offered countless opportunities to embark on a solo career. He refused them all–an incredible act of loyalty and solidarity with the others, traits that would manifest themselves again and again throughout the Monkees’ story and Davy’s life.
“How about the flip side?” — Davy asks for another peck on the cheek
It just wasn’t enough to sit and feel remorseful; Davy had to take drastic action to amend his mistake, even it meant going against his manager’s wishes. He shows up at the Brady home, with the album his grouchy manager promised Marcia, and talks to Marcia. What a guy! Again, this is only a television show and thus is easily rejected as “unrealistic.” But it again reflects on what kind of person Davy was–he cared about other people and was willing to go to any length to make them happy. Of the four Monkees, Davy was perhaps the one who was initially most willing to go along with the idea that “The Monkees” was simply a show and a job, not a real band. Davy, the youngest of the group, though, looked to the others as older brothers, and he saw how important creative control gradually became to all of them. He joined their fight to attain that creative control, no longer attempting to please both the powers that were (Don Kirschner) and the brothers he never had, just his brothers–because he cared about them and he would not be told what to do by some donuthole.
Marcia Brady herself, Maureen McCormick, released this statement: “Davy was a beautiful soul who spread love and goodness around the world. He filled our lives with happiness, music, and joy. He will live on in our hearts forever. May he rest in peace.” Ditto.
The other Monkees issued the following comments:
“Come on, Davy, you know you’re Mr. Charm when it comes to the girls.” — Mike, in “The Prince and the Paupers”
Michael Nesmith: “For me, David was The Monkees. They were his band. We were his sidemen. He was the focal point of the romance, the lovely boy, innocent and approachable.”
“Really, girls find him very sweet.” — Micky
Micky Dolenz: “I am in a state of shock; Davy and I grew up together and shared in the unique success of what became The Monkees phenomena. The time we worked together and had together is something I’ll never forget. He was the brother I never had, and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart. The memories have and will last a lifetime. My condolences go out to his family.”
“He makes their teeth decay.” — Peter
Peter Tork: “It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer, David Jones. His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always. My deepest sympathy to Jessica and the rest of his family. Adios to the Manchester Cowboy. Peace and love, Peter T.”
Reading through tributes posted by media outlets, I stumbled upon a thread of user comments, one remarking that the death of Davy was affecting them more than the deaths of Lennon and Harrison and another replying that while Davy’s death may be a greater personal loss his death ultimately does not hold the cultural weight of Lennon and Harrison because his band largely did not write or perform their own material. This kind of snobbery about authenticity has always surrounded The Monkees, and it probably always will.
The death of Davy Jones did not affect me as much as the death of George Harrison, but then no death of any musician–aside from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr–will affect me to the same degree. The impact and influence of the music of The Monkees does not equal that of The Beatles–but neither does the work of any other musicians. The authenticity and cultural value of Davy Jones and the Monkees is utterly irrelevant by this point. They have become so ingrained in the hearts of so many that it doesn’t matter whether studio musicians played on their first two albums, whether Neil Diamond wrote them a song or two, whether Jann Wenner deems them worthy of induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter because they’ve already touched our lives, and we love them anyway.
Davy once said that he wanted everyone who has met him to remember him in a different way and that if he hasn’t touched your life yet, he’ll be around. I’m grateful that he–and the Monkees–touched my life when I was so young, bringing me so much happiness through their music and humor.
See ya, Davy. On the flip side.