It’s kind of weird that the video which best captures the spirit of Davy Jones – singer-songwriter and Monkees alumni, who died yesterday at the far too early age of 66 – is the one below: an audition tape for The Monkees TV show which he carried out as a 19-year-old whippersnapper. Take a look:
It’s all there – the supernatural confidence, the winking jocularity, the desire to entertain, the way with evasion that only the most charming of bullshitters can truly grasp. Then there’s The Monkees themselves: a band who act as the perfect counterpoint to any sneering hipsters who rally against the validity of ‘manufactured music’. One spin of ‘Daydream Believer’ or ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ is enough to make anyone realise – the notion of a ‘manufactured’ act is a moot point. There are simply ‘good’ and ‘bad’ acts.
And the Monkees? They were very, very good:
And yet … the Monkees were more than ‘just’ a pop band. Despite the common image of manufactured pop being lowest-common-denominator rubbish (and since the ascent of Simon Cowell, that’s arguably a more prescient assessment than ever), there was so much more going on with these guys: an intellectual playfulness, a refusal to treat their teenybop audience like idiots.
Take ‘Head’. Seriously, just watch it again – a movie written by Jack Nicholson in which the band spiral through a metafictional, stream of consciousness odyssey focusing on the nature of free will. With great pop songs added. It’s ‘Being John Malkovich’ thirty years in advance:
And where did Davy himself come into all this? Put bluntly, he was essential. Following the sad news yesterday, tributes flooded in. Guitarist Mike Nesmith stated that Jones’ “spirit and soul live well in my heart among all the lovely people”, bassist Peter Tork said, “Adios to the Manchester Cowboy”, and drummer/singer Micky Dolenz said, “He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart”.
Here’s one of their last performances together. Enjoy: