Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Farewell, Davy Jones

He may not have been as much of a driving force behind the music as his bandmates were, but there is no question that Davy Jones was the face of The Monkees. The diminutive heart throb from Manchester parlayed a career as a Tony-nominated hoofer and crooner into frontman for one of the most popular, misunderstood, and ultimately, best pop bands of the '60s when he was selected to take part in the television/stage/recording/movie-making project that was The Monkees. Although he didn't seem to have any major musical ambitions, he backed Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork when they fought for control of their music to make the album Headquarters in 1967.

The singer of several of The Monkees' biggest hits--"A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", "Daydream Believer", "Valleri"--Jones developed into a good songwriter as well. He described his style as "Broadway Rock," some of the best examples of this fusion being the album tracks "Hard to Believe", "Dream World", and "If I Knew" (all co-authored with other writers). His "You and I", co-written with Bill Chadwick, was among the group's toughest songs, and features a corrosive Neil Young guitar solo. In fact, despite Davy's bubblegum persona, he was the scrappiest member of the group, a facet captured during his boxing sequence in the movie Head.

Of course, Jones will always be remembered for the more romantic side showcased on "The Monkees" TV series: his eyes twinkling with cartoon stars whenever he'd fall for the latest starlet at the beginning of each week's episode. Davy continued thrilling his old fans throughout the decades in various reunited incarnations of The Monkees and as a solo performer. Just last year he took part in an aborted tour with Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, who'd beaten cancer a couple of years earlier.

Sadly, Davy Jones died this morning of a massive heart attack. He was 66.

On a personal note, there would be no Psychobabble if not for The Monkees, which means this site wouldn't exist if not for Davy Jones. During the musically antiseptic mid-'80s, it was The Monkees that sparked my obsession with the pop music of the past. Ironically, a group regularly chided for being "phony" sounded a hell of a lot more organic, exciting, and "real" to teenage-me than, say, Motley Crue or Bon Jovi. Although I quickly moved on to more "sophisticated" groups like The Beatles and The Who, I always held a special place for the group that first turned me on to the greatest era in pop history. Plus, watching Davy's moves on "The Monkees" taught me to dance.

Here are a few more of my personal favorite Davy Jones musical moments:

"This Just Doesn't Seem to Be My Day"- A nutso combo of hippity-hop bubblegum, chamber music, and fuzzed-out Turkish rock in the "Paint It Black" vein.

"Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)"- Euphoric union of Davy Jones bubblegum vocal and Neil Diamond bubblegum tune.

"Shades of Gray" and "Early Morning Blues & Greens" - Davy duets with Peter Tork on the kind of stark, mature songs Don Kirshner never let The Monkees do on their first couple of albums.

"She Hangs Out"- Davy doing a raunchy Tom Jones impersonation. The track that inspired me to hunt down my favorite Monkees L.P.

"Porpoise Song"- Davy only sings the chorus, but his childlike vocal offsets this magnificent track's psychedelic gravity beautifully.

"Someday Man"- A breezy, adult pop song by Paul Williams wonderfully sung by Davy.

"French Song"- Lovely, evocative pseudo-European cinema soundtrack.

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