The death of Davy Jones at 66 from a heart attack makes me feel quite sad.
The clips of The Monkees from their classic sixties series flash up on the TV and their innocence and zany energy are so full of life and about as far away from the serious stuff like death that you can get.
That was their beauty, they were part of that rush of optimism of the sixties that is now dissipating as that generation creaks into old age and the world just doesn’t do positivity anymore. Davy Jones was the showbiz kid in the band, when they sort of grew up he wasn’t bothered about being hip and that’s what made him cool, a teen idol in the late sixties when everyone got serious.
The Monkees theme song is one of the great pop songs – that hook ‘hey hey we’re The Monkees’ is gloriously stupid and also thrilling in its rush.
On pure rock n roll roll terms it’s great, buzzing with energy and great switches between major and minor chords with the perfect pop lyric of innocent rebellion, no-one would dare be this naÃÂ¯ve nowadays, it would make them sound even more cynical.
The Monkees wound up the snobs in the sixties who hated them because they didn’t play on their own records, but at least they were honest about it. In the UK Jimmy Page was playing on everyone else’s records and everyone was pretending he wasn’t! People carp on about ”Ëproper music’ but it’s the final record that counts and the Monkees had wonderful voices that were full of the thrill of the times so who cares if they actually played the bass on the record.
And so what if they didn’t play on the early records, they sang on them and their voices fitted perfectly and they had great voices for the decade and the songs have become timeless classics- the Monkees defied all pop logic and were a great band the equal of any of their peers.
The Monkees should never have worked. It was a TV series, an attempt to get on the Beatles bandwagon, the pre-fab 4, a cynical cash in but somehow they managed to get the right actors who did their Beatle thing perfectly and as the Beatles started to grow up and get hairy the Monkees stayed in 1965 in an eternal loop of ”ËHelp’, all zippy speeded up filming and zany laughs.
Pop can be a lot of things, it can be revolutionary, it can be poignant, it can be sad, it can be rubbish and sometimes it can be fun. The Monkees were fun but they also had a soul and their own innate cool.
The TV series would have been good enough but they also came armed with some of the greatest songwriters of the period and their singles and albums are stuffed full of classic songs. Their singles rule but the ‘Porpoise Song’ on the ‘Head’ album is one of the most sublime pieces of psychedelia ever released.
In 1996 my band Goldblade appeared on the Ned Sherrin radio show to sing an acoustic version of out top 75 hit, ”ËStrictly Hardcore, the audience was the late Ned Sherrin and the Monkees, it as a surreal moment but they were a great audience. They cheered us on and at the end they told us we had nice harmonies, we thought they were joking but they were serious. They were like kindly uncles and a pleasure to share a radio show with. It was a great moment for someone like me who has been obsessed with pop all their lives.
They were part of the revolution, they were positive in a cynical world, and they oozed the freedom that pop culture was all about, so what if it was scripted and ”Ëfake’ they crackled with an insane energy and cut through the whole situation. They were genuinely talented and in the end even wrote their own songs and played their own instruments and were damn good at it.
Their film ”Ëhead’ is one of the great sixties moments, a pure psychedelic that tore apart their own image and came with a genius soundtrack, all the snobs who don’t get the Monkees will never have seen this film- it’s one of the great pop films. Ultimately the band didn’t have to apologise, they were the perfect pop band and if people still feel the need to compare them to Boyzone or a slushy ballad boy band they have no understanding of rock n roll, of life, or the thrill of music.
I’ve loved the Monkees for all my life, I remember in 1968 I saw Monkees annual on a newspaper stand in Edinburgh and got my granddad to buy it for me.
It was a warm day in Edinburgh during the summer of long hair, the White album and riots. I’d love to say I was on the barricades singing ”ËRevolution’ or quoting Guy Debord but I was a shy, gangling seven year old day dreamer walking around in a pair of shorts holding my grandad’s hand whilst on a day trip to Edinburgh.
Pop culture was an alien experience for goofy children then. No-one knew much about pop at seven years old in the sixties apart from freaky pig puppets Pinky and Perky singing speeded up versions of the hits. We had all sung ”ËYellow Submarine’ in the school playground without knowing what it was or who it was by and that was about it.
The Beatles may have been the biggest group of all time but they barely meant anything at all to the knobbly kneed children of the UK who were way beyond the marketing plans of labels at the time._That warm Edinburgh afternoon, though, as we walked past a newstand I saw a book that intrigued me. I was already a vicious reader, reading encyclopedias and weird books about explorers that got eaten by polar bears as they starved to death on their ship wrecks giving me endless nightmares about the same polar bears ransacking my hometown of Blackpool.
The book said ”ËMonkees’ at the top of it and I wanted it instantly. It had the group holding a guitar made from flowers on the steps of a plane, they looked really cool and the picture was intriguing but to be honest I was more interested in the idea that it was about real monkeys- the furry, cheeky ones that had intrigued my from the nature programmes that I was mesmerised by but I was also aware that this funny haired bunch on the cover looked like fun.
That was my first pop MOMENT.
Farewell David Jones, even eternal youth comes to an end”Â¦