March 06, 2012

Davy Jones

Davy Jones

They were completely fake, they were mostly unlovable, other people wrote their songs”€”and they were still better than The Beatles.

I don”€™t give The Monkees much thought, but surely one must have a heart of stone to read about the death of lead singer Davy Jones without whistling “€œDaydream Believer”€ for the rest of the day.

Jones was one of those funny little musical Anthony Newley/Dudley Moore/Peter Noone fellows that England alone is capable of producing (or was, before the effects of post-rationing nutrition kicked in).

By most accounts, Jones was a likable chap, and the most adorable Monkee by far.

Naturally, every obit noted that Jones and his bandmates were “€œactors who sing”€ and “€œsingers who act”€ (to use venerable casting-call expressions) who”€™d been hired to portray an imaginary rock group on TV (the better to exploit stateside Beatlemania).

“€œThe Monkees and Sex Pistols both illustrate a cosmic artistic law that dictates “€˜fake”€™ art can sometimes spawn great art.”€

The four stars (over)acted out a California Kodachrome Keystone Kops spin-off of A Hard Day’s Night on the small screen once a week. For two seasons, the Monkees sang Brill Building tunes and mimed playing their instruments to tracks laid down by the finest studio musicians Screen Gems could buy.

The kindest critics figured The Monkees would serve as a musical gateway drug luring kids into “€œreal”€ music such as Pet Sounds. These voices were outnumbered by cynics who dubbed them the “€œThe Pre-Fab Four.”€

But like that naughty old blues song goes, “€œThe men don”€™t know, but the little girls understand.”€ The little girls didn”€™t care: In 1967, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. They were filling stadiums and partying with, well, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The “€œPinocchio”€ elements of The Monkees”€™ saga strike an archetypal nerve. “€œDrummer”€ Mickey Dolenz compares the phenomenon to “€œLeonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.”€

Yet in hindsight, the obsession with The Monkees”€™ authenticity or lack thereof seems as selectively wrongheaded as nearly every other bit of received liberal countercultural wisdom.

Did no one think to remind his fellow hipsters at the time that Bob Dylan, the self-styled reincarnation of Woody Guthrie, was really Robert Allen Zimmerman, a Jew from Minnesota?


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