While the Grim Reaper swung his scythe through half The Beatles long ago, Davy Jones is the first of The Monkees – the ’60s TV band manufactured using the moptop model – to go. The Manchester-born lead singer died, aged 66, of a heart attack yesterday. The legacy he left with The Monkees is a great one and even The Beatles agreed.
Will Jones get to sit at the table beside Lennon, Hendrix and Joplin, all those young ones who didn’t make it to dying happy in bed? He deserves to. The Monkees might be swept to one side as the Pre Fab Four, intro’d on news reports as the first “manufactured pop group” but Jesus, if only we had such quality manufacturing now. This was a manufactured band whose first two records featured the legendary Wrecking Crew putting down the grooves and the Brill Building providing the songs.
By their third album, ‘Headquarters’, from which ‘Randy Scouse Git’ (retitled ‘Alternate Title’ in the oversensitive UK) sprang, The Monkees wisely shimmied out of the straightjacket the TV producers had plopped them in. They wrote and recorded their own music, revealing the individual talents of the four, with Jones’s natural qualities as a frontman making up for his lack of songwriting chops.
Dismiss The Monkees as a tedious TV takeoff of The Beatles and you’ll find yourself in direct opposition to Mr Harrison, Mr McCartney and Mr Lennon, who all spoke up for their American cousins. The summit between the Pre-Fab Four and the Fab Four took place around the time The Beatles were recording ‘Sg. Pepper’s…’ and inspired Micky Dolenz to pen ‘Randy Scouse Git’, casting The Beatles as “the four stately kings of EMI”.
Mike Nesmith was even in attendance for some of the ‘Day In The Life’ sessions where he asked Lennon: “Do you think we’re a cheap imitation of the Beatles, your movies and your records?” Lennon’s reply? “I think you’re the greatest comic talents since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.” Meanwhile George Harrison said of their self-produced songs: “It’s obvious what’s happening, there’s talent there… when they get it all sorted out, they might turn out to be the best.”
If you disagree with Harrison and Lennon, try going a little further than ‘Last Train To Clarkesville’ and ‘Daydream Believer’. There are some gems lurking on The Monkees’ Best Of…, the country rock shuffle of ‘Listen To The Band’, the aforementioned ‘Randy Scouse Git’ and the bohemian bounce of ‘For Pete’s Sake’ among them. Hey, hey, they were The Monkees and they were really quite something.