Thursday, March 1, 2012
DAVY JONES R.I.P.
I never met the man but he certainly was at the heart of what made the Monkees popular and am sad to see him go and only 66.
As those who read this blog know, I try to bring my personal experiences as a musician, poet, writer, actor and political activist, among other things, into my daily posts as much as possible to give a reason to write it and I hope for someone else to find it interesting.
So my condolences go out to Jones' family and friends and fans, of which I was one. But I must admit I didn't really pay much attention to The Monkees when they first came on the scene, nor did I think much about their music. I knew of them originally because a guy from my hometown, from the hill where the wealthy lived, was one of the group that created The Monkees as an American TV version of The Beatles. His name was Burt Schneider and he passed not long ago himself.
Burt eventually became a film producer and I got to know him a bit in my Hollywood days. He was friends with my second wife, if I remember correctly, but I hung around with him in the years when she and I were no longer together at parties and possible movie projects that nothing ever came of.
Initially I found the idea of The Monkees an insult to what I thought the Beatles had and were accomplishing. But then, I resisted The Beatles at first too, until I worked out a few of their early tunes on piano (like "Do You Want to Know a Secret") and realized they were really great song writers. I've been way ahead of the curve on many things, but way behind it on some others, including The Monkees.
I didn't really get how great they actually were until my older son, when he was in a band during his high school years called The Dreadsteins ("Rasta from Jerusalem" they claimed, my son wasn't Jewish like some of his band mates but did have dreadlocks for several years) and did their reggae versions, if I remember correctly, of "Stepping Stone" and "Last Train to Clarksville."
Whatever Monkee tunes my son Miles' band did back then, again, way too many years late, it helped me see how great The Monkees were at helping create and put over songs that were better than I originally noticed.
My only other conact with any of The Monkees, besides seeing them here and there around L.A. when I lived there, was going up against one of them in the early '90s for the role of a wealthy gay philanthropist in an independent movie. I figured I'd never get it because of my competition's Monkee fame, but I did get it, and then the film was hardly released and as far as I know isn't available anywhere.
I think that Monkee was Michael Nesbith, whose mother, I was told, (I think by him actually) was a secretary when she invented white out. Whoever he was, he was a totally unpretentious sweet man. We were kept waiting and brought back, as I remember it, so had time to either ignore each other and prepare or chat and get to know each other, which is what we did and was rare in my experience.
I got the idea from watching Micky Dolenz on CNN that he's a sweet unpretentious guy as well, and that all of The Monkees were. Which is what was so appealing to their audiences I'd guess. But it was Davy Jones who everyone agrees was the main reason the teenage girls swooned and screamed and watched the TV show that made these talented guys stars, first by controlling every move they made and then by letting them do their own music which proved to be more lasting then a lot of folks would have predicted at the time, including me.