It was my first statement to the world, my testimony, my die-hard mantra between the ages of 6 and about 12 years old. I wrote it everywhere, it was probably how I learned to write; I spoke it, sang it, painted it across my fresh green world.
When the Monkees television program burst onto the pop culture scene in 1966, I, like countless other starry-eyed ranging from little girls to young adults, went completely ga-ga over all of them; especially my sweet little Davy, what a doll he was…there was just something about him…something familiar and benevolent…and the chemistry between all of them, it was a perfect fit. I watched each episode eagerly and religiously, and it was always a let-down to see the ending credits appear…like saying goodbye yet again!
The show, created and produced by two men named Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, featured the zany and fun-loving adventures of a young struggling L.A. rock band who all lived together in an old Malibu beach house. The four boys–Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork–were not only band mates and room mates, but best buds as well and did everything together in a frolicky, make-believe childlike way. The Monkees show was a light and funny show and it took the situation comedy concept to places it had never really been before: mixing fantasy into a common theme and using slapstick, vaudeville and black-outs along with classic one-liners, current trends and, of course, music. And it was none other than the Monkees–those 4 phenomenal figures—who pioneered the music video: long before MTV or VH1 they were in front of the camera hamming it up in a frolicking, sometimes wild and wacky musical skit to one of their songs, which they would have broken into in the middle of the goings-on of any particular episode. It was so fresh and youthful and hip in such an innocent way, and I was in love!
The Monkees also intertwined reality with the fantasy: the original story-line concept was of a fictional “garage band”, but their real names, first and last, were used, and they sang all of their “own” songs–used in the musical video scenes as well as gigs the boys were able to scratch up. The Monkees songs were all written by cream-of-the-crop songwriters such as Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. And although in the beginning, for the TV show, they “pantomimed” the instrumentals to other musicians’ tunes, all 4 of them eventually picked up the instruments that they were showcased as supposedly playing in the series and became a real band; also writing some of the songs. The 4 of them had solid yet varied roots in show business, all talented entertainers in their own right, and what they did not know about the music, they taught themselves. Peter Tork was a Greenwich Village folk musician and gifted on many instruments; Michael Nesmith also possessed exceptional musical talent, was (and is) a legendary songwriter in his own right as well and many of his excellent timeless pieces were performed by the Monkees and used in the TV show. Mickey grew up in show business, as a child star in the 50′s serial “Circus Boy”; he sang lead to most of the Monkees tunes and taught himself to play the drums. Davy, also having begun in show business at a very young age in musical stage performances, played the “Artful Dodger” in productions of “Oliver Twist”; he also taught himself to play the music.
And so not only did Davy, Mickey, Peter and Mike transcend the dreamed-up Hollywood roles they were cast into by actually becoming a band called the Monkees, they went on to churn out many record albums, filled hundreds of concert tour appearance dates and starred in a feature film called “Head”; a chronicle of the further mis-adventures of the boys as they get sucked deeper into the L.A. music scene, using nonlinear surrealism, symbolic scenery and, of course, the original music video. They totally took the ball and ran with it; broke out, spoke out and blossomed to the max! And their music was good, really good: tight, cool, tasteful, multi-faceted in style, made you feel good–made you feel. They all had fine singing voices–each so distinct–and they all sang lead and backed each other up. They were an 8-legged, lovable amoeba, a complete and colorful working unit and one got the feeling that the camaraderie displayed on stage or camera had grown roots which were indeed very real. They also always looked like they were having so much fun.
I was taken in hook, line and sinker from the very start. Everything in my then-short life was Davy Jones and the Monkees! I was wild for them! I collected every one of their original albums (and still miraculously have managed to hang onto them) and I wore them out. I dreamed and schemed with other pre-teen girlfriends, playfully bickering over who would get who! Posters all over the bedroom walls. And love beads–I’ll never forget how excited and almost magical I felt when receiving my “Davy Jones Love Beads” in the mail from Tiger Beat magazine. I was faithful to the fan club, reading everything I could about all of them, writing letters. When Davy got married, I, like millions of other young girls, was heart-broken; my childhood vision of growing up and marrying him had been shattered! But when one of the magazines featured a photo of Davy with his new baby, up it went on the wall with the rest of them. And one Christmas thereafter I purchased, with my own allowance money, hand-crafted gifts from my grade school white elephant bazaar for Davy and his wife and child; wrapped them up myself and actually mailed them. When he publicly let it be known that he wanted to be called “David”, I dutifully began referring to him as such, replacing the name “Davy” with it in my mantra. I was in love and there was nothing he could have said or done which would break that love!
I also attended one of their concerts–my first concert ever. It was in 1968, I was 8 years old and my mom brought me to the huge shin-dig which was at either the Cow Palace in San Francisco or the Oakland Coliseum, one of those Bay Area arenas, I can’t remember which. I was sooo excited! I wore a sleeveless, white laced dress and shiny black patent leather knee-high boots. The Monkees all wore matching baby-blue, open-collared ruffle tux shirts and black pants. It was the thrill of my lifetime at the time, experiencing their presence up on the stage as Davy bounced and strutted around back and forth in front, working the audience with that contagiously bubbly persona of his, while Mike stood solemn as a pillar in his serious papa style and Peter and Mickey balanced it all out perfectly with their own awesome personalities and musical style. I was beside myself!
These recollections are truly the apex of my early childhood archives; a so very huge part of my life in such a subtle and personal, almost sacred way. Time rolls on and as it did, as I reached those precocious teen years my interests drifted, though always in my heart of hearts that untouched spot of shining innocence, my Monkees and my “first love” Davy. And all of my life I’ve enjoyed, appreciated and stood by their music; listening to their tunes is quite the emotional voyage for me, like revisiting the olden shores of a beloved homeland.
As most of you reading this probably already know, Davy Jones passed away earlier this year, on February 29, leap year day. And so another lovely soul departs, leaving so much joy and goodness in his wake. He was 66 years old. The day of his death was the 4 month anniversary of the death of my best friend/husband, someone indescribably dear to me who came into my life just a few years after my “love affair” with Davy (my very own short, dark-haired guy!) My mother and my sister, 2 of the people on earth who have known me the longest, upon hearing of Davy Jones’ death, both responded in the same way: ”Oh no!…poor Judi”. Although I never knew any of them personally, anyone who knows me that well understands that Davy Jones and the Monkees are synonymous to my growing up years and the very roots of who I am. I was one of their very first and most faithful fans. As I’m certain is similar with countless others, the death of this adored icon, like his life, affected me on a deeply special prime soul level. We lost my dad in recent years, then a few years after that my timeless valentine departs…and then just exactly 4 months later, my Davy. All of the truly important male figure souls in my life–including my childhood fantasy sweetheart–are with the angels now, gone, but only in body. And a spectral childhood love is still love all the same, in its purest, most rendered form: the very first taste of an all-consuming emotion that you can do nothing about, and wouldn’t know what to do even if you could. A treasured little piece of my childhood bliss died as well, spiraling off into the cosmos with all of my beloved.
The more I read and hear about Davy Jones throughout the ongoing decades of his life, the more I come to realize what a down-to-earth, kind and lovable fellow he really always was–not just an act. He was friendly, fun-loving, approachable, high-energy and always engaging people. He loved his horses with a loyal passion, and was dedicated to family and friends. He also truly loved his fans and respected them. He rejected the high-dollar, mainstream corporatism of rock and roll and always stayed with his roots. Always proud to be a Monkee, to be a part of something so bigger-than-life, cherished and lasting from an era which many hold so dear; he was well aware that his fans–the people–were the very ones who provided the fuel for his spark! He genuinely cared for the people, and was known to have invited autograph-seeking individuals over to his table or include them in his party or his life somehow. He was just an all-around nice guy and leaves behind many loved ones, including his current wife: a beautiful young woman exactly half his age (right on Davy…I would not have expected any less from the epitome, the prince of pop culture love idols!) They met when the both of them were cast in a children’s stage production of Cinderella; I guess it just doesn’t get much more romantic than that.
Discovering my childhood dream boy to be actually a very fine and decent human being in real life makes me sorry that I never made a real effort of reaching out to him in adulthood somehow, expressing what his mark on the world has meant to me. It seems he would be receptive to such offerings. I daydreamed about running into him by chance in some public place, and I pictured myself going on my knees in front of him, hands in the air, head bowed and fanning him with my body like an adored saint! He seems like just the sort of fellow, with just the right kind of sense of humor, who would get that too…
But that chance is gone for good now, at least in this physical world; I hail to him in my heart forever because, yes, I do indeed, still and always love Davy Jones of the Monkees! And Mickey, Peter and Michael, if you are out there and listening, I still love all of you too and I thank you, from my heart, for sweetening my childhood memories.