Let me first report a conversation that took place ’round about the fall of 1967 (can’t say it’s verbatim, but the gist is full–I was present only as a listener, being socially and intellectually unqualified to participate):

JM: Sergeant Pepper is the greatest album ever made.

AC: The Beatles. The Beatles are cool.

JM (adamantly): The Beatles are the coolest!

AC: I like the Monkees, too.

JM (in the style of Torquemada confronting a heretic): The Monkees!…The Monkees!…The Monkees are for babies!

Along about now I should probably mention that this public bathroom was in a public elementary school and the average age of all present–two participants, one bystander–was seven.

That’s because all three of us were in the second grade.

I’m guessing JM had an older brother.

I’m guessing AC didn’t–else he would have known to keep his mouth shut about the Monkees while we were shaking our seven-year-old peckers.

I never told anybody but word inevitably spread.

I think it took him until about the seventh grade to live it down.

As for me, it was my introduction to the concept of  hipness and a very strange introduction it was. I lived in a house where the television did not work, the hymnal was Baptist, the few records ran to show tunes and the radio was seldom if ever tuned to the pop station. I only vaguely knew who the Beatles or the Monkees were and if I had ever heard their music I didn’t recognize it as such.

Therefore I had no way of knowing it was slightly irregular that just the previous year–you know all the way back in the first grade–JM had been the one called in to settle a dispute about the exact lyrics of  “I’m Henry the XIII, I Am” by the era’s reigning philosophical geniuses, Herman’s Hermits.

I think his arbitration went something like: “Yeah I know it’s pronounced En-er-y, but it’s spelled H-e-n-r-y. It’s on the record stupid!”

And it was this very incident that made him our resident pop culture genius. The one who could tell us second-graders what was hip.

The young man was clearly ahead of the curve. I mean for all I know looking back, he may have already outgrown Herman’s Hermits by the fall of ’67. The world moved fast back then and not just for second-graders.

I moved away after the eighth grade and by the time I got out of high school I had become very involved in knowing what was “hip.”

And let’s just say that, in 1978, if you had told anyone I went to school with in the second grade or the twelfth–in two parts of the same state which might as well be on different planets–that a member of the Monkees would die of a heart attack in the year 2012 without ever having had anything resembling a major pop moment past the few years when they ruled the charts, and that his death would warrant a segment on the nightly news of every major broadcast network, we would have assumed you had smoked an awful lot of the stuff DO, CS and SS sold out of their hall lockers.

Let me also add that I bought the Monkees’ Greatest Hits in 1978–not knowledge I shared with any of my classmates I can assure you (I bought Herman’s Hermits Greatest Hits and the Beatles’ red album the same year, though, of course, I only admitted to one of them)–and in the 34 years since, “Daydream Believer” never once failed to give a lift to the heart wherever it found me, never once failed to bring the happiest of smiles.

Until yesterday.

Somewhere along the way, I also shook free and learned to trust what I cared about over what others told me to think. Not by coincidence I think.

Thanks Davy. And not just for the memories.



4 thoughts on “HOW IT WAS…HOW IT IS (DAVY JONES R.I.P.)

  1. This was a bit shocking, although as we all get older it shouldn’t be. My heroes are all in their 60’s-80s, and some have passed already.

    I too wasn’t really radio-aware until mid-seventies, when I discovered a local DJ who was crazy enough to make me remember to listen. I was still devastated when he was, um, replaced. Quickly. Like the radio business does. (Oh, Terry Bennett-Bennett-Bennett, you had an impact!) But while the first record I had my mom buy for me was The Carpenters Yesterday Once More — ironically enough, I realize it was about sixties music and nostalgia, which I didn’t have and still don’t lovelovelove that era — I do remember the Monkees. TV I got, radio less so.

    So to see the current pictures of Davy Jones is to realize how much time has passed. I know he’s not the bowl-cut british teenage heartthrob he was marketed as in those days. But my mind see him as that, still. And I think, as a culture, we all do/did. Because he didn’t go on to fame later on, but he integrated the oncoming pop culture corporate media tidal wave into our wee little lives. The Monkees were made-for-TV, thus made-for-the-TV-generation. You’d know more than I, but there wasn’t anyone built from the ground up before that, was there? After, possibly, but I don’t know?

    They were meant to be fake for the sake of selling things to kids and teens, but became real because they were actually, you know, good at what they did and kids, well, we really weren’t so dumb after all. Still aren’t.

    Although I also thought the Banana Splits was the height of great humor.

    • Never sell the Banana Splits short!…Yes they were “prefabricated” but plenty of groups including the hyper serious Peter, Paul and Mary and The Byrds (both of whom are among my very favorite artists)–were put together in whole or part by managers. The Monkees were just the next phase (they were put together for a tv show instead of just to make records!)–and yes, their music lasted precisely because it was first-rate. For all the grief they got later those jobs were highly coveted and fiercely competed for in an extremely intense enviroment (Stephen Stills being among the rejected)–so at least some of the criticism came from those who didn’t make the cut….Most of whom will not get a segment on the nightly news when they pass.

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