Thursday, 1 March 2012

DAVY JONES AND THE MONKEES: THE IRRESISTIBLE CONNECTION

There is a connection between Irresistible Targets and Davy Jones of The Monkees, who has died aged 66. And not just to remind me that I am growing old at a pace that seems sometimes to be accelerating geometrically. The name of this page comes from a song by John Stewart, and it was Stewart who wrote 'Daydream Believer', which became a huge hit for the Pre-Fabricated Four.

In concert, Stewart would often tell the story of how, having taken the song, he got a call from the band's producer, Chip Douglas (who'd been the bassist for the Turtles), saying he'd changed one of the lines. The song as written went: 'You once thought of me as a white knight on a steed/but now you know how funky I can be', but as Chip put it, the record company (or maybe it was the network) didn't want Davy saying 'funky', and ruining his clean-cut image. So, much to John's chagrin, they changed it to 'how happy I can be'.

A few weeks later, with the song at number one and the royalty checks starting to appear, Stewart rang Douglas to tell him 'happy works for me, Chip.'

I was never a fan of The Monkees--the shows, while sometimes clever, seemed to be repeating Richard Lester's Help without much of the edginess. Thinking of the films Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider made that may seem odd, but Rafelson's previous stop before the Monkees was Wackiest Ship In The Army (haw haw). On the other hand, you might consider his Monkee version of Help, called Head, which you could consider a precursor for Being John Malkovich.

The Monkees did record a number of decent, catchy pop songs, with a good deal of help from Douglas. Some had a country influence--'Last Train To Clarksville' in particular. The odd thing about the group was that Mickey Dolenz was probably the best singer (and never had played drums), Jones was a decent drummer but too short to be seen behind the kit, and Peter Tork was probably a better guitarist than Mike Nesmith (who was the only one to have a decent solo career, with the First National Band, before becoming a movie producer). They all paid a price for their success with made-for-TV band (today, the Monkees would have been cast through a 'reality show. I seem to recall Steve Stills failing his audition for the group--not cute enough, probably, but think how different his career might have been, in contrast to Nesmith or Tork's, had he been chosen. Jones was there for the cuteness, and he did bring in the teenage girls. In that, he was precursor of a sort too.

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