Cheer Up, Sleepy Jean

I don’t remember if I’ve ever written here about my love for the Monkees. If I have, it’s been a long time since I’ve brought it up. It’s not that I’ve forgotten about them. They are on every playlist and I’m always happy for them to pop up in my shuffle. But they had a hipster revival a couple of years ago and I felt like their relevance was well covered by more prolific people.

But now Davy Jones has died. He is the first Monkee to go. To me, that feels significant (other than the obvious, “a man is dead” significance). The Monkees are definitely the first manufactured boy band. But they are also, in many ways, an alternative to the Beatles. I’m not saying they are BETTER than the Beatles, or even as good. But to me, they are more important. If I had to choose to listen to one over the other, I would choose the Monkees. Maybe it’s because I like a little whimsy in my psychedelic 60’s pop. Maybe it’s because it’s like listening to several great artists at once. Neil Diamond and Carol King each wrote some of the group’s biggest hits. Mike Nesmith eventually convinced the Powers That Be to let him write some songs, and what he came up with was some of their best work.

Mike was the most musically inclined. Peter was the weird one. Micky was the voice and Davy was the face. They were never as good alone as they were together.

It’s not exactly a John Lennon situation. 66 is young by today’s standards, but it’s not like he was in his prime or anything. Was he even recording? He’d be the last Monkee that I’d want to hear a solo album from. This is like Ringo dying first in terms of its impact on actual production of music. Personality-wise, it’s like losing George first.

Davy is dead. That means the Monkees are also dead. Even though they’ve been gone for a while, it really feels real now. From now on, whenever I hear their music, it will be a little sadder than it was before. There will be a ghost in the song.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about all the outpouring of good will and emotion over Davy Jones’s death. Considering the context – that his “relevant” career (as opposed to merely being a fixture on the nostalgia circuit) lasted only about 4 years in the late ’60s, and that he only sang one of The Monkees’ hits – it’s really quite surprising. I can’t help thinking that if Micky Dolenz died yesterday, even though he sang 90% of the band’s songs, there wouldn’t be nearly as much appreciation for his legacy, or this sense that “The Monkees are dead”. Maybe it comes down to Davy having had that extra amount of natural charm, sweetness and likability over the other Monkees – particularly Micky. In any event, it does suggest that our relationship to the band is a peculiarly visual one. That we know them and remember them not as musicians but as TV stars.

    • Speaking for myself, I would have been sadder if any of the other ones had died. But I think Davy was probably the most popular one, since he was “the cute one”. You’re probably right about society as a whole viewing them that way. For me, it was the music. And, for the record, I think Peter and Mike are the cutest. :)


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