Monday Musicologist: Remembering Davy and his fellow primates

1966: The year that gave us two TV shows that I was the perfect age for: Batman and The Monkees. Being the baby of the family by eight years, here was entertainment for the likes of me, an eight year old. My brother brought home the Beach Boys and my sister the Beatles. Now I had the Monkees. My mom drove me down to White Front and I got my first LP ever, The Monkees, for $2.99. I also made myself a Batman utility belt out of yellow construction paper and crusaded around the yard. Aren’t eight-year olds precious?

My 16-year old brother felt it was his evangelistic duty to explain to me that The Monkees were not a real band, but something made up by a TV show. Oh how hurt and defensive I was! Now granted, I was already totally into the Beatles, wearing out my sister’s copy of Revolver. Despite my umbrage, I knew at some level that the Monkees were junk food while serious bands like the Beatles and the Stones and the Doors were like steak. I knew that, but every micro-generation needs to have their music.

My favorite Monkees song of all time was only released as the B-side of a single, a Mike Nesmith composition titled “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”. It was the very first 45 I ever owned, and I recall being so excited to have found it in a record store outside of Monterey, CA while on summer vacation in 1967. Isn’t memory an amazing thing? I often associate locations with songs. The A side was “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You”, Davy Jones’s first lead vocal on a single, a fine example of the hit machine Neil Diamond was in those days.

I think their peak was that year, 1967. I recall “Words” being a hit during that same vacation. And I loved “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, a Carole King/Gerry Goffin song, with its hooky guitar intro a la the Beatles “I Want to Tell You” or “Ticket to Ride”.

Davy Jones’ other big one was “Daydream Believer” off their fifth LP. Unfortunately, they played that one to death, didn’t they? But he also sang “Valleri”, so it appears that perhaps the record people were setting him up to be main hit-maker. Who knows? The show ended, and the Monkees subsequently showed what kind of stuff they were really made of. Meanwhile it was good while it lasted. And I moved on to the more substantive fare handed down by my brother: The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, to name a few.

Davy sang “I Wanna Be Free”. For whatever reason, I picture a beach. Oh duh!, ‘cuz it’s the lyrics. “I want to hold your hand, walk along the sand.” I hope that you are in a good place now, Davy. One with a nice beach–my idea of Heaven. Rest in peace.

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