Good Times with The Monkees!

Leap year 2012 was entertainer Davy Jones’s last, as he died at age 66 on February 29th. At the time, I had a Facebook page and wrote the following tribute, presented now with some edits:

“It’s hard to believe…”

David Jones has died. As the soul of The Monkees, and only constant member with Micky, Jones was undoubtedly the most popular. His charming personality was unique, yet also embraced notable qualities of his fellow band mates. Jones could channel Peter Tork’s bashfulness, Micky Dolenz’s comedic chops, and Mike Nesmith’s confident professionalism. Let it not be forgotten that this ladies man was also an accomplished jockey and a proud stage actor, frequently reminiscing of his roles in “Oliver!”

Jones played every instrument from tambourine, to guitar, and to drums, at least in theory. He even learned to play the violin in 1967 to win the love of a special girl. Vocally, he could unashamedly belt out ballads and rockers with the best of them and I respect him for the sincerity in which he presented himself. He was cheesy, carefree, and had a “love me as I am” attitude, though he had been know to change for the fairer sex on occasion.

In 1986, The Monkees was one of the first to become a favorite band and maintain a position in my top five to this day. The Pisces, the Aquarius, the Capricorn, and Jones were crucial in strengthening the bond between my sister and me. Our musical tastes have been more divergent in recent years, but The Monkees are a constant.

With his legacy of beloved music and laughter, Mr. Jones will continue to enrich the musical world.

“Laugh, cause the music is funny…”

With his demise, and a Dolenz/Jones/Tork lineup of The Monkees having just toured the previous year to celebrate their 45th anniversary, it seemed the “Pre-Fab Four” had met their end. My wife, sister, brother-in-law, and I saw them on this tour at Harrah’s Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. For some reason, we passed up chances two or three times since the late ’90s to catch them live, but weren’t taking them for granted anymore. The outdoor performance saw the band play longer than many half their age, with a nostalgic stage production and more varied set list. The surreal part was meeting the trio, as we splurged on meet and greet tickets to engage in some Monkeemania. Dolenz and Tork quickly chatted, signed autographs, and took pictures down the line of fans, but it was Jones who presented himself the most cordially. He also was the only one with photographers shooting posed pictures, for which I’ve not been able to track down for purchase. Before we left the casino, we spotted and met Micky once more as he was sitting at the bar, flanked by two lovely ladies.

After seeing the 2011 tour, which was cancelled not long after the Iowa date, we were content to have finally fulfilled a childhood dream of 25 years and accept The Monkees’ anticipated end.

But then came the unbelievable announcement that Dolenz and Tork would be joined by Mike Nesmith for a late 2012 tour! My sister, my wife, and I were elated when we read that and didn’t hesitate buying tickets to Chicago’s sold out show to see the momentous evening of music. Nez last briefly toured with the others in Europe in 1997, and before that, barring a few guest appearances, it was the 1960s. The hit songs were covered, with deep cuts and a media montage backdrop carried over from the ’11 tour, only now with tributes to Davy. The absence of Jones was strangely not detrimental, likely because the joy of hearing Mike’s songs performed by him was a priceless reward. In the majestic Chicago Theatre, the audience was enamored with the three and their pro backing musicians, including Micky’s sister and Mike’s son. Comedic banter and shared memories were spoken between songs, and the band closed with “Daydream Believer,” sung by fans on stage and the audience.  I recorded “Circle Sky,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and “You Told Me,” available to download for free here.

Afterwards, we experienced another round of Monkeemania as participants in the sectioned off crowd waiting outside to glimpse Micky, Peter, and Mike as they each were escorted from the venue. We were hoping to have some interaction and a photo with Nesmith this time, but it understandably didn’t happen. Nez would likely have been mobbed, and is aware of the enthusiasm his rare appearances can cause. Still, the night will be happily recalled throughout our lives, and noted as an even better experience than the last. It was also the final concert outing with my sister before she birthed her first son a few months later, and another important bonding event.

The Monkees further trekked into 2014 and Mike Nesmith pleased fans, again, by touring with his backup band, featuring session bassist Joe Chemay and the impressive Chris Scruggs. With the rationale of “This is REALLY likely to be the last time,” I saw Nez’s two Chicago performances and the Milwaukee finale in November 2013. He covered selections from The First National Band’s country rock catalog, to his more experimental LPs like the fantastic Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma.

Leap year 2016 now gives us another remarkable Monkees surprise, their third studio album since 1970, Good Times!, and a 50th anniversary tour, albeit without Nesmith. The album reportedly will be written by various songwriters including XTC’s Andy Partridge, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, and Zooey Deschanel’s ex-husband, Ben Gibbard. Vocals will be tracked by the surviving members (hopefully including Mike), with archival vocals by Davy. Further updates can be read on the group’s official site.

With the band still defiantly swinging along with the scheduled 2016 tour as a duo, I can’t help but recall a 1988 issue of Mad Magazine poking fun at the pop stars with a creepy drawing of a solo Tork in a wheelchair playing Davy’s tambourine billed as “Monkees 1999 Reunion Reunion Concert”

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Rick Tulka art from Mad Magazine #282 courtesy of lewiswaynegallery.com

The band with Mike and sans Davy has proven to be successful and respectful, but trimmed to a duo, I’ve little interest. Technically, no one member has played every tour, save for Davy until his death, and I’d call Micky the linchpin, but am unlikely to finance the Mike-less group. Hopefully, leap year 2020 won’t really be Tork alone. Yikes!

Why am I excited for this news regarding a fifty year old manufactured band? As mentioned in an earlier post, my sister and I were of the generation who saw MTV’s The Monkees marathon in February of 1986, 30 years ago, and became fans, like our parents, who were witnesses to the band’s heyday. We bought the Rhino Records reissue of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones, Ltd. and ordered from TV Then and Now…The Best of The Monkees to supplement our parents’ o.g. copies of The Monkees and More of The Monkees. Other early family Monkees stories include my dad seeing them live in the ’60s on a St. Louis, Missouri area stop and my sister, as a child, speaking to Dolenz during a radio call-in to St. Louis’ defunct the Imagination Station. She innocently stated to Micky that our dad thought him to be the cutest Monkee. As I remember, Micky stalled for a moment and was probably amused by the unexpected words. I wish I had the audio, and have searched the internet with no results. Maybe someday…

We’ll see how this tour goes and if Nez changes his mind and rejoins, it’ll be another surprise. I pre-ordered Good Times! on vinyl and will await the first listen with my sister in June. It’ll be like 30 years ago!

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1 Comment

  1. I was so glad that I got to see them in 2011. Something just told me that *something* was going to happen to one of them, sooner or later. Of course, I had no idea it would be Davy! He always seemed the most youthful and energetic of all of them.

    I also happened to see the 2012 concert with Nez at the Chicago Theater. I had never gotten to see him perform at all before, so seeing him in a Monkees concert was the best possible treat!

    Liked by 1 person

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