My originally scheduled post for 1 March was one of the book reviews from my old Angelfire site, my thorough debunking of Evelyn Kaye’s slanderous, Orthodox-bashing The Hole in the Sheet, but I decided to move that to a later date in light of the heartbreaking news about my first celebrity crush and favorite Monkee, Davy Jones, passing away too young.
I’ve been a Monkeemaniac since 1986, when the show began re-airing and The Monkees got that huge wave of resurgence. I was only six years old. That’s going to be 26 years later this year. That’s over three-quarters of my life that I’ve been a Monkeemaniac. Far longer than I’ve been a Beatlemaniac, a Who freak, loved The Hollies or The Four Seasons, been into Medieval music (one of my old Angelfire pieces about that topic coming eventually), been a Duranie, or been into any of the other bands, groups, and periods of music I’ve gotten into over the years.
For a long time, I’ve realized that had I gotten into The Monkees when I was older than just six, I doubtless would’ve picked Peter or Mike to be my favorite. Ever since I switched my favorite Beatle from Paul to John when I was 14 (though I wouldn’t admit to myself till I was 17 that John was my ONLY favorite, not one of two favorites), I’ve been all about selecting my fave rave based on deeper qualities than looks.
Little girls, teenyboppers who only get into bands because the media is heavily pimping them, pick their fave raves because they think so and so is the cutest or handsomest one. Now I think Peter would’ve been my fave, had I been older when I discovered them. But Davy was my first celebrity crush, and changing my favorite member of my first musical love would feel like sacrilege after so many years. I’ve never even considered changing my favorite Monkee in the past going on 26 years.
It was always something so special, how The Monkees were one of the few Sixties groups with all their original members still alive, no matter how I personally feel about over the hill rockers still carrying on as though they’re still in their twenties, or even their early forties. They hadn’t had their ranks thinned by Death, like many of the other oldies and classic rock groups have had. And when I see pictures and watch the show, it’s like I still picture the four of them as eternally that young and cute. They’re frozen in time in my mind as looking like that, even knowing how old they are and what they now look like.
It was like being kicked in the stomach when I heard that Davy had died. He had only turned 66 on 30 December. He wasn’t young, but he wasn’t terribly old yet either. On the “Too Young, Too Soon” series I had on my old Angelfire site, I profiled a number of people who died in their sixties, like Shemp Howard and Oliver Hardy, since dying in one’s sixties is still a tragedy, a person gone too soon. People can expect to live well past their sixties these days, not like how 30 used to be considered old.
When one hears of a death, one is supposed to say the blessing Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Dayan HaEmet, Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Judge of Truth. (Obviously, Hashem and Elokeinu aren’t how God’s name is really said in the blessing, but I follow the custom of not saying or writing Hashem’s true name outside of prayer, reading Torah or Haftarah, or teaching someone blessings or prayers. I similarly rendered God’s true name as Adoshem when one of the wedding blessings is being said at my character Malchen von Hinderburg’s wedding. I just don’t feel comfortable, just like other people prefer to write G-d and L-rd.)
I love all of The Monkees’ albums which I have (from their classic period, their eponymous debut through The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees, plus the rarities collection Monkee Business), but if I had to pick a favorite in a pinch, I’d go for Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd. I also love Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees, and still would love to find their albums from the later Sixties and early Seventies, starting with the Head soundtrack. Their music just makes me happy, and isn’t mean to be all deep, artsy, serious, and poetic like the music of some of my other favorite bands.
People who bash The Monkees because they started out as a group of actors pulled together for a tv show are missing the point. They rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. It was the will of Hashem that these four specific young men were the ones chosen, since they had such great chemistry and talent. And when we talk about their great, classic songs, we’re not talking about the songs everyone knows from oldies radio, like “I’m a Believer” or “Valleri” (not to say that those songs suck). We’re talking about the songs like “Sometime in the Morning,” “You Told Me,” “Writing Wrongs” (which is sort of like their version of The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9,” funnily enough, on The Monkees’ own version of The White Album), “Shades of Gray,” “The Porpoise Song,” and “Daily Nightly.” You know, the kinds of songs real, serious fans pick as their favorites, not the overplayed songs casual fans pick only because they’re the only ones they’ve heard on the radio.
Besides, who says only “real” bands are supposed to always play all their instruments and write all their own songs? Even The Beatles used session musicians for some of their songs, and nowadays it’s more and more common for real bands to not play all their instruments. At least The Monkees eventually started playing their own instruments, and Peter and Mike had already known how to play instruments before they joined the group. Maybe now that élitist asshole Jann Wenner will finally let them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The RRHOF is a joke anymore anyways, the way they’re inducting a lot of people who definitely aren’t rock and roll, and how long it took bands like The Hollies to get in.
And just because certain people still have an image of them as a boygroup and a bunch of talentless prettyboys doesn’t mean it’s true. If you want to knock on groups that really were just pretty faces and didn’t have musical chops to back it up with, go after teenybopper groups like The New Kids on the Block (whom I always hated) and N’Sync, not The Monkees. Image isn’t everything. They’ve got a lot of beautiful music in their catalogue, and it’s still being played and discovered over 45 years later. They were not some flash in the pan like the boygroups of the Nineties and early Aughts. The Monkees shouldn’t even be classified as a boygroup, or a “boyband.” I always hated the term “boyband,” because those groups were NOT bands!
Haters will say what they want, but that doesn’t change the facts. The Monkees have long since proved themselves as a true band, with a great catalogue and a classic show, and Davy will live on in memory for a very long time to come, because of the beautiful music he left behind. May his memory be for a blessing, and may his soul be bound up with the bonds of eternal life. I will never forget him.