The death of Monkee Davy Jones has stirred quite a bit of emotion across the Pond. Jones was, of course, “the British one”, but there was something about the Monkees that people of, ahem, a certain age will always associate with their childhoods. Full disclosure: I was eight or nine at the time, and, indeed, the proud possessor of a Corgi Monkeemobile.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick considers the show, the band and the phenomenon:
When childhood heroes die, a little bit of ourselves dies with them, the last lingering illusions of immortality.
I mourn Davy Jones not because he was a great musical talent but because, through the auspices of a brilliant 1960s American children’s TV series, he became an imperishable star of my interior world, an archetype for the joyous possibilities of pop music. With their playful wit, madcap surrealism, knockabout comedy, innocent spirit of anarchic amity and fantastically uplifting songs, they sowed the seeds for my adult obsession with pop…
One of the most remarkable things about the Monkees is that the show, like the band itself, was sophisticated enough to be open to interpretation. Watching those endless repeats in my teens, I formed further ideas of the pop process. The myth of the Monkees is one of the great myths of pop culture: the manufactured band rebelling against svengali manipulators, briefly shining before burning up in the fires of ego. We see the same story played out again and again in the “real” pop world, from the Bay City Rollers to the Spice Girls, but with The Monkees, we can watch it happen in repeat, from the zany innocence of the TV series to the mad rush of their self-immolating movie, Head, in which the band attempted to break free of their constraints by exposing their own essential fiction, but only ended up destroying the illusion that sustained them.
All of this is really sustained, however, by genuinely fantastic music that has, remarkably, stood the test of time. The miracle of The Monkees is that this exploitative, manipulative, derivative children TV series was underpinned by brilliant pop songs, written to order by some of the great writers of the era (from Neil Diamond to Goffin and King)… of such dynamic originality they put the imaginary band shoulder to shoulder with the heroes they were imitating.
And the blurring of screen persona with reality leads the Daily Telegraph’s Bob Stanley to conclude this:
Davy was the Monkee, the one who got the most screams, the most identifiable, the most kid-friendly. The blurring of fact and fiction, between the TV Davy Jones and the cute, pint-size Mancunian, has made his death much harder to accept. It’s as though Doctor Who, or the Pink Panther, or another much-loved fictional character, has died. Somehow it felt like the Monkees would reform once every 10 years, that the magic in the TV series – something very close to the essence of pop – could never be extinguished.