Monkee Peter Tork remembers Davy Jones’ extraordinary heart
March 6, 2012
I wrote an article after the death of Michael Jackson in which I meditated upon the inner life of the pop star.
Now comes the loss of my sometime partner Davy Jones, and I’m in an entirely different position. I was close to David (as I almost always called him), and I got to know him as few others could.
I’ve often said I loved, liked and respected each of the other three Monkees in different proportions. What I don’t often say is that I loved David the most.
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When we first met, I was confronted with a slick, accomplished, young performer, vastly more experienced than I in the ways of show biz, and yes, I was intimidated. Englishness was at a high premium in my world, and his experience dwarfed my entertainer’s life as a hippie, basket-passing folk singer on the Greenwich Village coffee house circuit. If anything, I suppose I was selected for the cast of”The Monkees” TV show partly as a rough-hewn counterpart to David’s sophistication.
What stands out for me about David, however, were the several events through the years in which I came to see a man of extraordinary heart and sympathy. First comes first:
We had just been selected as co-cast members and introduced to each other. Shake hands, “How do you do?” The producers sent us out to the desert, a drive of a couple of hours, to film a commercial for Kellogg’s, which was sponsoring the show.
We were almost entirely silent throughout the drive. “Nice day.” “Huh.” Silence. “Anyone hungry?” “Hunh.” We pulled into a diner, sat down and ordered. For some reason, Micky Dolenz’s and my salads came first. He and I basically stuck our forks into the bowls, and put whatever came up into our mouths.
“You pigs!” David said. “Anyone would think you was raised in a bahn the ways you guys is eatin’!” Micky and I were shamefaced.
David’s salad came. With all eyes upon him, he carefully cut the salad into one-inch strips, turned the bowl 90 degrees and cut the strips into one-inch squares. He doused it all with creamy dressing. Then, he reached into the bowl, grabbed a fistful of the salad and smashed it into his face.
I suppose he felt he’d overdone the manners maven thing and was making it up to us, but it was the style and willingness to go overboard that was so appealing, and more to the point, so very funny. I laugh to this day thinking about it.
The Monkees (the group now, not the TV series) took a lot of flack for being “manufactured,” by which our critics meant that we hadn’t grown up together, paying our dues, sleeping five to a room, trying to make it as had the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Furthermore, critics said, the Monkees first albums (remember albums?) were almost entirely recorded by professional studio musicians, with hardly any input from any of us beyond lead vocals.
I felt this criticism keenly, coming as I did from the world of the ethical folk singer, basically honoring the standards of the naysayers.
We did play as a group live on tour, including a concert in Osaka, Japan, in 1968. There, in the middle of a performance of Mike Nesmith’s “Sunny Girlfriend,” we hit the pocket. The beat fell into place, solid and grooving. Rock ‘n’ roll was happening there for us on stage. David came bouncing over to me and yelled above the volume, “WE’RE GONNA FORM A GROUP!”
David’s sympathy for my feelings about the criticism, his musical awareness and his sense of humor buoyed me that day about as much as getting into the groove. Later, when we four argued to be the musicians on our own albums, it was David’s agreement that provided the unanimity that made the difference. This was huge, actually; Micky and David came from an entirely different tradition. Actors sang on records made for them, and nobody thought twice about it. Folkies and rockers made their own albums!
There were many such incidents, but I hope these help to convey David Jones’ sympathy, humor and heart, qualities always in too short supply.
He’s yukkin’ it up somewhere else, now.
Peter Tork lives in Mansfield.