#2: the sorrow and the pity (marcel ophüls, 1969)
#1: the godfather and the godfather: part ii (francis ford coppola, 1972, 1974)

music friday: hanson, “mmmbop”

I want to chalk up the outpouring of emotion from fans on the news of Davy Jones’ passing to nostalgia, and it is true, more than one person has expressed regret over our lost youth. Take Howard Barbanel, in “Daydream Believer, 1945-2012: Davy Jones and the Shift of Generations”:

When was the last time you believed in daydreams (let alone indulged in them), white knights on steeds or waking up at six in the morning with a homecoming queen beside you?

All that was made possible by an impish British invasion with a sometimes lead singer named Davy Jones for a manufactured pop group called The Monkees. …

The loss of Mr. Jones transcends his place in music or pop culture. It's really about the inevitable and inexorable passage of time that wreaks its vengeance on us by prodding us along on the bread line of life so that we're no longer on the cusp or even the middle of things, but being edged out to the periphery. …

The loss of Davy Jones is like a warning shot across the bow of the Baby Boomers that the world we once so thoroughly dominated in every respect is only given to us on loan -- we can only lease a part of any given century or epoch and we will be compelled to yield the floor to those coming up after us.

I fear that Davy’s death is being asked to bear too large of a burden, but I seem to be in the minority. Rob Sheffield never writes a bad sentence, and he is eloquent in his defense of Jones. And I can’t call it nostalgia in his case … Sheffield was born in 1966, and was only two years old when The Monkees TV series was cancelled. What is great about Sheffield is that he can be a master of snark, but he is also always willing to put his real emotions on the line. When he titles his obit “In Memory of the Cute One: Davy Jones’ Greatest Musical Moments”, when he leads with “Davy Jones was the grooviest of the Monkees, which makes him one of the grooviest pop stars who ever existed”, he’s not being ironic.

There’s also the need to be respectful of the taste preferences and grieving processes of others, as I noted when writing about Whitney Houston two weeks ago and offering my anecdote of insensitivity on the death of Frank Zappa.

If I was a good boy, I’d make this Music Friday into a tribute to Davy. I enjoyed their TV series enough at the time (I was 13-14 years old). I’m not immune to some of their pop hits … if forced to choose, I’d probably pick “Valleri” as my favorite.

But I can’t help feeling that Monkees nostalgia misses the point. There is always a place for art that works against the mainstream. The Beatles of Sgt. Pepper deserved to be taken down a peg, no matter how good that album was, just as the pomposities of prog rock needed to be met with the snarl and incompetence of early punk. But the counterpart to Sgt. Pepper was the Stooges, not the Monkees. It’s not that the Monkees were a copy of the Beatles … the Beatles were a copy of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers and fill-in-the-blanks. It’s that the Beatles took their influences and created something that was their own, while the Monkees existed solely to exploit the market surrounding the Beatles and the British Invasion. (Davy was picked to be a Monkee because his accent played well in such surroundings.) The Monkees were tamer than the Beatles, they were more crass than the Beatles, and more power to them … their TV show was good enough, and they put out some good records. But their cultural moment was short-lived … the TV series only lasted two seasons … and it’s their music that remains their calling card today. So we tip our cap to Davy Jones for bringing pleasure to so many, and leave it at that. Inflating the importance of the Monkees is unnecessary.

To put it another way, several decades from now, I hope these guys get as much love and affection when they pass, as Davy Jones is getting now:

And, because I can never post this enough times:



This is irrelevant to the point you're making--which, even as a huge fan of a few Monkees songs, I basically agree with; they don't need a spot on Mount Rushmore--but I think Rob's got it wrong, Mickey was easily the coolest Monkee, and the guy who sang almost every great song of theirs. The only great Davy song for me was "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (absent from Rob's list).

I talked to my class for 15 minutes about them yesterday, with detours into Milli Vanilli, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez.

Steven Rubio

Part of this is that with Jones, and before that Whitney, I find myself on the outside looking in, unable to say much of interest because the artists in question are so clearly outside my taste preferences (Whitney more than the Monkees, since I was at least the right age to enjoy the Monkees in their original state). I am basically floored that Davy Jones' death has elicited so much emotion ... and that's my problem, not anyone else's.

Over the years, Rob has become my go-to guy for things like this, which is why I was so glad he wrote something, even as I scratched my head at the subject matter. He has the ability to approach certain music un-ironically, and I learn from that (I would have loved to have been in your class yesterday). I've said this before: the difference between what I pictured as his general stance as a writer (based largely on his huge contribution to the RS Record Guide ... I found him hilarious, at his best when panning an artist) and the writer who emerged in his books (the first one, in particular, was heartbreaking and inspiring in equal amounts ... and in those books, he is at his best talking about artists he loves) was quite large. I can't think of anyone I'd rather read about the Monkees, outside of Ann Powers, since I've known her for so long and think of her as "mine" to some extent.

I'm still rambling ... I guess the point is that it would never have occurred to me to take time in class to talk about Davy Jones. It's one thing to be out of touch because I'm old and don't pay as much attention to new music as I did when I was 20. It's another thing to be out of touch with the stuff I grew up with. Thank goodness for people like you and Rob (said un-ironically).


I think the whole Davy Jones thing (beyond the point you eloquently make about taste and all that) is inseparable from the TV show. I grew up with the Monkees on TV in LA on a regular basis. Sometime in the early 80s or so they went off the air and when they came back in that late 80s reboot via MTV I was struck at how funny it was for my teenage self, even more so than for me as a kid. The sign of the show's success is the negation of its existence. When I read things like the Sheffield piece you link to I see the unquestioned relevance of their music as the product of the commercial vehicle that tried to convince us all of that very fact. All that Monkees controversy of whether or not they were a "real" band didn't carry over into my encounter with them. It was settled. They were on reruns.

Steven Rubio

I forgot that The Monkees lived on in reruns. It wasn't as visible to me in reruns as something like Gilligan's Island, so I didn't think it might have picked up new audiences along the way.

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