If like me, you did not grow up watching, worshipping, or crushing on The Monkees, you might go into an interview with Davy Jones really not expecting very much. But Jones, who died today at the age of 66 in Florida of a heart attack, gave me, in 2008, one of the best interviews I ever got as a music critic—and I didn’t even deserve it.
Jones was preparing to visit Staten Island’s St. George Theatre with another former teen idol gone thoroughly gray, David Cassidy. My knowledge of The Monkees didn’t go far beyond the Wikipedia entry. I knew they were a boy band before boy bands, assembled for a long-gone era of television marketing—and, as such, seemed to me about as watered down and washed up a musical act as I could imagine. Jones and Cassidy were touring together to sell tickets to a crowd comprised mostly of people who became fans 40 years prior, long-gone heartthrobs playing dusty songs for those well into middle age.
But two hours after Jones called me from his Beavertown, Pa., horse farm, I sat at my desk stunned. He had been hilarious, mischievous, and incredibly self-aware. On preparing to open for David Cassidy, he said:
David Cassidy better be bloody good, if he's following us. Usually in my show I say, ‘If you like it, tell your friends, and if you didn't like it, tell 'em you saw David Cassidy.’ That's what I normally say, so I'll have to change that line to Micky Dolenz or something.*
He went on to tell me about asking to suck on the liquor-soaked tongue of a “rat-faced” heckler at his show in Vegas, to the horror of his girlfriend. He made fun of every single Monkee, most of all himself. But he also seemed proud of what they had accomplished. “The only people who didn’t like The Monkees were the French, and they don’t even like themselves, so what’s the point?”
Jones may not have been the most musically talented Monkee, but he was probably the funniest. So here’s to a Brit who didn’t take himself too seriously, even in his twilight—a comedic warrior of show-business who never stopped touring or going for the big laughs. Rest in peace, Davy Jones.
* This post originally misspelled the first name of Micky Dolenz.