Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones meets his locker.

Davy Jones of Monkees fame dead of heart attack at 66

Last Modified: Feb 29, 2012 04:58PM
Davy Jones, an actor-turned-singer who helped propel the made-for-TV band The Monkees to the top of the ratings and the pop charts and into rock ‘n’ roll history, died Wednesday in Florida.
Jones, lead singer of the 1960s group that was assembled as an American version of The Beatles, died of a massive heart attack in Indiantown, where he lived, his publicist Helen Kensick said.
Jones, 66, had complained he wasn’t feeling well earlier in the morning. Fire-rescue personnel responded, taking him to Martin Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Jones had attended a performance of his wife Jessica Pacheco’s flamenco dance group last week at which he seemed well, according to a friend who said the former pop star was working on a new musical.
Jones was a former jockey and child actor in his native England. He rose to fame in 1965 when he was picked for the rock band The Monkees, which was formed by Hollywood producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider to star in a comedy TV show called “The Monkees” about a band called, naturally, The Monkees. The show would include the band performing a song.
The Monkees quickly stormed radio and TV airwaves with a string of chart-topping songs that went on to sell an estimated 65 million copies worldwide.
Musical ability wasn’t paramount in casting the band and show. While Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork had some musical experience, Micky Dolenz, like Jones, had been a child actor.
The band was meant to evoke The Beatles, already famous for their music and the movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” Each role was loosely patterned after one of The Beatles, with Jones as The Monkees’ version of Paul McCartney.
In August 1966, The Beatles, performing in San Francisco, played their last live set for a paying audience. The same month, The Monkees released their first album, introducing the world to the group that would star in the NBC series when it premiered in September 1966.
The show caught on thanks not only to the music but also its fast-paced comedy, inspired as much by the Marx Brothers as The Beatles. As David Bianculli noted in his
Dictionary of Teleliteracy, “The show’s self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group’s first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes.”
At 5-feet-3, Jones was, by far, the shortest member of the group — a fact often made light of on the show. But with his youthful good looks and lead vocals on songs including “Daydream Believer,” he was also the group’s heartthrob. And with the pronounced accent that he never lost, Jones was, in some ways, The Monkees’ direct connection to Beatlemania.
But The Monkees came under fire from music critics when it was learned that session musicians — and not the group’s members — played the musical instruments on their early recordings. They were derided as the “Prefab Four,” an insulting comparison to The Beatles’ nickname, the “Fab Four.”
In reality, Jones could play the drums and guitar, and although Dolenz learned to play the drums only after he joined the group, he could also play guitar, as could Nesmith.
Nesmith also wrote several of The Monkees’ songs, as well as songs for others. Tork, who played bass and keyboards on the TV show, developed into a multi-instrumentalist.
The group eventually prevailed over the show’s producers, including music director Don Kirchner, and began to play their own instrumentals.
And they had enviable behind-the-scenes talent to support them, including Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who wrote “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and Neil Diamond, wo wrote “I’m a Believer.” Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young. Jimi Hendrix famously played with the band on tour.
The group also released the 1968 film “Head,” derided at the time as a psychedelic mishmash notable only for an appearance by Jack Nicholson. It has since come to be considered a cult classic by Monkees fans.
Still, after just two seasons and 58 episodes, the series flared out. It was cancelled in the summer of 1968.
Jones left the band in late 1970, and the band broke up over creative differences in 1971.
That same year, he recorded the solo hit “Rainy Jane” and made a series of appearances on TV shows including “Love, American Style” and “The Brady Bunch.” He played himself in a wildly popular episode of “The Brady Bunch” that aired in late 1971 in which he makes an appearance at Marcia Brady’s school dance after Marcia, as president of her school’s Davy Jones Fan Club, promised her classmates she could get him to show up.
The band reunited from time to time for brief tours, usually without Nesmith, the latest one in 2009.
All four band members came together for a 1996 album, “Justus,” and a subsequent TV movie “Hey, Hey, It’s The Monkees!” that saw them still living in the same house and still traveling in the Monkeemobile — just like old times.
Jones, who is also survived by four daughters from previous marriages, continued to make appearances on TV and stage. But it was the fame of The Monkees that pulled him back to that era time and time again. On his website, he recalled during auditions for the show when all four men finally were put together in a scene.
“That’s it,” he recalled everyone around him saying: “Magic.”

Copyright © 2012 — Sun-Times Media, LLC

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