You’d have to be a professional curmudgeon to have not been moved – at least a little bit – by the death of Davy Jones yesterday. Although a very minor talent, and by far the least talented Monkee, Jones was for many (especially for women) the embodiment of what made them so well-loved. And he was, by all accounts, a lovely man. All The Monkees ever did, and all he ever did, was bring pleasure to millions of people. There’s something really pure and wonderful about that. It’s this that explains – especially to those who think they were just a dumb, manufactured pop band – why so many were upset yesterday. People knock pop music all the time, but when it’s done well it can be the most noble and moving thing going – because it makes people happy. No mean feat.
For me, the best thing about The Monkees is Micky Dolenz.
(Among ‘serious’ music fans, of course, Mike Nesmith is the one who gets the most attention. A proper musician and songwriter, his pop-country work – both with The Monkees and solo – is genuinely great and well worth seeking out.)
I was a bit annoyed yesterday when the BBC kept referring to Jones as The Monkees’ lead singer. They didn’t have a lead singer. But if that title were to go to anyone, it’d have to go to Dolenz who sang on most of the best, and best-known, Monkees songs – such as I’m A Believer, Last Train To Clarksville and the almost perfect Pleasant Valley Sunday. He was also quite a talented, and often daring, songwriter, as Randy Scouse Git and Shorty Blackwell demonstrate.
But it’s his warm, soulful and slightly strange voice that really gives him the edge over his bandmates. Something that the many producers and writers who worked with and guided The Monkees fully understood. And Pleasant Valley Sunday is, to my ears, as good a pop vocal performance as any I’ve ever heard. Given the competition, that’s really saying something.