Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My life with Davy Jones

I didn't plan on spending all day today on the computer, reading about Davy Jones' death, but somehow I have. My first real crush, the light of my childhood life, is dead, and try as I might, I just can't wrap my head around it. Others have written better than I can about his effect on their life, how much the Monkees meant to them as musicians, as comedians, as pals growing up. But I can't let this little bit of my childhood pass without my own tribute to him and to the group, and how Davy especially affected me as a young girl.

My parents loved music. My mother is a piano teacher and gave me my love for classical music. My dad was a big fan of "real" (I say that, he never did) country music. They both loved the smooth torch songs of the 50s and 60s as well as early rock and roll. They could dance the jitterbug like nobody's business. My dad knew the Everly Brothers in high school, and told me stories about sitting in the local radio station in Knoxville while they did live broadcasts before they were famous.

Obviously, this death hits close to home for me, so much so that I didn't even know until I wrote it that my opening paragraph would be about my parents, and not about Davy Jones at all. All this to say that I grew up listening to music, all the time. I don't know if it's true or not (you know how faulty memory is) but in my mind, a record was always playing when I was a child. I remember at some point I began taking my parents' "Chubby Checker's Your Twist Party" record into my own room and playing it on my record player. I later pilfered more -- Andy Williams, Peter, Paul and Mary, the "West Side Story" soundtrack -- and would play them while I read, or danced, or sat around playing in my room and daydreaming.

Soon I began having my own records and my own musical interests. I bought mainly soundtracks from my favorite movies, like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Oliver!, and the like. And then, suddenly, there were the Monkees. I don't know when I first heard them or saw the t.v. show, but in many ways there is no beginning to this story. They were just always there.

I think what attracted me as a kid was first, the songs, of course, but also the fact that they were funny and sweet, mischievous and silly...kind of the big brothers I never had. They were a part of my life just as much as my parents and eventually my little brother were, maybe even more, because they were mine. I found them, I responded to them, I loved them, they were my own music to listen to. I watched the show, religiously. I bought the records. Every album. Every single. I knew all the words to all the songs, except the few I didn't like ("Auntie Griselda", for example.) I was the queen of mis-heard lyrics, some of which I still sing today. "I'm a believer, I could enleave her if I tried," and "When I needed sunshine on my brain" are two of the best. I'm still quite proud of them.

I remember once visiting my Great Aunt Renie and Uncle Harold in Atlanta, and bringing my Monkees records with me. (Again, memory being what it is, who knows exactly how this transpired...) I remember lying on the sofa in their den, listening to one of the albums, singing along. Soon my great uncle came in. He was a kind of gruff older country man who often scared me with his loudness and grumpiness, but that day saw the end of any chance of me ever liking him. "What the hell is that?" he asked. "Now Harold," my ever-genteel great aunt said, "Julie likes them. She brought her records to play for us, now let her listen to them." "What do you call that? Rock and roll?" he continued. "It's the Monkees, Uncle Harold," I told him, kind of confused. "Hmmmph," he grumbled. "Sounds like nigger music to me."

Now my family was not particularly strict, in fact, they let us do just about anything we wanted, but there was one word we were never, ever allowed to utter, and that was it. I remember those words hitting me like a punch. I felt my face get hot. I didn't know what to do. I got up from the couch, very upset, and started to cry. Not only had he been mean about my band, my only band, the band DAVY was in, but he used the n-word! I can't remember what happened after that, or how the scene ended, but I'm sure Aunt Renie made him apologize, then fried me a chicken or something to make up for it. But I remember for the first time feeling as if I myself had been insulted, by extension, when he talked bad about the Monkees.

So back to Davy. As I said before, he was my first love. I remember watching the show, looking at his beautiful face -- in truth, a perfect face -- and feeling nothing but a pitter-patter in my chest. Sometimes I would look at my album covers and just stare into those beautiful, soulful brown eyes. I dreamed about him, about meeting him and kissing him. His lips were full and soft, his hair brown (like mine) and straight (like mine). He was not macho at all, and for a young girl, seemed the perfect "boy" to be with. In fact, it was years before I ever dated or even had a crush on any male who was the least bit tall, or bearded, or manly. Davy was my ideal. I could imagine walking through the park with him, holding hands, like they sometimes did on the show...

Oh, and the accent! He had that beautiful melodic voice, and the cute British accent. He was from England! It seemed so exotic to me. I loved the songs he sang on best, and especially was fond of the slow, romantic (and sappy) ones, like "I Wanna Be Free," and the still-wonderful "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)."  Davy's songs were the best, and the episodes on the show where he fell in love and got the stars in his eyes were my favorite.

I recently saw a documentary on the Biography Channel about the Monkees, and was astounded to hear that the show was only on the air for two years. It felt like a lifetime. I never thought any of it would end.

Of course, at some point it did end. Davy was replaced by Donny Osmond, and then Peter Frampton, and then a slew of others, but he was aways my first. His death greatly saddens me. Tonight I am mourning you, David Jones. RIP sweet friend I never knew.

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