Davy Jones, lead singer of '60s pop sensations and television band The Monkees has died at the age of 66 in his hometown of Indiantown, Florida, according to the Martin County medical examiner's office. He suffered a heart attack.
The Monkees were created initially to be a sort of "safe" Beatles by record and TV producers in 1965, but ended up making hit singles, a cult TV series, and a film, 1968's Head, which would prove to be one of the first salvos of the psychedelic era. The film stands even today as one of the freakiest artifacts of that era.
The group broke up in 1971, and reunited in the mid-'80s around the time Nickelodeon began re-airing their series. They went on a few tours, sans Michael Nesmith who never warmed up to reunion plans, though he did help out on a new album in 1996 and a small UK tour in 1997.
The list of the Monkees hits, staples of oldies radio, is immense. "I'm A Believer," written by Neil Diamond, was one of their most enduring, along with their stomping debut "Last Train to Clarksville." They also could make the girls swoon with cuts like "Daydream Believer" and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere". Just ask Marcia Brady...
The group was deceptively poppy, hiding weirdo treasures on their later albums, like 1967's Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. which still stands up next to works from the Yardbirds and the Animals. And yes, The Jimi Hendrix Experience once opened a string of dates for the Monkees.
Anyone who thinks they were a pure pop confection is only half-correct. They managed to wrest some control over their music and blossomed, becoming hipster cause celebs by the '90s.
The group first came to Houston in 1967 with a date at the Sam Houston Coliseum on August 10, and returned to the venue on May 4, 1969. Their 1986 reunion tour made it to the Southern Star Amphitheater at Astroworld that June 27. No other Houston dates followed on their next handful of reunion tours.
Their '60s heyday set lists sought to showcase the personalities in the group, with some sets featuring solo cuts from each member and a variety of covers that challenged their young crowd. Harry Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy" was included on a 1968 set list.
Jones' post-Monkees career was wildly varied. Originally a child actor in England, he was bitten by the rock bug in the late '50s like most teens, and would be auditioning for the Monkees by 1965.
After the group splintered, Jones walked away with his pop-idol status intact, and recorded with fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. Jones kept acting for the rest of his life, even making appearances in the theater, and various TV roles. He showed up in 1995's The Brady Bunch Movie playing himself. Again.
The impact that Jones had on young girls in the '60s cannot be discounted. For many he was their first boy crush, and he had just the right amount of wholesomeness that made him tolerable for parents. That British accent didn't hurt either.
Our Hair Balls blog has a fascinating piece up right now featuring five odd facts about Jones, including his connection to the Beatles.
For a period during their TV show's filming, future Los Angeles radio DJ and scene fixture Rodney Bingenheimer was Jones' stand-in on shoots.
Jones was still a big draw on the oldies touring circuit, popular with baby boomers who grew up watching and listening to The Monkees, and also '80s babies -- like this writer -- who still tuned in to the show in syndication. Some of the writing on the shows was hokey, but never boring.
Monkees reunions were always somewhat bittersweet, with Nesmith keeping his distance. Dolenz, Jones and Peter Tork soldiered on, though. Last year's "An Evening With the Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour" featured a nearly 40-song set list spanning nearly every facet of their all-too-brief recording career.
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Another leg of the reunion jaunt was planned for late 2011, but plans were scuttled months before.