Wednesday, March 07, 2012

[Music] Rest in Peace, Davy

Rest in Peace, Davy: Up until about third grade I was the shortest kid in class. Even shorter than all the girls. (I have since turned out to be average height, exactly.) Anyone who was in a similar situation knows the trauma involved in that. But Davy Jones was the shortest Monkee, and we had the same first name, and frankly, we even looked a bit alike. That helped.

I loved the Monkees. I can still name their first five albums from memory: (1) The Monkees, (2) More of the Monkees, (3) Headquarters, (4) Pieces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones, (5) The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees. All of these were rife with brilliant pop songs of the sort that come along only once every few years. Very few bands have ever put together such a brilliant oeuvre. I have, ever since, been a sucker for perfectly crafted 3 minute pop songs.

Anyone one of those five albums is would be a pop masterpiece today. Yes, I know that the songs were all written by the top songwriters money could buy. And the musicians were the best session players money could buy. And the producers were under marching orders to make something marketable. But think about that. Can you imagine any corporate interest trying something like that today and generating anything like the quality of music?

Their sound was hugely influential on the best popsters of the '90s -- the Shibuya-kei style from Japan. And given modern production values, their music would match up easily with the best pop of the last 10 years -- say, Barenaked Ladies and Fountains of Wayne, for example. The songs are as exuberant and energetic as they were 45 years ago. If anything, doing that while under corporate control only makes the achievement greater.

Davy was the face; the cute boy all the girls could crush on. He could sing (but not as well as Dolenz); he could act and even dance a bit; he lacked the musical talent of Tork and especially Nesmith, but he had a friendly charisma and seemed to brighten the atmosphere.

He always wanted to be a jockey (interesting that horse racing has come up in three of my posts this month), but his natural charm led him into acting and that was that. Never was a bad word said about him. His good and unassuming nature were roundly praised upon his death.

Of course, people like me don't actually mourn Davy Jones proper. We express gratitude for the positive affect he had on us. What we really mourn is the loss of our ability to experience the feelings he facilitated in our childhood (even the trauma of being the shortest one in class) and, by extension, our own mortality. I would never wish my youth on anyone, but there are things I miss: the revelry of playing catch all afternoon, conquering a video game, or a hearing a familiar Monkees song. Those activities are still possible but they will never be enjoyed so thoroughly. That innocent vitality, like Davy, is gone forever.