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Davy Jones on The Monkee’s unlikely rise to fame and how they have put their differences behind them

May 1, 2011 by  
Filed under davy, news feed

A TEENAGE Davy Jones thought he’d hit the big time when he starred as the Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver on Broadway.

It had only been four years since he’d turned his back on a promising career as a jockey to make his stage debut as an actor in Edinburgh.

But on February 9, 1964, Davy was an eyewitness to an event which made music history and set him on the road to being a pop superstar.

The cast of Oliver had been invited to guest on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York. They had to take second billing to a new act who were appearing on US television for the very first time. Their name? The Beatles.

As Davy watched John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr power through All My Loving, Till There Was You and She Loves You – to a then record TV audience of 73million viewers – he said to himself, “I want a piece of that”.

Within a year, Davy had answered a job advert for “4 insane boys wanted for a new TV series” placed by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider in The Hollywood Reporter. They wanted to create America’s very own version of The Fab Four.

Davy joined fellow actor Micky Dolenz and aspiring musicians Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith to form The Monkees, who also became a pop phenomenon with classic hits such as Daydream Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Last Train To Clarksville and I’m A Believer.

They chalked up record sales in excess of 50million.

This year, Davy, 65, who was born in Manchester, celebrates his 50th anniversary in showbiz.

He said: “My first ever stage performance was in Edinburgh in 1960. I appeared in a production of Peter Pan with John Gregson, Anne Haywood and Jane Asher, who became Paul McCartney’s girlfriend.

“I was just 15 years old and quit my job as an apprentice jockey. My success in Scotland led directly to landing the role of the Artful Dodger first in the West End of London and then on Broadway.

“I loved my time in Edinburgh. I bought a kilt, sporran, the lot. I still have the kilt. All four of my daughters have also worn it over the years. America changed my life but I still think of home and working in Scotland was an important part of that.”

Seeing The Beatles changed the course of Davy’s career. In 1964, the band’s manager Brian Epstein was anxious to break them in the States and signed a deal with Ed Sullivan for his boys to play live on his show on three consecutive Sundays.

Their appearances became milestones in entertainment history.

Davy recalled: “I was standing in the elevator when Ringo Starr got in. When I saw them play, that’s when the power of pop music first struck me. Within weeks, I was signed to Colpix Records and making demos.”

Davy became friends with The Beatles. John Lennon loved The Monkees and dubbed them “the Marx Brothers of Rock”. He never missed an episode of their TV show, saying, “They’ve got their own scene and I won’t put them down for it. You try a weekly television show and see if you can manage one half as good.”

In 1967, when The Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at Abbey Road in London, they hosted a party for their US rivals.

Now, The Monkees – Davy, Micky and Peter – have resolved past differences and are planning a 45th anniversary UK tour which includes a gig in Glasgow.

Davy said: “The Monkees are probably one of the only bands where all of the original members are still alive. This 45th anniversary is kind of weird. I have four beautiful daughters whose ages range from 22 to 42 and they all love music and go to rock festivals.

“But I wonder if they’ll have the same desire to continue with music. Are guys like Oasis or Blur interested in that longevity? John Lennon once said, ‘I don’t want to be 40, wearing a silver suit and playing in Las Vegas’. But most major artists, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Celine Dion, are doing just that. They’re playing residencies and pulling in the crowds.”

But Davy paid the price for being a pop idol. He admitted: “The Monkees changed my life but ruined my acting career. Once you get into something so big, people think of you in one way. I’ve played Vegas, Disneyworld and TV shows across America. The country has been the bedrock of my career. I don’t get offered acting jobs in Britain. Or if I did, I can’t wait around for a few panto appearances.”

The Monkees’ career was blighted by fierce disagreements with producer Don Kirshner. He didn’t think they had enough talent and insisted on recruiting songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson and Carole King. Tracks were recorded by session musicians and in1967 they faced a press backlash for not playing on their songs and were nicknamed “the pre-Fab Four”.

Davy said: “People said we didn’t play our own music. Do you think The Beach Boys played one note on Good Vibrations? You just did what was required for the job at the time.”

Two years later, Tork quit the group and Nesmith walked out in 1969.

Since then, there have been several reunions, the most recent in 1996 when they played at the SECC.

When The Monkees hit Glasgow this time, guitarist Mike Nesmith won’t be in the line-up. He’s taking no part in the anniversary celebrations. Nesmith certainly doesn’t need the money. His mother Bette Nesmith Graham was the inventor of Liquid Paper correcting fluid and bequeathed him $25million in her will when she died in the 1970s.

Davy said: “It’s a shame Mike is not involved. He’s very busy on other projects. But it’s never say never.”

Davy, Micky and Peter have also denied press reports that tensions have been running high at rehearsals.

He said: “The tour has been such a pleasure. How many guys of my age can say they still love what they do? The Monkees made about 10 albums. We could probably have done more. Now, it’s more about playing the music.

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