The sad music news coming through the wires today is the passing of former Monkee Davy Jones at the age of 66, apparently of a heart attack. Jones was the resident tambourine player, vocalist, and “cute” one of the Monkees, that manufactured band that actually had a lot more talent than people gave them credit for. Their music was certainly hard to resist, although they ran the gamut over their several years of existence (prior to any reunions) in terms of styles, particularly as they began to try to wrestle the reins of control away from their producers in the late ’60s.
Frankly, I was never much of a Davy Jones fan — he always got the sappy songs that I figured were the ones more targeted to the young, pre-teen girl demographic of their fans. Mickey Dolenz got most of the really good songs, lucky for him. Me, I was more the type to admire Mike Nesmith — he was the laid-back cool one, who obviously had a bit more talent than the others in terms of songwriting, although they could all (except maybe for Peter Tork) hold their own as vocalists. Whatever the case, I watched the Monkees re-runs on TV pretty religiously as a kid in the early ’70s, and then again in college in the ’80s, when MTV (or was it VH1?) was ground zero for a bit of a Monkees revival, around 1984. The jokes on the show were so intentionally corny that they actually aged pretty well, and the music was still as catchy as ever.
To pay respect to Jones today, I figured it’s only fair to select a song that he sang lead vocals on, and since I won’t go anywhere near “Daydream Believer,” my options were fairly limited. But thankfully, there are a small handful of good songs that Jones sang in which his cutesiness wasn’t brought out enough to overpower the song. And while “Vallerie” practically begged me to choose it, I ultimately settled on “Star Collector,” from the band’s 1967 album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., considered by many to be their best studio album. “Star Collector” — written by the incredible songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King — simultaneously conjures up the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” The Rolling Stones’ “She’s Like a Rainbow,” and Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” but manages to forge its own identity in the process. One of its most unusual attributes is the inclusion of a Moog synthesizer solo, which made it one of the earliest pop songs to use that instrument. (Whether the Moog sounds like it ought to be in this song is another matter entirely.) Jones gives the song his best rock-vocal effort, saving it from the fate of being another “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” an otherwise great Neil Diamond-penned song that was dragged down by Jones’ too-precious vocals. “Star Collector,” on the other hand, is fully enjoyable as a tasty little nugget of psychedelic pop. And for that, and simply for being an integral part of one of the late ’60s’ most prolific hit-making bands, Davy deserves respect.
R.I.P., Mr. Jones.