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Marc Lee: Twinkly-eyed and charming, Monkee Davy Jones was a believer to the end


The Monkees with Davy Jones (third left)

The Monkees with Davy Jones (third left)

The Monkees with Davy Jones (third left)

FOND memories of one of Davy Jones’s last gigs add a certain poignancy to the sad news of his death at the age of 66. When the Monkees – the original boyband – played the Albert Hall in London last May, they made no attempt to disguise the fact that they were now in their mid-sixties. Yet I’d never seen a more youthful-looking pensioner.

At the start of the show, Jones dashed on stage to announce jokily: “Hello, I’m Davy’s dad. Davy will be on in a minute.” In fact, the years had been remarkably kind to him: he looked in terrific shape. And he had retained much of the youthful energy that had powered the band’s extraordinary career four decades earlier.

It was an evening of heartwarming nostalgia for a crowd largely comprised of fans from back in the day, now not far from retirement age themselves. Yet, in the final moments of the show, a little girl – aged about eight, I’d say – was invited on stage to sing along to Daydream Believer. She was word-perfect.

This underlined delightfully the timeless appeal of the Monkees and their music. It is now 46 years since Last Train to Clarksville, their first hit, but the song remains an instantly recognisable pop classic. And it was followed by plenty more material of the same calibre, including I’m a Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday and (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.

His pretty-boy looks made Jones the face of the Monkees, and he was undoubtedly the star of the hugely popular TV series built around the band in the Sixties. His was the face on countless bedroom walls; he was the one that legions of delirious pubescent fans screamed themselves silly over. (It helped that he was from Manchester: in America, cheeky-chappy Brits go down a bomb.)

But listen to Last Train to Clarksville, and it’s not Jones singing lead vocals: it’s the drummer Mickey Dolenz. Jones may have been the frontman, but he was often reduced to the role of animated tambourine basher.

Though the Monkees embarked on reunion tours on a number of occasions, there were long-standing tensions within the band. And, at the Albert Hall, it seemed Jones couldn’t help having a little moan about the fact that he had got to sing mainly B-sides because Mr Dolenz “over there” had been entrusted with most of the A-sides.

It would, however, be a shame to learn that Jones had let such rivalries overshadow his career because, in the end, he had a lot to be proud of. The Monkees may have been the first “manufactured” band, created as America’s answer to the Beatles (they were dubbed the Pre-Fab Four), but they soon demonstrated real musical talent and wrested artistic control of their career from the men in suits.

Jones’s charming, twinkly eyed presence was a key element in the band’s success. And, when a list of the Top 25 Teen Idols of All Time was compiled by Yahoo in 2008, Jones was their choice for the number-one spot. Did he deserve such an accolade? Well, I’m a believer…