On September 12, 1966--five days after my birthday, in the greatest year in American pop culture history--The Monkees premiered on NBC TV. The show ran for two years, until 1968, and the four members of the band: Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones, toured and recorded together for a couple more years, until September of 1970.
Things moved fast in pop music in those days. Looking back, it seems like a generation passed between the time The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964), and the time The Monkees appeared on TV. It was two-and-a-half years. And also performing on Ed Sullivan that day--in his Tony-nominated role of the Artful Dodger from Oliver!, was child actor and sometime jockey Davy Jones.
By the time I met and helped interview Michael Nesmith in 1974, Nesmith had left the Monkees and, with The First National Band, released some great country-rock albums. Always the most musically talented Monkee (though Peter Tork was also skilled, and Micky and Davy were good singers and passable musicians), Nesmith also had family money, thanks to his mother's invention of Liquid Paper. He invested his Monkees money in his own record company, Pacific Arts, based in Carmel, CA. I went to Carmel with a friend who had a show on the San Jose State University radio station to meet Nesmith and his girlfriend Kathryn. We passed a pleasant afternoon wandering around that beautiful seaside city, talking about The Monkees and Nesmith's current project, The Prison, which was a book/record combination. The idea was that you should read the book while listening to the record, and let each one influence your perception of the other. Nesmith was always a pioneer in storytelling with combined music and images--The Monkees TV show itself foreshadowed rock videos, and Nesmith later earned the first Grammy Award for Video of the Year. My friend aired his recorded interview; I wrote up my own article based on the conversations, liberally sprinkled with Nesmith quotes, and that became my very first semi-pro publication, in a local music magazine called Bay Area Music, aka BAM.
In case you haven't caught on yet, I have always been a great Monkees fan, and remain one. I'm not alone, either--even John Lennon called them "the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers." The show was funny, the songs were written by some of the best songwriters in rock history--Harry Nilsson, Carole King, Neil Diamond, etc., as well as the Monkees themselves, and the guys really could play and sing. I even sat through their very strange movie, Head, in the theaters. And watched it again on TV.
So it was with great sorrow that I read today of Davy's death from a heart attack at the age of 66. He had a good, full life. His early jockey days apparently stuck, as he died while visiting some racehorses that he owns. He got to play a lot of wonderful music and appear before rabid fans and essentially relive, with his own group, the rock and roll magic that he had watched from the wings at the Ed Sullivan appearance.
But losing our first Monkee hurts.
Davy's job on the show was to look adorable, have a British accent, play the incurable romantic, and sing the incurably romantic ballads, like I Wanna Be Free and Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), from which I adapted the title to this piece. In the song, Davy sings, "Oh, how I wish tomorrow would never come."
Thanks for the music, Davy. And the laughs. And showing us, in those crazy 1960s, how to be incurably, un-ironically romantic.