|Davy Jones, 66, died today of a heart attack near his home in Florida.|
As a young boy growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, The Monkees were one of my first entry points into music — albeit through television.
It was appointment TV for my brother and I on Saturdays to gather round the set and watch the weekly hijinks of the pop sensations, while enjoying the inevitable musical performance of a song near the end.
Davy Jones, as was the case with millions of other Americans, ended up being my favorite Monkee. No offense to the others, he just seemed to bring the most life and joy to the screen — and that resonated with me.
Jones, 66, died earlier today of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown, Fla. The completely unexpected news gave me pause as I fondly recalled my early fascination with The Monkees.
Fortunately, I have a more recent memory of Jones to fall back on. I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with him prior to a local concert on Memorial Day 2010. And also to meet up with him with some members of my family just prior to the show.
The interview, conducted on May 24, 2010, turned out to be one of my favorites. Not because of how I was able to craft the interview or prepare the questions — in fact, I pretty much had to throw my pre-interview notes to the wind as Jones took control from the outset and went off on many unprompted, but interesting, tangents — but just because of the excitement and enthusiasm he still so obviously had for life.
In preparing this interview for publication today — the first time it has been presented in full Q&A format — I was looking for added meaning in his words, in light of his unexpected passing.
I found it right near the end of our interview proper, before the closing small talk. Davy was expressing the joy he felt at meeting people who still recognized him in his journeys, and how it was his philosophy to leave a happy trail wherever he went.
And then he said this:
"Remember me the way you hoped I’d be."
Thanks, Davy. I will.
Note: Interview conducted on May 24, 2010
DAVY JONES: Hey, Doug, how ya doin? This is Davy Jones calling.
DOUG FOX: Hey, I’m doing great, how are you?
JONES: I’m just looking at my things here. I’ve been out on my farm all morning with my horses and I’m sorry I’m late.
DF: Not a problem at all. So you’ve got a few minutes now? Now would be good?
JONES: Sure, sure, sure.
DF: First, is it OK to tape this?
JONES: Sure, yeah, what are you writing for?
DF: You’re doing a concert here Orem, Utah, on Monday, a week from today, so I’m doing an advance for that concert in the newspaper where that town is.
JONES: Cool. We’re actually coming in from different parts of the country. My band, different members come from different places. Next week is going to be a fun week starting off in Utah because we’re then going to go on to Louisville and then up to Chicago, so it’s going to be cool. So we’ll be together to learn some new songs.
DF: You’re going to be learning some?
JONES: Well, you know, we’re going to Japan, so I’ve got a number of songs over there that I don’t do when I’m working. So we’ll just have to spruce up on those, you know.
DF: Do you find that you have to do that often, work new songs into your setlist all the time, and have to go back and relearn them?
JONES: I don’t, you just need to brush up. You pretty much get it after one go through and then it’s on the No. 2 go-through it sounds like we’ve been playing it for a while, you know. It all depends. Just on this one occasion in Japan, it has songs that I’ve performed, and had hits with in Japan, over the last, like, 20 years. So [there’s] a couple of things it might be interesting to include, but yeah, I do do different shows, in a casino, to a stage in the park or to a family audience at Epcot Center, you know what I’m saying? The songs are all there. You know, all the songs are there. You’re still listening to “I’m a Believer,” and “Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley” — so we’ve got all that going. Then there’s just the rest of the communication that we have with the families and the people, you know, they like good music and they hear good musicians playing it, so I think everybody gets a little happy.
DF: Yes, that’s probably one of the highlights of your show. It’s why people enjoy coming, I imagine, it’s very up, and a happy atmosphere.
JONES: Yeah, you know, we make fun of ourselves, and make fun of life and try to be as normal as you can. Obviously carrying all those songs and having shared them once before, and here they all go again. They keep going and going. I hope that the records being made today are long lasting. It would be nice to have those memories, you know, for these people in 40 years later, like we had it, or I had it, maybe not you, I don’t know how old you are, but it’s an interesting thing. It’s up to me to change my presentation with the occasion. You can’t be everything to everybody all the time, so when I go into a Vegas situation, maybe I’m a little more sort of adult with my delivery. I mean, I’m not a promiscuous person, but sometimes you go on the edge, you know, and let people have to think about certain things. It’s a good thing because the songs cover everything. If you sort of enjoy music, then you’re going to be listening to 10 to 12 songs that you recognize, you know what I mean? So, you’ll know them again. It’s real fun. These musicians are quite excellent, so I’m very lucky to be in [good] company, and obviously we love to come up to Utah. I used to go as a kid up to Alta, Utah, skiing and I’ve had a few friends that lived there in the state. And it’s good, and now we’re going to the park and meet all the families, and have a good old time — and be positive and hopefully meet a couple people. We might stay on an extra day actually. Just like chill and breathe some of that mountain air.
DF: That’ll be good for you! It’s funny how you mention the families coming to the show and things like that, because there’s a local guy who met you back in an airport here in 1968, and he was going into the service, and you ended up signing a concert ticket for him and he took it with him to Vietnam as his good luck memento. He mentioned how much he’s looking forward to coming to the show on Monday night. So things like that really resonate with people.
DF: Well, here we have two seasons — winter and summer.
JONES: Well, that’s good enough, too. Two out of four is not bad.
DF: The thing is, today it’s totally snowing here if you can believe that.
DF: Yeah, we haven’t had snow for probably about a month, and then today ... but it’s supposed to warm up again so I think your show will be fine, but we are getting snow today.
JONES: Maybe I should go into the blanket business. Somebody’s going to be selling hand warmers or things like that. Hey, it doesn’t matter to us. That’s the difference. It could be 10 or 10,000 people, it doesn’t matter. When I was in the theater, I worked so hard on the matinees, because everybody’s kind of holding back, you know, waiting for the evening show. It felt like that way. Or maybe that’s like the fantasy that you have. You know, they say don’t go a matinee, you’ll only get half a show. But me, I don’t. I enjoy trying to top what I just did. It’ll be fun. It’ll be nice for everybody. Just bring the families and just make sure they all bring their blankets if it’s going to be cold, and we’ll warm you up with some familiar music.
DF: Where do you live, what state?
JONES: I’m in Florida half of the year, and I’m on the road a third of the year, then I’m in Pennsylvania. We have a place just outside of Harrisburg, in Snyder County, and then we have a little place where I’m talking from right now, which is a little further up the state from Hollywood, Florida, where we have our apartment. Just a little further upstate, Indiantown. It’s 20 miles west of Stuart. So we’re inland between Okeechobee Lake and the ocean. And we keep our horses here in the winter. We’ve had two beautiful foals born. Beautiful, two colts. So we’re looking forward to that. It’s a bit of a passion. I can’t beat ’em with what I’ve got, so we’re going to try to breed a couple and see what happens in a couple of years from now and concentrate on other things.
DF: Well, I think that is something people, unless they’ve done the research on you, probably don’t know ... I know I was surprised at how involved you are with horses. And that I even saw where you said that if you hadn’t got your break in the entertainment industry, you thought you might have ended up as a jockey.
JONES: Yeah, and I’ll probably end up as a trainer one day, but not until I can do it full time. I don’t want to be going on the road, you know, laughing and singing and then calling and finding out how the horse is doing. You know what I mean? I want to be able to get myself into a position where maybe I do do a couple or three or four things a year. I don’t live in Hollywood, California. I’m not walking the beat, you know what I mean? I don’t have high-powered press agents, and agents, and publicists. You know, as Ringo [Starr] said when I asked him about, “Do you have a resume?” He said, “If they don’t know who I am by now, they’ll never know.” And that’s all he said. Aw, screw it man! Let the performance be the thing that speaks, you know? Not some history that people remember you from, you just go on and do it. And they say my ... he’s getting better and better, you know. I mean, that’s what you want to do. You want to entertain them to the point that they’re impressed, you know? It’s a natural thing for us. We’re there and that’s what we do. I was just in Pittsburgh for a couple of days, hosting a PBS special with all kinds of doo-wop groups from the ’60s and ’70s, you know, Paul Revere and Peter Noone and Roger McGuinn and all these people and Sandy, Sandy, ah what’s her face now ... Jackie De Shannon, who wrote some lovely songs back in the ’60s. She was there and we co-hosted this thing together, a PBS fundraising thing, so that was kind of cool. We do things with the Indiantown education coalition. We do a benefit every year in a local place, and we get a couple other people and we raise 20, 30 thousand dollars, and some kid goes to college, you know what I mean? Just quiet little things, commuting and stuff. I was up with Michael Bolton, I did a benefit with him for battered and abused women. He does it every year and has done it for about 20 years. And then the Boys and Girls Club of Florida, and other sorts of things that are able to be sort of shared. But it’s awfully difficult when you’ve got children and grandchildren, you’ve got performances, you’ve got travel ... very rarely are you sitting down at Thanksgiving, you know, eating with everybody else. Memorial Day, you’re rarely there, you know what I mean? And everybody’s celebrating with a glass of vino and you’re sort of like in a hotel lobby waiting to get picked up for the soundcheck.
JONES: So you can’t grumble. There are ups and downs, there are benefits and setbacks, you’ve just got to be able to balance them all. Some people can’t, and that’s why you get all this bad behavior. It seems like you have to have rehabilitation these days to be famous. It takes years to be able to present yourself, both on stage or you know in print. It doesn’t really matter. You just have to be positive, so that the negativity that you see all the time in television, you know they’ll be researching these things they do and these exposes and stuff. You never saw the stars like Lauren Bacall and Bogart and Mickey Rooney, you didn’t hear scandal, you know what I mean? And they weren’t in your face and filming you going to the bathroom, making obscure situations that we’ve all experienced like Big Brother or something. Well that Big Brother’s going to go to college and you share sort of a dorm and things like that. And then you have to pass each other or say, “Good morning” or then you have to sit in the rec room together or do whatever. But then because they’re being filmed they use bad behavior because that brings attention. You know, all the quiet people, you know what I mean, who are also contributing. So they contribute continually and loud voices become a very unnecessary thing in your life. It’s very difficult, even ... well, even [scoffs], as a writer, you’re a writer, I write, sit down and do stuff, OK. It’s very difficult to have the same needs you had when you were 21. So I go out and have a beer with the boys, and I might have some fish and chips down at the local pub or something, but it’s not something you’re able to frequent because of your schedule and because of commitments and all. So that’s why I think a lot of people run into trouble who have celebrity, and then all of a sudden they don’t have it and then bad behavior brings them back into the forefront, and other unnecessary [things]. Everything can’t be peaches and cream, you know what I’m saying? You’ve got to have a bit of roughness there once in a while. And you see these young people, whether it’s Miley Cyrus or whether it’s, well you remember the days of the Osmonds ... and all that family kind of stuff. Well, people are more Christian than one would imagine. They are more interested in simplifying than one would imagine. The bad news always seems to make headlines, but you know, there are a lot of people with families alive and well and living in America. You know what I mean? It’s unfortunate there are some states that are troubled more than others, and every good intention is sort of given them, and what speed or what rate, I don’t know. But, I mean, I’m lucky. I’m going away this weekend. I’m coming to Utah. I’m going to travel on a plane and people will think, “Hey, you’re Davy Jones, aren’t you?” We try to leave a happy trail. All right? So bad behavior is not associated with who we are. Remember me the way you hoped I’d be. You know what I mean? And that makes it all good. And then the music speaks for itself. Maybe the sun will be shining and it will be nice and warm and we’ll all be just, like, getting some vitamin D. Let’s pray for that, OK?
JONES: Will you be coming to the show?
JONES: Well, introduce yourself, and we’ll see what happens. Looking forward to it.
DF: OK, I would love to.
JONES: All the best.
DF: Thank you.