Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones - Good Stuff Comes In Small Bundles

Sixties pop icon Davy Jones has died from a heart-attack. He was sixty six. The circumstances surrounding the former Monkees' frontman's death are currently unclear but a spokesman for the singer and actor confirmed to the TMZ website that he had died this morning. An official from the medical examiner's office in Florida also confirmed to the website they had received a call from the Martin Memorial Hospital informing them Jones had died. Davy was born in Openshaw in Manchester on 30 December 1945. At the age of eleven he began his acting career in local theatre, making his screen début at thirteen in a BBC Sunday night drama called June Evening (1960). He went on to win a coveted role in Coronation Street playing Ena Sharples's teenage grandson, Colin Lomax, and also appeared three times in the legendary BBC police series Z-Cars during this period. However, after the death of his mother from emphysema when he was fourteen, he left acting and began training as a jockey with Basil Foster's stables in Newmarket. Events soon conspired to bring Davy back to the stage, however, when Foster was reportedly approached by a friend of his who worked in a theatre in the West End during casting for the second London production of Oliver! Jones appeared to great acclaim in the Lionel Bart musical as The Artful Dodger - replacing Tony Robinson in the role, fact fans! After playing the part in London, Davy accompanied the show to Broadway and he was nominated for a Tony Award. On 9 February 1964, he appeared along with the Broadway cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show - singing 'I'd Do Anything' with Georgia Brown - the same episode on which The Beatles made their first appearance in America. Davy said of that night: 'I watched The Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy and I said to myself, "this is it, I want a piece of that."' Following his Ed Sullivan appearance, Ward Sylvester of Screen Gems (then the television division of Columbia Pictures) signed Davy to a long-term contract. American television appearances followed, as Davy received screen time in episodes of Ben Casey and The Farmer's Daughter. He also recorded three singles and an LP for Colpix Records. From late 1965 to 1971, Davy was a member of The Monkees, the pop group formed expressly for the television show of the same name. With Screen Gems producing the series, Davy was shortlisted for auditions, as he was the only Monkee who was already signed to a deal with the studio, but he still had to meet producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider's standards (part of his audition tape can be seen at the end of the first The Monkees episode, Royal Flush). As a Monkee, Davy sang lead vocals on many of the group's best known songs, including 'I'm A Believer', 'I Wanna Be Free', 'Valleri' and 'Daydream Believer.' He also received a second footnote in pop history as his success when The Monkees became in transatlantic hit in late 1966 forced another David Jones, a Mod singer/songwriter from Bromley, to change his surname to Bowie to avoid confusion. Along with his bandmates, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, Davy was the cute one in the Pre-Fab Four who made some of the most catchy and memorable records of the era - 'Pleasant Valley Sunday', 'Last Train To Clarksville', '(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone', 'Take A Giant Step' et al - and, once they had wrestled control of their music from Screen Gems supremo Don Kirshner, two of the best LPs of the period made by anyone, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricon, Jones Ltd (both 1967). After The Monkees TV series was cancelled following its second season in 1968 (fifty eight episodes), the group continued for a further three years, making the fantastically weird movie Head, co-written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Rafelson and with a cast that included Teri Garr, Frank Zappa (in a scene with a talking cow!), Dennis Hopper (in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo) and Victor Mature. (It's one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite movies and has acquired a genuine cult following. It also produced a great soundtrack LP including possibly the two best Monkees performances, 'The Porpoise Song' and 'As We Go Along'.) They also did one more TV special, Thirty-Three & A Third Revolutions Per Monkee (1969). Tork left later that year and Nesmith in early 1970. Jones and Dolenz finally called it a day in 1971. Davy continued to perform solo, while later joining with Dolenz and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who'd written many of The Monkees early songs) as a short-lived group called Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. He also toured throughout the years with other members of the group as various incarnations of The Monkees, notably a full-scale revival (the only one that Mike Nesmith has been involved in) and new TV special in 1996. This blogger saw them on that particular tour (and also Davy, Dolenz and Tork on another tour a few years previously, both in Newcastle) and always found them to be a thoroughly entertaining night out. Hearing them do lesser known, but brilliant, songs like 'Star Collector' and 'Circle Sky' was a particular joy of yer average Monkees live show. In February 2011, Davy mentioned rumours of another Monkees reunion. 'There's even talk of putting The Monkees back together again in the next year or so for a US and UK tour,' he told Disney's Backstage Pass newsletter. 'You're always hearing all those great songs on the radio, in commercials, movies, almost everywhere.' The tour came to fruition entitled, An Evening With The Monkees: The Forty Fifth Anniversary Tour.' Davy is survived by his third wife, Jessica, and four daughters - Talia, Jessica, Sarah and Annabel - from his previous marriages to Linda Haines and Anita Pollinger.

Ah, bless you, Davy. 2011-12 has been a really rotten year and a bit for icons from yer actual Keith Telly Topping's formative years. So, there's only one thing to do about that. Sing! Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is going to be playing this one most of tonight in tribute. Thanks Davy, for a childhood that was far more enjoyable than I often let on.

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