In the summer of 1965, when America’s young were bewitched by Beatlemania, an idea was hatched for a TV show about a mop-top pop band. If they couldn’t have the Fab Four, how about the Pre-Fab Four? After placing an ad in Daily Variety asking for “a quartet of hip, insane rock ‘n’rollers, 17 to 21, “the producers assembled the zany combo of Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones.
Called the Monkees and criticized as being a blatant rip-off of the Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night, the show nonetheless attracted a huge following. Airing on Monday nights for two seasons (1966-68), the made-for-TV group’s witty antics were the talk of high school kids on Tuesday mornings. (Reruns can still be found on cable.) The Monkees’ success was no accident. Director Paul (Down and Out in Beverly Hills) Mazursky was one of the writers, and their songs were written by the likes of Carole King and Neil Diamond. By the late ’60s, the Monkees were playing to sold-out audiences all over the world.
Timed to coincide with the show’s debut, the Monkees’ first song, “Last Train to Clarksville,” chugged to the top of the charts. In 14 months they had seven more Top 40 hits, including two No. 1s: “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer.” The show won an Emmy in its first season, and the band’s albums sold millions.
In the center of the frenzy was Davy Jones, the cutest Monkee. The child actor from Manchester, England, first won acclaim—and a Tony nomination—as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! on Broadway. Still treading the boards at age 46, Jones performs regularly in clubs, at Monkees conventions and recently made guest turns with the Brady Bunch stage show. In addition, he breeds horses and is working on his first novel. Married to second wife Anita, 40, with whom he has two daughters, Jessica, 10, and Annabel, 4, Jones has a home in England and an apartment in Santa Barbara. (He has two grown daughters from his first marriage.) But he spends most of his time on his farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Jones unabashedly embraces his career as a Monkee. “John Lennon once said he didn’t want to end up singing his old hits in Las Vegas. Well, I do,” says Jones, who talked with correspondent David Hutchings about his Monkees years.
I was 18 years old and on Broadway when Columbia Pictures signed me to a long-term contract. They tried to cast me in things like Hogan’s Heroes, but that didn’t work out The Monkees idea came along, and I was the first actor they hired. I was cute. I had an English boy’s haircut. I dressed in Edwardian-style suits. Then they began auditioning for the other parts. They talked about the Lovin’ Spoonful. Stephen Stills said no, because he didn’t want to act. When I first saw Micky, Peter and Mike, I went to the producers and said, “Hey, they’re all 6′ tall. I’m 5’4″. This is ridiculous.” But we did screen tests together, and it was magic.
The Monkees was the first show that featured young stars who didn’t live with a family. We just played four rockers in a Malibu beach house trying to get work. Nobody knew how we got the money to pay the rent. The fact that we were living on our own without a parent was one of the reasons teens liked the show so much.
The funny thing was, the show was about a small-time band trying to make it. Yet when we left the studio, there would be 300 squealing teenyboppers waiting to see us. The show made me a sex symbol. Not that fan wanted to take me home to bed; they wanted to hang my poster on their wall. Fans don’t see your faults, they just see the image. You can’t tell someone who loves Fabian that he can’t sing. You can’t tell Frank Sinatra, “Frank, don’t sing anymore, you’re not holding the notes, you ain’t got it.” The fans don’t hear. They don’t hear me when I’m sort of worn out after a week on the road. People don’t want to judge you, they want to enjoy you.
The show aired in 36 countries, and we were recognized everywhere we went. The teen idol thing was great, but sometimes the kids were dangerous. Once in London I told Micky that we should go to a pub, but when we got there people shouted “the Monkees,” and we had to race back to the hotel into a crowd of 5,000 people. In our rush to get through this massive glass door, we pulled the handles off it, and it came crashing down, just missing us.
But there were funny times too. Girls would bribe bellmen in our hotels to bring them up in boxes, leave them, and then a fan would jump out of the box and try to take a pillowcase or a piece of clothing for a souvenir.
The only thing I didn’t like about my character was that people always treated me like a little boy because I was so small. Years ago when we were doing a concert in Houston, an ex-policeman picked me up from rehearsal. We’re driving around, and all of a sudden I see: Houston, that way, 30 miles. Then we go 10 miles more, and I say, “Where are we going?” He says, “I’m taking you home to meet my family.” I’m just about to play for 50,000 people at the Houston Astrodome, and this guy’s taking me to his house in the middle of Dirt Place, Texas! If it was Mike Nesmith, who’s over 6′, it never would have happened.
When we weren’t performing, we didn’t hang out together, except on Sunday afternoons. We would go over to the San Fernando Valley, where we had a baseball game. All the guys went, and all the wives or girlfriends, kids and crew. It was great.
I was dating pretty normal people. I dated Sally Field. I never had sex with Sally; we just sat and talked a lot. With her, it was all clean living, holding hands, kissing and gentle behavior.
Obviously, during that entire period I did have a lot of sexual encounters, but most of these were not with fans. There were a few occasions when I woke up in a strange bed with a strange girl, and I had no idea how I got there. I guess it was the booze and marijuana. Now I look at my daughters and hope they don’t take their knickers off as much as I did. I laugh about those days now; it’s funny and sad. You’re on the road, and you spend a lot of time alone. Now I wouldn’t carry a spare condom in my wallet; I couldn’t see myself getting laid twice a night anymore.
After the group dissolved, I was very depressed in the early ’70s. I was depressed about not being on the charts, about not going to the studio every day. I got divorced and became a walking wild man, meeting two, three girls a day. I didn’t know how to live. I didn’t know how to pay my electric bill; I didn’t even know what it looked like. I didn’t know how to go to the supermarket. I was lost until I got married again.
Now, if somebody wants me to send them an autographed picture, I follow through. It’s important. What am I going to do? Be a jerk in a restaurant when somebody asks for my autograph and say, “Wait until I’m finished eating?” No. Fans see only Davy Jones and want an autograph now. I might be in the men’s room or running for a plane, and someone says, “Hi, how a’ doing? How are the other Monkees?” I can’t say, “I don’t give a damn.”
It’s interesting how people react to celebrities. One guy who asked for my autograph told me he’d vowed he would never talk to another celebrity because Julia Roberts had said no when he asked for hers. I said, “Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe she had other things on her mind. Maybe she didn’t want to be Julia Roberts that day.”
I’m not as wealthy as some entertainers, but I work hard, and I think the best is yet to come. I know I’m never going to make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but maybe there’s something else for me in show business. I’ve been given a talent—however big or little—that has given me many opportunities. I’ve got to try to use it the best way I can. A lot of people go days without having someone hug them or shake their hand. I get that all the time.
Recently I was on a plane, and there were 50 to 100 teenagers from Texas aboard going to Europe for a choir festival. They knew I was on the plane. So I went back from first class, and they all stood and applauded. I said, “Stay in your seats, folks, don’t rock the plane.” They said, “Davy, come on sing for us,” so I said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll trade you one “Daydream Believer” for one of yours, but I’m singing first.” So I started to sing. We’re 35,000 feet up. When I finished, they started to sing. These kids were beautiful.
Afterward the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, “Thank you very much, and thank you, Davy Jones. “And I thought, I’m such a lucky guy. In a world of noes I get an awful lot of yesses.