Beatle, Boomer Culture, Celebrities, CKLW, Davy Jones, Daydream Believer, Last Train to Clarksville, Life, Monkee, Nostalgia, Pleasant Valley Sunday
In 1966, the answers to two questions firmly established one’s taste, refinement, and standing as a female connoisseur of pop music and teenybopper sex appeal:
At age 10, my bona fides in this regard were solid. I stood with the majority of young starstruck fans: My favorite Beatle was Paul, and my favorite Monkee—that made-for-TV music group modeled on the Fab Four—was Davy Jones. Yesterday Jones died of a heart attack at the age of 66 in Florida. When the ABC News tweet showed up in my Twitter feed, I stopped what I was doing and revised my priorities. My childhood crush had died, simultaneously taking with him a part of my childhood and giving it back to me. Respect must be paid.
As crushes go, mine was all-encompassing. There was something about that sweet smile, that guileless face, that thick glossy hair (I ask you: Was he not the Justin Bieber of his day?), that adorable British accent, that made me melt. So what if he was short? At 10 I was probably already as tall as he was. I didn’t care. And I knew that if only Davy Jones could meet me, he wouldn’t care either. (The conviction of a child’s crush is as immutable as, well, the sounds emanating from a transistor radio. I would fall asleep each night with mine tucked beneath my pillow, listening to CKLW, the AM rock station out of Windsor, Ontario, which cut a wide swath through the airwaves—I lived 25 miles outside of Cleveland.)
I watched each episode of The Monkees, saved my change to buy every issue of Tiger Beat featuring Davy on the cover, and even though I owned two Monkees albums, I still bought their singles on 45s. I’ve no idea now where the albums are, but in an orange 45-record case—buried somewhere in the attic or garage—and filed in careful alphabetical order, are “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You;” “Daydream Believer;” “I’m a Believer;” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (those three words tucked away in their parentheses fascinated me); “Last Train to Clarksville;” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
Years pass. The Summer of Love in 1967 brings new sounds through my transistor. I start high school in 1970, and discover progressive rock. I no longer listen to CKLW; with the conviction of a music snob or dilettante, I keep my dial tuned to Cleveland’s WMMS. I distance myself from my obsession with The Monkees. They were for kids, and I had become a teenager, a young adult possessed of all the worldly wisdom you’d expect her to have, which is to say very little indeed.
Decades pass. I observe with detached interest (my musical tastes now running to classical and jazz) version 2.0 of several bands, including the Monkees. Aging rockers singing the old songs, God love ’em.
What strikes me now as I reflect on this, and on Davy Jones’ passing, is how vitally important some things become to us at certain times in our lives, how our fascination with them vanishes, and how, inevitably and with increasing frequency, mortality will bring us up short and return those things to us, as fresh and new as ever. We’ll never see Davy Jones flash that innocent grin again, or speak in that charming accent, but his music will live on. I reach for my iPhone and program Pandora to The Monkees station. Now the memories are flooding back. I can’t stop them, nor do I want to.