The Monkees versus Jimmy Savile (Savile was later revealed to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders)! Okay, at first sight it seems a strange sort of introduction to a story, bearing in mind that Jimmy, ace disc-jockey, is President of the Monkees’ Fan Club—and has supported the boys more or less from the start.
But the situation came out of a piece written by Jackie Richmond in this magazine, where she said that Jimmy was hogging the cameras when the Monkees appeared on “Top Of The Pops” with him… and it was a criticism well justified according to the letters we got on the subject.
All the Monkees have been on the show and it’s a coincidental thing that Jimmy has always been the compere on the same programmes. But, though it has appeared that Jimmy has tried to nick the camera time, there obviously is a different side to the picture and it’s only fair that Jimmy has space to justify himself.
Now, we originally said that Jimmy’s job is to be compere and interviewer, and then stand aside and let the guest have the limelight.
But Jimmy says this: “Because of my friendship with the Monkees, I have always prevailed upon their good services and asked them to appear on the show. The Monkees, with me as President of the Fan club, are near and dear to my heart… and when things have been wrong for the boys, I’ve resolutely stood by them.
“And it grieves me to think that fans of the fabulous Monkees can believe that I have tried to keep the boys in the background. My aim in life is to give whatever modest help I can to the boys, who are actually my personal friends and therefore high in my thoughts all the time.”
Jimmy expressed further thoughts about this subject and said that whatever he did, in certain circumstances, could be open to the wrong interpretation. He said: “If there is a Monkee in town, I regard it as my binding duty to try to get together with him, and to encourage him to come on any programme I can.
“There are people who attack the Monkees, and I feel that the grounds for such attacks are entirely wrong. They are great entertainers and they make fine records and I’m proud to count them among the stars I know. One of the things I try to do is to make them feel completely at home when they visit this country.
“Even so, there is a question of my own job on the programme. Remember that I am under instructions and orders from the producer. One has to think of the wide scope of the programme and realise that anybody appearing on it, no matter how big, cannot go on for ages talking about this and that. One has to keep the programme moving fast because otherwise you get criticism from those who don’t particularly like the people appearing on it.
“I’m simply a host on the programme and I have to watch for introductions to records and I have to behave simply as a professional in my own field. It doesn’t matter if I’d like to spend a long time with one special artist. There are timings to consider and also a lot of other technical things which aren’t worth going into here.
“What hurts a bit is that it should, even for a moment, be thought that I’m in any way trying to take the spotlight away from the marvellous Monkees. That just isn’t true. But you have a casual run-through with your guest before the show starts and he simply fits in where and when he can. I’ve certainly put the word in to try and get the individual Monkees MORE screen time than they normally would have, as a usual star-type guest.”
Now then, we’re starting to get through to the other side of the picture. Mind you, when you know that Davy, or any of the boys for that matter, will be on the show, one WANTS, deep inside, to see as much of them as possible. Jimmy, or any other compere, has to face this problem all the time.
Now listen to Johnny Stewart, producer of the show. He says: “I’m a bit upset that fans should think this way, because I’m sure that the Monkees themselves don’t agree. I’ll tell you this: any time the Monkees can be in Britain, any one of them, or all of them, are definitely most welcome on the show.
“But you see there are problems at our end. We simply don’t include interviews as a matter of course. The odd bit of back-chat, fine, but if we let a visitor chat for five minutes then the show comes to an abrupt halt. This is the format we’ve used right through the series. We have resident disc-jockeys and we introduce guests on a small-time basis and, I’m happy to say, we’ve won a lot of popularity polls on the formula we’ve devised.
“Even so, I can see how fans of particular artists can get upset. You’re there, waiting for your favourite to come on screen, and you think: right, now here he is, he MUST be given about ten minutes to make his points. WE, you may think, are more interested in him than anybody else on the programme.
“But one must—at least I MUST—think of the other people who are watching. As a matter of fact, it really is coincidental that Jimmy has been on almost every time with the Monkees but he is certainly very keen on the boys and does all he can to get them this sort of exposure.
“However, it could have been any of the other disc-jockeys. And I honestly believe it is most unfair for people to blame Jimmy for things that are really my fault… at least, I’m giving the orders and I want to keep a show moving as fast as possible. It wouldn’t matter if it was Pete Murray, or Stuart Henry, or anybody else… the brief is to keep the show moving as fast as possible.”
So what it boils down to is this. Jimmy Savile, because of his connexions with the Monkees, has done his best to get them on television, notably on “Top Of The Pops”. Great. But it IS true that we see rather more of Jim and rather less of the boys than we would like. We don’t get to see a Monkee, informally, on television very often.
But it could be wrong to blame Jimmy for this state of affairs. As Johnny Stewart said: “There are programmes where pop stars can be interviewed at length. But we simply cannot change our format, no matter how big the star is. Jimmy is our compere and he does the job very well indeed. But he doesn’t have a completely free hand. He has to operate within the bounds of the series. He has to keep faith with the fans of the show, even if sometimes he goes against the enthusiasm of the fans of individual artists on it.”
And says Jimmy, as a last word from his front: “How anybody could think I’d deliberately up-stage or obstruct a Monkee is beyond me. I must have proved how keen I am on the boys and how I’m proud of being a figurehead in their Fan club.”
Okay, then. Jackie Richmond had a right old go at Jimmy and she had tremendous amount of common-sense going for her. When a Monkee comes to this country, we want to see as much as possible of him.
But maybe the basic problem is this. Why not more programmes where top personalities can be interviewed in depth? Why not more variety of shows concentrating on pop?