The Monkees ’87: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow—David Jones

Davy Jones
Credit: Paul Natkin

(By the time I finish talking to Micky, I’m behind schedule. David Jones is already waiting for me on the bus with his wife—and manager—Anita and their youngest daughter, Jessica. What’s most striking about Jones onstage is how professional he is about the whole thing, and this professionalism carries over to the interview situation. And yet it’s odd. He’s done thousands of interviews like this, beginning as a child star in Oliver! Still, he radiates a certain kindness and charm. I’ve never been in the presence of someone who balances the two extremes so effectively. Even when he’s bitterly discussing some of his past business deals, he manages to smile effortlessly.

It probably also helps that he knows I’m a Monkees fan. Of all the Monkees, Davy always seemed to have the most concern for his fans. When a 12-year-old Phoenix girl was hit by a car and had to have her leg amputated during the ’60s, Davy not only honored her request by flying to Arizona to be with her during the operation, but he returned the following week. He has a reputation for being kind to his fans, and I liked him a lot.

The voice is raspier than it was in 1966—but it’s still reminiscent of the British pop star who stole so many teenybopper’s hearts during the original era of Monkeemania.)

One of the biggest questions we hear from Monkees’ fans at the CREEM office is when is your autobiography finally coming out?

David Jones: It’ll actually be finished by mid-week of next week. We’ve formed a company, and we’re going to publish it ourselves. We’ve gotten in touch with a couple of computer type companies who’ve led us on the right track. We find that it’ll be the best route for us to go, rather than giving all the money to a company that might give you a sizable advance, but it’s like six, eight or 10 percent. I don’t want anyone taking 90 percent of my… anything. So we’re doing it ourselves, and we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of interest from companies that sell equipment that lends itself to doing this sort of thing. So that’s kind of interesting for us, too.

Is it going to tell the whole Monkees’ story in addition to your own story?

Jones: Well, I don’t think we can tell the whole Monkees’ story until it’s all over. I don’t know what’s going to happen. My story is called They Made A Monkee Out Of Me, and it talks about me growing up in Manchester—or not growing up in Manchester. It goes through my beginning in radio and BBC television and all the earlier things that I was part of. It lists them, and talks about them and the experiences I had during those times. At the age of 15, going off to the stables to become a jockey, and then going into theater in London, and then onto Broadway. It talks about people that I was involved with at that time. In 1961, 30 of the shows that were on Broadway were English. So there were people like Tony Newley and Dudley Moore and Richard Burton—and just so many different English people. Albert Finney. I grew up in New York, and I had my own apartment from the age of 15 through 19. I talk about Hell’s Kitchen and places I used to live and go…

You were playing the Artful Doger [sic] in Oliver! at this time?

Jones: Yeah. And it talks about my involvement with Columbia Pictures before The Monkees, and it talks about getting into the Monkees and how it happened—how it really happened. I don’t concentrate so much on figures and record royalties. I’ve gotten ahold of some interesting inter-office communications that were sent from Screen Gems to Mattel Toys and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and all the different merchandising people that sort of made money on The Monkees. And letters from the producer to the recording company, and arguments and all kinds of stuff. And I’ve intercut this throughout the Monkees’ story. So it’s not just “Guess what Micky and Peter and I did next? We went off on this particular date, and this girl put herself in a box and had it sent to us,” and all that kind of stuff. I haven’t really had a lot to say about the four boys in the book because the book is about me. They made a Monkee out of me. I mention Mike and Peter and Micky, but I really know very little about them, other than that I worked with them. And what you saw, as far as our particular friendship was concerned was on the screen. It’s only now that I’m beginning to get to know Micky and Peter as people. When we were filming the TV show, we all went off to our own little castles with our own help and our own friends and our own cliquey circle of friends. I talk about my first sexual encounter, which we all go through—hopefully, we all go through it—in a lighthearted way. I talk about having lunch with Judy Garland at the Russian Tea Room and meeting other different celebrities.

It’s not a kiss & tell or “Guess who I know?” book, either. But it just maps out a lot of stuff that people don’t really know, personal stuff. I’ve read David Niven’s autobiography, and Lauren Bacall’s. And I’ve read Sophia Loren’s and I’ve read Elizabeth Ashley and Judy Carne and a lot of other people, and I felt that my story was as entertaining. And I’ve written it, and hopefully it’ll be enjoyed. Obviously, because with the popularity now of the Monkees and the new surge of interest as far as the younger fans, it’s going to be another thing on the market. Some people say it’s another way of sort of exploiting your popularity, but I feel that I’ve been quite honest in the book. And actually it says, “The names have been changed to protect the guilty.” I do kind of slag a few people off, but it’s people like managers and restaurants, possibly. And there is an acknowlegement [sic] in the back of the book for people who’ve helped me in my life, people who’ve influenced me. And there’s also a list of people that haven’t, you know. People that have hurt me. But I say in the book, whether you’re in the “good” list or the “bad” list, thanks for being in my life. But, I don’t think I pulled too many punches. Initially, we’re going to print up 20 or 30 thousand copies, and try to take advantage of the festive season that’s about to be upon us. Obviously, there’ll be a distribution understanding with a major company, and we will have to see where that goes. But initially I’m going to print up enough copies to be able to service friends and media people.

Davy Jones
Credit: Bob Leafe

Well, we’ll be looking forward to it. You were in sort of a unique position with the Monkees. You were an actor who played a rock star who essentially then became a rock star. But it now seems more evident that you’ve always been more of an all-around entertainer. It goes beyond just rock ’n’ roll.

Jones: Yeah, well I like to think I am. It’s a case of being seen to be believed. I just finished 12 months doing Godspell, before joining the Monkees, playing the part of Jesus, which was a tremendous experience. There’s not too many roles, classic roles, for a young actor to play. “Young leading man” is where I fill in. I play anywhere between 25 and 35. I’m 40 years old, but I only play between 25 and 35. And there a [sic] very few roles that a person can get ahold of today. It’s unlike the days when Alan Bates, and George C. Scott and Olivier and Richardson—they were all making their name in the theater, going from one role to another. Whereas now television is the media to be working in. But then you have to go to situation comedies, and you become a television sort of success. And then you find it hard going into a theatrical sort of situation. The roles aren’t quite there, or the producers feel that you’re just really for television. You’re not really a stage performer. So no matter where you start or where you want to go, you have a problem—no matter who you are—as to the roles available. It’s really a strange, old business.

I’m fortunate because, starting out as an actor and then going onto the part of Davy in The Monkees, I’ve had to play the part of a rock ’n’ roll singer. I don’t think that I ever became a rock ’n’ roll singer. I became an actor that sings and does musical comedy, because that’s what I feel we do as the Monkees. I mean, over the last 15 or 18 years that we haven’t been together, I felt that we could’ve grown together. It’s just that there was a studio in our way. That’s why we all went our own separate ways. Now we can see a light at the end of the distant tunnel for Peter, Micky and myself—where we can grow, where we can develop into movies, into television, into the theater, onto the Broadway stage, into records, and into all these different directions. And we’re old enough now to accept the quiet times. We’re not limited to one particular area.

I mean, we read in Newsweek and all the different magazines about the Moody Blues coming back, about Paul McCartney coming back, about Eric Clapton coming back. But these people have never been anywhere. There’s a mistake being made there. They’ve been coming every two years. Elton John retires every two years, and then comes out with an album. Frank Sinatra retires every three years. But the Monkees have had an 18 year break, and then they’ve come back. I think we’re one of the only bands to ever do this. Gerry & The Pacemakers; Freddie & The Dreamers—they’ve all been working year after year after year. I mean, I’m envious of the fact that they’ve been doing it and been able to keep their band together. But this is quite a unique situation where a band hasn’t been together. We’ve all worked individually under the banner of our own names, occasionally Peter Tork would work as Peter Tork & The New Monks or whatever his band was. And I’d be “Davy Jones from the Monkees.” You know, it’s a handle that people can hold on to, and be able to identify with. But I feel that ours is unique, although anytime I’d show up on my own anywhere—in Australia or wherever—I’d always be asked ‘How does it feel to be making a comeback?” And that was on my own. But now when they ask me that—“How’s it feel to be making a comeback with the Monkees?”—I say “Fantastic.” Because it really is a comeback with the Monkees, and this is the first time I’ve been able to agree with anyone saying that. Because I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been working in the theater. I’ve been working in America, in Australia, in Japan. I’ve been singing on cabaret stages around the world. I’ve done children’s theater. I did a children’s television series in England the season before last. I mean, there’s so much going on as far as my career goes. And yet you get someone like the guy I just saw in the news lately. I forget his name but he just made a movie with Sean Connery. He’s very strong actor. He’s teaching college at the moment. Do you know who I mean?

Oh, you mean the guy who was in Amadeus?

Jones: Yeah.

F. Murray Abraham.

Jones: I see him talking now about being in a play in Chicago, or at one those little theaters somewhere. And I see the guy that was in Cocoon. You know the big, tall guy that was in the movie, Cocoon? He’s doing theater in some small theater somewhere. So when we’re not seen on the screen or on television, an actor doesn’t just bury his head and say, “God, I’m out of work.” Because if you really want to perform, you perform on any particular level. Anita—as my manager—has never allowed me to go out and take a four-piece band and go and play in the pubs and clubs in England. As much as I could do it and would be enjoyed and would probably pack them in, you’ve got to keep a certain standard of performance. You can’t just go and take any role any place. Just because I sing and dance, that doesn’t mean I should go and join an amateur company just so I can work every night. You’ve got to be very careful, because it’s not the fans and the public that turn on you. It’s the media. And they make you cold. So it’s better being out of sight and out of mind than to be schlepping around, treading water. So it’s the devil or the deep blue sea. You’ve got to be really careful.

Davy Jones

I remember People magazine did a thing about two years ago where they interviewed you, and you said something to the effect of that, in the ’60s, there were three or four bands—the Beatles, the Stones and the Monkees were one of them—that would hold up. And it’s amazing because a lot of people didn’t have too much faith in this reunion being as big as it is. Yet, it always seemed like you totally believed in it.

Jones: We did. Anita and I did. And we’ve been waiting for the 20th anniversary for the last couple of years. We knew how big it was going to be…

Anita: We knew, really, from all the fan mail that we get. It’s constant. It’s just always there. A sackful a week, at least.

Jones: Now, see, Micky and Peter would say different because they’re not into what we’re into. We have always been into the fans and into fan mail and developing that steady interest. We could give you a list of fan clubs across the country. We could give you a list of thousands of people who’ve written to us over the last five, six, seven years. They keep writing, and they keep writing. Now, they want something. And we knew. We told (promoter) David Fishoff how big it was going to be.

Anita: He didn’t believe us.

Jones: No, he didn’t believe us.

That’s what Peter was saying.

Jones: Now, they say MTV. But we went up to Canada and did two sold-out shows up there. There’s no MTV in Canada. Now, I would like to think—and it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not—that we could’ve been here five years ago and done the same thing. This has been a long tour. Picking special dates and special places and doing special interviews over the years would’ve laid some strong foundations, but we haven’t done any of that. This is the first time. Now having done a thing like CREEM magazine and then doing other publications over this next month or two months will mean there’s been a foundation laid for next February and March. We’ve never had this. We’ve never had a cover on a magazine like this. We’ve never had a magazine devote more than little bits or pieces to us. This whole tour has all been done basically on our own and by the fans who want to come and see us. Now what needs to be done next is the most important thing.

What step do you make next? Well, we want to make sure there’s new product out there next year. We want to make sure that Arista’s come and sniveled under the table and taken the money they knew was there. We should have had a live—not a live—but we should have had a brand new album out this summer, as well as Arista’s old stuff. The 800 to 900 thousand that Arista sold with old material shouldn’t have been our new album. But Micky and Peter made a mistake. They went into the studio and they did a single—and they shouldn’t have done it. But they did, and the single sold, and the album sold 800 thousand.

Anita: I think the reason that happened is that when they started this tour, they all had separate careers for the past 18 or 20 years. Nobody really knew which direction it would really take. Perhaps we would do the tour, and then we’d all go off on our own. So all of us, obviously, were taking care of our own particular future. That was until they all got back together, worked together and found out how well they work together. As Davy said, they’ve gotten to know each other which they hadn’t had the opportunity to do before. Now, because of the tour, they’re all ready to work together. So that’s all going to happen now.

Jones: See, we’ve got a lot more in common now. We’ve all been through a lot of the things that we’d never done before. We didn’t know each other very well when we were originally working together, and we hadn’t experienced a lot of things in common. For instance, we’ve all been through marriages and divorces now. We’ve all got children now. We can all identify with each other on a different level about different things which we never could before. We never had anything that we could talk about before.

You just worked together?

Jones: We just worked together.

Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz

But never socialized.

Jones: Yeah. And now we’re social. We talk about the kids, about wives and families. And about developing our careers together. Whereas we used to just show up, and then we were advised as to what was possibly the best thing to do.

Anita: But you actually didn’t have that many social hours anyway.

Jones: We had no social hours.

How does this current tour compare to the Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart tour you did during the mid-’70s? It’s a totally different thing, isn’t it?

Jones: Well, it’s different in the sense that we were doing different material. It wasn’t all Monkees songs that we did then. We did other stuff that Boyce & Hart had written—“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” or “Bad Man Jose,” all kinds of stuff that they had written that we all sang. It wasn’t as if those two were stepping in for Peter and Mike. It was the Dolenz and Jones and Boyce and Hart show. It would be sort of like… I don’t know. If two major acts got together—and I’m not saying that we were anything really major at that particular time, which was 10 years ago but if Jeff Beck got together with Eric Clapton and they went out on tour, the fans would expect Jeff Beck to play one of his favorites, and Eric Clapton to play one of his. So we did that with Boyce & Hart. We didn’t push them in the back. Being the guy that stages the shows, I always bring everyone forward and give everyone equal work. We played in St. Louis, and we played to 15 thousand people on our opening day. Twelve months later, we played in St. Louis again to close the tour, and it was to 15 thousand people again. We played everywhere—little clubs, big theaters. We played arenas. But the tour was not like with tour buses. It wasn’t like this. The first three months of this tour, we were doing 12 shows a week. A lot of shows! Now we’re winding down. We’re doing one a night, six nights a week. But it didn’t compare at all. It was a different show. It was about a different thing. The fans came, and, there again, you can’t be afraid to go out. You’ve got to go out and work. You’ve got to go and keep yourself fresh. And you just can’t think, OK, I’m an entertainer, I can sing. It takes you three or four weeks just to get your voice in shape for a tour. So I had fun singing “Daydream Believer” then, and I think around that time, Arista pumped out “Daydream Believer” as a single again—with no support. You know, they’ve never supported this tour. But I bet Clive Davis is at the parties going, “Look what I’ve done for the Monkees again.” Not a telegram. Not a “Thank you.” All they’ve done is take. You know?

That’s the business, though, isn’t it?

Jones: That’s the business. One record company’s as bad as another. So what can you do?

After seeing you last summer, I really had a lot of respect for you as a performer. You seem to be a total professional. You look at this as a professional thing. And that attitude seems to carry over to the whole group.

Jones: Well, we’ve got to go out there and perform an opening night every night when you’re doing one-nighters. It would be different if you go in the theater. Still, people used to say to me when I was in the theater, “When would be the best time to come?” I’d say, “Well, we have matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays.” And they’d say, “Well, we won’t come to the matinee. We’ll come to the evening show.” I’d say, “Well, there’s no difference.” I mean, just because I’ve got another show to do at night, I don’t cruise through a matinee. And that’s for no other reason than that my father and then my wife took over as my manager, they both said, “You never know who’s sitting out there.” If there’s one person out there, it’s still an audience. You’ve got to go for it. How can you cruise? I mean, I’m playing Jesus. What do I do? Do I half die? So, no, we try to give a lot, and we try to give it our best. Just yesterday, we put a new tune in the show. I mean, why? Well, we just did because we said “Hey, let’s try for another tune tomorrow.” So we called for a rehearsal, and there we were, and we threw it in the show last night.

Which tune?

Jones: “For Pete’s Sake,” which closed the second season of the show. But it was just like “Let’s try this one tonight.” So we did. And there were a few mistakes in it, yeah, but tonight, it’ll be right. And when we come offstage now, we talk. “What about this? Don’t do this, don’t do that.” Peter was talking too fast at a certain time, and the audience couldn’t understand what he was saying. So I said to him, “Slow it all down, so when you get over to the audience, they will realize what you’ve said.” And he did it, and for the first time in three and a half months, he got a big laugh. He tried it the next night, and he got another laugh. The line wasn’t that funny, but it was funny enough that if they understood it, it would give them a giggle. We think about things. When we come off before going on for the finale, it’s like “Oh, while we were doing ‘Cuddly Toy,’ you did such and such a thing. You’re not going to do that every night, are you?” And this is now. We talk to each other. Whereas it used to be like “Hey, man. We’re perfect. Don’t talk to me.”

Davy Jones

Is it true that Mike Nesmith joined you onstage in L.A. because you suggested on TV that he come down and play with you?

Jones: We were on TV? What do you mean?

Well, I didn’t see it, but someone told me that you were on TV being interviewed or something, and you said “Mike, if you’re watching this, come on down and do a number with us.”

Jones: Yeah, I did say that. However, Mike had expressed interest in coming to see us, and I’d read some articles he’d done in which he said that if we came close enough, like L.A., he might be willing to join us. When we first heard that, I didn’t particularly think that it was a great idea. We’ve got a set show. There’s three of us, and we’re on a sold-out tour. And you just really don’t need anyone coming and taking the limelight or being there. And then I thought, wait a minute. This is the fourth Monkee. This is Mike Nesmith. This is not Tommy Smothers, coming on, and saying, “Hi, I’m Tommy Smothers. OK? Fine. I used to be with the Smothers Brothers. Now I’m in Vegas.” It wasn’t one of those deals. It was Mike Nesmith. But I still had to put him in the show. He still couldn’t just come out and sing, (sings) “Her name was Joanne, and she lived…” or “If you ever go travelling to Rio…” You know? He had to come on and be part of our show. So we’ve been using “Listen To The Band” as part of our encore. He wrote the tune. He came on, he sang “Listen To The Band.” We did a little bit of schtick where we went like this (points to the left), went like this (points to the right), and went like this (points to left again), and there he was. Woooo! And we acted like we touched him to see if he was real. The audience went mad! It was a great bonus for the audience. It was a great bonus for us to have him join. But if he hadn’t been there, the reaction to our show wouldn’t have been any different. Mike Nesmith never really was a major part of our live appearances. Mike used to just stand there like John Lennon used to do, move his legs up and down and strum his guitar, and that’s about all he used to do. Peter, Micky and I were always more animated. We always were. So with this particular schedule, we honestly believe that it wouldn’t have suited Mike Nesmith. He couldn’t have gone one night after another. I mean, when he gets a Mercedes instead of a Rolls Royce picking him up, he won’t get in it. And we’re not those kind of guys. And he’s turned into more of a producer, more of an entrepeneur [sic] or whatever you want to say. He’s gone into business. He’s become a businessman. And he looks like a businessman. He’s getting bigger, and he’s getting older. And he’s pushing his hair back further, so he does look a little older and a little more adult. Peter’s the oldest. Peter’s the one that should be slowing down if age has got anything to do with it, but no…

It’s amazing how good you guys look compared to most of your contemporaries. It’s great to see you guys back.

Jones: Well, we’re having fun. A lot of fun.

A trivia guestion [sic]. Where did “Rainy Jane” come from? It was like the Monkees had broken up, and suddenly Davy Jones had this hit out of nowhere.

Jones: Well, that was a song that was sent to me by Neil Sedaka. He sent a whole bunch of tunes. We never got to record that, although it was probably going to be the next Monkees single. If it had been, I believe it could’ve been a follow-up to “Daydream Believer.” It wasn’t a massive hit. I think it went Top 30 in America, and that was it. There again, Bell Records—which was Arista—were not totally behind it, and I was having problems even in those days with Clive Davis. He wanted me go out and open for Dawn—Tony Orlando & Dawn—and I said “Certainly not.” I said, “I’ll go and close for them.” But he was into launching him. So that didn’t do much for me, and that was really the last thing I did on record.

I have currently been producing and developing my own solo album. I’ve got nine cuts down right now. I’ve been doing it on the tour with this band, all kinds of tunes. In fact, I’ve got a tune that was sent to me at the same time as “Daydream Believer” by John Stewart, which is a song that I’m considering for the album. I’m going to do another couple, and then the album’s ready to go. There again, I don’t have a record company that I’m going to, and I’d like to see where the Monkees go in January before I launch my own album. Because I don’t want to go out there, and have it interfere with what is my priority. My main priority is the three of us at this time. I mean, I can go to England and I can get work. Starting in January, I can be in play, whether it be No Sex Please, We’re British or something like that. I can work in the theater all the time. It’s not tremendous money. It’s very hard, and I don’t have too much time with my family or my horses. So I did prefer this last six months. Then I’m going to have two months off, and Peter Tork and I go back to Australia. We have a cabaret act together. We start February 1st. We go to Australia for two months. And we play to small 12 to 15 thousand seat clubs. So it’s going to be different than this, but it’s still going to be fun. The reaction’s still the same.

But the Monkees are going to continue, right?

Jones: The Monkees will be back next year. Micky’s going to be developing things—movies and TV and some other things…

Mike might do something in the movie, I understand.

Jones: Mike said he’d take part in the movie or the TV movie, whichever we decide to do.

Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones
Credit: Henry Diltz

Is this frantic for you? Is it nuts being on the road constantly like this?

Jones: We’re getting a bit tired now. It was very hard to get used to for the first couple of weeks. But then we got into the flow of things. We travel overnight, and sometimes we don’t travel overnight. Last night, we travelled overnight, so tonight we had eight hours of sleep without being interrupted. We got in at three in the morning, and we didn’t get up until noon, so that’s pretty good. And now I think we’ll stay overnight here tonight, and we’ll get some more sleep. And we have a couple of days off coming up, but I’ll be going into the studio to finish off my album.

Are the fans as crazy as they were back then?

Jones: Yeah. It’s real nice that they’re all there for us again. The older people, you know. There are people standing out there that were out there the first time around. Moms are coming with their daughters and sons, and people are saying to us, “Can I have your autograph for my mother?”. And “I’m coming to the show tonight with my mother and my grandmother.” So there’s an audience for everything, and the Monkees have an audience. It seems to be sort of like a carbon copy of the original audience—plus the older fans. I think that some of the people that are coming to our concerts haven’t been to a concert in 10 years. A lot of them.

I think so, too, from what I’ve seen.

Jones: I think it’s a thrill for them. It gives them a boost. We had some people that we talked to in a restaurant the other night, and they said that they were going to this concert, the one we’re doing tonight. And they said that every night that they’ve gotten off work, they’ve been going home and watching the Monkees’ videos and playing the records to psyche themselves up. And this is a 30-year-old married couple! Isn’t it amazing? And we think it’s fantastic. We’re always talking about it. So we go out there, and have to pump, pump, pump, because they’ve been waiting for 20 years, some of them. (sings) “We may be coming to your town.” We didn’t go to all those towns back then. Here’s our chance. Some of these people think we’ve been on the road for 20 years! That’s also to be considered. And some of them come up and say, “Listen, I’m not an MTV fan. I’m an original fan.” And they’ve all gotten together. And someone came up to me yesterday, and said, “I’d like to see you guys again, but I’d like for there to be less teenagers there the next time.” (Everyone laughs) And I went “Whoa!”

Davy Jones
Credit: Chuck Pulin

Well, it’s great to see you back.

Jones: It’s great to be back with the guys.

(To Jessica): Are you having fun on the road?

Jessica: Uh, I just go with them.

You just go with them?

Jessica: Yeah. I go anywhere with them.

Anita: Are you having fun, though? That was the guestion [sic].

Jessica: Oh! Yeah.

Magazine: Creem Presents
Editor: Bill Holdship
Volume: 1
Issue: 5
Publisher: Cambray Publishing, Inc.
Pages: 52–58