It was a shocked to hear about the death of Davy Jones last week. (7/2/12) A heart-attack, aged sixty six. It also felt a little creepy as I’d been thinking about him the night before, after not doing so for years. Remembering my childhood in the 1960s, he’d somehow floated into my mind – that ever cheerful boy’s face and sweet voice.
I realise that he was twenty two when aged eleven, I first saw him on TV and became obsessively in-love with him.
From the age of seven I had been a committed Beatles fan so I held out against the Monkees for as long as I could. In my last year at Primary School I went on a school cruise, and every morning in the Mediterranean, they woke us up in our sweltering cabin by playing loud music over loud-speakers. One record they chose was called, “Take A Giant Step Outside Your Mind,” sung in a soft nasal drawl by Micky Dolenz, the Monkee’s drummer.
I really liked it but didn’t admit that I liked them until I saw the TV show and instantly became besotted with Davy. Their famous song, Daydream Believer became the continuous sound track of my life. If we’d had those things you stick in your ears back then, I would no doubt have been annoying people on buses and trains by playing it at full volume.
Like the Beatles, the Monkees were all very different characters, but were all young men behaving like children. This offered us real children a sexed up version of the old Enid Blyton fantasy of children going off and having adventures in secret places where no adults were permitted. This captivating new version of adult hood was just like childhood, but without any of its pains or frustrations. They didn’t go to school, their only work was singing, they had endless time for play, they had sex, they had money. Perhaps because they were a produce of the swingingest years of the 1960s, 1966-68, they offered us children a highly optimistic view of the future.
Once I became a Davy fan, like millions of others, I started buying fan magazines I’d never bothered with previously. I once spent 3/6 on a magazine, way beyond my pocket-money, because it had a photo of him on the front, a rather bad one at that. “Sun, sand, surf and sex,” I read in one of the expensive black and white magazines showing his photo. My mother looked on it all with great disapproval, as if I was about to run away and join him.
But I didn’t want to put these photos on my bedroom wall. I didn’t want to elope with him that much, although that was there, what I wanted was to be him. On the cusp of adolescence, I could already see that my own sex lagged behind when it came to fun and freedom. Girls were already losing out, worrying about how boys would see them if they spoke up in class, appeared too clever or independent. There would be no taking giant steps for most of them. I wanted to be a young male just like Davy. He later made a record called, “I Wanna Be Free,” which he sang in a plaintive, yearning voice. From what I could see he was absolutely free, an almost grown up version of Just William, living out a perfect extended adolescence on Venice beach.
I gazed for the first time at grainy photos of wide roads lined with swaying palm trees. This confused and excited me. Brought up in a Staffordshire village, the nearest town being Wolverhampton, I couldn’t understand how L.A. a city, could look like a paradise island. The Monkees travelled those broad boulevards in open top sports-cars, shirt-less and covered in girls. They showed us a shiny new world of youth and beauty.
The summer of love came and went and I was too young to do anything other than catch its scent. By my mid-teens I had forgotten them. When I became a journalist in the late 1980s and spoke to Davy Jones on the phone, I thought he sounded nice, still chirpy, but dull.
About ten years ago when I was in Dublin, staying in the plush Shelbourne Hotel, I was told that the Monkees, who had reformed, were in the bar. I stared at my Bruchetta wondering whether to go and meet them, but what can you say when you meet your former idols? It’s tricky. Unless drunk you can’t easily tell people that they made the last part of your childhood special, gave you a psycical if not physical escape from home into a fantasy where you had an entirely different self-image and fulfilled all your ambitions. I did once say something like that to an author whose writing had made a big impact on me when I was very young. He had stared into his beer without any sign of interest.
Of course they would be nothing like the young men I remembered from puberty. They might be sporting Botox, be ravaged by drink or boring. What I was really thinking of course was that I would be the let down – what would they see now apart from a tired, sad, middle-aged woman?
I didn’t venture into the bar but as I walked past on my way out, I glanced inside. It was empty. They’d all left too, if they were ever really there and not some tribute band. I was relieved.
I didn’t think about them again until the night before Davy Jones died, and listening to the obituaries. His death was still a real shock, connected as he was to the fun in my early life. We don’t expect our childhood idols to die. They remain some how intimately connected with our own sense of well-being, a hang-over from the time when life itself seemed to depend on collecting their images and seeing them every Saturday evening.
Of course people can have heart attacks at any age, his death doesn’t mean that my generation are old and also about to peg out, but it points that way and spells out a message that it is still impossible for most of us to hear and believe – our childhood is not only but long gone.
It’s so easy for us optimistic children of the 1960s to forget this, and so hard to accept that if we haven’t driven up Hollywood Boulevard, in an open topped Cadillac, to our beach front mansion by now, we are probably never going to do it. Still being a day dream believer may amount to delusion.