The late Davy Jones was the "cute one" of The Monkees,
not to mention its resident Brit, an English ex-jockey who'd already made a dent on the small screen before the band was even put together. Within the band, he was often given the love songs, the music-hall kitsch, and therefore got to rock the least of the "Prefab Four." But as this list shows, he had some great deep cuts to go along with the big hits... and his hits were some of the decade's biggest.
Sporting one of the more famous intros in Monkee history, this giant smash was penned by one John Stewart, former member of the Kingston Trio, later to have his own hit with 1979's "Gold" (as in, "People out there turning music into gold"). Davy didn't like this song much, was confused by some of the American idioms like "homecoming queen," and thought it was in the wrong key for him. So he's genuinely irritated while singing this cheery, upbeat number; after the producer and band yelled at him for forgetting what take he was on, he famously (and jokingly) replied, "It's 'cause I'm short, I know."
Proving that Davy could rock as hard as any late-60s teen idol (dig that "Satisfaction"-style breakdown), this Boyce-Hart composition was composed by the Monkees' favorite duo while in a taxi on the way to see the band's Svengali, Don Kirshner, who thought they were bringing him a finished song. They did, at the very last minute, but it had problems: Mike hated it and the label didn't want to release it, so it sat, nearly forgotten, languishing as a number in one episode until frustrated DJs made copies of it to play it for rabid Monkee fans. Davy and the group went back in and cut it again, and it became one of the band's biggest hits.
Though Neil Diamond
wrote "I'm a Believer," Micky took the lead on that big hit; Davy's big hit from Neil's pen was "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You." But Diamond also came up with this little gem, arguably the better song, and one perfectly suited to Jones' status as the heartthrob of the group. Like the Lovin' Spoonful's
"Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?" it shows how difficult it can actually be to be surrounded by admiring females. It also gave Davy a chance to play into the madness by breathlessly whispering "Mary, I love you" and "Sandra, I love you." Girls with either name had to have been thrilled.
This was, more than any other Monkees' track, Davy's signature song: When the band was concocted as "The American Beatles,"
this tender ballad was meant to be Jones' "Yesterday."
It's not that apparent in the version used in the first few Monkees' episodes, scored as it is with a full band and packed with lots of lite folk-rock
touches. However, the original album version, scored with just a chamber group, drives the point home very hard. (The difference is that, unlike Paul, Davy is looking
to remain unattached, free to pursue what his teen fans must have believed was a bohemian artist lifestyle.)
The late Sixties were absolutely clogged with drippy songs marveling about how much the moral and political landscape of the world had changed in just a few short years; however, this take on the societal upheaval is remarkably clearheaded and insightful, more than most, even. That's because it was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Brill Building
vets who'd also penned, among other hits, the Animals'
"We Gotta Get out of This Place." As he began to feel trapped by his fame, Davy (and perhaps Peter, who sings harmony here) must have felt the truth of that song, and also this one: "It was easy then to tell truth from lies / Selling out from compromise." Remarkably, Mann-Weil wrote those words back in 1965.
Another Brill Building composition, this time by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who also wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and two of the excellent offerings on the group's doomed "Head" soundtrack. This time, however, there was a big twist: this was one of the first pop songs to talk about groupies, and directly at that. Giving the song to Davy was pure genius, a way to take the moral high ground while acknowledging his teen appeal with lines like "How can I love her / When I just don't respect her?" Poor girl gets nothing but an autograph from our squeaky-clean boy. Bonus Monkee points for being the first rock and roll song to feature a Moog synthesizer.
A rare track actually co-written by Davy (with "Fifth Monkee" Bill Chadwick, best known for penning the band's antiwar anthem "Zor and Zam"), "You and I" is one of the more "mature" songs from the Monkees, serving basically as a chronicle of the group's impending demise much as Paul McCartney's "You Never Give Me Your Money" did for the Beatles. Backed by none other than Neil Young on lead guitar, the group's resident teen dream sounds all grown up as he sings lines like "In a year or maybe two, we'll be gone and someone new will take our place." Peter had already walked out the door, and Mike was soon to follow.
An almost forgotten deep cut crowded by lots of classic cuts on what is arguably the Monkees' best album, this achingly perfect Association
ripoff was the product of Chip Douglas, the ex-Turtles
bassist hired by Mike Nesmith to produce the band after he decided there should be a musician in the control room, not just a businessman. The result is gorgeous, sighing, and a perfect match for Davy, even if it is one of those lyrically Beatlesque third-person romance songs. Like "Shades of Gray" and the rest of the Headquarters
album, the band actually plays its own instruments here, too!
Harry Nilsson was another soon-to-be-legend who got his start writing for the Monkees, and "Cuddly Toy" showed early signs of his idiosyncracies; ostensibly a jaunty English music-hall number, it actually contains some fairly nasty jibes at its subject, concluding with the kiss-off "I never told you not to love no other / You must have dreamed it in your sleep." Typical for the time, the show downplayed the irony entirely by having Davy come out in a straw boater and striped coat, complete with cane, and sing it to a blonde who looked alternately bored, turned on, and thrilled. Maybe it's because she was the show's choreographer.
Davy mainly plays straight man to Micky on this comedy number, although he does get in a few asides ("You need all the friends you can get!") and a quote from the infamous comedy record "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" This song makes the list, however, because it shows how much fun these four guys -- who were kids when the show started, remember -- really did have at their job. Small wonder that they managed, all four of them, to reunite not once but three times after the group imploded, even when they didn't need the money. It that respect, they finally managed something the Beatles never could.