I pulled my very first diary out of the closet yesterday. On the page for December 30, 1966, I had very carefully written, “TODAY Davy Jones turns 21…” There were little hearts drawn all over the page.
Davy Jones came along at that crucial time in a young girl’s life. I had fallen in love with Paul McCartney a couple of years earlier, but that wasn’t really a crush; I was just swept along by a cultural tsunami — after all, I was only 7 when the Beatles hit. Now I stood on the edge of puberty. Ten years old. Things were changing.
Davy was cute, not handsome. Sweet and sexy, but all I really knew was the sweetness. He was unthreatening. He was a Good Boy. On the TV show, he always got the girl. His big brown eyes literally twinkled when he fell in love. He sang the best songs – "Valleri," "Daydream Believer," "Shades of Grey," "I Wanna Be Free." Most of The Monkees’ best tracks were written by the top pop writers of the day – Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Harry Nillson. The group even took on the classical vocal piece “Riu Chiu”.
It wasn’t until years later — after my crush on Davy had faded and been replaced by darker and more “adult” crushes on Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page — that I glimpsed a side of Davy Jones I hadn’t noticed before. Dressed in a red striped jacket, blue trousers and a vaudevillian’s straw hat, Davy sang Nillson’s dark and cruel ode to an abandoned lover, “Cuddly Toy”. He twirled a cane and danced an old-school soft shoe and unless you paid attention to the lyrics, you might have blithely gone along humming the tune all day. It was subversive. It was delicious.
Social media turned many of my friends (and me) into 10-year-old girls again on Wednesday. The news careened all over my slice of the internet. I’m smiling as I write this and I’m surprised at the depth of my reaction after all these years. By all accounts, Davy Jones was unfailingly gracious to his fans, delighted by the longevity of his career and grateful for the life it gave him.
Davy Jones was, for a time, the Perfect Boy. I’m grateful for his gentle escort into adolescence and for some terrific pop songs that have aged beautifully. And yes, I do feel a little bit older today than I might like.
Kerry Nolan anchors the morning newscasts on WQXR. She came to WNYC in 1993 and has been local host for Weekend All Things Considered and Weekend Edition Saturday and Sunday. She has filled in as guest host on WNYC produced programs including The Brian Lehrer Show, The Leonard Lopate Show, Soundcheck and On the Media.
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR and Public Radio International, as well as a wide range of award-winning local programming. WNYC is a division of New York Public Radio.