Davy Jones of the Monkees died of a heart attack Wednesday. He was 66 years old.
I’m too young to have been involved in the first wave of Monkee mania back in the 60s. And to be sure, the Monkee’s are a weird, vestigial bit of pop culture from that time period — a Beatlesesque pop band created specifically for a TV Show about the adventures of a Betlesesque pop band — that’s PoMo on so many levels. And to watch the show in reruns, as I did in the 80s, probably did more to introduce me to meta-conceptual narrative than either Robert Anton Wilson or Thomas Pynchon.*
And the thing is, it’s clear that they knew what they were doing. They were messing with square, TV land tropes and purposefully trying to blow young minds. And I can respect that.
And in these days of prefab Disney pop stars, boy bands and reality TV, the fact that they didn’t write or at first even perform their own music is a gripe lost in some aging hipster’s argument about selling out. How do you sell out when you were recruited by a TV exec looking to cash in on Beatlemania? I’ll tell you how you don’t sell out: by subverting the audiences expectations by having as a guest star Liberace, who instead of playing a piano, smashes it with a sledge hammer.
That’s the legacy of the Monkees and of Davy Jones. He thwarted our expectations and had fun doing it. What more can you ask out of life?
* I would go so far as to argue that I was able to grok RAW and Pynchon because the Monkeys had already primed that pump.