BWW Interviews: Hey Hey It's The Monkees' Davy Jones
"You know I used to be a heartthrob and now I'm a coronary," jokes Davy Jones about his long-running epic career in show business. Yet the venerable entertainer shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Along with his current concert tour with fellow Monkees band mates Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, he is making TV guest appearances, hosting an upcoming PBS special on artists and songs of the 60's and even co-writing a musical theater piece that he hopes to bring to the stage in the very near future. Even with this hectic agenda, he still manages to maintain that spunky, quick-witted charm that has made him one of the most iconic musical idols of all time.
Jones has worked in the entertainment business most of his life, beginning in the early 60's when he starred as the Artful Dodger in the West End production of "Oliver". The show was a huge success, and Davy was invited to cross the Atlantic and join the show on Broadway where he received a Tony award nomination for Featured Actor. To this day, Jones remains humble about the achievement. "I've never been a terribly ambitious actor because I always thought my acting skills were just a natural thing when I was a kid. And with the Tony nomination, well I was lucky, you know. Anyway, if I had won it, I probably wouldn't have known what to say and I'd probably wouldn't have been able to be seen or reach the microphone at the time!"
During the Broadway run, Jones and the cast of "Oliver" were invited to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on a night that would later make television history. Sullivan's other guests that evening were none other than The Beatles, making their U.S. debut. "I just watched what they were doing from behind the curtain and I thought ‘I want to do this. Look at all those girls! ", Jones recalls. "And here I thought you couldn't get any bigger or better than the standing ovations we were getting in "Oliver"!"
As a result of his Broadway success, Jones was offered a contract with Columbia Pictures and set out for the West coast, where he eventually auditioned for a new TV show about a pop-rock group called The Monkees. The producers sensed instant chemistry among Jones and his future band mates Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith and he was quickly offered the role. The series ran from 1965 through 1971, with Jones singing lead vocals on many of the group's biggest hits, including "I Wanna Be Free" and "Daydream Believer".
"We actually played our own instruments," notes the singer. "In a sense, we became our own cover band. None of the bands of the 60's were playing on their own records. The Beach Boys never played on "Good Vibrations", McCartney didn't play the French horn on "Penny Lane". Even though The Monkees was a TV show about a band, we actually turned into a full-out band."
Despite the huge commercial success of the TV show, Jones' passion for the theater still ran through his blood. He returned to the stage and starred in major productions of "The Boyfriend", "Grease" and "Godspell", in which he played the role of Jesus. Yet along with these new opportunities came some trepidation about whether audiences would take him seriously as an actor. "I enjoyed playing Jesus", he explains. "The only thought I had once in a while as I was singing "Oh God I'm Dying" was that someone from the audience would shout out ‘Could you give us "Daydream Believer" before you go?"
Jones came full circle in the late 80's and early ‘90's when he once again starred in "Oliver", this time playing the role of Fagin. He considers that performance the crowning moment of his career. "To play a character and to get away from the "stars in the eyes, get the girl thing", that was the most attractive and most satisfying thing that I ever did as an actor." The press whole-heartedly agreed. "The London Times wrote, ‘if you're here to see Davy Jones from The Monkees, forget it. This guy's done his homework.", Jones recalls. "Now that was tearful!"
Currently, Jones is collaborating with songwriter Chris Andrews on an original musical that he hopes to bring to fruition. "I think when you hear these tunes and see this show, you'll be impressed. We've gone the way of "Hello Dolly" and "Funny Girl" - it's a traditional show. It would be a great idea at this time in my life to direct it, produce it...or maybe I'll just go straight to [Producer] Cameron Mackintosh and say ‘Here it is. Now what do you think about THAT?' "