I remember hearing “Last Train to Clarksville” in 1966 in Grayson, Kentucky. I’ve told that story on this blog at least once and it was memorable occasion for a 10 year old who had also just visited a radio station for the first time in his life. On Monday nights, I begged to watch the TV show.
Davy Jones was part of this quartet of contrived performers that later morphed into musicians in their own right – all had been singers, but only Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith were musicians prior to The Monkees project. Much of the TV series was based on unusual film techniques – some of which had been previously used by The Beatles in their first film “Hard Day’s Night.”
While all four had gone through the audition process, Davy Jones current contract with both Screen Gems and Columbia Pictures’ COLPIX Records label, the forerunner to the COLGEMS label, may have pushed him to the top of the list. His boyish charm, good looks, and English accent didn’t hurt either. The former jockey and actor from the stage production of Oliver would gain international renown with teenage girls everywhere. His five feet three inch stature wasn’t a hindrance – it only put him closer in size to his adoring fans.
A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
While Mickey Dolenz was the primary lead vocalist, Davy Jones contributed his voice to several of the band’s biggest hits. Written by Neil Diamond, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit Me” was the first single to feature Davy Jones. Although charting at #1 on Cashbox’s charts, it just missed the #1 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 by peaking at #2.
Released in early 1967, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” did not appear on any of the original album releases by The Monkees. Although The Monkees’ name appears on the single, Davy Jones is the only member of the group appearing on the recording which was produced by Jeff Barry. Some sources suggest that Neil Diamond appears as a back-up vocalist on this hit.
“Daydream Believer,” Davy Jones’ second single release with the band, proved to be The Monkees’ second biggest single as it held the number one slot for four weeks. It was only eclipsed by “I’m A Believer,” which held the top slot for seven weeks.
Originally intended for release on the album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd,” the song was shelved for release in late 1967. It appeared on the album “The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees,” and was the only cut on that album that included Peter Tork. Tork plays piano while Mike Nesmith played the lead guitar.
“Daydream Believer” was composed by John Stewart of the Kingston Trio and who later had a 1979 hit with “Gold.” The 7A in the banter at the beginning of the cut was the take number of the song. Chip is the producer Chip Douglas.
“Valleri” was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart at the behest of Don Kirshner to have a song with a girl’s name for the TV show. Boyce and Hart brought in The Candy Store Prophets to provide the backing music and Louie Shelton provided the flamenco inspired guitar leads. The song was featured in season one of the show.
The song was so popular from season one, that COLGEMS, The Monkees’ label, insisted that “Valleri” be rerecorded. Although Boyce and Hart’s arrangement was not used, it was nearly copied by hiring The Candy Store Prophets and Louie Shelton to recreate the backing track. The label felt the song needed additional punch and added the brass section.
Following its March 1968 release, “Valleri” was the last Top 10 hit for The Monkees. It was a number one record in Cashbox and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. Like “Daydream Believer,” “Valleri” appeared on “The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees.”
While Davy Jones only had the opportunity to have three hits with The Monkees, it proves that he had the ability to go beyond a contrived TV role to real superstardom. RIP Davy Jones – you’ll be missed.