But who will play the tambourine now?

On February 29th, Davy Jones was found in his car, complaining of sudden chest pains. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack the same day.

I wasn't born until 1981. My entire experience with the Monkees has been an exercise in cultural hindsight. Still, they were a part of my childhood -- you can't listen to a classic rock station anywhere without hearing "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," "Valleri" and "Daydream Believer" in the rotation. I know the words, because everyone knows the words, because if you were born in America you've been exposed to these things constantly since the mere idea of you occurred to your mother during her fourth tropical margarita.

It wasn't until I was an adult with access to cable TV and file-sharing services that I discovered the hilarity of TV made by stoners, for stoners. See, the Monkees were put together by people who watched the Beatles and their infamous films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" and thought, "We should totally do that for 22 minutes at a time on network television."

Once you've gone through college, you have a much better appreciation for people who act like twelve-year-olds on purpose. Particularly when they're on the other side of the screen.

The Monkees were widely known as the "Pre-Fab Four" in their time -- and they were, in fact, gathered together by the producers specifically to be a version of the Beatles that they could scoop up and put on television, and still retain all the rights. They were also widely derided because, unlike the Beatles, they (supposedly) neither wrote nor really performed much of anything, other than the vocals, for their own albums. The charge was not quite fair; firstly, although their early efforts did use session musicians (musicians hired specifically to cut backing tracks for a recording, who are not officially part of the band), so did everyone else at the time. The Beatles were the odd men out for trying to do it all themselves. Likewise with the song writing -- it was, and is, still quite normal for pop acts to use music written partially or wholly for them by professional songwriters.

Thirdly, the Monkees were actually musicians. They did do the performing for their live shows. And eventually, after a number of fights with the producers, they started writing their own music. They didn't stop using outside songwriters completely -- "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" was written by Neil Diamond, which is pretty obvious once you're told. But at the time, any autonomy, especially from a producer-formed group, was something of a feat.

The four of them had their issues, but now there isn't even a little hope of hearing them all play together again. I know it isn't really my generation we're talking about here, but a little piece of someone's pop culture has just died. It's always sad when a piece of the past is lost.


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