Davy Jones & The Homecoming Queen
This was my camera. Jumped into the shot.
“Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings.
The six o'clock alarm would never ring.
Whoops its ringing and I rise,
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes.
My shaving razor’s cold and it stings.
Cheer up, sleepy Jean.
Oh, what can it mean.
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen.”
Has anyone ever really listened to the lyrics of The Monkees’ classic, “Daydream Believer”? If not, it’s probably a good thing. They’re about as inane as the crush “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” had on Davy Jones in a famous episode of The Brady Bunch. The one where Jones miraculously materialized. Of course, just about everyone had a crush on “the cute” Monkee, my impressionable self included.
It was therefore an irresistible carrot dangled on the metaphorical string when my friend K called me from Santa Fe ten years ago to breathlessly command: “Get in your car and start driving to Albuquerque. We’re going to hang out with Davy Jones and his band tonight!” K, who had just published a novel to wide acclaim, was New Mexico’s resident “It” girl, and, as such, had amassed a long string of panting paramours. One of them happened to be Jones’s road manager. Mr. Jones was playing at an Albuquerque sock hop. For us, the tickets were free.
At the time, I lived a two and a half hour drive away in Taos. I was used to rubbing cheeks with minor celebrities, whom I habitually interviewed for the features section of the local art newspaper. I’d met some players, but certainly none as iconic in the 60’s as Jones, who had leaped out of near obscurity to become the front man for a contrived, made-for-TV-band. There was only one thing to do: throw a tambourine in my truck and punch hell-bent-for-leather down south.
My boyfriend, a serious Cuban-Haitian drummer of well-honed talent, was understandably skeptical. But he complied when I levied the edict: “Okay, gimme that tambourine on the wall.” He took it down, albeit reluctantly.
“Go ahead, get it signed,” he sighed morosely. “But he’s gonna fall in love with you. They all do. You’re the homecoming queen, babe.”
The remark was about as inane as the Daydream Believer lyrics, but the irony wasn’t lost on me. Although I was suited up in a baby doll dress, slick red cowboy boots and black Goth cross necklace, I had become something of a small time It Girl myself. Up and coming artists were beginning to bypass my editor to beg a story off me, and I was interviewing people whose names chimed on the national register. My boyfriend, who was seven years my senior, feared I was starting to slip away from him into that heady abyss. Which meant, as Andy Warhol might have predicted, that I had exactly 15 minutes worth of free-fall ahead of me.
I blasted ‘Daydream Believer” on my stereo all the way down to Albuquerque, musing in tandem about Jones and the spliced road his life had taken. Jones and I happened to have something in common: an intense love of horses. At 14, he had left home to become an apprentice jockey at the world famous Newmarket racing stables, where he was determined to make a name for himself in racing history. He had been bequeathed the perfect jockey pedigree: a diminutive stature and a fearless love of speed. However, a theatrical agent who had seen him in "Coronation Street” had been impressed by his ebullience and extroverted personality. He had that Gram Parsons thang going on in spades: the heady cross-pollination of up-tempo charm coupled with a naturally gregarious nature. Jones did not, as many fans believe, have to try out for The Monkees. He was hand selected to be the front man, “the cute one.” But the others had to audition.
K, the Road Manager Paramour, and I met Jones at his hotel. While a little bit of gray peppered his ears and he was no longer the teenybopper’s sweet young muse, his basic intrinsic cuteness prevailed. He didn’t seem particularly thrilled to see us. And who could blame him? We were, after all, mere groupies. It became clear that any nostalgic talk of The Monkees or an inclination toward obsequiousness was a definite irritant. He disappeared to get dressed for the show. And reappeared immaculately turned out in a finely tailored, pressed powder-blue silk suit that fit him perfectly.
In the van en route to the gig K presented him with a signed copy of her novel.
“Yeah,” he said in his still discernible Midlands accent, “I’ve just finished my second autobiography.”
I had yet to read the first one. I decided it would be a long night if we continued to play the quickly curdling fan card. K and I exchanged glances. Whereupon K, always the witty mistress of dexterous dialogue, forged bravely ahead.
“I have an Appendix Quarter Horse, a former race horse. Mary has an Arabian. We ride all the time. And we ride fast.”
“Yeah, I have thoroughbreds, all thoroughbreds. I race them at Saratoga. I’m a jockey, ya know.”
“We know,” we chimed in unison.
After this disclosure, our in-the-moment friendship with Davy bounced off to a handicapper’s start.
“Davy’s impressed that you guys know so much about horses,” The Road Manager Paramour whispered to us.
We watched Davy stomp and grind and gyrate his way through an edgy version of “Daydream Believer” and a whole host of Monkees tunes, after which there was a line wending out through the auditorium door, peopled by autograph seekers lovingly caressing vintage Monkees LP’s. K and I wiggled our way to the front of the line to congratulate him on his performance.
“You were great Davy,” we cooed. And he was. He still had game, even at a Southwest sock hop.
He nodded, smiling a dazzling smile for the masses.
“Oh yes, lovely to see you,” he said as he signed the umpteenth album. Then, in a sotto voce stage whisper I have never forgotten, he turned to K and me and hissed, “[Expletive] acoustics sucked tonight!” before turning back, without missing a beat, to warmly greet the next autograph seeker.
And I thought to myself, “Who says this guy isn’t a real musician?” I had never in my life seen such timing. It was freeze frame perfect.
We were in. We apparently had game too. We gallivanted through Albuquerque’s trendier bars, heatedly and loudly arguing racetrack protocol with Jockey Jones. We never mentioned the word “Monkee" again, and we had no compunction about getting in his face and vice versa.
“So you’re going…right?” he yelled above the boozy bar music. “You’re on the rail and going for the last furlough, when…”
“But what if someone comes in behind, and…” I interrupt
“[Expletive] that!” he shouted. “Listen, you’re going, you’re [expletive] going. You don’t look left, you don’t look right. Okay, you got me? Balls of steel, mates. That’s what I’m talking about!”
A few hours and several dirty margaritas later, he was inviting K and me to come to Saratoga and exercise his horses. K was game, but I flatly refused. “I’m not getting on a Thoroughbred,” I slurred. “K, you’re gonna get yourself killed.”
“Don’t be stupid! They’re the only kind of horse, man. What do you ride?”
“An Arab,” I replied evenly. “They’re just as crazy. Crazier, even. And I ride mine up insane switchbacks and down cliffs for fifty miles going fast. I mean *fast*.”
He looked at K skeptically.
“She does,” K confirmed.
“Well, mate,” he said with a shrug. “That’s all right then.”
I went home with a special autograph. A beautiful flower drawn by The Cute One’s own hand and inscribed “To Mary; 5 to 1 The Field. Love Davy Jones.”
I had arrived. I had left home a quasi-small town It Girl and returned The Homecoming Queen.