My love affair with Davy: LIZ JONES recalls her childhood obsession with the Monkee so perfect that no other man could live up to him
Daydream believer: Sixties star Davy had many fans, and one of his biggest was Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones
The first time I set eyes on Davy Jones, it was 1966, and I was seven or eight years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. The TV must have been switched to the BBC, as my parents didn’t allow me to watch ITV, deeming it too downmarket. And there he was, in a trailer announcing a brand-new show: The Monkees.
It was like nothing I’d seen before, weaned as I was on sedate British shows like The Woodentops, Bill And Ben and Andy Pandy. This was different. This was ‘zany’. There was pop music. And, of course, there was Davy Jones. For me, it was love at first sight.
Since the news broke on Wednesday that he died, aged 66, of a massive heart attack, I’ve been endlessly watching Davy Jones videos on YouTube (if this technology had existed when I was a child, I’d never have learned to read).
The clips are achingly familiar. I remember every lyric, every smile, every perfect white tooth, every strand of hair on that shiny mop-top and, oh my, those outfits.
My mum had to buy me brass cow bells on a leather string to match the necklace worn by Davy. He wore rings, too, which my dad disapproved of, thinking him a ‘spiv’.
Davy dressed like no other man I had seen before, certainly not in dreary Essex where I was brought up.
I’ll never forget those shirts in vivid paisley and bright orange, made out of velvet and tucked into low-slung flares.
Davy was a hippie, but not in the way my brothers were — all lank greasy hair, Afghan coats and roll-ups.
Davy was a squeaky-clean flower child and he lit up my boring world with something I’d never felt before: desire.
The phrase ‘Here we come,’ which was sung over the opening credits of the TV show like a hum, still makes my chest contract.
It might seem precocious for an eight-year-old to feel actual lust, but I did. I remember the feeling vividly as I watch him again smash that tambourine against his over-decorated hands. My oldest sister says I’d described watching Davy as ‘like standing on the beach at Frinton, the tide tugging at my toes’. Whoosh.
Music legend: Davy's members have paid tribute to him. The group are pictured in 1967 from left to right Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz
I didn’t understand then what I was feeling: ‘Let me be your stepping stone!’ I’d scream at the telly.
Davy awakened me sexually, but I had no idea what his whispering in my ear really meant. I certainly couldn’t ask my parents. I learned that desire was something to be ashamed of, a feeling I have never quite shaken off.
Everyone in my family was staggered by my adoration. I would circle the programme notes in the Radio Times, and no one could speak — or bark — for the half an hour a week he was on TV.
I loved his voice most of all: it had a nasal quality, and he definitely sounded English (he was born in Manchester but came across as slightly cockney), with an immense sweetness.
I realise now that as well as sharing my surname (I thought this meant we were destined to be married), he looked just like me: big brown eyes beneath an awful bob.
I found his fellow bandmates — Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, who like Davy was a former child actor, and Peter Tork — all too odd, too scary, side-burned and kooky to be possible boyfriends.
No, it was always Davy, with those thick, dark eyebrows above kind, twinkly eyes that were full of mischief.
Big fan: Five-year-old Liz Jones would go on to develop an obsession with Davy Jones – at the age of eight
When I read in Jackie magazine that he had left school at 14 to become a jockey (he was small, which meant Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the producers who came up with this, the first manufactured band, had to abandon their initial plan to put him on drums as he promptly disappeared from sight), the fantasy was complete. We both loved horses. We were meant to be.
While The Beatles became too miserable, too strange — I bought the Magical Mystery Tour EP, but found the lyrics to I Am The Walrus, with its mention of dead dogs, gave me nightmares — The Monkees, who outsold The Beatles in 1967, at the peak of their fame, were safe and wholesome.
I know now their incredibly catchy pop songs were composed by the best writers of their time, including Neil Diamond and Carole King, but back then I didn’t care.
Similarly, when I turned my unrequited love towards David Cassidy six years later, I didn’t care he hadn’t written his hit How Can I Be Sure
These boy/men (both in their early 20s when they became world famous) were singing only to me. They meant what they said. They loved me back. We would be together, if only they would come to Chelmsford.
My parents, despite the fact I was their fourth daughter, didn’t know how to cope with my adoration of Davy. None of my sisters had fallen in love with pop stars — probably because they were more normal and outgoing. For a painfully shy young girl like me (I had agoraphobia aged five, and wouldn’t leave the house to go to school), I was infinitely susceptible to Davy’s charms.
My dad felt I should stick to ponies, so it was left to my late brother, Nick, to buy me my first Monkees LP. The sleeve was white, with their name in the shape of a guitar. There were (hurrah!) black and white photos on the back. I guarded this record with my life. I played it every evening after school, blowing the dog hairs from each groove.
One night, I left it too close to the fire and it warped. I wanted to kill myself.
In those days, collecting autographs was all the rage. My mum bought me a new blue autograph book, and I duly posted it to The Monkees fan club, of which I was a founding member. Some months later, it was returned.
I was devastated. Davy had not read my letter, nor touched my autograph book. All I got was something that had been rubber stamped. It remains the sole entry.
Paying respects: Flowers have been placed around the Monkees star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Although I did, eventually, meet David Cassidy, I never met Davy, which is probably just as well. It never really works to meet your idol, the man who fuelled so many fantasies, who made ordinary life somehow worth living.
When I met Cassidy, at his home in Las Vegas, in about 2003, he was humourless. When I asked him why on earth he got rid of his feather cut, he snapped at me, keen to hide his embarrassing teen idol past.
I was shocked to read in his autobiography that he had sex with hundreds of groupies — while all along I’d thought he’d been sitting quietly in his psychedelic mini-bus, waiting for me.
Davy Jones never let me down. He was never ashamed of his music or being a member of the ‘pre-fab four’, touring with the band as recently as last summer to celebrate their 45th anniversary.
With his bandmats: From left, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, Jones and Michael Nesmith, seen here in 1966
Four years ago, he even went on TV to protest that The Monkees had been left out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He still looked pretty good for his age. He didn’t become fat or ridiculous. As far as I know, he didn’t take drugs. He was married three times, and leaves behind four daughters. He didn’t deserve to die so prematurely.
I imagine a great number of women in their 50s are this week mourning Davy’s passing. His death makes me feel impossibly old. I’m a bit angry with him, too, as he was so perfect that other men could never live up to him.
At London’s White City in 1974, David Cassidy’s final live concert before he retired prematurely, I couldn’t hear a note.
I was in tears because I’d pinned my hopes on the fact he’d see me in the crowd and pluck me out of my drab life. He didn’t.
It took a long time to get over. I have to accept now, too, that I will never marry Davy Jones. Never iron those famous double-breasted shirts. Our cowbell necklaces will never intertwine as we kiss.
Goodbye, Davy. I for one am still a believer.