Us without him: 14 essential Davy Jones songs that weren’t Monkees hits
When the awful news of Davy Jones’ inexplicable passing broke on February 29, 2012, all possibilities of a future tour featuring all four Monkees ceased to exist. The erstwhile member of the manufactured for TV band, who sold more records than the Beatles or Rolling Stones combined during their peak in 1967, had long been the cute one. The one from Britain. The one who was always being picked on for being short.
Sharing lead vocals with drummer Micky Dolenz, Jones’s place in rock ‘n’ roll history is assured on performances like “I Wanna Be Free,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” “Forget That Girl,” “Shades of Gray,” “Daydream Believer,” “Star Collector,” “Valleri,” and “Daddy’s Song.”
Sadly, Jones didn’t live to see the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and maybe one day the powers that be will reconsider their decades-long ban on the innovative hit makers.
An Evening with the Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour was met with critical acclaim during the summer of 2011 with the band unleashing the Head soundtrack for the first time in concert. And 10 days before his death from a massive heart attack at his prized Florida horse ranch, Jones was still singing his heart out on solo shows.
The television coverage of Jones’s death was generous considering the band experienced their first hit 50 years ago. Lengthy segments were featured on such programs as Entertainment Tonight, NBC Nightly News, and Inside Edition.
Deborah Norville, longtime Inside Edition host, fondly recalled, “I was the secretary of my local Monkees’ fan club when I was a kid. I had so many pictures of the group on my wall that I would change my clothes in my closet.” And Dolenz appeared with former Today Show host Ann Curry in a melancholy-tinged segment remembering his best friend.
What follows is a detailed guide to 14 of Jones’s best Monkees songs that weren’t hits — in essence deep cuts. And since their most popular albums were the first three — The Monkees, More of the Monkees, and Headquarters — those multi-platinum records aren’t represented. We lost a multi-faceted artist who elevated the lives of so many.
14 Essential Davy Jones Songs That Weren’t Hits
“So Goes Love” — With Glen Campbell on flamenco guitar, James Burton on electric, and Billy Preston on tremelo’d electric piano, “So Goes Love” might have been a contender for official release if not for the somewhat unfinished feel which precipitated its burial for over 20 years.
However, this intimate setting benefits the performance, produced by Michael Nesmith in July 1966. “So Goes Love” was recorded during one of the Monkees’ first sessions, and the listener feels as if they’re eavesdropping on Jones’s gentle, hesitant vocals.
“Love to Love” — Written by Neil Diamond and cut in New York City with Brill Building producer Jeff Barry in January 1967, this fiery guitar-driven pop song would have fit very well on More of The Monkees if that album had been released a few months later.
The Monkees were asserting their independence away from Don Kirshner as 1967 began, wishing to record, write, and perform their own material. The outstanding Headquarters would be the fruition of their hard-earned labor later that summer.
As luck would have it, Jones would not record his final lead vocal for “Love to Love” until two and a half years later in August 1969, possibly so the performance could be featured on Saturday morning reruns of the popular Monkees television show. For Good Times!, the band’s 2016 comeback record produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Jones was represented with a slightly reimagined rendition of “Love to Love” featuring new Tork and Dolenz backing vocals.
“Hard to Believe” — Released on their fourth and final No. 1 album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd., “Hard to Believe” is a song that is largely forgotten today. Co-written by Jones and Kim Capli — Jones’s debut songwriting credit — it is remarkable for the virtuosity of Capli. He performed all the instruments on the track, besides the horns and strings.
As another silly love song, it might be tempting to dismiss it. But listen to Jones’s impassioned vocal, particularly when he proclaims, “I love you, I need you, I do love you!” at the song’s climax. And stay around for the final 20 seconds, as Capli vamps a cool, percussive Samba.
“She Hangs Out” — Another jewel from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., “She Hangs Out” was originally cut by its co-writer and producer Jeff Barry the same day as Diamond’s “Love to Love.” That version was released as a B-side in Canada without the group’s consent by Don Kirshner and quickly withdrawn, ultimately leading to Kirshner’s dismissal.
Apparently Jones must have liked the song, as he convinced producer Chip Douglas to revisit it in June 1967. A true group effort with Tork on organ, Nesmith on electric guitar, Dolenz on backing vocals, and Douglas on bass, “She Hangs Out” finds Jones warning the listener to keep an eye on their little sister, or she just might find a bunch of trouble.
Douglas’s production finds a cool, rockin’ groove throughout, and be sure to listen to the mass of baritone trombones that embellish the track. The slap echo on the percussion is another highlight. One can’t help but grin when Jones shouts, “Whoa, do the ronde ronde ronde, do the rond rond, she hangs out!”
“The Poster” — Written by Jones and frequent collaborator Steve Pitts after a winter vacation in his hometown of Manchester, England, this jaunty ode to circuses easily found a place on The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees in April 1968.
Arranger Shorty Rogers, one of the primary originators of West Coast Jazz, overdubbed strings and horns throughout. All in all, good example of a pop song recalling some of Jones’s most cherished boyhood memories.
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” — This Neil Sedaka-Carole Bayer Sager Broadway-influenced showstopper had a long recording history, with three versions recorded between 1966 and 1968. Fortunately, it ultimately found a place on Instant Replay.
Jones’s prowess and range as a vocalist is evident throughout, especially when he cries, “And now I’m going out the same way I came in…the game is over, now I couldn’t win…my heart is all I have to pack, and this time girl I won’t be back…and years from now I’ll turn around and see, the girl I left behind me.”
The 1967 version, available as a bonus cut on The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees, is also highly recommended. It is more intimate with piano and a haunting cello.
“Don’t Listen to Linda” — Written by Boyce and Hart and released on Instant Replay in February 1969, “Linda” was first tracked in October 1966 for More of The Monkees, but that early version remained unreleased for nearly 30 years. This gentle ballad with orchestrated strings and horns features Jones at his most romantic, although he warns the listener not to fall for her little games.
“Me Without You” — A song that doesn’t take itself too seriously, “Me Without You” was also written by Boyce and Hart in late ’67 and has a strong Beatles influence on its sleeve, resembling “Your Mother Should Know” from Magical Mystery Tour. Bassist Joe Osborn’s playing is also very McCartney-sounding here.
Finally released on Instant Replay, the song opens with a party-atmosphere calliope, basically a steam-whistle keyboard. But it’s Louie Shelton’s out-of-this-world electric guitar soloing that gives the song an extra dimension. Plus, Jones sounds like he’s having a ball singing the chorus: “I wonder just how long it would be…me without you, and you without me!”
“You and I” — Featuring some of the most searing electric guitar found on a Monkees record courtesy of Neil Young and Gerry McGee, the track was a shoe-in for Instant Replay. Widely acknowledged as one of Jones’s best compositions, he co-wrote it with good buddy Bill Chadwick.
Lyrics such as “In a year or maybe two, we’ll be gone and someone new will take our place…there’ll be another song, another voice, another pretty face…” captured the fickle pop culture landscape that would soon claim the band as its next casualty, although they would come back during MTV’s reign in the mid-’80s.
An entirely different song of the same name, co-written by Jones and Dolenz with the latter supplying lead vocals, was the third cut on 1976’s Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart, a fleeting supergroup where the Monkees frontmen and hit songwriters joined forces in the unofficial follow-up to Changes. A gentle examination of a couple’s enduring love, “You and I” was given a bouncier tempo with Jones assuredly retaining the microphone when it was re-recorded for the self-contained Justus , by far the best track on Jones’s last album with the sunshine pop act. Raves for Nesmith’s stellar command of the fretboard and Tork’s earworm of an anchoring bass line.
“Smile” — Recorded while the band was filming their cult classic Head in May 1968, this beautiful outtake deserved a better fate. Unreleased for 27 years, “Smile” was solely written by Jones and would have been a perfect fit on The Monkees Present instead of the three-year-old dated relics chosen by music supervisor Brendan Cahill, “Looking for the Good Times” and “Ladies Aid Society.”
A gentle ballad punctuated by Neil Young’s lovely electric guitar fills, the song finds the narrator asking a girl, “Oh what a feeling deep inside, it’s so hard for me to hide. Won’t you come inside and talk awhile? What I have to say may make you smile.”
“A Man Without a Dream” — Written by the talented Carole King and Gerry Goffin and distributed as the B-side of “Tear Drop City” [also on Instant Replay], this mid-tempo production was a departure for Jones and the group when recorded in December 1968, although Tork had first demoed it a year earlier.
With fresh producer Bones Howe [Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special, the 5th Dimension, Tom Waits], Jones finally got to sing in his natural baritone register. This is fairly evident when Jones sings the line, “With the music of life my soul is out of tune.” It is unquestionably one of Jones’s finest recorded vocals.
The legendary Hal Blaine and bassist Joe Osborne maintain a solid rhythm section, but the tasteful trumpet solos are what anchor this pathos-filled song. It deserves reappraisal.
“If I Knew” — A wistful, jazzy ballad pondering a failing relationship, “If I Knew” was written by Bill Chadwick and Jones, although the former told Monkees historian Andrew Sandoval that he composed it without Jones’ involvement.
The third selection on The Monkees Present, the group’s final album of the ’60s with Nesmith, “If I Knew” is quietly kicked off by a plaintive acoustic guitar and is a natural fit for Jones. Listen as the outro nears, and you’ll hear the singer quickly exhale as pianist Michel Rubini plays a shimmering run on the keys. Hearts will definitely flutter.
“Time and Time Again” — Co-witten with Chadwick, this moody number was slated for Changes, the final Monkees album before their initial break-up. “Time and Time Again” was shelved for over two decades until it belatedly appeared on Missing Links.
Guitar maestro Louie Shelton contributed the sublime tremelo’d lead guitar. A hypnotic calliope track and Moog synthesizer, not performed on a Monkees track since “Star Collector,” adds much ambience.
“If You Have the Time” — Recorded during the same session as “Time And Time Again,” these songs were Jones’s final songwriting contributions to the Monkees until the Pool It! album in 1987.
Although a lightweight pop ditty, “If You Have the Time” boasts a committed vocal by the “Manchester Cowboy,” especially on the chorus, and an inventive Moog solo. The opening line holds much resonance today: “If you have the time, would you keep me in mind?” Don’t worry Davy, we still do.
Monkees Songs Written by Davy Jones
- “Hard to Believe” [co-written with Kim Capli, Eddie Brick, and Charlie Rockett; on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. released by Colgems on November 6, 1967]
- “Ceiling in My Room” [co-written with Dominick DeMieri and Robert Dick; unreleased ’til July 29, 1997’s I’m a Believer and Other Hits compilation]
- “War Games” [co-written with Steve Pitts; unreleased ’til July 1987’s Missing Links compilation]
- “Dream World” [co-written with Steve Pitts; on The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees released April 22, 1968]
- “Changes” [co-written with Steve Pitts; unreleased ’til January 1990’s Missing Links: Volume Two compilation]
- “The Poster” [co-written with Steve Pitts; on The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees released April 22, 1968]
- “The Party” [co-written with Steve Pitts; unreleased ’til July 1987’s Missing Links compilation]
- “I’m Gonna Try” [co-written with Steve Pitts; unreleased ’til 1994 reissue of The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees]
- “You and I” [co-written with Bill Chadwick; on Instant Replay released February 15, 1969]
- “Smile” [unreleased ’til 1995’s Instant Replay reissue]
- “That’s What It’s Like Loving You” [Instrumental co-written with Steve Pitts; unreleased ’til 2011’s Instant Replay Rhino Handmade deluxe reissue]
- “How Can I Tell You” [co-written with Bill Chadwick; unreleased ’til 2013’s The Monkees Present Rhino Handmade deluxe reissue]
- “If I Knew” [co-written with Bill Chadwick; on The Monkees Present released October 1, 1969]
- “Time and Time Again” [co-written with Bill Chadwick; unreleased ’til July 1987’s Missing Links compilation]
- “If You Have the Time” [co-written with Bill Chadwick; unreleased ’til July 1987’s Missing Links compilation]
- “I’ll Love You Forever” [on Pool It! released August 1987; live version featured as B-side of “Every Step of the Way”]
- “Oh, What a Night” [on Justus released October 15, 1996]
- “You and I” [co-written with Micky Dolenz; on Justus released October 15, 1996]
- “It’s Not Too Late” [on Justus released October 15, 1996]
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