Pageant has special meaning
for band, Davy Jones says
By Monica Krausse
For Davy Jones of the Monkees, Monday's date with the Miss Teen USA pageant at the Pan American Center is particularly significant.
''It was at the Miss Teen America pageant in Hawaii 30 years ago that we played our first concert,'' he said. Not sure how the group would go over, its handlers picked Hawaii because it was an out-of-the-way place, and if the Monkees bombed, who would know?
But ''it snowballed,'' Jones said. ''The performance was accepted, and we went on to do another 200 concerts together.''
So the Las Cruces television taping will be a sort of official ''full circle'' milestone for the Monkees. Deep into a 50-city U.S. tour that started in June, and with a new album due out in September and plans for a movie in 1998, they hope the Miss Teen USA show will bring them the same kind of good fortune.
Not that Jones wants things to be exactly the same.
The group was sort of a Prefab Four, put together by television executives for the comedy series that ran from 1966 to 1968. Although Jones and Mickey Dolenz had experience as actors, and Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork had worked as musicians, none was chosen for their musical talent. Their later run-ins with Columbia executives as they tried to assert their independence are well-documented.
Jones says those fights were more over money than artistic control, though.
''We were employees. We made $450 a week to be the Monkees,'' he said. ''We were basically slave labor, when you imagine people on 'Dynasty' were making $200,000 an episode years later. We were not reaping the kind of benefits (we deserved) considering the time and energy we were putting in.''
That was not so much a fault of Columbia officials as the Monkees' own naiveté.
''We were un-businesslike and unaware,'' Jones said. ''I remember in '68 going to Australia and Japan'' as part of their world tour. ''I think we made $60,000 for one of those places and $90,000 for another, but it was all eaten up.''
Eventually, Jones realized that the real money to be made in the music industry was songwriting. Writers like Carole King, Neil Diamond, John Stewart and Bobby Hart kept the group supplied with a string of hits -- ''Last Train to Clarksville,'' ''Daydream Believer,'' ''I'm a Believer,'' ''Pleasant Valley Sunday'' -- and reaped royalties from them.
Some of the Monkees' own work got recorded, too, notably Nesmith's ''I'm Not Your Stepping Stone'' and Tork's ''For Pete's Sake,'' which was used as the closing theme for the TV show.
''I was wondering why these other guys were driving Cadillac's while I was driving a Volkswagen,'' Jones laughs now.
So it's particularly sweet to him that their upcoming album, ''Jest Us,'' will contain ''12 new tunes, written by Mickey, Peter, Mike and myself ... played by us, produced by us.'' ''Jest Us'' is a double pun, since it sounds like ''justice,'' Jones points out.
''We always did write our own stuff. We didn't have time to go in and record and spend six weeks in the studio'' during the Monkees' heyday, he said.
Now, Nesmith -- rather than joining the group for its reunion tour -- is busy putting production touches on the new album, which a press release says is due out Sept. 21, the date the television show premiered.
''Michael's been in the studio every day for the past four days,'' Jones said. ''We get DAT tapes and make comments. We're working as a team.''
That's another difference from the old days, he said. ''We were never together. We didn't have the same agents -- we didn't have any, actually. ... We didn't really understand each other in those days; we were too busy working.''
Thirty years of shared experiences have changed that.
''The Monkees is like the Mafia; once you're in, you're in,'' he laughed. ''I obviously do other things, and we're all individuals ... but we've all changed diapers and gone through divorces and been late on the mortgage and all the rest of those things. We have plain, ordinary things to relate to. We didn't have that before.''
''Jest Us'' will be released on Atlantic Records. The Monkees' earlier work -- including a box set and a continuing series of studio out-takes -- has been released on Rhino Records, a well-regarded oldies company. Although the band has been very happy with what Rhino has done, Jones said, it didn't seem appropriate to release new material through them.
And once the new work is done, Nesmith will join the group next year on part of their European tour -- including three concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. In the meantime, it doesn't really matter that he doesn't perform often with them, Jones said, comparing the group to ''Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young.''
''We have one manager, one agent. We are stronger as a team than we are individually.''
The Monkees will tape their Miss Teen USA segment at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, at the Pan American Center. Although only two songs will be used for the show, they'll perform more than that at the taping, Miss Teen officials have said. Tickets are $10; $3 from every ticket will benefit the El Paso Zoo. For information, call (800) 654-9545.
Click Here to Buy Monkees CD's, Books, Videos and T-Shirts!