I was incredibly saddened by the news this week of the death of Davy Jones, the former jockey-turned child actor who, along with Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, became one quarter of The Monkees – the greatest manufactured band of all time. In a career that spanned just four years the band produced a slew of classic singles, a couple of truly great albums and, in Head, one of the most underrated acid movies of all time. You can say what you like about them, dismiss them if you will, but the Monkees were incredibly important: they used and brought to prominence the best young songwriters in America in the 60s; they promoted the careers of – amongst many others – Tim Buckley, Frank Zappa, Jack Nicholson, Neil Diamond and Neil Young; they were the first band to use a Moog synthesiser on a pop record; they were the first pop act to rebel against their hit-making mentors and insist on writing, performing and producing their own material...the list goes on. Far from being four lucky actors, these were real innovators.
I was lucky enough to catch them play live several times: twice seeing the original four-man line up. I also saw the reformed Velvet Underground at around the same time. The Monkees were far, far better. Rest in Peace Davy; thanks for the memories.
Anyway, to this week’s offering. I could have chosen something from the Monkees’ canon (it’s not all good, not by a long way – the last album, Changes, is virtually unlistenable) but that would have been too easy. Instead I’ve thought laterally and proudly present for your delectation the warbling of another singing jockey, one Harvey Smith.
Born in 1938, Harvey Smith is a former British show jumping champion and one of the most recognisable faces in British sport. Standing out like a sore thumb from the usual crop of well-spoken show jumpers because of his broad accent and blunt manner. He’s famous for flicking the “V’s” (a bit like flipping the bird) to the judges following a winning round in the British Show Jumping Derby in 1971 which led to his being disciplined although that ruling was overturned on appeal. He competed in two Summer Olympics and later became a television commentator for the BBC, covering equestrian events at the Los Angeles Olympics.
For some strange reason, at the height of his fame, someone thought it would be a good idea to drag Harvey into the studio to record a single. The result – True Love/End of the World - is bloody awful, just as you’d expect. Issued in 1975, a year before ex-Beatle George Harrison released his version of the same Cole Porter standard, this dull, atonal claptrap was never going to lead to a successful second career as a crooner, was it? To me he sounds (especially on the B-side) like Elmer Fudd. Actually, now I have that in my head I can’t really hear anyone but Elmer singing this. Unfortunately the woman singing backing vocals on True Love is unnamed on the disc or sleeve, so Harvey will have to bear all of the blame for this horror.