Exploiting the Archives! Get Some Head
According to Hollywood lore, the beautiful freaks behind The Monkees’ first, last and only cinematic vehicle, 1968’s Head chose that name for the drug connotation, of course (Head was a head film in the truest possible sense) but also so that when they released the inevitable follow-up they could advertise it, honestly, as being from “The people who gave you Head.”
Part of what made that gag so inspired and perverse is that the content of Head pretty much ensured that there would be no proper cinematic follow-up from The Monkees. Head was not designed to extend the Monkees’ unlikely, plastic, prefabricated empire into the world of film so much as it was intended to kill The Monkees as a going concern in pretty much every medium.
For the Monkees, 1968’s Head wasn’t just a singularly subversive professional move for a group assembled by canny, savvy, cynical television people; it was a high-profile professional suicide attempt.
The people who gave you Head, including screenwriter/bit player Jack Nicholson (who would go on to have some success as an actor), director Bob Rafaelson and producer Bert Schneider would, of course, go on to give you more movies. Oh, the movies they would give us! Important movies. Seminal movies. Movies that changed everything forever.
I’m talking about movies like the following year’s Easy Rider, which was produced by Schneider and made Nicholson a star, and 1970’s Five Easy Pieces, another Nicholson vehicle, this time directed by Rafealson.
In that respect, Head looks less like the final act of the Monkees’ in their original, iconic 1960s incarnation than an overlooked opening salvo in the cinematic revolution that was New Hollywood, which had a bunch of Monkees’ alum at its core and was funded, in no small part, by the fortune folks like Schneider made from the Monkees’ TV show.
Peter Tork’s death reminded me once again just how much I dig Head. It’s a crazy anomaly, a movie that shouldn’t exist but most assuredly does.
So honor Tork’s memory and get a little Head in your life. I promise you will not regret it.
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