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Monkees - Head

  by Mark Rowland

published: 14 / 10 / 2004

Monkees - Head


As a film in itself, the Monkees 'Head' is something of a disaster. As a document of both the late 60's acid movement and of a band at a very strange time in its career, Mark Rowland, however, explains why it makes compelling viewing

‘Head’ is very much a product of its time with lots of psychedelic weirdness, some anti-war protesting, and some half-arsed attempts at being clever and arty. As a film in itself, it’s a sprawling mess: a string of ideas with no plot whatsoever, some incredibly dodgy acting and quite a few laughs in the wrong places. As a document of both the late 60's acid movement and of a band at a very strange time in its career, however, it makes for interesting viewing. One thing that comes through strongly in the film is the Monkees’ contempt for their cheeky chappy image. ‘Head’ is full of digs at the band’s fame and the way that they got it. In the film’s many sketches Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz appear in increasingly strange situations, from being soldiers in the Vietnam War to fighting with a vending machine in the middle of the desert. They even, at one point, appear as flakes of dandruff. Strange though the film is, there are several things that give it a certain charm. For one thing, the script was written by a young Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, who subsequently worked together on films such as ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’. Secondly, there are the cameos. Jack himself does appear in the film alongside his pal Dennis Hopper, but they are in it so briefly that you really will miss them if you blink at the wrong time. Others that appear in the film include Frank Zappa, who turns up with a talking cow. The best thing about the film, however, is the excellent music. Yes, the best known hits of the Monkees were written by other people, and yes, they did sound pretty similar to the Beatles, but they still made some pretty good music in their own right when they became a proper band. ‘The Porpoise Song’, which kicks off the film and reprises at the end is a great psychedelic number, and the chromatic riff of ‘Circle Sky’ gives The Monkees’ pop sound an edge. Though it’s not likely to become your favourite film (in fact the Monkees’ split in its wake) it is definitely a window into a very odd time in history and a TV band that proved they could make good music in their own right.

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