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The Monkees give you Head
September 17, 2012 1:24 AM   Subscribe

The Monkees' 1968 film 'Head'

Notable scenes/songs/appearances

'Porpoise Song'
kissing scene
'Ditty Diego'
'War Chant'
Ray Nitschke
'Circle Sky'
desert scene
'Can You Dig It'
Teri Garr
Timothy Carey
diner scene
Sonny Liston
Annette Funicello
Jack Nicholson
'As We Go Along'
factory scene
dandruff scene
Victor Mature
'Daddy's Song'
Toni Basil
Frank Zappa
the cop
'Do I Have To Do This All Over Again'
Swami
escape scene
'Porpoise Song'
credits

Key articles

The Criterion Collection: Head-zapoppin'!

MOJO: Changes...DASturb...finally Head

SOTCAA: Changes - dissecting the shooting script

Trivia

The Monkees Film & TV Vault: Head

Psycho Jello's Tribute to Head: cast profiles

Brilton: Deleted scenes from Head

Previously on MetaFilter: The Monkees reflect on Head
posted by paleyellowwithorange (35 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
Psst!
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:29 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this!

Head is my favourite ever film.

The Monkees were my favourite band when i was wee. The tv show was shown during the summer holidays on the BBC in the early 80's and I loved them. Thought they were current.
I used to tape the audio from the telly and listen to episodes over and over. One night I caught a glimpse of Head on Channel 4 - The Monkees were fighting in a war! I thought it was a normal feature film and was so excited! Alas, it was past my bedtime and my folks turned it off just as the boys ran into a tunnel.

Years later we got a VHS player and the first tape i bought was Head. It blew my mind.
I watched it every day for about 6 months. I painted the poster on the back of my army jacket and wore that forever till my mum "accidentally" threw it out.

A wee while later I discovered weed and mushrooms and Head was always on in the background in my friends rooms. Good times.

Why isn't circle sky more well known? It's a sin!
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:35 AM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stay in or stay out! Stay in or stay out!

Great post.
posted by Elmore at 2:35 AM on September 17, 2012


I bought Headquarters recently, and one night a week or two ago, while surfing YouTube watching Monkees videos, I stumbled across this film, about which I'd heard so much. I was expecting something indulgent and flawed, but I found it to be well-crafted, amusing, thought-provoking and re-watchable - and the songs are amazing. I've watched it a couple more times since, and my sweetheart and I have been incorporating quotes (e.g. "Au contraire?") into our banter.

Stay in or stay out! Stay in or stay out!

I don't recall that line. Which part of the film is it from?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:15 AM on September 17, 2012


You're the dummy. You've always been the dummy.
 
posted by Herodios at 3:57 AM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stay in or stay out! Stay in or stay out!

Ah. Nitschke.

Peter's face during that scene!
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:59 AM on September 17, 2012


And I'll tell you something else too, the same thing goes for Christmas!

So much fun. Some of their best music. So many drugs.
posted by biscotti at 5:23 AM on September 17, 2012


And with a screenplay credit to Jack Nicholson!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:41 AM on September 17, 2012


I love this film. So many great scenes and songs, and so funny. But it either speaks to you or it doesn't. Most people won't get it.
posted by jabah at 5:43 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brilliant soundtrack and the Circle Sky concert scene is fab. Preteen me could easily have been the girl they showed in the audience as I watched it, heart pounding and light headed.

Hey hey we are the Monkees/with that we all agree/a manufactured image/with no philosophy.

Love them so much.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:50 AM on September 17, 2012


Supernatural, perhaps.

Baloney, perhaps not.
posted by jbickers at 6:00 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I listened to the soundtrack so many times (much more than I watched the movie, although I did that a fair few times as well) that now I misremember certain bits of dialogue as happening in album order instead of movie order. I mean, some of them are just perfect:

Zappa (with cow): That song was pretty white.
Mike: And I'll tell you something else, too: the same thing goes for CHRISTMAS!
*collective gasp*

Happens to me with the original Wizard of Oz album too--the record skips the whole 'Professor Marvel' fake crystal-ball-reading scene and goes straight to the twister, so the Professor Marvel segment in the movie feels perennially strange and almost new to me.
posted by theatro at 6:09 AM on September 17, 2012


Same here, theatro. See also:

Garr: Suck it, before the poison reaches my heart.
Dolenz: Okay, I will.

I always loved that exchange (and still do), and was surprised to hear the Dolenz line in the desert scene. But it's great there, too.

Nice work by Jack Nicholson in both the screenplay and the arrangement of the soundtrack album.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:17 AM on September 17, 2012


Coincidentally, I just watched Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story on Netflix. I was a big fan as a kid, when the show first airred. (My copy of Last Train to Clarksville was cut from the back of a cereal box!)

Daydream Believers is not a great movie. It was made for TV and is pretty much by-the-numbers. But it's all we have, I guess, and the actors really do look like thier counterparts. There was a sequence in that film about the making of Head, which made me want to see it, so the timing of this FPP is great! Thanks, I'll be checking it out.
posted by The Deej at 6:39 AM on September 17, 2012


The Porpoise Song is my go-to Monkees tune to play for people who insist on slagging them. Such ludicrous psychedelia and like a lot of other ludicrous psychedelia, so completely beautiful. It would have been considered an instant classic piece of studio work upon release if released by almost any other group, but instead it got brushed under the rug because of the Prefab Four's unfortunate spot in the pop culture canon.

It's on my list of overblown songs I want played really loud at my funeral in order to draw out the tears. Good-bye goodBYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEE!
posted by item at 7:12 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love this film. So many great scenes and songs, and so funny. But it either speaks to you or it doesn't. Most people won't get it.

I find it disturbing and heart-breaking on so many levels, but it was an excellent explanation of why the band imploded -- the hardest part of the movie to watch for me was the dandruff scene -- what does it take to be dandruff? It just lies there on a person's head, but here they are, having to have someone tell them how to be dandruff on Victor Mature's head. When I taught TV and Film in college, I had my students watch this -- and it did speak to some more than others -- but not everyone who got the message was happy about its contents.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Hey, hey, we're the junkies!" No? Damn. Another misheard lyric.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:36 AM on September 17, 2012


Groovy theatre promo.

One of my favorite movies ever.

Hey, hey, we are the Monkees
We've said it all before
The money's in, we're made of tin
We're here to give you more


not everyone who got the message was happy about its contents.

It's easy to mock the idealism, but it truly tackles some powerful subjects.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:39 AM on September 17, 2012


"I'd like a glass of cold gravy with a hair in it, please."

The Porpoise Song is my go-to Monkees tune to play for people who insist on slagging them.

Zilch (a.k.a. Mr. Bob Dobalina). That always impresses people who didn't know, yeah, that's Peter Fucking Tork, sir.

Or Randy Scouse Git/Alternate Title
posted by mrgrimm at 8:51 AM on September 17, 2012


I really wanted to like Head, but I'm pretty sure it put me to sleep. I admire the creativity and audacity it took to make the film -- which should have been subtitled "The Monkees Set Out To Destroy Their Own Fanbase" -- but as a movie it's just not very compelling. Lacking story, plot, or any sort of backbone, it would have worked much better as a series of shorts.... or episodes?

The soundtrack, however, is quite listenable, Circle Sky and Porpoise Song being standout tracks from an unfairly-maligned band.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2012


Good post!
Definitely one of my fave movies. I saw it when I was young and then rediscovered it when my daughter became obsessed with it as a teen and searched EBay for a copy. The Porpoise Song is genius and the whole thing gives me a nice flashback without having to ingest anything. And written by Goffin and King!

mrgrimm It's easy to mock the idealism, but it truly tackles some powerful subjects.
It really did and it opened eyes for their younger fans in a way they wouldn't grasp otherwise.
posted by Isadorady at 10:13 AM on September 17, 2012


Zilch- it was decades after I heard Zilch that I finally saw Oklahoma and heard the line again: 'Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self-defense.'
posted by MtDewd at 1:09 PM on September 17, 2012


Ding dangit! Pretty much all of my favorite quotable lines have alread been said, so I guess I'll just go kick a Coke machine.

QUIET, ISN'T IT, GEORGE MICHAEL DOLENZ?

I loved Head to BITS as a teenaged altargirl in the Church of St. Peter of Tork, but unlike many things I loved at that age, it actually holds up -- as a weird, twisted, bitter and wildly inventive portrait of a band pissing all over their manufactured image.
posted by speedlime at 1:31 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The woman in the "kissing scene" is June Fairchild, also known as the AJAX lady from Up In Smoke! She's fallen on hard times, it seems.
posted by cell divide at 1:32 PM on September 17, 2012


As a little kid, I loved the Monkees. As a teenager, I rejected the Monkees in favor of Michael Nesmith's other work*. As a young adult, I rejected that, too. As a middle aged man, I'm rediscovering both, the former because my kids like it when I play the "better" (ie less marketable) Monkees songs on ukulele, and the latter because of Pandora. And now, with this FPP, I have something new to dig into, so thanks.

*"Her name was Rodan" from Elephant Parts makes a lot more sense when you've heard "Her name was Joanne"; I heard the former, and laughed, as a teenager, but only heard the latter, and laughed again, less than a year ago.
posted by davejay at 1:40 PM on September 17, 2012


I first learned of this movie when I was 19. I had a roommate at the time who upon noticing my borderline reverential viewing of The Monkees television program every morning and talking about how criminally underrated I thought the music and writing was and how they never got the respect they deserved because of the whole prefab business, pulled an old VHS copy of Head from her closet and said "You're welcome."

The Monkees were pretty guilty of some wildly aggregious 60's era psychadelploitation like 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, and even if the songwriting in tunes like Daily Nightly smells a bit of crass commercialization of the psychadelic movement they were still very good songs that (as has been repeated by thousands through the decades since) had they been released by any other musical acts would have been heralded and acclaimed.
posted by mediocre at 1:50 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also of mention, the 1997 ABC television special Hey Hey, It's The Monkees. Notable for being the only reunion of the group that ever occured with all four members (Nesmith being the constant holdout through the years) and it's pretty-damn-clever central conceit of plot: The Monkees is a television series, The Monkees never stopped being a television series, you may have stopped paying attention but the stories of the four boys trying to make it in the music business and the absurd things that happen to them in the course of their lives kept going to this day (present day being 1997) where they are somewhat jaded at never having achieved fame and spend most of their time avoiding MacGuffins and plot devices they see coming a mile away while still living in their beachfront house.
posted by mediocre at 1:57 PM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you telling me you don't see the connection between government and laughing at people?
posted by infinitewindow at 3:23 PM on September 17, 2012


Micky, Peter AND MIKE are performing twelve concerts across the US in November and December.

GOT MY TICKETS FOR BUFFALO SIXTH ROW AWWWWWW YEAH
posted by Lucinda at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2012


Okay, Michael Nesmith's tour announcement at the bottom of Lucinda's link above is hilarious, and deserving of your click-through, so I won't copy it here.
posted by davejay at 3:43 PM on September 17, 2012


as a movie it's just not very compelling. Lacking story, plot, or any sort of backbone

I had heard this sort of commentary before I saw Head, which is why I was expecting something indulgent and flawed. But I just don't see how you can fail to notice story, plot or backbone in this film!

I think it's got an even stronger backbone than a more conventional alternative would have had. It takes backbone and intelligence to create such a complicated film in which the characters, scenes, lines and themes keep refracting back in on themselves, slowly building up a picture of the main characters struggling with their senses of despair and paranoia.

It's well-directed and sharply-edited, often taking unexpected turns which at first appear to deviate from where you think a scene (or the film) was going, but which in the end turn out to be carefully thought-out juxtapositions.

Eh. As others have noted, it's not for everyone. But it certainly doesn't lack story, plot or backbone.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 4:01 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's got an even stronger backbone than a more conventional alternative would have had

Perhaps backbone was the wrong word, since backbone is often used as a synonym for bravery or gumption. Head has that in spades. What it does not seem to have is a central narrative holding the scenes together.

What's odd is I actually like that quality in books; Pynchon, Bolaño, Burroughs, that sort of thing. Occasionally a movie can do that for me, but it's rare. Maybe I should try watching Head again earlier in the day when I'm less tired.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:25 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


the cop yt

should be: "The Cop's Dream"...

An excellent film. First saw it many years after watching the TV show as a kid, not knowing what to expect... woahh...
posted by ovvl at 5:27 PM on September 17, 2012


What it does not seem to have is a central narrative holding the scenes together.

Here's how I understand the narrative. After the film's opening, it flashes back to the Monkees at home, on various sets, and behind the scenes at the studio. In each of these environments, the Monkees find themselves selling out and being rejected by their peers. They keep trying to escape from the constraints in which they find themselves, but always end up back in the black box. Even the ultimate form of escape at the film's end finds them back in the box. There's no escape.

All the scenes and all the dialogue contribute to this narrative, constantly piling on the sense of the Monkees being trapped in their studio world.

should be: "The Cop's Dream"...

Perhaps. Perhaps not.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:45 PM on September 17, 2012


Perhaps. Perhaps Not. Perhaps. A hall of mirrors.
posted by ovvl at 6:21 PM on September 17, 2012


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