Monday, June 19, 2006

The Best Rock Movies Ever Made #1 - Head

Okay here it is folks. Now that the Pulp series has finished, i'm gonna be starting two new ones. First there will be this, a series about the best rock/music related movies of all time, featuring mp3s of songs from the soundtracks and mini reviews, and second will be a Manic Street Preachers discography in the same style as the Pulp one. The Manics series will start later in the week, but for today i've got the first installment of the movie series. I think i'm gonna be doing something like 50 films, but so it doesn't last forever, i'll usually do 2 or 3 at a time. As i'm in a bit of a hurry today, i'll just start you off with one, as influenced by a thread over on the Drowned In Sound boards.

#1 - HEAD
Featuring: The Monkees.
Dir: Bob Rafelson. 1968. Columbia Pictures.

Written by Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson and The Monkees themselves, Head is quite possibly one of the best and funniest band-based films of all time. It's also a completely unexpected pleasure for all those who've been indoctrinated into thinking that the Monkees were just cut rate Beatles copyists who never did anything original or interesting. Quite to the contrary, before their television success, all of the original Monkees (Davey Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork) were already trained musicians, and as their careers skyrocketed, they would be engaged in a continual fight to play on their own records, to go out on tour and eventually to write their own songs. Beginning with their third album, 1967's Headquarters, the band would start to record and even write some of their own songs. 67's Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd. and 68's The Birds, The Bees & the Monkees saw this trend continue, but the true extent to which The Monkees became their own band can best be seen in their most monumental and funniest achievement, the movie Head.

Inspired by the hippie movement, which had cast them as has beens and capitalistic pawns, the band completely destroyed their television image as friendly, innocent nice guys. Nicholson, Rafelson and the band wrote the script in a marijuana fuelled haze by placing any idea that came into their heads onto a tape recorder, and it shows. In a good way. Head is a psychedelic, dada-esque and even Brechtian montage in which The Monkees repeatedly attempt to break through the corporate and societal walls that attempt to define them. It features cameos from Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Teri Garr, Frank Zappa (with a horse) and even Sonny Liston. It's a stream of consciousness laugh-fest that will truly make you start to love the band, even if you'd never seen them before. Somehow the film manages to be both clever and charming, anarchic and still homely, because we know that even if The Monkees are pissed off, they're still sharing the joke of fucking up their careers with us and for us. This can perhaps be best seen from the films deconstruction of the bands own television themetune:

Hey, hey, we are The Monkees,
You know we love to please,
A manufactured image
With no philosophies.
We hope you'll like our story,
Although, there isn't one,
That is to say, there's many,
That way, there is more fun.
You told us you like action
And games of many kinds
You like to dance you, like to sing
So let's all lose our minds!
We know it doesn't matter
'Cause what you came to see
You know we'd love to give you
And give it one, two, three!
You say were manufactured.
To that we all agree.
So make your choice and we'll rejoice
In never being free!
Hey Hey we are The Monkees
We've said it all before;
The money's in, were made of tin,
We're here to give you more!
The money's in, were made of tin
We're here to give you...

The films soundtrack is a stunner, a 29 minute montage of film dialogue, beautiful psychedelia (see the classic Goffin/King penned Porpoise Song, recently covered by And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead) and fantastic psych-beat (Can You Dig It?), as well as some tracks that just defy description. It's a really unique piece, interestingly put together by Jack Nicholson, and i've put three tracks up below. The most interesting of the mp3s is the third, a radio spot advertising the film, which really goes to show how much the band had decided to ignore their previous commercial audience, featuring as it does a baffling montage of the songs from the film, little clips of almost inaudible dialogue, and a woman moaning HEEEAAAD over the top. Rumour has it that the title of the film was chosen so that its sequels poster would read 'From the people that gave you Head.' However after they had seen the film, and got the results back from the awfully recieved first previews, the bands management consequently decided that all of the films advertising should make no reference to The Monkees at all. The film made a combined $16000 dollars in its initial theatrical run. It is now considered a classic, and the bands greatest work. In the age of MTV style cutting, its randomness now seems normal, and the band never allow it to slip too much into irritating drawn out psychaedelic scenes that would have bogged down the excitement of the constant movement.

More info on Head at Wikipedia and the IMDB. Deleted scenes can be seen at this site. To buy the film on DVD, try

Clips from the film are available on youtube: here is the Porpose Song scene, here is As We Go Along, here is Daddy's Song, here is Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?, and here is Mickey in the desert. Enjoy.

The Monkees - Ditty Diego (War Chant) - MP3 0.97mb
The Monkees - Can You Dig It - MP3 2.23mb
The Monkees - Head Radio Spot - MP3 1.41mb


Blogger Tankboy said...

For years I only had this film on a VHS tape created from som 3am brodcast on Skinemax or something. That copy got me through the '80s and '90 but eventually became so blurry from over watching, it was only good for its soundtrack.

I was so pleased when it was finally "officially" released (both movie and soundtrack) and especially pleased they kept the soundtrack in the original configuration complete with tape looping and other manipulations...

3:41 pm, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous kevin said...

as long as the beegees' "sgt. pepper" movie isn't included on the list, it's all good. its utter shittiness is almost incomprehensible. almost.

9:53 pm, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Michael said...

It's a great idea for a ranking. You should consider taking it rankopedia.

10:35 pm, January 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog, interesting information... Keep it UP » » »

2:28 am, March 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice site! here

12:07 am, March 17, 2007  

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