Apr 2, 2014

Head: More of the Monkees

After their spectacular, media-orchestrated rise to fame in 1966, with a top-rated tv show and several #1 hit songs, the Monkees were on top of the world.

 But not for long. They chafed at their "boy band" restrictions; they wanted be known as serious artists, to move beyond teeny-bopper love songs,  to tackle serious issues. They wanted to be free. Their handlers disapproved.

In the spring of 1968, they wrote and produced a movie, Head.  It premiered with great anticipation; fans thought that it would be a comedic documentary, like the Beatles' Hard Day's Night.

It wasn't.

You say we're manufactured -- to that we all agree.
So make your choice and we'll rejoice in never being free!

It consists of a series of sketches, most about the difference between reality and the manufactured plotlines of their tv series: Davy becomes a boxer; Micky is lost in the desert; they visit a haunted house and the Old West.  They constantly disrupt the stories, changing their lines, dropping character, or just saying "We don't want to do this anymore" and walking off the set.

But every set leads to a new story.

They think they have escaped, and settle down to throw a birthday party for Mike.  But he starts yelling that this is not his apartment, these are actors, not his real friends, it's all a fake.

They escape from a box only to find themselves in a bigger box.

They try to commit suicide, only to find that that, too, isn't real; there is no escape.

The constraint of modern life, the inability to ever be free, is a common thread in 1960s media, and resonated strongly for gay kids growing up in a constant drone of "What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?"

We've seen it in Easy Rider and Alice's Restaurantin the Tripods series of dystopian mind-control novels, in Richard Schaal trapped in The Cube; in Number 6 trapped in The Village, even in the Castaways trapped on Gilligan's Island.

Still, this version is worth a look for:
1. The clever "box inside a box" concept
2. The frequent beefcake.  You see more of Micky and Davy than ever before, constant shirtless and semi-nude scenes, and all of the guys gets close-ups of their very, very tight pants.
3. The homoerotic buddy bonding that shines through, in spite of the frequent girl-kissing.  These guys are into guys.

In a way, Head represented the suicide of the group.  Teen fans hated it, and the psychedelic generation stayed away.  Their tv series was cancelled, and their songs stopped charting.

But, 46 years later, the memory remains.