The Golden Anniversary of the Monkees’ Career Suicide

"The most spectacular advertising gambit in recent memory, and one of the most misleading ads ever. No movie could look THAT depraved!"—Andrew Sarris, The Village Voice, November 28, 1968

by John Brockma

While cogitating about the state of the nation on election day, I was surprised to find myself featured in the front-page article on the Village Voice website: "Who Is That Guy? The Golden Anniversary of the Monkees’ Career Suicide," a heavily-illustrated, deep dive looking back at the bizarre circumstances 50 years ago that surrounded the premier of Columbia Pictures' Head, produced by Bert Schneider, directed by Bob Rafelson, and written by Jack Nicholson. Interesting reading, but like all previous journalistic attempts to unravel the story, it doesn't come close. I am the only person who knows what really went down, and I'm not talking. Not yet. (NOTE: Head is available online. It gets better every time I watch it.) —JB

MOMA Collection, 1969

[click here to go directly to Village Voice article]

Who Is That Guy? The Golden Anniversary of the Monkees' Career Suicide

"Head" is a terrific movie. Too bad it doomed one of history's hottest Top 40 bands.

By R.C. Baker
November 6, 2018


November 5, 1968, represented a fracture in American history. As the Vietnam War raged, Richard Nixon — promising a secret plan to end the carnage — won the presidency with less than 1 percent of the popular vote. It could be argued that there had never been a starker disconnect between the arc of the popular culture and the politician — in this case, a buttoned-down, uptight Quaker — elected to lead it. Many Americans had grown increasingly skeptical about waging war against such a small and distant country, and about America’s leadership at home. This was reflected in a mushrooming counterculture, which, that same month, saw the publication of the inaugural issue of Screw, a magazine that pushed the boundaries of obscenity laws by publishing photos of sexually frolicking couples, outré cartoons, and bawdy (not to say, offensively misogynist) articles.

Another cultural milestone — perhaps millstone would be the more accurate term — premiered in New York City the day after the election: TV producer-director Bob Rafelson brought the band he had created for the fast-paced music sitcom The Monkees to the big screen, in Head. A friend and colleague of Rafelson’s, Jack Nicholson, wrote the script, purportedly under the influence of various illegal substances. The episodic, stream-of-consciousness narrative opens with a suicide leap from a bridge by drummer and vocalist Micky Dolenz, segues into a long take of a young woman kissing each of the Monkees in turn — “even” is her evaluation of their appeal — and then caroms through skits and sketches involving cowboys, Indians, World War II battles, love scenes, fight scenes, food fights, stylish dance numbers, and numerous other Hollywood tropes conjured on Columbia Pictures’ soundstages and backlots.

Continue reading the Village Voice article →