Why Head is a trippy, swinging ’60s masterpiece
Head is the psychedelic twirling of the four members of American classic rock group The Monkees. We follow Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith through a series of interconnected, random sequences depicting psychological liberation and unusual expression. At that time, rock ‘n’ roll was at its peak in 1968. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones made history around the world and brought rock ‘n’ roll to America. There we find The Monkees and now we have this cinematic masterpiece of images and music.
The Beatles seemed to have a major impact on the Monkees and their visual interpretation. Their hairstyles are longer and they share each other’s quirks and energy. Additionally, the psychedelic imagery and some of the song choices reflect those of Magical Mystery Tour. However, this film is in a category of its own… in the best sense. The collection of stories and scenarios we are subjected to seems jumbled and out of place. Still, it’s a trippy but entertaining jaunt through the minds of the four Monkees.
The art of music in your head
From the opening sequence to the entire Head presents a beautiful selection of psychedelic imagery that twists and warps perceptions of reality. The images are distorted and the colors are bent, altered and manipulated to emphasize the emotion. There is a score to accompany the time period and setting we are sent to, but some of the sequences are accompanied by classic Monkees and their own original music. The film almost feels like a long music video, in which we are taken through the imagination of the four Monkees and their crazy ideas.
Head Is a live action fantasy, This means that the music is the focus of the film. But the music almost seems like a character of its own. It advances the story and surrounds the Monkees. Sequences like those from an ancient Egyptian setting are accompanied by a score that reflects the tone of the time. It depicts a more lavish lifestyle that follows sequences of live onstage performances by the Monkees. They are surrounded by women in gold surrounded by countless material goods.
However, what they do is hug the dancing woman and listen to the music that surrounds her. Music is the central arc of the story, taking us as an audience in all different directions. But does all this make sense?
Beautiful nonsense in the head
The film subverts expectations and takes the story in a direction based on the feel of the moment. Transitions and sequences are moved to a new location to emphasize the emotional beats and imagery of the previous one. Perhaps the key quote comes from the opening sequence where The Monkees introduce the film.
“We are the monkeys, you know we love to please, a manufactured image with no philosophy.”
Perhaps this is the crucial quote that sums up the entire film. There is beauty in nonsense, and that insecurity is a staple of the film. The film is random, but that doesn’t cloud the story because there isn’t one. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a narrative exactly. However, there is a lot of fun to be had and questions to be asked. The band travels through different time periods and explores different versions of an ever-changing world.
The changing world in your head
The year 1968 marked a major shift in our culture. The old and mighty dollar drives the universe and these elements are represented in Head. For example, let’s assume a music sequence that shows the beauty of nature in a commercialized world. Fast-paced images of billboards and advertisements flood the screen, then we see the Monkees being used as pawns in an advertisement selling scale products. This is staggering, but shows how much the climate of the financial world has affected mainstream media. This is one of the more sophisticated elements of the film, reinforcing its metaphorical themes.
When the Monkees try to find Davy Jones and end up on the movie set, they face the law. They try to explain the crazy and psychedelic adventures that got them this far. However, the law doesn’t believe them or take their stories seriously. This could be the depiction of the changing world of the 1960s. Artists seemed to be breaking away from tradition and moving in a more colorful direction. It took a while for most viewers to accept it, and it took even longer for this style of music and entertainment to become mainstream. Still, the cop is extremely aversive of the Monkees and treats them with brutal disrespect… until he’s alone.
When the policeman is alone, he dances in an extravagant and eccentric way. Out of nowhere, this rigid and stern police officer turns and embraces the strange and different. Much to our surprise, this man falls ill with the temptations of temptation itself. Somehow, somehow, we literally see him fall to the ground and are immersed in his dream in the “The Cops Dream” sequence.
Perhaps this oddity could reflect the underground nature of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll and offbeat media, similar to what the Monkees are trying to convey. It would be frowned upon (at least at this time) to embrace the other and psychedelic. Perhaps just moving away from the traditional and safe was enough to get people to enjoy it in the shade. All in all, what we see in these sequences is a little metaphorical display that shows just how explosive the Monkees’ encounters with the outside world are.
A concert that went wrong
We are transported straight from the battlefield to the Monkees performance circular sky live on stage. To this performance we see accompanying pictures of impoverished citizens. After the performance, the audience storms onto the stage and tears it apart – literally. The raging audience seems to tear body parts from a mannequin off the stage. This entire action-packed sequence could represent the world just getting by with the recurring “It looks like we’ve done it again” lyrics.
However, there is much more beneath the surface. Compared to the war scene, there is just as much, if not more, fast-paced camera movement and action in the performance sequence. It shows how harrowing and exhausting the music industry is and how it seems like artists are making it day in and day out.
There are numerous changes in both the scenery and the images, which propel the audience in different directions. There is both nothing and endless interpretations Head. Perhaps it explains the most explosive and exploitative nature of fame and the impact it is having on four young artists eager to tell a story through song and bright colour. But it also shows how crazy the end result can be when you see the four Monkees falling off a bridge at the beginning and end of the film.