What was the Monkees’ Head actually, you know, about?: ‘This incredible, weird, psychedelic movie’

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Asked to explain the Monkees’ free-form 1968 movie Head, Micky Dolenz has an impish reply: “I have no fricking idea what it was about.” Actually, though, there’s one scene that he says encapsulates the acid-washed film’s groundbreaking world view.

“The movie was essentially about the deconstruction of the film industry,” Dolenz says, during a Monkees Convention Q&A. As such, the moment he breaks down the industry’s so-called fourth wall encapsulates the larger theme at work in this movie, which was written and produced by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson.

“It’s a calvary thing, with Indians, and [fellow Monkee] Mike [Nesmith] and I are fighting off the Indians, and it’s a big set with all of the landscape and the backdrops,” Dolenz says. “I get hit with, like, four or five arrows — and I go: ‘Bob, I don’t want to do this anymore. This is just crap.’ Then I walk through the backdrop, and burst out of this fake Hollywood scene. I didn’t even think about this at the time, but now I look back — and that was the point of the movie, beyond the whole Monkee paradigm. It was about breaking out of the traditional, old school Hollywood. And they did.”

From there, Dolenz says, filmgoers saw a fundamental change in the way movies were made, over a string of outsider releases that included Easy Rider, Billy Jack and Raging Bull. “The idea was always that we were going to do something different than a 90-minute episode of The Monkees,” Dolenz says. “Jack, in his brilliance, and Bob Rafelson, took away all of this Monkee-ness — and penned this incredible, weird, psychedelic movie.”

Head was released in November of 1968; the soundtrack followed on December 1, 1968, becoming the last classic-era album to include all four Monkees. They’d stage one more complete studio reunion for 1996’s Justus.

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  • Mike Ray

    To me, “Head” was the end of the Monkee myth – whether consciously or subconsciously of each member. It opens with a suicide! Davy, the cute one gets his face bashed in; Peter, the peacemaker belts a woman (sort of…) and so on. It breaks all convention. It has brilliant moments, it has disturbing moments. I enjoy it more than Magical Mystery Tour (which didn’t say enough between the better moments of that film).

  • Lauren M. Doucette

    Wrote my senior dissertation about it.