Mike Nesmith ‘Loved’ Making The Monkees Avant-Garde Film ‘Head’

The Monkees Head is an avant-garde, satirical musical adventure film that placed the foursome at the forefront of the societal changes that closed out the 1960s, and Mike Nesmith “loved” making it. At the close of the second season of The Monkees, castmates Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones were at a career crossroads. The series placed the group in improbable situations that appeared to be out of time with the current social climate. However, to step outside of The Monkees box was a risky idea, until the cast, Jack Nicholson, and Bob Rafelson developed the idea for Head.

Mike Nesmith in a concert sequence from the feature film "Head."
Mike Nesmith | Columbia Pictures/YouTube

How did The Monkees get involved with ‘Head’?

The last episode of The Monkees Emmy-winning show aired in March 1968, the second and final season of filming.

During that time, the world’s cultural climate appeared to be in upheaval. The idea of four wannabe musicians who performed slapstick for 20 minutes and sang for 5 appeared to be out of step with the times.

The Monkees producer and director Bob Rafelson had planned to make a film starring Jones, Dolenz, Tork, and Nesmith while filming the series. However, it wasn’t plausible until the series came to an end.

To create the ideas that would be introduced in the film. Rafelson introduced the actors to aspiring screenwriter and actor Jack Nicholson.

During one weekend spent at a California resort, Rafelson, Nicholson, and The Monkees had an open dialogue about the topics they wanted to address while a tape recorder kept running. These ideas would eventually come together into the germ of an idea for Head‘s script.

Mike Nesmith ‘loved’ making the feature film ‘Head’

Mike Nesmith admitted that he “loved” making the feature film Head despite the negative press reception the film received from both critics and fans at the time of its release.

He told WPR that filming the movie was an authentic experience.

“I loved it,” Nesmith said.

“I loved making it and had such a good time with Bob (Rafelson) and Jack (Nicholson). It was the high point of my whole Monkees experience. And I think it lives on well beyond the television shows. The television shows have their place, but they live on like the music. It stands on its own three feet or 12 feet or whatever they are.”

“It has a life that comes from both literature and fiction, fantasy and the deep troves of making up stories and narratives. But it was telling a narrative, but the narrative that it was telling was very, very different than the one the television show was,” Nesmith continued.

The film has since become a cult classic

Head may not have found the commercial success it sought upon its release. However, it was a platform for the band to express their true feelings about not only superstardom the political climate, but to show off their musicianship.

The film featured a who’s who of celebrities, including Terri Garr, Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, Frank Zappa, Toni Basil, and Dennis Hopper, to name a few. 

In the 53 years since its release, Head has attained a cult status.

The film was a vignette of different storylines featuring Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Tork. It was a homage to classic movies and an antiwar cry at the same time.

Head also featured concert footage of the band singing a live version of the Nesmith tune “Circle Sky.” Vietnam War footage was intercut alongside concert footage and featured several mirrored band shots.

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