Monday, April 17, 2017
The Monkees - Head (Alternate)
Head, the Monkees' first theatrical film, was released in theaters on November 6th, 1968. A psychedelic, drug-inspired mind trip, the film was a critical and commercial failure, earning only $16,000 on a $750,000 budget. Today, the film is regarded in a much higher light by fans and critics, comparing the abstract film to the Beatles' own Magical Mystery Tour. Me personally, I'd definitely choose to watch it Head over Magical Mystery Tour. When watching MMT, I find myself watching and waiting for the music videos only, not really caring about everything else in-between (Though Miranda Forbes as Miss Wendy Winter is certainly easy on the eyes!). But Head somehow manages to grab my attention throughout the entire film. But we're not here to really talk about the film, we're here to talk about the soundtrack of the same name! Head, the album, was released about a month later on December 1st. The album failed to make it to the Top 40 in the US, a first for the group. Stalling in at #45, Head was the group's worst-performing album yet. I like to believe that this was because it wasn't even really a proper album, per se. It was more of a collection of tracks featured in the film, paired alongside a bunch of snippets from the film. Half of the tracks on the album are movie snippets, which most likely alienated fans from deciding to purchase the album. While it makes for an interesting listen in conjunction to the film, I really like the idea of basing Head solely as its own album. This was the group's most psychedelic, experimental phase in their career, and I want it to be properly established within this alternate album. So lets see how it looks, shall we?
It should come as no surprise that the majority of movie snippets were removed from the original album. Some of these tracks were merely just a few seconds long. Of the original album, the tracks "Porpoise Song", "Ditty Diego - War Song", "Circle Sky", "Can You Dig It?", "As We Go Along", "Daddy's Song" and "Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" remain. The other tracks, as mentioned on my previous post, are primarily made up of tracks from the group's earlier album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
Side A of course begins with the fantastic psychedelic avant-grade-inspired "Porpoise Song", written by the legendary songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Anybody reading this should look online for Carole's original piano demo of the track, which is equally ingenious and powerful in its own right. I never like how the version of the original album ends immediately after the dramatic buildup, cutting off the transcendent coda section. Here, the full stereo mix from the Music Box compilation set is used in all its glory. Following is the comedic track entitled "Ditty Diego - War Chant", in which the four Monkees are shockingly open about their "prefabricated image", declaring themselves as a "manufactured image with no philosophies". I love the contrast between the upbeat, jolly backing track and the dark, almost depressing lyrics about the hardships of the entertainment business. As Davy sings, "so make your choice and we'll rejoice in never being free!". As the second half of the song, which features dramatic war sound effects, comes to an end, the track immediately transitions into the next one, being Mike's "Tapioca Tundra". Originally featured as the B-Side to the "Valleri" single, the track found its place on The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, but I like it here a lot more. What an awesome track, that, like "Circle Sky", perfect showcases Mike's songwriting and singing talents. Speaking of "Circle Sky", the next track is - "Circle Sky"! The mix on the original album, usually referred to as the "live" mix, is not that good IMO. Mike's vocals are horrendously buried by the rest of the instruments, making the lyrics incomprehensible to understand. Here, the more professional studio mix from later reissues of the album is used. Following is Peter's fantastic "Can You Dig It?". Much like George Harrison, Peter really began to establish himself as a serious songwriter with this album. Unfortunately, this wouldn't be explored any further, as Peter quit the group later that year. It's a shame really, to imagine what other tracks he could have put out with the group while they were still together. Side A closes with Mike's experimental "Writing Wrongs", a psychedelic, haunting dirge of a track. Featuring lyrics about poisoned water, the impending apocalypse, and a man falling to his death from a building, "Writing Wrongs" certainly is as far from "I'm a Believer" as it'll ever get! After the first chorus, the track evolves into an extended jam session, featuring reverberated pianos and discordant organ riffs. A fantastic addition not just to the album, but to the Monkees' song catalogue itself.
Side B starts off with my favorite track on the album, the beautiful "As We Go Along". The track is performed in 6/8 time, a time signature rarely heard in pop music at the time. Micky delivers a powerful, emotionally-beautiful lead vocal, one of his all-time best with the group! The Boyce/Hart track "P.O. Box 9847" comes up next. I LOVE the heavy, deep drum beat used for this track, certainly one of the most appealing aspects of the song. The rest of the backing track is pretty damn amazing, featuring a unique selection of exotic instruments. Quite an underrated track too, it's definitely one of those tracks by the groups that deserves more recognition than it receives! Davy's spotlight on the album, "Daddy's Song", follows. Written by Harry Nilsson (one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, IMO), the alternate version from Music Box is used here, which features a slow, piano-driven section removed from the final mix. Certainly a unique twist on the original track, I definitely prefer it to the original mix. My second-favorite track on the album, Mike's "Auntie's Municipal Court" comes up next. Featuring a great Micky vocal, this track features an incredible backing track (something like a cross between psychedelic pop and folk) and a pretty damn catchy melody. Mike really hit it out of the park with this one! Peter's second contribution to the album comes next, "Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" Another solid track by Peter, "Long Title" is a folk-tinged rocker that brings the album to a close. Well, almost. The final track of the album is the acid-tinged mind-fuck entitled "California Here it Comes". This track is featured at the end of the group's second film, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, during which an atomic bomb is dropped, exploding and killing all of the Monkees during the ending credits sequence. The track starts out with the simple sound of a heartbeat, along with a deep voice repeating the phrase "the end" over and over again. The track then breaks out into a short, comedic performance of "California Here I Come" by Peter, ending with the sound of heavy breathing. Quite a way to cap off the album, don't you think?
Overall, while the original version of Head is pretty good in its own right, I'd really have preferred it if the group created an actual album as opposed to a soundtrack. Something like this definitely would have sufficed! Whether or not it would have been a better-seller than the original version is questionable, but seeing as though the groups had already been losing popularity at the time, I doubt it would have made a difference. I hope you enjoy, and look out for more coming soon!
1. Porpoise Song (Gerry Goffin/Carole King)
2. Ditty Diego - War Chant (Jack Nicholson/Bob Rafelson)
3. Tapioca Tundra (Michael Nesmith)
4. Circle Sky (Michael Nesmith)
5. Can You Dig It? (Peter Tork)
6. Writing Wrongs (Michael Nesmith)
1. As We Go Along (Carole King/Toni Stern)
2. P.O. Box 9847 (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart)
3. Daddy's Song (Harry Nilsson)
4. Auntie's Municipal Court (Michael Nesmith)
5. Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again? (Peter Tork)
6. California Here it Comes (Buddy DeSylva/Al Jolson/Joseph Meyer)
BTW, I have been getting lots of messages from different people concerning dead links on this site. Please understand that even if I don't comment back, I still make sure to read every single comment posted on this blog. I will FOR SURE re-upload every single dead link on this website. It may be awhile though, as I am currently focusing on school at the moment. I'm planning on moving all of my downloads over to mega.nz, as zippyshare isn't really the most "user-friendly" link-sharing website. Expect this to happen around mid-May after I get out of school. Thanks for your interest and understanding, and I'll see you all back here very soon!