January 13th, 2011 12:41 am ET
By Steve Marinucci, Vintage Rock 'n' Roll Examiner
"Hey, hey, we are the Monkees, we've said it all before, the money's in, we're made of tin, we're here to give you more. The money's in, we're made of tin, we're here to give you ..." -- "Ditty Diego -- War Chant" from the "Head" soundtrack.
Back in 1968, the Monkees surprised -- and to a certain extent - outraged their fans and the public with the release of the movie "Head." The movie was unpredictable and even became quite controversial.
But aside from the movie's goofiness, it was the Monkees making a statement. They described it pretty accurately in "Ditty Diego - War Chant," from the movie's soundtrack. "We hope you like our story, although there isn't one. That is to say, there's many, that way there is more fun."
"Head" is looked on a lot more favorably now than it was at the time of its release. The guiding lights behind it were Bob Rafelson, who co-wrote and directed it, and Jack Nicholson, who was one of the co-writers.
And the renaissance of "Head" was helped with two different recent releases. One was an expanded limited edition version of the soundtrack by Rhino Handmade in October that included outtakes and other rarities. The other was the re-release of the film in November in a new box set by Criterion Collection called "America Lost and Found: The BBS Story" that spotlights the films of Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner and is available in both regular and Blu-ray versions. The Blu-rayis the first Blu-ray release of "Head." Besides "Head," the set also includes upgrades of "Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces," "Drive, He Said," "The Last Picture Show," "The King of Marvin Gardens" and "A Safe Place."
Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval says the three-CD Rhino Handmade set has some sonic and other improvements over the previously available CD.
"The first disc is the original stereo album which we actually upgraded considerably from the old CD because we found a master tape that was a generation earlier than the one they've been using for all these years. We also corrected an engineering problem that wasn't present on the original vinyl, but was present on our previous CD which was that the channel balance was off. So we've corrected that and we added a bunch of bonus tracks. The second disc features a number of other mono mixes and outtakes and some live tracks from the Salt Lake City show that was filmed for 'Head.' And the third disc is an original interview album (with Davy Jones) that was done in 1968, but almost not distributed at all. Only three copies have turned up in the last 42 years. It's pretty interesting, actually, because it predates the actual release of the film because he talks about scenes in the movie that are not actually in the movie."
Sandoval says the Criterion DVD restores the soundtrack. "We had the multitracks for 'Porpoise Song,' 'As We Go Along,' 'Circle Sky' the live version, and 'Daddy's Song.' And we laid those back in and were able to do surround sound mixes with those. On two of the songs, 'Can You Dig It?' and 'Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?,' the multitracks have been missing for at least 20, almost 30 years. And so those were laid in stereo-sounding tracks. A lot of the incidental score we were able to recover from some three-track scoring sessions. So basically, we put all that stuff in wherever it was possible. Some stuff we didn't have, but a lot of it is completely in new mix and completely upgraded."
"With the picture," he said, "they did a lot of work going back to the original interpositive 35mm. They reformatted it to widescreen."
He said the new DVD also has some new material not on the earlier Rhino DVD version, which is still in print. "All four of the Monkees contribute to the commentary. And Bob Rafelson did a new interview for the DVD." He also said there are some additional bonus features on the DVD that feature some material that has not been seen before. It also includes a 5.1 soundtrack, trailers and radio spots.
However, there are no outtakes from the movie on the DVD. Sandoval said that's because Bob Rafelson wouldn't allow any to be used.
And the new Criterion "Head" DVD won't be available outside the box set.
"Rhino holds the rights to the movie for DVD release and this particular version is coming out through Criterion as part of a box set where all the other pictures are Sony Pictures. Because of that complication, it's not going to be the easiest thing to see that broken out. It would have to be a new deal with Rhino to break it out separately. It was kind of a favor to begin with to get it out. I petitioned Bob Rafelson to include 'Head' in this box set because I feel that it is the precursor to all the other movies that he made under this 'BBS' umbrella."
As far as a TV broadcast of the new version, Sandoval acknowledged that Turner Classic Movies has shown it in the past. "I'm assuming with Sony that they might show it again. Sony holds the rights to that and they also hold the rights to show the Monkees series on TV, which is another important right that Rhino doesn't control." Also, the Rhino box sets of the series are not out of print, Sandoval says, though he notes the prices go up and down when they're out of stock.
"I would like to upgrade the shows, if possible. There are outtakes and other things that could be added to the shows that are newly discovered. Whether or not Rhino wants to do that is really up to them," he says. "I can only advise them or encourage them. They really do deserve to be restored and upgraded."
Sandoval said that despite the public shock over "Head," for the Monkees it wasn't that way. "I don't think the Monkees themselves were shocked about doing the movie at the time, he said. "I think they all thought the script was wacky and off the wall like the Monkees series was and it was just another strange thing for them to do."
"I don't think they knew what was going to happen until they saw the final movie," he says. "And I don't think the director, Bob Rafelson, or the writer, Jack Nicholson, really let them in on how it was going to be presented. But if you look at the original script, it's not a completely improvised movie. That script does detail everything that's actually in the movie, even down to the car commercials and everything else that's cut in."
So what does the future hold? "I would assume there will be another Monkees release in the next year based on however well 'Head' does. The release of 'Head,' the 3-CD set, is directly a result of the success of (the Rhino Handmade) 'The Birds, Bees and the Monkees.' I don't know the actual numbers, but I know Rhino was quite pleased."