The Head-era Monkees
Listen – The Monkees – Porpoise Song – MP3
I’ve decided to close out the week with something that might be a little bit obvious for some, but so good, that even jaded record collector types will take the time to listen.
Though the Monkees were a big part of my childhood – albeit a few years after their peak, when the TV show was being rerun on Saturday mornings after CBS ran out of cartoons (but just before Kukla, Fran and Ollie) – I probably didn’t see their movie ‘Head’, or hear any of the music from the soundtrack until I was deep into the garage/psyche revival thing in the mid-80s.
By then, ‘Head’ was a regular feature of the bootleg video underground, and the Monkees TV show was being rerun (I think) on MTV.
‘Head’ was – pun fully intended – a trip, with the Monkees on the far side of their anti-Kirshner rebellion, pumping up their underground cred with Frank Zappa, explicit anti-war messages and unapologetic psychedelic overtures to an audience still packed solidly with 13 year old girls.
Naturally, the movie – though a well-intentioned artifact of the psychedelic era – was a failure. It was disjointed, self-indulgent (though that pejorative could be used to describe about 80% of all music and film of the era), and while not with out charm or a surplus of good intentions, far too boring to sustain the interest of a drug addled audience.
Fortunately for all involved, the best song on the soundtrack, and one of the trippiest parts of the movie comes very close to the beginning.
‘Porpoise Song’, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin comes right after the Monkees charge through a bridge dedication, eventually jumping over the railing and diving into the water. The tune is an absolutely remarkable example of west coast psychedelia, dreamy (yet not diffuse), trippy (yet coherent) and arranged to perfection by one of the great unsung heroes of that particular time and place, Jack Nitzsche (who also worked on the Buffalo Springfield’s* ‘Expecting To Fly’.
Though the film has several interesting sections (and some other excellent music, i.e. ‘Circle Sky’), had they just edited it down to the ‘Porpoise Song’ sequence, I doubt anyone would have missed the rest.
It’s a fantastic record and I hope you dig it.
*Both Neil Young and the recently deceased Dewey Martin of the Buffalo Springfield played on the ‘Head’ soundtrack