Co-Writer Jack Nicholson actually compiled the movie soundtrack in its final form, with snippets of the movie dialogue between songs, and is so credited on the album cover. (When he saw Michael Nesmith at work in the studio and asked if he could help, Nesmith let him take over, because "I just want to go home".) Nicholson had unwavering enthusiasm for the movie, joining in a stickering campaign to promote the premiere, and declaring later that "I saw it, like, one hundred fifty-eight million times, man. I loved it!"
Victor Mature agreed to appear in the movie after reading the script, admitting none of it made sense to him: "All I know is it makes me laugh." His character, "The Big Victor", is presumed to be a comic jab at RCA Victor, which were the distributors for The Monkees' records, and whose parent company also owned NBC, which aired their television series.
The Coca-Cola Company reportedly wasn't amused at The Monkees' take on then-current Coke commercials (desert wanderer Micky Dolenz faces off against an uncooperative soda machine, as a jingle plays), and tried to get an injunction against the movie. When the movie reappeared on cable and home video in 1986, Columbia Pictures was owned by Coca-Cola, and the issue apparently forgotten.
The "box", shown in several scenes, was inspired by the lounge area built for The Monkees during the filming of their television show. Between takes, they grew bored and wandered around the studio, often getting lost, so Screen Gems brass added a special room next to the soundstage. They would spend time there studying their scripts, composing, and playing music, and smoking (which they were forbidden to do on the set). Colored lights were added to the room to page whomever was needed on the set.
A misleading ad campaign (featuring John Brockman's face, and no mention of The Monkees), combined with a poorly timed release date (due to post-production delays) of November 6, 1968, two months after The Monkees (1966) was cancelled, likely sabotaged its performance at the box-office. It made a meager 16,111 dollars in ticket sales.
Five years after its premiere, the movie was shown in a 1973 Raybert retrospective, along with Five Easy Pieces (1970) and Easy Rider (1969), and finally gained a positive response from fans and critics.
When it was finally edited together into a cohesive whole, it ran ten minutes short of an unprecedented two hours. A poor audience response at an August 1968 screening in Los Angeles eventually forced the producers to edit the picture down to eighty-six minutes.
Peter Tork was the only one of The Monkees to appear on the set for the first scheduled day of filming (February 11, 1968). The others had decided to strike, in protest against not being allowed to write and direct the movie themselves. While they soon returned, feeling they'd made their point with co-Writer, co-Producer, and Director Bob Rafelson and co-Producer Bert Schneider, the unity between the band and the producers was forever broken. For their part, Rafelson and Schneider began playing albums on the set by other groups like Electric Flag, claiming, "That's REAL rock-n-roll."
Michael Nesmith's birthday party sequence was shot at Paramount Pictures on a set from Rosemary's Baby (1968). It featured one hundred extras and pop artist Edward Kienholz, whose 1964 sculpture "Back Seat Dodge '38" was featured on-set.
The movie's origin was in Ojai, California, where The Monkees, Bob Rafelson, and co-Writer Jack Nicholson spent a weekend in a resort motel verbally tossing story ideas into a tape recorder. This became the basis of the script. The Monkees weren't credited because, according to Micky Dolenz, "We didn't write any of the actual dialogue".
Toni Basil, who was the dance partner of Davy Jones during "Daddy's Song", and also credited as the film's choreographer, would later go on to gain commercial success for her 1982 song "Hey Mickey", which refers to Monkees drummer and vocalist, Micky Dolenz, whom she met during production.
Lee Kolima plays the security guard. Lee was also in two episodes of The Monkees (1966); season one, episode five, "The Spy Who Came in From the Cool", and season two, episode twenty, "The Devil and Peter Tork".
Had its television broadcast premiere on The CBS Late Movie (1972), Monday, December 30, 1974 (Michael Nesmith's thirty-second birthday, and Davy Jones' twenty-ninth), at 11:30 p.m. EST, airing opposite The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) on NBC, and The Gator Bowl (Texas Longhorns versus Auburn Tigers) on ABC. CBS repeated the film on Monday, July 7, 1975, also at 11:30 p.m. EDT, against The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) on NBC, and The Wide World of Mystery (1973) on ABC.
One of the many stories about how the movie got made, centered around the classic counter-culture film Easy Rider (1969). As the story goes, Monkees Producer Bob Rafelson had met Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Fonda, and wanted to produce their film. Rafelson went to Columbia Pictures (who produced The Monkees television series) and pitched Easy Rider (1969) to the executives. Columbia agreed to finance the picture, on the condition that Rafelson made a Monkees movie. Rafelson agreed, and got Jack Nicholson, who was also a screenwriter, to write the film. Nicholson hung out with The Monkees for several weeks, even going with them on tour. Once this movie was made, Rafelson abandoned The Monkees (as told by Peter Tork) and went off to bigger projects, starting with Easy Rider (1969).
In an interview published by Rolling Stone, Sean Lennon (son of John Lennon) and Les Claypool (lead singer of Primus) cited Head as a major influence on their musical collaboration "Monolith of Phobos." Lennon commented, "Head is, like, my bible. Any project or important thought I've ever had was inspired by Head."