Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Free TV and the Monkees

At the moment the Swedish public television station SVT is running an advertising campaign about how it is politically and economically independent and therefore 'Free'. I am not sure it is as simple as that (i.e. the people pay therefore we can say anything), but I agree there is an integrity to the public broadcaster in Sweden that is important. However, I have encountered similar levels of 'Independence' in other state run media services in other countries that while they do not favor individual concerns such as business' they do follow national agendas and conform to concepts of 'common sense'- which leads me to my next topic.

The soundtrack to one of the ads being run by SVT is Circle Sky by the Monkees from 1968. Not only is it a great tune, it comes from one of the most surreal psychedelic films produced in the 1960's. An underground classic that rates with other psychadelic films produced which involved Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Roger Corman; Wild Angels, The Trip, Psych-Out,

Head (1968) begins (without any opening credits) at the dedication of a bridge. After a politician struggles with constant feedback with his microphone as he tries to give a speech, the Monkees suddenly interrupt the ceremony by running through the assembled officials, to the sound of various horns and sirens. The rest of the film is essentially plotless, a seemingly stream of consciousness stringing-together of musical numbers, satire of various film genres, elements of psychedelia, and references to topical issues such as the Vietnam War. Trailers for the film summarized it as a "most extraordinary adventure, western, comedy, love story, mystery, drama, musical, documentary satire." Some film critics[citation needed] now consider the film to be an allegorical deconstruction of the Monkees' experiences as pawns of the Hollywood starmaking machine that, like their real-life story itself, contains some sinister truths lurking underneath what appears to be a colorful, entrancing facade. Wikipedia

I watched Head many times as a young student in Australia in the late 1980s (along with Easy Rider and a lot of Al Pacino films), as we had a cheap VHS copy of it someone had bought in some closing down video rental. Thinking about it now it was a cut-up or remix and looking at the imdb it seems to have been constructed as such:

The movie's origin was in Ojai, California, where the foursome [the monkees], Bob Rafelson, and Jack Nicholson spent a weekend in a resort motel verbally tossing story ideas into a tape recorder. This became the script for this film.

The SVT campaign today is getting a lot of attention based on its criticism of other media outlets and their ownership structures. However, Head is a strange source for a state broadcaster to appropriate material from, as it depicts a lifestyle that, shall we say, is not really legal in Sweden today. I wonder if the perceived freedom of the 1960's (and the now wealthy demographic that can remember that time) is the target for Circle Sky, "We were free and we can be free again....with SVT." To get some idea of 'where Im coming from..man' here is the theatrical trailer for Head from 1968:

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