Mike Nesmith shot to fame in the late 1960s as one of four members of the made-for-TV rock band, The Monkees. Nesmith and fellow Monkees Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork recorded the hit songs like “Daydream Believer,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” and “I’m a Believer,” but at the height of their stardom, an ill-fated stint in the 1968 movie called Head marked the beginning of the band’s demise.
In his new memoir, Infinite Tuesday, Mike Nesmith writes about his life as a Monkee and his friendships with Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, LSD guru Timothy Leary, and most notably, Jack Nicholson. According to People, Nesmith says when he first met Nicholson, the actor was still an unknown and looking for work as an actor-writer-director.
The duo first met through actor Peter Fonda, who was a motorcycle riding buddy of Mike’s. Later, Nicholson showed up on the set of The Monkees to see his friends Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the producers of the show.
“We became friends and steady companions right away,” Nesmith writes of Nicholson.
“When Jack came on the scene of The Monkees‘ TV production, he was not yet famous and was one of the few people I met who seemed self-aware and grounded. At the same time, his demeanor and sense of humor was exceptional and like catnip for me. I thought he was the coolest guy, and since this was long before the term bromance entered the US lexicon, some people in my crowd of friends thought my fascination with him was beyond the pale.”
While Nesmith was married to his college sweetheart Phyllis Barbour at the time, his “drug-fueled” bromance with Jack Nicholson was all consuming.
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Mike also reveals that his friends thought his preoccupation with Monkees producers Rafelson and Bert Schneider was “abnormal.”
“It wasn’t in any sense sexual or even emotional, but I felt an affection,” Nesmith writes, according to the Daily Mail.
Mike Nesmith would go on to work with Rafelson, Schneider and Jack Nicholson on Head (Jack was a co-writer of the film), but the movie’s confusing, psychedelic rambling alienated the Monkees’ young fan base. Critics slammed the flick, which featured a cameo by Frank Zappa. Head was a massive failure, recouping only $16,111 of its $790,000 budget.
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In his book, Mike Nesmith says he was out of his league with the Head trio.
“Bert, Bob, and Jack were heavy players: smart, educated, classy in their own way, and weird beyond all measures. I had no chance of keeping up with them.”
Still, Mike Nesmith noted Jack Nicholson’s “drug-sharpened flair for hilarity,” which he says created a bond between them.
“Jack and I could crack each other up and laugh until we both ran out of breath and collapsed, coughing,” Mike reveals.
Unfortunately, after the disastrous Head, Mike Nesmith’s friendships with Nicholson and the movie’s producers cooled. Nicholson even told Nesmith not to drop in anymore without calling first.
Late Monkees singer Davy Jones once told The Guardian that Rafelson and Nicholson were just “practicing their film techniques” with Head.
“They were throwing us to the ‘gators at that point,” the singer said.
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Indeed, the Head screenplay reportedly came after a drug-fueled weekend brainstorming session in late 1967 when Nicholson recorded the Monkees’ conversations and turned them into a screenplay. Rafelson structured the script while on LSD.
Despite the movie’s poor reception, Monkees alum Peter Tork said Nicholson was “fabulous” to work with.
“We adored him, all of us,” Tork told The Guardian.
“Michael [Nesmith] practically fell in love with him, in a manly sort of way.”
Monkee Peter Tork's head and Jack Nicholson, 1968 – sufficiently creepy & awesome at the same time. pic.twitter.com/PbKEuVArGS
— KCGibbons (@KCGibbons) January 30, 2014
Mickey Dolenz described the object of Mike Nesmith’s obsession as “a wonderful, charismatic, funny guy.”
“Jack spent a lot of time with us,” he said. “He hung out on the [TV] set and came out on tour, just picking up the vibe.”
Jack Nicholson has said very little about Head and his unlikely friendship with Mike Nesmith. In a 1985 interview with Film Comment, Jack revealed that he wrote the script of the ill-fated film “based on the theories of Marshall McLuhan.”
Take a look at the video below for more on Mike Nesmith, The Monkees, and Head.
Mike Nesmith’s memoir Infinity Tuesday hits bookstores on April 18.
[Featured Image by Fox Photos/Getty Image]