The 10 weirdest music films
6 November 2023, 16:32 | Updated: 6 November 2023, 16:33
OTD in 1968 The Monkees released their feature film Head and baffled a generation. Which other acts have used film as a way to confuse their fans?
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On 6th November 1968, The Monkees released their feature film Head. Anyone expecting a fun 90 minutes of wacky japes and great tunes would have been startled to see one of the oddest motion pictures ever devised.
They weren't the only musicians to have played with cinema as an art form and taken it into new an unexpected areas, as we shall see...
Released after The Monkees finished work on their TV comedy series, this feature film was intended to destroy their image completely. Co-written by Jack Nicholson, who was just making his name as a counter-culture hero, it's a series of random set-pieces that show the four Monkees up against adversaries from all sides: the army, TV executives, the general public and even their own colleagues in the music industry (who clearly don't think they're cool enough). Cue plenty of solarised images, surreal imagery and some amazing, hallucinatory editing.
HEAD- 1968- The Monkees - TRAILER
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
The Beatles' first project to be completed after the death of manager Brian Epstein, they made the fatal error of selling this rambling, surreal and nearly plotless "road movie" to the BBC, who decided to show it in prime time on Boxing Day. The public were not ready for where the Fab Four's heads were at in late 67 and the faintly druggy overtones throughout did not impress the mums and dads watching.
Weirdest moment: I Am The Walrus, although Lennon's dream sequence about an ever-growing mountain of spaghetti is a close runner-up.
The Beatles - I Am The Walrus (Official Video)
Flamboyant director Ken Russell was the only man that could turn The Who's 1969 rock opera into an all-star film, featuring Elton John in giant Doc Martens as the PinbalL Wizard, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie, Eric Clapton as The Preacher and Jack Nicholson as The Specialist. Paul Nicholas features as Cousin Kevin, torturing Roger Daltrey as the title character, while Tina Turner is genuinely unsettling as The Acid Queen.
Tommy 1975 Trailer HD
It Couldn't Happen Here (1988)
Pet Shop Boys were riding high in 1987 with their second Number 1 It's A Sin - but rather than tour, they spent the money on this bizarre feature which features Catholic guilt, seaside postcard humour, genuine surrealism and some British actors of yesteryear, including Gareth Hunt and a pre-Eastenders Barbara Windsor. It looks beautiful; it makes no sense.
Weirdest moment: Joss Ackland as the strange hitch-hiker, spouting gobbledegook as the duo sing Always On My Mind.
Pet Shop Boys in It Couldn't Happen Here (1987) trailer - on Blu-ray & DVD from 15 June 2020 | BFI
200 Motels (1971)
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention try and replicate life on the road in a collection of sketches, animations and general psychedelic weirdness. Zappa's music is odd enough and its translation to visuals is equally peculiar - the material was shot on video and transferred to film, which gives the whole feature an off-kilter vibe. Meanwhile, Ringo Starr makes a cameo appearance... dressed as Frank Zappa.
Frank Zappa - 200 Motels Trailer
The Great Rock & Roll Swindle (1980)
Sid Vicious had already been dead a year by the time Julien Temple's semi-fictional Sex Pistols documentary made it to cinemas. John Lydon had nothing to do with it, so the film opens with Ed Tudor-Pole "auditioning" as the new Pistols singer, while manager Malcolm McLaren tries to claim it was all his idea. There are archive clips, animated sequences, rude bits and a confusing approach to recent history.
The Song Remains The Same (1976)
A record of Led Zeppelin's three nights at New York's Madison Square Garden in 1973? Very nice. Ok, so they added a few close-ups, shot at Shepperton Studios. That's fine, we'll let them off. How about padding out the running time with "fantasy sequences"? With Robert Plant as a medieval king or John Bonham drag racing? Well that's why they invented the "fast forward" button.
The Song Remains The Same (1976) - Opening Scene
Human Highway (1988)
Neil Young meets Dennis Hopper and Devo at a diner next to a nuclear power plant on the last day on Earth. What's not to love?
Weirdest moment: Devo's unsettling mascot Booji Boy announces the end of the world.
HUMAN HIGHWAY: DIRECTOR'S CUT - Trailer
True Stories (1986)
Talking Heads naturally supplied the soundtrack to David Byrne's movie in which the singer visits the fictional town of Virgil, Texas and meets its wacky inhabitants. John Goodman plays a cleaner at the local computer factory, who loves to sing country and western.
True Stories (1986) Trailer 35mm Print 4K
The Wall (1982)
Alan Parker's feature film version of Pink Floyd's bleakest statement stars Bob Geldof as "Pink", an alienated rock star with issues and ends up becoming a full-on fascist. Gerald Scarfe provided the animation sequences, including the unforgettable moment where a hammer-faced teacher pushes his pupils into a meat grinder. It's a metaphor, right?
Pink Floyd - The Wall (Original 1982 Film Trailer Taken From Laserdisc)