Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

He was born in New York City on February 21, 1933. After graduating from high school and studying philosophy at Dartmouth, Rafelson was drafted into the Army and stationed in Japan. While there, he began to develop an interest in film, including the works of John Ford, Ingmar Bergman and Yasujiro Ozu. Around this time, he married his high school girlfriend, Toby Carr, who would go on to become a production designer on a number of films. Upon returning to the States, his first professional industry job was as a story editor for David Susskind’s “Play of the Week,” and he eventually began working on a number of television shows at Universal Pictures, Revue Productions, and Desilu Productions. Even then, he began cultivating a reputation as someone willing to challenge authority—during his stint at Universal, he reportedly got into an argument with powerful studio executive Lew Wasserman that culminated with him shoving everything sitting on Wasserman’s desk to the floor.

Things went a little better at Screen Gems, where in 1965, he met fellow producer Bert Schneider and the two decided to form Raybert Productions, which later became known as BBS Productions. For their first effort, they decided to create a show centered around a rock ’n’ roll group—although it has often been said that the hope was to try to replicate the energy and excitement of The Beatles’ breakthrough film “A Hard Day’s Night” on a weekly basis, Rafelson stated that the real inspiration was a period of time he spent working as an itinerant musician in Mexico. When such established groups as the Dave Clark Five and the Lovin’ Spoonful declined the offer to star, the decision was made to create the band themselves. An extensive series of auditions resulted in the casting of Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork as the members of the group that would be dubbed The Monkees. As the four were cast more for their personalities than their musical abilities, the responsibility for the music was turned over to music producer Don Kirshner and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who wrote many of their biggest songs.

The show earned Rafelson and Schneider Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1967 and the band had a number of top-selling records that continue to get significant play to this day. The popularity of the show allowed Raybert to get more funding and it inspired Rafelson to make his first feature film, a project that also starred The Monkees but which went off to strange, surreal areas that would, among other things, take satirical aim at the group’s own manufactured image. Rafelson co-wrote the film with an up-and-coming actor named Jack Nicholson and brought together a cast that included the decidedly eclectic likes of Annette Funicello, Victor Mature, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, and Timothy Carey. When the film, eventually titled “Head,” came out in 1968, the show had already come to the end of its two-year run and its once-loyal fan base had moved on to other things. The film was a notorious flop that disappeared almost immediately from theaters. In subsequent years, however, it underwent a much-deserved reappraisal from people who cited its offbeat nature, its oft-fascinating deconstruction of both the group and the concept of authenticity, and a trippy soundtrack album that contains some of the best and most ambitious music they recorded.

By admin