One of the primary reasons that the quite mind-blowing, entertaining, and enjoyable Monkees movie Head did so poorly at the box office in 1968 was that it represented such a sharp break from the family-friendly sitcom on which the group had built its following. The movie featured lots of utterly confusing footage, at times on an antiwar theme, that was mostly the kind of thing college-aged pot smokers like to see, but it amazingly garnered a G rating, at least initially. As Joseph Brannigan Lynch wrote on the occasion of the Blu-Ray release of Head:
Partly to blame was the marketing campaign that was almost as avant-garde as the film itself, but even worse was the fact that many theaters (successfully) demanded the film’s G-rating be turned into a Mature rating, simply because the film structure allegedly resembled an acid trip.
One of the many fascinating people involved with Head was, of course, Frank Zappa, who wanders through the movie with a Hereford Bull in tow and chides Davy about how “white” his music is not to forget the youth of America. One wonders if Columbia Pictures’ famously miscalculated ad campaign was in any way influenced by a similarly odd campaign for one of Zappa’s albums a few months earlier.
In March 1968, the Mothers of Invention unleashed their third mind-bending cultural intervention, known to all and sundry as We’re Only in It for the Money. In a curious move, Verve Records, no doubt directed by Zappa himself, apparently selected the pre-teen comic book audience to be one of the target demographics to promote the album to. Specifically, Daredevil #38, which came out the same month as the album, and featured a remarkable full-page ad promoting the record. The cover of Daredevil #38 looked like this:
The ad was about as psychedelic as the rest of 1968, touting the Mothers’ first two albums, Freak Out! and Absolutely Free, and promising “thrilling free fun!”
I’m sure the Daredevil demographic just couldn’t wait to check out a concept album dedicated to skewering hippies. In Verve’s defense, the album was part of Zappa’s “No Commercial Potential” project. Then again maybe Frank was fully aware that much of his audience were horny, pimply-faced adolescent boys. Maybe it was a good ad buy after all.
Here’s the full ad:
The Mothers of Invention appear on German television’s ‘Beat-Club’ in 1968.