From Monkees to motorcycles
Published: Thu, 04/29/21
The genesis and development of the iconic film Easy Rider is a complex story involving the stars, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda and the script writer Terry Southern. The producers were Bob Rafelson and Bert Schider whose company, BBS Productions, had previously created the Monkees, both as a group and the TV series in which the four young men featured. Although Easy Rider had a very small budget, even for the time, of around four hundred thousand dollars, it was not a film that any major studio was going to make. Not in the form that it was originally conceived anyway. However, the Monkees had made BBS so much money that it was possible to invest in a risky independent production such as Easy Rider. I think you can also make a case that the Monkees TV series had proved that audiences were receptive to innovative approaches to visual story telling, editing, and use of music.
Mainly filmed in 1968 and released in July 1969, Easy Rider is the story of two young men who set off on custom motorcycles to: ‘Look for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere.’ To slightly paraphrase the slogan on the original poster. Easy Rider is a story of a journey which ends in disillusion and tragedy. Along the way there is a great deal of beauty to appreciate. There are meditations on man’s potential for creating a paradise, and reflections on why fear drives so many people to hate those who seem to be genuinely free. In the early 1980s I took a young lady friend to see a late night screening of Easy Rider at the Pheonix cinema in East Finchley. Her response was that she considered it to be the ‘most spiritual film she had ever seen’. Everyone reacts to Easy Rider in their own way, every few years I watch it again and see something more.
The soundtrack is wonderful, a collection of music from the late sixties including Jimmi Hendrix, Roger McGuinn singing Bob Dylan, and the wonderfully named, Electric Prunes. The choice for this post? It has to be Steppenwolf performing ‘Born to be Wild’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egMWlD3fLJ8
PS just in case you are thinking that I am stuck around 1970 (which I probably am) I have something a bit more contemporary for tomorrow.