Thursday, August 12, 2010

Original Broadway Cast of Hair -- "Hair" (1968)

I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy,
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty,
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining,
Gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen,
Knotted, polka-dotted,
Twisted, beaded, braided,
Powdered, flowered, and confettied,
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

I must have read about the Broadway musical, Hair, in Time or Newsweek.  (I doubt that the Joplin Globe had a story about it.)  I ran right out to the record store that used to be on the south side of Main Street between 15th and 16th (I think) to buy the soundtrack. 

The album cover
I took the record to someone else's house to listen to it.  My recollection is that I was a junior (which fits with the 1968 release date for the record) and that I listened to it that day with two senior girls -- musician types, like me.  I had a pretty good guess as to who one of those girls was and, thanks to Facebook, I was able to locate her and get my guess confirmed: "Yes, I was one of the girls who listened to that album over and over with you, and I kind of remember that afternoon." 

When I got home, I didn't want to play the record on the console stereo in our living room -- I feared that the lyrics were a little racy for my parents' taste.  (E.g., "S*d*my, f*ll*t**/C*nn*l*ng*s, p*d*r*sty.")  So I closed the door to my bedroom and listened to it over and over and over on the little portable record player I had won in the KFSB spelling bee in 1962 -- writing down the lyrics to all the songs, one line at a time  -- including the parts that made no sense to me. 

This was harder than you might think, especially if you're used to MP3 files that you can pause at any point and restart exactly where you stopped.  I don't think that record player even had a 33-rpm speed setting. It was designed strictly for 45's, as I recall, so I may have had to put a couple of fingers on the edge of the LP to slow it down sufficiently to decipher the lyrics.

In near mint condition, worth about $600
When I was in Joplin recently for my 40th high-school reunion, I found the three-hole, wide-ruled notebook paper on which I had written the lyrics.  As previously noted, my mother hasn't thrown away anything (God bless her) -- including report cards, class photos, or 4th-grade piano recital programs -- except all my old baseball cards.  (That's the only reason I'm still working.)  So I found my handwritten Hair lyrics, unseen for 40 years or more, but perfectly preserved because they had been stored in a Rubbermaid storage box on a closet shelf.

Here's one of several pages where I scribbled down some of the lyrics to the song "Hair."  This was apparently my first try with this song, so the lyrics are quite fragmentary.  (Some of the songs were quite easy to decipher, but "Hair" took a lot of work.)  I found other lyrics to this song elsewhere among those pages -- put them all together and they were fairly comprehensive. 

My handwriting was much better then

To say that this record had a major impact on me is an understatement.  (Is the Pope Catholic?  Does a bear . . . etc.?)  I thought it was the greatest thing in the history of Western civilization, and I listened to it until I essentially had memorized the whole thing.

The original production of Hair opened on Broadway in April 1968, where it was a big popular and critical success.  Soon Hair was playing simultaneously in nine American cities and in London, Munich, Paris, Sydney, and a dozen-odd other foreign cities.  The musical score of Hair became the most successful score ever written for the Broadway stage -- five of its songs became major radio hits.

Diane Keaton in Hair.
The list of well-known performers who appeared in one production of Hair or another is a long and rather random one.  The original Broadway cast included a 22-year-old Diane Keaton.  Joe Mantegna, Philip Michael Thomas ("That's T-U-B-B-S – Tough, Unique, Bad, Bodacious, Sassy"), Ben Vereen, Meat Loaf, Jennifer Warnes, and David Patrick Kelly appeared in other American companies.  Disco superstar Donna Summer somehow ended up in the Munich Hair, while Richard O'Brien and Tim Curry (who gave us the Rocky Horror Picture Show0 met while performing in the London production.

A traveling production of Hair came to San Antonio when I was a freshman in college, and one of my suitemates and I drove from Houston to San Antonio to see it in early 1971.  The music was (sorry to use such a bad 1960's cliche) "mind-blowing" enough, but you combine that with full frontal nudity  . . . hey, what's not to like?  If I could have gone on the road with the touring company that night -- in any capacity whatsoever -- I would have done so in a second.

Hair was successfully revived on Broadway in 2009, and was a hit again when it reopened in London earlier this year.  A U.S. touring production -- featuring "American Idol" finalists Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo -- hits the road in October 2010, and its first big stop will be the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  I'm not sure if I want to see it or not -- I don't have a good vibe about it.  Maybe I'll just stick to my well-used original Broadway cast LP and my San Antonio memories.

I still love about half of the other songs on the Hair soundtrack.  (There are quite a few lame songs, as well.)  This wasn't a "rock opera," like Tommy.  Instead, it was a fairly traditional Broadway musical in many ways. 

I've always liked two of the less-well-known songs from act two of the play.  Here's "Walking in Space":

Here's "Three-Five-Zero-Zero":

Here's "Hair":

Remember the Cowsills?  I remember watching the Cowsills perform "Hair" on the Ed Sullivan show one Sunday night.  The band -- which inspired the "Partridge Family" television show --consisted of five brothers, a sister, and their mother.  My father said how nice it was that the kids let their mom be in the band (perhaps hoping that I would ask my mother to join the Rogues).  I said that was probably only because their dad wouldn't buy them guitars and drums unless they agreed to let good ol' mom join in.

Here's the Cowsills' version of "Hair":

Here's where to go if you'd like to buy the single from iTunes:

And here's where to go if you'd like to buy the whole album from Amazon:

1 comment:

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