donderdag 15 december 2016

Hair. Original Broadway Cast

Wo. takes us back again to his early youth and the music he encountered while listening to Radio Veronica and its Top 40, Morse bleeps from fishing boats and all. This time it is the "The American Tribal  Love-Rock Musical Hair" that is the centrepiece of his attention.

"Darling", that is how the hardrock version of 'Hair' by Amsterdam based rock band Zen started, a song I heard for the first time in the late fall of 1968. It entered on spot 40, the cheating spot to push a Dutch record, but soon after landed on the #1 spot of the Top 40 in January 1969. 'Hair' was one of at least five hits that stem from the musical that made it to the charts, making it perhaps the most successful musical, chartwise, in The Netherlands.

I'll admit upfront that I'm cheating again from my original rules. I know the album for decades, as my late uncle Ben had the album at the time, although I did not start to appreciate it until the late 70s. I just did not have the stamina for albums at the time. So many unknown songs (and in different versions than the songs I knew) was more than my 9 year old patience could handle. Singles and the radio were just perfect, thank you.

In this century I have seen the musical twice and both times was moved to tears by the music. For unknown reasons to me, except that I notice that music I know from that age, seems to do that to me in specific circumstances. It touches on a special place in my brain, something gone for ever, with people that are no longer here and the music that is. Whether that explains it, I really do not know.

Hair. It stands for hippies, full frontal nudity, peace, love, happiness and anti-Vietnam rallies. A world without worries or so it seems until major world issues impend doom for youth. In that it caught the sign of the times in several ways. In 2016 we know that the hippie era only lasted for two years and was killed in Altamont. The ideas that were more practical or fair are all around us, though they are, sometimes to my sincere astonishment, still being fought by Christians (peace and love?, remember?) and conservatives alike. Sometimes in most violent ways. The two never even met somewhere in the middle.

Hair stands for fantastic songs and melodies. The music that Galt MacDermot composed is so special, so vibrant, so alive that it is almost beyond comprehension. There is so much emotion, optimism and youthfulness oozing out of it all, that it is impossible not to become infected by the joy of it all. Not to want to grow your hair and just take to the streets and see what happens. Boy, did I want to grow my hair when I was 9 years old. That was another three years away, before my mother gave up the struggle. And dreamt about being a hippie (whatever that was). "As long as I could grow my hair" and wear a flowered shirt.

The storyline, thin as it may be, was totally past me, then. I just knew those singles from the radio and putting all the dimes and cents aside, was able to buy 'Hair', the single, in its last charted week of over five months in total. Just in time and have it to this day. That fantastic, raucous, rock version with that wild lead guitar. It had nothing much to do with the original version, which I heard for the first time in the cover version of a band called The Cowsills; and hated it. The story is still thin, but aligns with 1968. Like "Jupiter with Mars" in Aquarius'. It is that simple. We all know now what was about to happen. How many people died, the protests, the war, everything. Claude, the guy in the musical, dies in Vietnam to.. That this musical touches on racial issues? On being high and have inner and outer body experiences? On free love and to have children out of wedlock? What did I know!? Perhaps a little more than I think now, but certainly not all.

That all changed. Foremost though, I simply love all the songs now. From the beautiful 'Aquarius' to the naive 'Frank Mills', the biting 'Ain't Got No' and the explosive ending in the melancholy, sad, yet so vibrant 'Let The Sun Shine In'. There is such richness in the melodies, in the singing, the harmonies. I simply do not know a better musical, o.k. 'Jesus Christ Superstar' perhaps. (That I'm to see as a musical for the first time coming January.) The range of emotions that is touched upon is phenomenal.

Again, that then almost 40 year old (now 88 year old), father of four children and house dad all around, Galt MacDermot, was able to tap into something that he had no knowledge of at all, astonishes me most. He wrote the music that will be remembered forever as the epitome of hippiedom. Rado and Ragno, who wrote the lyrics, were (old) hippies. Hair is their concept, let's not forget that, but the real strength of the musical lies in the songs. They will live forever.


For those not familiar with that single that opened the musical for me in 1968, here it is:

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