Original Broadway Cast Recording

1968/1988: RCA 1150-2-RC

  1. Aquarius
  2. Donna
  3. Hashish
  4. Sodomy
  5. Colored Spade
  6. Manchester England
  7. I’m Black
  8. Ain’t Got No
  9. I Believe in Love
  10. Ain’t Got No (Reprise)
  11. Air
  12. Initials
  13. I Got Life
  14. Going Down
  15. Hair
  16. My Conviction
  17. Easy to Be Hard
  18. Don’t Put It Down
  19. Frank Mills
  20. Be-In
  21. Where Do I Go?
  22. Electric Blues
  23. Manchester England (Reprise)
  24. Black Boys
  25. White Boys
  26. Walking in Space
  27. Abie Baby
  28. Three-Five-Zero-Zero
  29. What a Piece of Work Is Man
  30. Good Morning Starshine
  31. The Bed
  32. The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)

Doors locked, blinds pulled, lights low, flames high: “My body, my body, my body….” “Walking in Space” is as supreme a moment as can be found on this recording, shining and pure with its careful and wondrous delight. That’s the one time in which the appreciative core of the hippies gets to speak without sniping at the Establishment and everything else that hinders its joy in marijuana tripping (although even that falls apart by the end). The rest of the recording is peaks and valleys of various quality, and although I personally love it to death I can see how hard to appreciate it is to most people…my introduction to it was personally timely and reasonably well preceded by a sufficiency of contextual education. So I can enjoy the bulk of it without effort, and I can wave aside the issue of “dated” content and take it all in as it is and was.

And enjoying it means dancing around like a spastic apache to “Donna,” bumping and grinding with all appropriate moves to “Black Boys/White Boys,” thrashing to “Electric Blues,” self-pityingly crooning along with “Easy to Be Hard,” and especially trying to keep up with the lyric-pastiche singalong trip of “Ain’t Got No (Reprise)” which, even with a copy of the script at hand, is mighty goddamned hard and I think would make an excellent base for a stop-motion-animation video along the lines of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” actually.

Although I was appalled by the film version of Hair (and am never favorably impressed by productions of the play that turn up on YouTube, but then that’s largely because the show’s fleeting moment has passed and can’t be easily recreated successfully), I have to give it credit for making me aware of two songs that were’t on the original cast album: “Electric Blues” and “Ain’t Got No (Reprise),” both of which eventually greatly enriched my experience of the score. Both tracks turned up on the original-cast recording when it was released on CD, so that aspect is now happily absorbed and present in my overall awareness of the score. (And I do happen to sing along with the “Ain’t Got No&148; reprise, difficult it is.)

Other favorite tracks definitely are “Colored Spade” (an excellent calling-out of pejoratives and stereotypes, set to a powerfully reclaiming funk groove, sung by Lamont Washington), “Manchester England” (cute but not much more except for its cultural references of the day, and yes I sang it to myself as I flew there to attend the next-to-last Eurythmics Peacetour concert, in late 1999), the just-beautiful vignette/want-ad “Frank Mills” (which I do dearly love to sing, whenever it occurs to me), and the Margaret Mead-character’s sublime song “My Conviction” noting that males of most species are the more flamboyant (thus confirming hippie-culture aspects such as long hair).

I also want to call out the cocky and rebellious-with-cause “Abie Baby.” It’s edgy fun indeed, with knowing glances throughout and both upfront and subtle humor interlaced. But it’s also a jumping-off point for anyone who wants to know more about this musical’s genesis and first embodiment, in the form of Letting Down My Hair, the memoir by Lorrie Davis about her experience; she’s the one singing the lead on this track. She also was one of the backup singers on ”White Boys,” in the staged musical being with the other two in one big gold-sequinned dress (a hilariously genius bit of costuming).

“Abie Baby” is also notable in how it presents three or four overlapping/conflicting aspects of the musical HAIR in one track (I can’t quite call this pastiche a “song”): first, it’s a number in a musical, so it has to have some melody and structure and whatnot…but it’s one in which subversion and iconoclastic rejection of traditional musicals is inherent from start to finish. Add to that conflict the message—rebellious defiance by the African Americans of the day asserting their equal rights, but nominally voiced via the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the American Civil War even though the message is heavily relevant with aggressive pushback to ample unjust mistreatment of blacks in the show’s era. The track rocks back and forth, touching on these aspects, and it does so without getting climactically punchy even though punchiness abounds throughout.

It might be worth mentioning, atop that and regarding the same track, that I&146;m pretty sure I’d never before this encountered the term &#“motherfucker” (or “motherfucking,” as it is here) but that it didn’t faze me to hear because it completely made sense to me in this context of protest/gratitude/protest, especially as it was delivered quite subversively via a cheery song (complete with heavy-handed slave dialect at the start).