Original Broadway Cast Recording
1968/1988: RCA 1150-2-RC
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. Thats 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 Aint 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 Gabriels 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 thats largely because the shows fleeting moment has passed and cant be easily recreated successfully), I have to give it credit for making me aware of two songs that weret on the original cast album: Electric Blues and Aint 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 Aint 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-characters 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. Its edgy fun indeed, with knowing glances throughout and both upfront and subtle humor interlaced. But its also a jumping-off point for anyone who wants to know more about this musicals genesis and first embodiment, in the form of Letting Down My Hair, the memoir by Lorrie Davis about her experience; shes 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 cant quite call this pastiche a song): first, its a number in a musical, so it has to have some melody and structure and whatnot but its one in which subversion and iconoclastic rejection of traditional musicals is inherent from start to finish. Add to that conflict the messagerebellious 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 shows 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 Id never before this encountered the term motherfucker (or motherfucking, as it is here) but that it didnt 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).
Comments © 20052017 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.