Sunday, 18 January 2009

Knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided

Once again turning this blog into one about celebrity death, one thing that made sit up and notice this week was the death of Tom O'Horgan, the director of the original Broadway run of the musical 'Hair'.

Sometimes I jokingly say my life is like an episode of 'the Simpsons', with too many pop culture references packed in, but I'm afraid that's true in part. When I look back on years past, one of my ways of telling one year from another, is to think of what bands or films I liked during that time.

One of my first popular culture obsessions was Hair, the film. I was a bit of a musical-nut when I was little -- I have no idea why. It probably started with watching the Sound of Music and West Side Story on telly with my Mum, and grew from there. I loved the music from Singin' in the Rain (I still hum 'Good Morning' when I'm feeling particularly perky in the morning). This love for musicals, combined with the fact that my oldest brother played a lot of sixties stuff at home, led me to watch Hair as a eight or nine-year-old.

I feel a bit embarrassed to admit this now, but when I was smaller, all I wanted to be was a hippie. I loved the music and the clothes and the fun they all seemed to have. I think I must have rented Hair numerous times, I absolutely loved it. I had the soundtrack of the musical (with Diane Keaton singing!) and pretty much cried every time 'The Flesh Failures/Let the Sun Shine In' came on, thinking of poor Berger.

Reading up on Wikipedia while watching the movie last night, it struck me that the writers of the musical didn't approve of the film, saying that Milos Forman completely missed the plot. I've never been to see the musical (or any musical, period) but apparently there's a lot of differences between the film and musical; obviously I can't judge properly, but this scene alone makes it unfair to dismiss the film like James Rado and Gerome Ragni did:

A bit heavy on the symbolism, eh? It's always struck me as really odd that 'Let the Sun Shine In' is used for commercials and crap techno remixes these days; I always associate it with the ending of the film, where 'Let the Sun Shine In' is prefaced by 'The Flesh Failures', one of the most sucker-punchiest of musical songs:

I didn't realise until Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet came out that the song uses Romeo's farewell speech as a backing choir. The Vietnam war took place long before I was born, but somehow, just because of 'The Flesh Failures', those marching soldiers (and the 'Wonder Years' television series) have always made that war feel the closest to home. It's strange what power film, television and music have in that way.

Anyways, rest assured, my dreams of becoming a hippie are long gone; these days when I watch Woodstock, I can only notice the bandwagon-y nature of the whole subculture and the role drugs played in it all. Sitting in a field while having drugged-out, partially-clad people crowd surf all over you (like in Gimme Shelter)? No thanks, I think I'll pass.

Finally, two more of my favourite songs:
· Black Boys / White Boys.
· Cheryl Barnes' beautiful rendition of Easy to Be Hard.

No comments: