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Hair 1969

Hair – Yeah

1960s, Popular • 1795 Views • Comments Off on Hair – Yeah

Hair or to give its full name – Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical encapsulated the whole counter-culture, anti-Vietnam, free sex and drugs movement of the late-1960s in such a way that it is inevitably inextricably linked with that particular period. When compared with current stage shows and the whole corporate sponsorship deal that seems to be ubiquitous at the moment it not only sums up a brief though uncompromisingly creative period in time, it also makes us realise that the progress made during those heady days has in many ways been stunted and corporate monoliths now dictate what can, or more to the point can’t, be said for fear of upsetting the shareholders. As Time magazine said following the 2008 Broadway revival of Hair: “Today Hair seems, if anything, more daring than ever”.

Not only was Hair revolutionary in its use of nudity, profanity and anti-establishment rhetoric it was also the first ever Rock Musical and one of the first Broadway stage shows to use a mixed-race cast. It tells the story of a bunch of New York hippies known as the ‘tribe’ fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War and struggling to balance their pacifist views with those of their conservative parents and society at large. It was massively successful at the time and more recently on its Broadway revival receiving excellent reviews and a Tony award for best revival of a musical. This can be attributed not only to a good storyline but also to an excellent soundtrack. Most of the songs featured will be familiar but the real stand-out track is Aquarius which was later covered by the 5th Dimension with great success selling over 3 million copies.

When the show opened in London it was initially delayed due to theatre censorship but the Theatres Act of 1968 changed all that and it continued for almost 2000 performances until 1973 when it was forced to close with the roof of the Shaftesbury Theatre collapsing. The original West End ‘tribe’ included Paul Nicholas, Elaine Paige, Marsha Hunt and Melba Moore. UK broadcaster Danny Baker tells a (possibly apocryphal) story of when we went to see the show as a young lad the cast would run naked among the audience and he swears he felt the appendage of one of the male cast brush his shoulder as his sat in his aisle seat. That kind of experience can mentally scar a young lad for life.

We’ve uncovered some little-known photos of the Broadway cast of Hair from between 1968 & 71 which we’ve borrowed from the good people at the New York Public Library. Thanks folks. Incidentally, in addition to those featured in our photos the Broadway cast contained large-lunged uber-rocker Meatloaf, Kenny Seymour (from Little Anthony & The Imperials) and also Joe Butler (from the Lovin’Spoonful). Don’t worry, there’s a distinct lack of nudity in the photos although there are some very wide trouser bottoms and inevitably, large amounts of hair. 

Courtesy of The New York Public Library.  www.nypl.org
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