Gerome Ragni Gene Lees - Essay

Gene Lees

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The real nature and significance of the [nude scene in Hair] seems to have gone unobserved by everyone.

Before we get into that, I want to define my position on the "moral" issue of Hair: I don't think there is one…. Perhaps the people who made and appear in Hair would like to think the "adult" world is uptight about the issue, but I don't think it is. Hair attacks only straw men, and by no stretch of the imagination is it daring….

I think Hair has no real social or philosophic point to make that hasn't been made earlier and better; it's fighting a war that has long since been won. But is it musically interesting?

Not to me it isn't, and not to most people I know who know music….

Hair has no story, it makes no point, and it has almost no music. When it went to Broadway, it was as uninteresting as it had been in the Village. And then somebody had an idea: have all the kids drop their pants at the end of Act I.

Now what's this? A meaningful confrontation? An effective protest? Hell no; it's a cheap old vaudeville device. When the comic couldn't get laughs in those days, he would drop his pants—a corny trick. And that's what I object to about Hair's nude scene: It's corny.

But it worked. All the little old ladies from Iowa, who see all the shows when they visit New York, were willing to lay down good money in order to be able to go home and tch-tch about the naughtiness in Hair. And the show was transformed into a smashing success….

Oh well, some people dig Lawrence Welk. And that's what Hair is: Lawrence Welk for hippies.

Gene Lees, "Hair in Europe," in High Fidelity (copyright © by ABC Leisure Magazines, Inc.; all rights reserved; excerpted by permission), Vol. 19, No. 7, July, 1969, p. 108.