Gerome Ragni Gerald Weales - Essay

Gerald Weales

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

What Hair has most to offer is the good-natured exuberance implicit in even the most ordinary rock music and embodied in the vitality of young performers. It has several amiable numbers—the ballad "Frank Mills," for instance; yet its songs are commonplace, musically and lyrically, compared to the work of the more sophisticated contemporary groups—the Rolling Stones in their most recent manifestation and the Beatles of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The plot, about which no one cares very much, is the old standard about the boy who loves the girl who loves the other boy who…. Although the show, despite its self-mockery, embraces the somewhat amorphous love ethic that is presumably rampant in hippiedom, it is a love that never quite takes in the two ugly ducklings who keep pressing their noses against the windows of their peer group.

Hair also has some satirical points to make—it is against war and air pollution—but it is not really an attack on our society, nor a plea for a more livable one. It is the creation of a bogus subculture, like the one that used to exist in Our Gang comedies, a children's world, divorced from reality, which is a comfort to middle-aged audiences who are bound to find it more attractive than Tompkins Square and certainly more palatable than Needle Park. There is much singing and talking about pot, LSD, and sex and a casual use of obscenities, but I went indulgently soft while I watched it and found myself thinking of Peck's Bad Boy and Penrod and Sam. Although it is a great deal less revolutionary than it thinks it is, Hair is at least alive. (p. 38)

Gerald Weales, "I Left It at the Astor," in The Reporter (© 1968 by The Reporter Magazine Co.), Vol. 38, No. 7, April 4, 1968, pp. 36, 38-9.∗