Gerome Ragni

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John Weightman

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Hair comes rather as an anticlimax. The actual performance did not seem to contain any features that have not already been present in other avant-garde productions. (p. 165)

The theme, basically, is another protest against the Viet Nam War. A boy belonging to a drifting herd-like mass of drop-outs receives his call-up papers and, after trying ineffectually to escape his fate, has to submit and is shorn of his anarchistic locks. But these events are commented on wrily, rather than pugnaciously; it is as if the pet lamb of the flock had been snatched from the pastoral bliss of the hippie world and rudely clipped by Them, the grown-ups, the incomprehensible people who run society on the strange assumption that it is a serious, going concern. The flock itself, which keeps scattering and reforming in a manner more animal than human, is a micro-society within society…. What the music seems to suggest is that they are at their happiest when twitching and stamping in chorus. Each jerks and jangles separately, like a puppet on an invisible string, but they are all held together by the rhythm, which irons out uncertainty and solitude and beats on steadily to a collective climax. (pp. 166-67)

[The term "tribal music"] is perfectly justified. For one thing, the performers are a crowd, not a chorus-plusstars…. I am not arguing in favour of the traditional chorus, which I have always thought rather comic and nonerotic; I am only trying to define an impression of puritanism at one remove, of deliberate scruffiness, of rejection of romantic prettiness or obvious physical appeal in a show that one expected to be sensual.

It is sensual, collectively rather than individually, if such a distinction can be given a meaning…. I realise that I like to know, in watching any performance, exactly what the pattern of importance of the actors or dancers is meant to be, and the show is imperfect if some secondary part is much better played than a primary one. But I imagine that, in the hippie world, such definiteness is anathema, and that Hair explicitly set out to reject it. (pp. 167-68)

In the last resort, the dominant impression was one of bracing vitality and slightly muddled innocence…. [There] was practically nothing in Hair on the level of articulated implications or convincing lyrics, except the charming song made up of the learned words for sexual perversions, which owed its effect precisely to the fact that it was sung as children sing hymns, mouthing the words with no regard to the meaning. It seemed to me that the songs hardly counted, and were only put in to provide pauses between the vigorous, mindless, tribal stampings into which each of them eventually merged. (pp. 168-69)

John Weightman, "Bald Remarks on 'Hair'," in Encounter (© 1968 by Encounter Ltd.), Vol. XXXI, No. 6, December, 1968 (and reprinted in his The Concept of Avant-Garde: Explorations in Modernism, Alcove Press, 1973, pp. 165-69).

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