Let me get one thing out of the way at the start. I have never seen Hair, on stage or on screen. My memory is vague on this, but I think a lot of my friends went to see it in San Francisco, where it first ran in 1969, continuing on for a couple of years. I didn't go with them. You'd think Hair was right up my alley, between my love of rock and roll and my status as a wannabe hippie. But I am not a big fan of stage musicals in general, I didn't think the music in Hair was anything like the rock I loved, and what kind of hippies are there going to be in a play, anyway?
I suppose one day I should see it.
Meanwhile, I did have one encounter with Hair, a tale I have told many times. Here, I'll pull a quote from the first year of this blog, in 2002, slightly edited:
In January of 1981, a friend and I played hooky from work on Reagan's first Inauguration Day to attend a Punk Inaugural Ball at the Mabuhay, headlined by a drag band called Sluts a-Go-Go. It's been more than 35 years, but one thing from that night still sticks with me, when the Sluts sang "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" while incense burned. There I was, in a punk club at the dawn of the Reagan Era, listening to men in drag sing a Broadway version of hippiedom, and I'm not much for irony, for that matter ... in any event, I felt one with the band and the crowd, I wasn't alienated from America in that moment, I was as close to Hippie Community as I'd ever been in the actual hippie days, and I started to cry at the ridiculous wonder of it all.
I've often wondered what was the primary force that brought me to tears. Was it simply that I was amongst "my" people? Was there something brilliant in the performance by the Sluts?
Whatever. To this day, I can get choked up by any and all versions of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In", including the actual finale of Hair, which is "The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)". I don't know why, any more than I know why I was so taken by the Sluts a-Go-Go version in 1981.
Here are a few of those versions. First, the original version, a medley from the musical at the Tony Awards:
The Milos Forman film ... apparently this has a different ending than the stage musical:
A more recent version, on The View, for those of you who wondered what it would be like if Barbara Walters got swept up in hippiedom:
The hit version:
And finally, a clip of Sluts a-Go-Go: