Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Hair - The Musical



‘Hair’ was a controversial musical that was so successful it was seen by 22 million people. The book and lyrics were by American writers Gerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot, who created a production with an anti-Vietnam War theme spiritedly performed by a cast of young actors and actresses, singing, dancing, and sometimes cavorting in the nude and uttering four - letter words.

The plot revolves around the adventures of a young America draftee when he meets up with a group of flower children, dramatically exposing the lack of communication between the generations of the day and touching on politics, religion and sex.

The rock musical show originally made its debut at a small off-Broadway venue, Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre, in Greenwich Village and was directed by Tom O’Horgan and produced by Michael Butler. It was executive producer Bertrand Castelli who hired young Californian actress Diane Keaton for the part of Parent. The show was transferred to the Cheetah, another small theatre and then opened at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway on 29th April 1968. It became an immediate success and the media promoted the cast (or ‘tribe’ as they sometimes called themselves) on television, radio and in magazines.

Noted photographer Richard Avedon took shots of the cast for Vogue. The musical features a famous nude scene, but Diane was the only member of the cast who refused to take her clothes off. The scene was actually optional for the cast and the tribe members who appeared in the nude were paid an extra fifty dollars. Six months after the show opened on Broadway, the female star Lynn Kellogg left, and in October 1968 Diane took over the lead of Sheila. When ‘Hair’ opened on Broadway in April 1968 the critic Alan Brien wrote, “This is a show which could not conceivably be presented on any British stage".

He was wrong. It opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London on 28th September 1968, one day after the Lord Chamberlain’s office was abolished. The Shaftesbury Theatre production was the longest-lasting ‘Hair’ production anywhere in the world and only ended in June 1974 because the roof of the theatre fell in! Zsa Zsa Gabor and the Duke of Bedford danced on stage with the first night cast, while the 18-year-old Princess Anne went to view the musical twice and also joined the dancers on stage in the finale.

The original London cast featured Paul Nicholas as Claude, Vince Edward as Vince, Oliver Tobias as Berger, Peter Straker as Hud, Annabel Leventon as Sheila, Marsha Hunt as Dionne and Sonja Kristina as Crissy. Other performers of note who appeared in the London production were Tim Curry and Elaine Paige, although Elaine was sacked from the show in 1970 for taking time off. A soundtrack recording of the London show entered the charts on four different occasions, reaching its highest position at No. 3 in April 1969.

Among the songs featured on the soundtrack were ‘Aquarius’, ‘Donna’, ‘Sodomy’, ‘Coloured Space’, ‘Ain’t Got No’, ‘Air’, ‘I Got Life’, ‘Hair’, ‘My Conviction’, ‘Easy To Be Hard’, ‘Frank Mills’, ‘Where Do I Go’, ‘Electric Blues’, ‘Black Boys’, ‘White Boys’, ‘Walking in Space’, ‘Abie Baby’, ‘Three-Five-Zero-Zero’, ‘What A Piece Of Work Is Man’, ‘Good Morning Starshine’, ‘The Bed’ and ‘Let The Sunshine In.’

Various productions were staged in several countries around the world, including France and Israel, although the film version of the hit Sixties musical wasn’t produced until 1979. Directed by Milos Foreman, with choreography by Twyla Tharp, it featured Treat Williams, John Savage, Beverly D’Angelo and Annie Golden. The writers updated the musical and it was revived in 1989 as ‘Hair – The Next Generation’, but it failed to repeat the success of the original.

Marsha Hunt - Hair

Tom O’Horgan,  Michael Butler, Bertrand Castelli  Hair - The Musical  Hair - The Musical  Diane Keaton - Hair  Hair - The Musical  Hair - The Musical  



Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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