Thursday, April 22, 2010

Careful, you could have someone's eye out with that - Hair The Musical review

Hair the Musical, at Gielgud Theatre, London, from April 2010

WITH a plethora of press reviews available online, and plenty of blogs by writers far more knowledgeable about this subject than me, I rather feel that the new, and much feted, West End production of Hair the Musical, featuring the Broadway cast shipped wholesale from New York, has been rather done to death.

However, having been among the first audiences to see it, I feel I have just about enough opinion on the matter to put my thoughts to screen (like putting thoughts to paper, but more modern).

Firstly, I have to give a big up (as it were) to Darius Nichols, who plays Hud. His magnificent Afro may be a wig, but he ain’t faking in the downstairs department, and no mistakin’. No wonder the majority of the cast have no problem taking part in the mass, voluntary, nuddy-in at the end of the first half. They know that few in the audience will be looking any further than Darius, a truly fine figure of a man. I forgot even to check that the female cast members were adhering to the hippy ethos down below. Don’t think they had Brazilians in those days.

Second point (and one which will hopefully prove that I do occasionally have more erudite thoughts than the one above) is regarding the Daily Mail’s rather jaded review, which dismisses Hair as a hedonistic celebration of hippiedom which ignores the “truth” (Daily Mail? Truth? Surely it would rather print another photo of The Saturdays than the “truth” about anything) that it was the rich kids who avoided the Vietnam draft while working class boys were shipped off to their deaths in their thousands.

But for those audience members not being blinded by a crotch in their face like the Daily Mail’s reviewer (or possibly miffed that it wasn’t the best crotch on offer), there are plenty of allusions in the show to some of the Tribe’s trustafarian status - conversations regarding the Bank of Mum and Dad, and the fact that political campaigner Sheila can afford to yomp off to Washington DC to join in the anti-war protests on the White House lawn, while other Tribe members cannot. Meanwhile, central character Claude, eventually bows to pressure from his proud Polish-born parents and accepts the draft, and his doom.

Also alluded to throughout is the relative immaturity of many of the characters. Berger impetuously drops out of school in spectacular style; throws a hissy fit over an unwanted gift, and failing to cope with the intense affections of Sheila, attempts to foist her on his friend. Pregnant Jeanie pointlessly wishes that Claude was the father of her child, rather than “some crazy” - and long departed - “speed freak”.  Meanwhile, sweet Crissy combs the streets for Frank Mills, the mislaid man of her dreams, and Sheila appears genuinely convinced that she can save Claude from the draft through the now long-lost art of the "yip-out".

Also addressed are the limitations of free love - when Crissy, eventually giving up on the mysterious Frank, plumps instead for a night of comfort in the arms of Walter (and who blames her) she is too late - he’s got a new girlfriend, who doesn’t relish the idea of sharing her man.

So yes, Hair the Musical is a celebration of hedonism. But it doesn’t ignore the inevitable sadness that eventually arises from such a lifestyle. Such joy can only ever be fleeting, and sometimes the beauty is in the futility.

  • If you’d like to read some slightly more sensible thoughts* on Hair the Musical, please mosey along to the excellent blog, Grachman, he say... at

* Sensible thoughts not guaranteed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The kids are alright (as long as they leave my car aerial alone) - Greg Davies, Isy Suttie and local bands write-up

Take Over The Corn Exchange, Newbury, Saturday April 17 and Sunday April 18

WITh the strapline “Same town. Same building. New management.”, Take Over The Corn Exchange was a weekend festival of events including a bands night, a comedy show, an afternoon talent show, a quiz, Rock Band session, films, workshops and an art project - all organised and run by young types under the age of 25. From programming to control of the sound desk, the town centre arts venue was taken over for the weekend by a host of bright young things who appeared amazingly calm and confident.

With good reason, as the two evening events, The Big Gig and The Big Laugh, went off without any apparent hitches, despite one of the comedy acts, Isy Suttie, nearly missing the event after being diverted to Disneyland Paris in her attempt to return to the UK from Australia during the ash cloud crisis.

Saturday night saw Reading punks DissolvedIN headlining a gig which also included Newbury/Oxford rockers Relik, popular locals Secret Fridge Party and youngsters The Monday Night Band. Now that there are no longer regular bands nights at open-access venues such as The Waterside this was a fairly rare opportunity for under 18s to see  bands such as these, and it was a pity that more did not take advantage to attend.

With more ‘underage’  events due to take place in the town in the near future, including an Battle of the Bands under 18s heat at Avenue on Sunday, April 25 (the final will take place at the Crafty Craft) and another ‘all ages’ gig at The Corn Exchange on June 4, it would be good to see the atmosphere of the Battle of the Bands and Salvage events of the past to be recreated by today’s generation of music-loving teenagers.

The organisers of Sunday night’s Big Laugh clearly had their fingers on the comedy pulse when they secured the services of 6ft 8 headliner Greg Davies. From his role as psychotic teacher Mr Gilbert in cult TV comedy The Inbetweeners it appears that Davies is fairly well known among younger types, and despite being in his 40s, stories about his “mental” father were bound to strike a chord with anyone who has ever been embarrassed by their parents.

Able support came from the quirky Isy Suttie, not entirely unlike her Peep Show character Dobby but with a guitar, compere Jimmy McGhie, who probably doesn’t find it as hard to attract women as he claimed, and character act Colin Hoult as an unstable martial arts devotee.

Well done to all involved in the Take Over festival; and let’s hope the Corn Exchange let you return for another go in the future. Those of you who aren’t too old by then, of course.

  • Originally written for the Arts pages in Newbury Weekly News. Your truly local paper. If you live in Newbury. Also available to view at its sister website:

Photo of Secret Fridge Party, on stage at The Corn Exchange on Saturday, April 17, courtesy of Bill Ainsworth and his amazing iPhone.

Stevie Nicks - guilty pleasure? Pfff.

WHILE I am far too loud and proud about my love of Fleetwood Mac for it to be truly counted as a ‘guilty pleasure’, I fear that my lifelong obsession with singer Stevie Nicks does rather fit the bill owing the love-hate nature of my relationship with her (one of which she is, of course, entirely unaware).

Nicks appeals to the fairy princess in all women. Even past 60. she’s like a timeless sorceress. I’m sure that’s got more to do with good cosmetic surgery than actual witchcraft, but nevertheless, she looks damn fine, even if she can no longer hit the highest notes (septum damage from years of cocaine use may have something to do with that). I believe it should be a right of passage for all teenage girls to want to be Stevie Nicks. I certainly did. It’s a natural progression from wanting to be Barbie. Or, in my case, Sindy. It’s a combination of the floaty stage outfits and the elemental, mysterious sounding song titles (Dreams, Sisters of the Moon, Gypsy, and of course, Rhiannon, named after a mythical Welsh witch).

On the other hand, there are all those rather silly life decisions Nicks appears to have made (marry your best friend’s widower; swop a hardcore coke addition for an even heavier one to prescription tranquillisers - see the video to Big Love for the consequences; and, most heinously of all, dumping the godlike Lindsey Buckingham just because he achieves the impossible and manages to be even more narcissistic than you). This is is a clearly a woman who needs drama in her life, and if it’s not happening naturally, she’ll create it. As she sings in Storms: “Never have I been a blue calm sea; I have always been a storm.”

She may be a strong character, but Nicks doesn’t do much for the feminist cause. It’s quite clear from her lyrics that she falls far to heavily for virtually every man who shows a passing interest in her (think there’s been a few of those), and in Beautiful Child sets the cause of womankind back a fair few years by not only suggesting that she is “too trusting, yes... but then women usually are”, but also that from now on “I will do as I am told”. Grrr.

But in her wonderfully wibbly way, NIcks reflects the innate madness in every woman, and we should applaud her for that. She appears to have no qualms about wearing her heart on her sleeve in her lyrics, even if it might make her look a teensy bit silly (who else would describe drummer Mick Fleetwood, a man who looks like he has been smashed in the face with a spade, as a “Beautiful Child”, as she allegedly does in her song of the same name? No wonder he dumped Nicks for her presumably more sane friend Sara. Guess what Nicks did to get over him...? Yes, she wrote a song about it. Called Sara. Bet that really helped smooth things over between the three of them.

It’s totally apt that the among Nicks’ most high profile devotees is Lindsay Lohan, herself not the most stable of young women. Lohan has not only covered Nicks’ revenge-on-guitarists-everywhere Edge of Seventeen during her short-lived pop career, but apparently wants to buy the rights to her life and play her in a biopic. In response to which, Nicks has apparently said: “Over my dead body. She [Lohan] needs to stop doing drugs and get a grip.”

Oh yes, this woman has a sense of humour alright. That’s clear from the name of her official website, The Nicks Fix. Former drug habit... fix... getit? Stevie Nicks, loving you goes against all rational thought, yet love you I do. You are indeed my guilty pleasure.

  • This article was first written for Issue 7 of the fabulous Lights Go Out punk fanzine in April 2010. I did write it, though.
For more guilty pleasures, plus interviews with The Arteries, Tony Sly from No Use For A Name, Joey Cape from Lagwagon, Hearts Under Fire, The Dangerous Summer, Manda Rin from bis and I.C.H. (nope, I don't know who they are either), plus CD and gig reviews and columns, get your copy for £1 (plus 50p for postage) from

Do it! Do it now!