Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"What A Piece of Work Is Man"

I was raised in a classical music household. My earliest musical memories are Chopin etudes, Strauss waltzes and hours and hours of Schubert and Beethoven. From the age of 8 I took lessons on a variety of instruments, though only the piano and woodwind instruments really engaged my interest. I still have a huge love for the classical repertoire today.
My introduction to - for want of a better description - rock 'n roll came from the only record in my parents' collection that wasn't classical music, and somewhere in my attic is that same record: a much-scratched, much-loved copy of the original Broadway recording of the musical "Hair", so original that "Hair's" writers - Gerome Ragni and James Rado if I remember correctly - sing the two lead roles.
I still find it hard to put into words the impact that record had on me at the time, and it's one of my great pleasures and indulgences to listen to it from time to time and reconnect with that thrill. So when Cameron Crowe wrote the scene in the film "Almost Famous" where the young boy inherits his sister's record collection, I knew just what he was experiencing.
It's not easy to pick a particular song from "Hair" that stands out - each one lifts me up out of my seat. But there's one that's a bit special because, as the liner notes put it, "it was written by William Shakespeare." Now I'm not going to reproduce the lyric here, because I think you all should go look it up and read it for yourselves, but the title of the song is the clue.
It's not exactly rock 'n roll the way you might describe it today, but it and the rest of the album was like opening the magic door into a parallel universe. This is where it started for me.

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