David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 106: The 5th Dimension (Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In)

August 10, 2020

My temporary retreat into Hippie Valley two days ago with James did put me in a 60's mood, not just for the music (or the free love) but just as much for the vibe.  Thus, today's choice for 365 artists in 365 songs is all about the vibe.

Could one pick a better representation of the 1960's than The 5th Dimension's "Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In"?

After all, the song originates from the quintessential 60's piece of pop culture, the musical Hair. By the time the 5th Dimension covered "The Age of Aquarius,” weaving it with another Hair piece (and that line alone is why I love writing), it was 1969, the decade was coming to a close, and they had a number one hit.

Really, however, it's all about the visuals.

The link below captures this full groovy, groovy performance, probably lip-synched, of "Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In." Doesn't this capture everything beautiful and kooky about the 60's?

Among some circles, Queen is credited with kicking off music video with a clip for "Bohemian Rhapsody," but there's tons of stuff from the 60's that plays quite artistic with the rock performance. The Zombies peformed "She's Not There" with women posing lifeless around them. The Association opened their performance of "Along Comes Mary" in The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour as if a band of robots.

In this case, surrounding the performance, we get a cosmic opening and a comic closing, where the lyrics scroll off the screen, while silhouetted hippies stare at the sunset, like the opening sequence in Star Wars. Add to the image of the closing that there are some misspellings and approximation of the lyrics, and you have to think, "it was the 60's baby, we were all stoned."

The fashion is to die for. Mama may have told us not to look into the eyes of the sun, but she didn't warn us of these bright colors. Check out Lamonte McLemore's tie, wider than the Snake River Canyon Evel Knievel attempted to jump a few years later, or Ronald Townson's sleeves that could hide a cannon as a concealed weapon. Throw in Florence LaRue's and Marilyn McCoo's spooky moves that accompany the transition to the "astronomical gibberish," as denounced by astrologer, Neil Spencer: "When the moon is in the Seventh House/and Jupiter aligns with Mars." What is it with scientists named Neil (Degrasse Tyson comes to mind) and their desire to debunk all that is bad science? This is art, baby. This is theater. If we can put up with the tie, we can put up with a fictional sky. Screw accuracy.

When the song kicks into "Let The Sun Shine In," an amazing bass line, the kind usually imagined as part of 60's musical theater, provides the powerful backbone, for the group to open up their hearts to the moment. Vocally it is amazing in its harmonies and blend of voices. "Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In" demands you to sing, forces you to dance.

There is so much that this video offers. How Townson with his amazing sleeves looks like a certain person I know at work who I wouldn't put past to come dressed like this. How McLemore dances like a lot of us do when we get drunk at our second cousin's wedding, forced to get on the dance floor by our wives. How lyrics don't really matter if they make you feel good.

Mostly, the video captures the unbridled joy of The 5th Dimension, perhaps believing the sermon they deliver. For a brief moment, even I believe it. Peace will guide the planets, I don't care what the Neils of the world say differently.

"Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In." The 5th Dimension. 1969. Link here.

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Day 107: Judas Priest "Breaking The Law."->

See full unfinished list here.