David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 193: The Cowsills (Hair)

October 19, 2022

In retrospect, I can almost, key word being "almost," understand why some think the 1969 Moon Landing was a hoax. As a seven-year old kid at the time, it was just one more thing I took for granted because I didn't understand fully what was occurring, heck not only on the moon, but on my own soil.

For one thing, I watched the Moon Landing from the other side of the world, from Australia, either Melbourne or Adelaide (my family lived a few months in both metropolitan areas, but I am not sure which in July 1969). That already seemed other worldly. Meanwhile the #1 single in Australia the week of the Moon Landing was "Hair," by The Cowsills, a pretty catchy tune that even a buzz-cut 7-year old could get into. In confirming this was the number one hit in Australia, I find that an Australian act also had a top 20 cover of "Hair" in 1969.  Boy, pop music used to be really confusing.

I didn't know much about The Cowsills, outside of their agriculturally-sounding name. I probably knew that they were a family group, but then so were The Osmonds, so who knows if that seemed different or not to me? I knew even less about a musical called Hair, let alone that it was becoming famous for on-stage nudity or that it represented counter-culture movements. I wouldn't have known what culture was, let alone countering it. I also would have been clueless to the air-brushing of the "Hair" lyrics, with references to God removed, I assumed, so that The Cowsills' release could be more generic, that is to say, marketable.

All I know is that I felt empowered that whole summer to go around shouting out, "And Spaghetti!" like one of the youngest Cowsills, Susan, who provided the high-pitched shout out in the middle of the song, and so I mimicked her, never wondering how my parents felt about this anthem to non-establishment. Perhaps my sisters (4-years older) intuited that better.

I suppose my "And Spaghetti!" followed us around Australia, whether to The Great Barrier Reef, or to Heron Island where my sisters celebrated their 13th birthdays, or to the wildlife park where I was famously (at least for those who have heard me tell the story 100 times) attacked by a kangaroo who was then attacked by my mother's hideous 1960s purse. I do not remember if I had shouted "And Spaghetti" thus sending the kangaroo into fight or flight mode.

Amongst all this silliness, man landed on the moon. In retrospect, I know I should have seen it as a bigger deal than I did at the time (I was 7, cut me some slack). News was probably no more or less entertainment to my eyes and ears than a Cowsills' song or a Scooby Doo episode, and my parents probably had much more reliable parental controls than we do now to make sure I didn't get overwhelmed with the not-quite-accurate news: Misinformation of the Vietnam War, such as reduced casualty counts; false narratives regarding the MŸ Lai massacre; and Cambodian bombings done in secret. Was any of this more real than altered versions of an anti-establishment anthem being played all the time on the radio? 

Within two years of getting home from Australia, The Cowsills had been appropriated as The Partridge Family for T.V. consumption, further blurring the lines between reality and fiction. I had moved across the street from a family called The Cowmans, blurring the 9-year old's conception of two separate families connected only by a cow. By 1971, the most popular song probably around the world was about a bullfrog named "Jeremiah." Good lord, why hasn't everybody in my generation ended up with a distorted sense of reality?

Even today, as I research The Cowsills, as I haven't particularly thought about them in 50 years, I find out that Susan has sung backup with Hootie & The Blowfish, The Smithereens, and Carlene Carter, while also being part of the Psycho Sisters with The Bangles' Vicki Peterson, who is married to, wait for it, John Cowsill who has played with The Beach Boys and participated in the recording of Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny."  Boy, have I been dreadfully underestimating The Cowsills' role in rock and roll. Or the importance of getting to the moon.

The Cowsills. "Hair." The Cowsills In Concert. MGM, 1969.  Link here.

Day 192: Love & Rockets "The Telephone Is Empty"

Day 194: The Clash "Know Your Rights"

See complete list here.