Sunday, February 17, 2008


Okay, if I haven’t quite convinced you yet that I’m all about the trivia, then this post should settle things once and for all. Not long ago (January 23, 2007), I put up a post here about the hippie-era musical, Hair, which included a link to a YouTube video excerpt featuring the song, “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In.” Now, this song includes a few lines from an earlier song in the program, “Manchester England England,” sung by the character Claude. This in turn led me to discover that the lyrics “embedded” in the Manchester reprise part (still with me?) are some lines from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” namely Romeo’s death scene. Well that’s cool. But it’s still not quite the end of it. As I’ve said many times before, when you go look up song lyrics online, and start comparing sites, you can find a lot of disagreement. For one thing, words just don’t sound the same to everybody. And so it is with “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In.” I’m talking about one small and seemingly insignificant little word near the transition from the “Flesh Failures” to the “Sunshine” parts. Here’s the verse in question:

Singing our space-song on a spider web, sitar
Life is around you and in you
Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie
Let the sunshine, etcetc.

After clicking around at a whole bunch of lyrics sites, I can roughly estimate that about half of them list the second-to-last line as “Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie,” as it is in the above example. The other half say the word is “from.” As I considered which one might be correct, there was something about those two choices, especially “for,” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I thought about it for a while, gave up, and then, as often happens when you move on to something else, has a flash of inpsiration, and remembered an important clue. Earlier in the Hair program, Claude sings the full version of “Manchester England” which contains the following verse:

Now that I've dropped out,
why is life dreary dreary?
Answer my weary query
Timothy Leary dearie

Now, as you check out those 4 lines, recall that Timothy Leary’s most memorable quote of the hippie era was “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Claude has dropped out, and is finding that it’s not all he thought it would be; in fact, it’s pretty darn dreary. He wants an answer from Dr. Leary, the head hippie guru, the big bwana himself. If you want my opinion, I think this proves that the word in question is “from” not “for.” However, I will say this, listening to it, it does sound more like “for” than “from.” But then again, the lyrics are rushing by pretty fast for totally clear diction. I’ll stand by “from.” Plus, it makes good sense – Claude asks Dr. L. why his life is so dreary, and the answer back from Leary is simple, “Let the sunshine in!” (probably through some windowpane acid…)

Thus, the mystery appears solved, but as is often the case, when one trivia door closes, another opens. Now I want to know if Timothy Leary actually ever said this alleged quote, “Let the sunshine in.” He certainly could have said it; I think we can agree on that. Or are they the words of Rado and Ragni, written in the “spirit of” Leary? It’s one more bit of trivia I’d really like to know. So, if there are any Leary-philes or scholars out there, or any aging hippies with a box full of yellowing Leary books in the attic, then let me hear from you! As for me, I gotta go close the mini-blinds; the afternoon sunshine is just brutal…

Here is the previously posted link to the video of “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In” in case you want to listen again. I’m currently trying to track down a copy of the complete documentary by creators Pola Rapaport and Wolfgang Held. If I find it, you can be sure I’ll give you a full report!


Anonymous said...

Embedded lyrics start with Romeo and Juliet and end with Hamlet. "The rest is silence..."

Deborah Godin said...

Great trivia spotting, I didn't catch that one, so thanks for pointing it out!