The Cowsills In Books

The Book in Fred Hampton's Apartment
by Richard Stern
E.P. Dutton & Co. 1973


on Page 60-61:


With our best youlldied greedings to Pep and Memmy and the old folkers beloy and beyant, wishing them all very merry Incarnations in this land of the livvey and plenty of preprosperousness through their coming new yonks.

Finnegans Wake

It is not, then, by interest but by common associations and by the free sympathy of opinion and of taste that democracy unites brothers to each other.

Democracy in America

The program says: "It took America 500 years to create the Cowsills. Five hundred years of mixing nationalities, races, philosophies, beliefs, and democracy within its borders." We're in an immense, gold-armored cowbell, shafts of smoky right for clapper, the ugliest auditorium in the Midwest. It blacks out, then on stage, out of a corolla of electronic song, the Cowsills.

Five thumping, pumping, pounding American children, Susan (9), John (11), Barry (13), Bob (17), and Bill (20), with toothy, miniskirted Barbara. "We call her Mom."

From the maddened heights of Insull's Civic Opera House, the wail of adolescent desire: "Barry, Barry, Bar-oh-Bar-oh Barrrrry." The spotlight converts Barry into three-buttoned blue boy; he sucks the microphone, he rocks, his Mom and sis and brothers rock: "I-I-I wanna, wanna hoi' you tiight." Electrified guitars, organs, drums. Mom and Susan, Barry, Bob, John, and Bill. The American family in song crosses the chill yardage which distanced Swifts, Palmers, Fields, and Armours from Verdi melodrama, Viennese intrigue. The utility magnate's Palace of Strut is the electronic love funnel of a giantess.

The Cowsills. They take over here as they took over a mansion in Newport, twenty-two bare rooms, the money from Dad's naval pension spent on guitars, amplifiers, drums. There, en famille, Dad drilled them in the songs, the patter, the pelvic thrusts, the electronic hay-licked version of International Beatle that sees them, this Chicago night, on the verge of—maybe— making it big.

The Jeremiah of Capital (whose abandoned daughter ended operatically in the Thames) wrote:

However terrible, however repulsive the break-up of the old family system within the organism of capitalist society may seem; none the less, large-scale industry, by assigning to women, and to young persons and children of both sexes, a decisive role in the socially organized process of production, and a role which has to be fulfilled outside the home, is building the new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes.

Tonight the Cowsills are guaranteed fifty-five hundred against a cut of the house. Only a foot in the door of Big Money, but tomorrow they are off for London and a visit to the Pope. With luck, they will return to twenty-five-thousand-dollar-a-night houses. The twenty-two rooms in Newport will fill with furniture; the grass, "grown to a height of 3 feet," will be a lawn, and the wire cage in which Clyde, John's miniature monkey, was frozen dead the night it arrived will be warmed and filled with a new Clyde.

If it works out, it will mean that these kids and Mom have gone beyond new strata of adolescent love and suggested a "higher form" for the dying democratic family.

Not just Liverpool and Tulsa dropouts, but good American families over the land can play and stay together.


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