It’s really too bad that Walt Disney didn’t’ live long enough to discover the Cowsills, a nice-family singing group a la the Trapps.
There ae possibilities here for one of those gingerbread movies based only coincidentally on real life and thus guaranteed four stars from the women’s magazines and an A-1 rating from the Legion of Decency.
Julie Andrews or maybe Doris Day could be case as Mrs. Barbara Cowsill, who is 39 and proves how hip she is by wearing mini-skirts. Mrs. Cowsill’s cropped hair is just a wee bit shorter than Husband Bud’s. The latter, a retired Navy man, manages the group.
The younger Cowsills, suitably Beatle-topped (before the Beatles went into their hippy thing, that is) are Bill, 19; Bob, 18; Barry, 13; and John, 11. They form the quartet that does most of the work – Mom only contributes occasionally, when they need her voice for harmony.
Dick and Paul are the prepubescent road managers, and as for Baby Susan, well, she hasn’t gotten into the act yet, but give her time.
Anyway, they all live in this dilapidated mansion in Newport, R.I., and one day they were sitting around being nice to each other, as families in the Disney tradition are wont when they thought up “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” which is a song of the watered down psychedelia variety.
This is a fairly new genre in pop music, and is composed of strung-together psychedelic images that don’t go anywhere and are therefore harmless.
Another example that comes immediately to mind is “Up, Up and Away” by the First Dimension which possibly intimated a Freon high (red balloon, floating among the clouds, flying) but never came out and said so.
Necessary to watered-down psychedelia are easy-listening background music and a vocal chorus a la Johnny Mann, the Ray Charles Singers or the Harry Simeon Chorale.
Nice. So nice that even the marshmallow-Sunday morning radio stations, which avoid the Rolling Stones and groups of their ilk like the plague, will push them.
The Rain, The Park” and so forth is about a rainy-day woman with flowers in her hair who is sitting on this park bench but disappears just when the sun comes out, leaving al the Cowsills to wonder ungrammatically “was she reality or just a dream to me.”
The Cowsills’ record (on MGM) has so far escaped the fate of Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Women, who were pulled unceremoniously from the top 10 when somebody’s mother found out they were reefers.
Maybe that’s because, looking at all those clean-scrubbed Cowsills’ faces and Barbara’s dimpled knees and Bud’s earnest smile, you begin to wonder if they REALLY are talking about a pot vision.
Maybe if Bob Dylan looked like a Cowsill he would have gotten away with it.
There remains the possibility that the family wasn’t even thinking about what they were singing, and just pulled all those images from other records. That’s the thing about watered-down psychedelia – you can never be sure.
And perhaps the tension thus produced (thousands of listeners out there, speculating among themselves, “are they or aren’t thy,”) is the factor that has propelled “The Rain, etc.” in its climb up the charts.
One thing’s for sure. People aren’t buying the record just to listen to a lot of thunder-and-drizzle sound effects.