Wednesday, 02 March 2005

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Full Metal Jacket: The Musical! Michael Herr's book Dispatches, the source of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, had a short run as a MUSICAL in 1979. A self-proclaimed "composer-director-playwright" named Elizabeth Swados put Herr's book to music. According to Mel Gussow's article in the April 8, 1979 Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times, "phrases such as 'high on war,' 'quakin and shakin' and 'pucker and submit' took naturally to her rock beat. 'I felt that Herr was writing in rock language -- like a stoned or psychedelic Hemingway....The 20 songs in the score range from 'gospel to hard rock to folk, old-fashioned ballads, ragtime, and Oriental Vietnamese music used to evoke fear and terror.' She emphasized that 'the songs deal with marine life, marine training, drugs, fatigue, fear of death, brutality, defoliation, and prayers for survival.'" "Despite all her doubts," the article concludes, "she felt that this was a project that had to be done, 'a rock opera' that had to be written." So, in honor of the "rock opera" that would one day share a source with Full Metal Jacket, I want you to imagine the following dialogue set to Whitney Houston's immortal paean to anti-egalitarianism, "The Greatest Love of All": I believe you pukes will have no future, You are the lowest forms of life on Earth, You're not even human fucking be-e-e-ings, Just unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit... [chorus] I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or even on greasers, Here you are, all equally Worthless don't you maggots understand that, Be-cause the greatest, hard-on of all, Is God's and it's for Marines, Because, they kill everything, everything they ever see... So I guess I should take that thinly-disguised disgust back. I can't do any better. Then again, I'm really tempted to rescind my mulligan after reading this. According to it, the New York Times misrepresented Elizabeth Swados. She is not, as the Times called her, a "composer-director-playwright." According to the afore-linked site, she's "the multi-talented Elizabeth (writer-composer-lyricist-orchestrator-choreographer-director-musician) Swados." Try printing that on a calling card. According to this website, she "has been involved in the creation of political theater since her consciousness-raising 1979 stage work "Dispatches: A Rock Musical," based on the book about Vietnam by Michael Herr. Those who are not into her avant-garde methodology sometimes find it hard to understand what she is saying even when they understand what she is saying: 'I try to bring war to the theater by sound, by movement and by rhythm, and my current show is another attempt at that. It's probably the most controversial thing I've ever done. Many people thought I was in favor of the soldiers and in favor of the war, but in fact I was talking about the rock 'n roll nature of the war.'" I'd follow that if I thought I had a chance of topping it. So I'm done.

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