Friday 9 November 2007

John Waters' Hairspray - A Divine comedy

Almost 20 years before Travolta 'dragged up' in a fat suit and Marc Shaiman cranked up the camp-ometer to 11 with his musical remake, Hairspray was John Waters and his 'muse' Divine's crowning commercial achievement.

Unlike Shaiman's shamelessly entertaining danceathon which features original compositions, Waters' Hairspray, apart from Rachel Sweet's gloriously Spectoresque title tune, uses actual dance tunes from the 60's. And what a collection it is. Some are so obscure, that they could only have come from John Waters' personal record collection.

It's hard to pick the standout tunes because virtually every one is either a dance floor shaker or a soulful smooch. If I had to choose I'd go for Ray Bryant's The Madison Time, The Ikettes' I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song) and The Five Du-Tones' Shake A Tail Feather.

There's no question of whether one version of Hairspray is better than the other as they both have their magical moments. While Waters' original will remain a much loved 80's movie, Shaiman's musical could well become this generation's "Grease".

For those who don't know, here are a few 'Hairspray' facts:

  • Jerry Stiller appears in both versions of Hairspray and is Ben Stiller's dad.
  • Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono and Ric Ocasek (from 80's band The Cars) appear in the original.
  • Talkshow Queen, Rikki Lake plays Tracy in the original.
  • James Marsden who plays Corny Collins in the musical plays Cyclops in The X-Men.
  • John Waters cameos in the musical as the 'Flasher who lives next door' in the opening song.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this one , have it on vynil, but don't seem to find it on cd

mr.kenneth said...

Spot on again, Crispin!

Love John Waters' Hairspray esp. for the soundtrack. Right up radioShirley's alley so to speak.

I've just listened to Waters talking about his films on a couple of .mp3's someone just sent me called "Shock Value". Waters narrating his book I think and he makes a comment that much of his film structure is based around the songs first.

He's obviously a BIG music fan, too.