In retrospect, wanting to write about The Cowsills was probably something of a cop-out on my part. I had been working continually and hard on a book about addicts' rehabilitation in Harlem. The depressing nature of the subject, plus the fact that it is my first book, was putting me quite up-tight. I began having frequent headaches and insomnia, neither of 婦hich I am normally subject to.
When Eye Magazine asked me to do a piece on The Cowsills, it seemed just the thing to relieve the tension. It would be an observer's paradise, an easy bit of reporting. They were almost certain to be just another show-biz hoax. I would expose it and have a lot of fun at the same time.
But things do not always turn out as expected. I liked them預 true-to-form over-thirty hipster like me, weaned on the intensity and cynicism of jazz, who's supposed to think it's all corn, meaningless and insincere. Instead, I found nine people very much for real覧too perfect to have been invented by anyone and too likeable to be put down.
Barbara Cowsill washes her kids' underwear in the kitchen sink humming Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. John Cowsill studies his English lessons in between takes on a record date. All the kids are natural覧just kids. While exceptionally close, they yell at each other at times. A groovy, contemporary family. And they're all aware.
Four years ago, they began to be something more than just a family when Bill asked his father, Bud, for a guitar and taught himself how to play. He then taught Bob. Bill and Bob fooled around together for awhile, learning enough music to think about forming their own rock group. Bill and Bob taught Barry drums and the three of them began working Saturday night gigs around Newport, Rhode Island, their home. Then Bill taught John drums and switched Barry to bass guitar. They worked more often and farther away. Bud, who had recently retired from the navy, gave up his small contracting business to play the role of Vince Lombardi on the team. Barbara started to sing a few numbers with her kids, then baby sister
Susie got the bug. Paul is the most recent addition, heard here for the first time. Dick, Bob's twin brother, remains the road manager.
Now, do you have them all straight? . . . No? Never mind, they all look alike anyway. Besides, you will be seeing and hearing a lot more of them.
The Cowsills' career is in an interesting stage覧obviously about to make it very big indeed but not quite there yet. They've had hit records (The Rain, The Park and Other Things made it to # 1 ) but they still travel tourist class. Their concerts sell out, but the mobs aren't yet clamoring at the stage door.
The nature of the music business today is such that kids can make it big before they become sophisticated musicians. Once they do, they have the opportunity to grow pretty much as far as their ability can take them. And their audience will grow with them, as it did with the Beatles.
The Cowsills show signs of being able to do that. They are talented musically, to begin with. Each album is better than the one preceding it, and they are doing more of their own material. Recording and performing, they pay attention to all sorts of details. Making music strikes me as being at least as important to them as the bread.
These days we can get too cynical. We have, after all, been victims of misleading advertising before. Mort Nasatir, President of MGM Records, says their biggest promotional problem is convincing the public that the Cowsills are in reality what they are: the America of Andy Hardy now, the corner drug store and apple pie, freckle-faced 1968 America with a turned-up nose.
Like that America, they are much more than some of our critics would have it. America is too often underestimated by people who judge things from a superficial resemblance to their preconceived cliches and prejudices. I thank The Cowsills for reminding me of that.