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OLD, GIFTED AND BACKPETER, PAUL AND MARY THROW OUT LIFELINES TO ANOTHER GENERATION

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One can also take exception to that line "If I really say it, the radio won't play it"--didn't Barry McGuire score a No. 1 hit two years before that had bodies floating in the Jordan River? Didn't Peter, Paul and Mary's labelmates at Warner Bros., the Association, just score a No. 1 hit that summer with a song that asked "Who's bending down to give me a rainbow?" Certainly you could sneak anything across those snoozing AM censors, couldn't you?

"The censorship of radio was omnipresent, the freedom of alternative stations just wasn't there," Stookey says. "If I talked about things that were happening in society, like dope smoking or the Vietnam War, up-front, it would never be broadcast."

Evidently, the boob tube was even more anal. Earlier in the Sixties, the group boycotted ABC-TV's folk-music hour Hootenanny until the show lifted its ban on Pete Seeger, still blacklisted from the Fifties. "Which they never did," says Stookey. "When PP&M wanted to sing 'Monday Morning' on the Bell Telephone Hour, a song that spoke of a woman turning around in bed to the man she just wed, they didn't want that on television, either. It didn't matter that the man and woman were married. We walked off the show."

Although PP&M named its 1967 long player after its catalogue number, Album 1700, the offering was anything but mere product--it was the trio's best-ever effort. The album contained a song which addressed the horrors of the then-escalating Vietnam War, "The Great Mandala," which turns up again on the latest PP&M album and provides one of the best moments. Album 1700 also had "Too Much of Nothing," at the time one of Dylan's "basement tapes," and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (penned by John Denver), which would become a No. 1 hit two years later.

Just as it was topping the charts, the group split up. In an unfortunate bit of timing, the trio received a Grammy for its first children's album, Peter, Paul and Mommy, in March 1970, just as Peter Yarrow pleaded guilty to "taking immoral liberties" with a 14-year-old girl in Washington, D.C. Stookey, by this time a born-again Christian, insists that this wasn't the catalyst for the group's dissolution.

"The group was gone before that happened. In the late Sixties, the desire to be close to a performer was evidencing itself, but there weren't categories at that time. I think Peter unfortunately got caught in a shift of perception in what was allowable. Who knew from groupies? Rock 'n' roll was still new. You didn't have the kind of abuses you see now chronicled on HBO, where it shows how Kiss auditions their dancing girls--`How much can you show us and what can you do with it?'"

Stookey offers a more palatable explanation as to why the successful trio needed to separate. "When we started, our sensibilities came from preserving the autonomy and integrity of each of the three members. But it's symptomatic of a lot of intense relationships where people are called upon to give up of themselves to make a relationship work. And you begin to erode the things that attracted you to one another, your inner strengths."

Peter, Paul and Mary were not slow to test their individual strengths. Unlike the members of Kiss, who flooded the marketplace with four solo albums all at once, the trio spaced its releases out to ensure each would get noticed. "Mary was first out of the box with her solo album, which was called Mary. I released an album called Paul & . . ."

Beginning to sense a pattern here? When Peter released his Peter album, fans who wanted to see the group back together could place the three albums side by side like pieces of a broken amulet and re-create the famous Milton Glaser-designed Peter, Paul and Mary logo. "Ironically enough," adds Stookey, "I was the one who least wanted to go out on the road, and I got the Top 30 single with 'The Wedding Song (There Is Love).'" Although there are only a handful of recorded cover versions of "The Wedding Song," it's performed at weddings as often as "Here Comes the Bride," "Hava Nagila" and "The Hokey Pokey." In 1972, Warren Beatty managed to reunite Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel and the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May for a McGovern fund raiser. PP&M continued one-off reunions for various causes until making it official with 1978's ill-advised Reunion album.

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic