Yarrow was the “Peter” in Peter, Paul & Mary, one of the most massively successful exponents of the folk scene that appeared poised to take over ‘60s pop music before Beatlemania came along—their 1980s PBS concert still gets rerun during pledge drives, so reliably does it haul in that fat boomer cash—and in 1968 Yarrow used some of his money and pull to finance a montage film of flower children freaking out to a lot of badass music. It was directed by one Barry Feinstein, who’d also worked on that year’s Monterey Pop documentary, ostensibly to document the fragmentation and identity crisis of the American youth movement post-Summer of Love. It’s hard to tell if that was what was intended, because complete versions of the film don’t seem to exist, and even complete versions would surely be as messy and disjointed. From a 2007 entry on WFMU’s Beware of the Blog:
Contradictions abound in regards to who and what are contained in the film. This stems from very few complete prints having survived. Many have claimed that Frank Zappa, Improv maven Del Close, nor Harper’s Bizarre are[n’t] even in the film and that the assertions and apocryphal. Others can describe these scenes with precise detail. All three are listed in the closing credits. The film’s “official” VHS release of the mid-nineties disappeared into obscurity almost immediately. That release, however, was still missing several minutes. The soundtrack LP also omits the sounds of several performances that appeared in the picture. All of these factors have contributed to speculation. The only known complete print of YAWYE has been doing the tour of the Cinematheque circuit for the past couple of years and has is housed in Berkeley, California. Columbia’s soundtrack LP was re-issued on CD in 1997, but only in Japan (naturally). The album remains generally elusive in North America.
Promo cocktail napkins? No wonder it’s so obscure, they should have done blotter and rolling papers.
Whatever the details, it’s worth sitting through for some great music from the Electric Flag, Yarrow, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Barry McGuire. The soundtrack album alluded to above is superb—even Yarrow, known for such staid commercial folk, incorporates Moog freakouts into his contributions. The film also includes some noteworthy early appearances by the singer/conservator/fabulous freakshow Tiny Tim. Here, before he found fame via Smothers Brothers and Tonight Show television appearances, he’s backed by an uncredited group called The Hawks, who’d soon go on to become legendary under the name The Band. Tiny performs a couple of covers, a totally unglued rendition of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and a hilarious take on “I Got You Babe.” On his debut LP God Bless Tiny Tim, he covered that song as a multi-tracked duet with himself, but here Tim fields the Cher parts in his unmistakeable falsetto, and Eleanor Barooshian of the baroque-psych girl group The Cake sings the Sonny Bono lines! It’s quite fun.
And here’s the film itself—or at least the version of it that’s available on YouTube.