Music: The Resounding Abdomen

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"It's the total ultimate." Superlatives, however redundant, fall easily these days from the lips of Dan Hartman, 23, bass guitarist with the blues-rocking Edgar Winter Group. And why not? Hartman is the proud owner of a new set of threads that just may revolutionize the look of a rock concert. Let the Doobie Brothers attire their drummer in stars and stripes that blink on and off in tune to the big beat. Let Elton John wear trousers that explode. Hartman tops them all with the Guitar Suit, a $5,000, one-piece, silverized affair that makes possible a Flash Gordonesque union of man, music and instrument. Says Hartman: "I feel completely different as a performer."

That he is. Decked out in the Guitar Suit, which he designed with Los Angeles Couturier Bill Witten out of a rubbery fabric called stretch laurex, Hartman simply inserts the bottom of his electric guitar into a pelvic pocket, much the way a mother kangaroo snuggles her baby into her pouch. From electrodes in the pocket, the signal is fed through wires sewed into the linings to a cigarette-pack-sized transmitter housed in a thigh pocket. Via an aerial laced down the right leg, the impulse is broadcast to the main amplifier backstage and then blasted into the auditorium over the usual loudspeakers. To modify tone or volume, Hartman has only to turn a button on his left sleeve.

Mobility and Safety. Why should a rock star want to turn himself into a walking wireless transmitter? Great mobility onstage, for one thing. Free from the long electric umbilical cord that connected him to the mother amplifier, he can twirl, somersault, even leap into the audience, without strangling himself. Nor need he worry about accidental electrocution. No laughing matter that. Because of the touching of frayed wires or the shorting out of cables caught in puddles during rainy open-air concerts, many musicians have been jolted by violent charges, and one was killed—Les Harvey, lead guitarist with Stone the Crows. Aside from mobility and safety, Hartman reports that his stomach contributes to the sound ("The abdomen is the most resonant part of the body"), an unexpected sensation he regards as a gratifying trip all its own. "I can feel the vibrations in my body. I know what an expectant mother must feel like. I am the music."