#488: Almost Cut My Hair

GETTING MORE TALE #488: Almost Cut My Hair

Whatever musical subculture you come from, if it has a uniform, then no doubt hair style is a part of that uniform.

Nowhere has this been exemplified better than the classic mohawk made famous by 1970’s punk rockers.  Mr. T made it mainstream in the 80’s, rendering the punk shock value of it dead.  On to the next thing!  How about a a 1″ hole in your earlobe to keep it edgy?  Hair cuts and music have a much longer association than that, of course.  The Beatles were considered rough and shaggy for their hair that COVERED THEIR EARS!  Can you imagine?  On the other side of the pond, Elvis was popularizing the greaser look.  All over the world, kids tried to look like these rebellious rabble-rousers.

The late Eric Carr, who served as Kiss’ drummer from 1982 until his passing in 1991, told stories of how he desperately tried to straighten his hair to look like a Beatle.  He’d put pantyhose on his head overnight to try and get the curls out.  Meanwhile, there are photos of young Gene Simmons with bangs down to his eyebrows and Paul Stanley with hair covering his ears.  (Paul had a second motivation — one of his ears is deformed and he was eager to hide it.)

In America, another hairstyle was emerging, and it was strongly related to the funk, r&b and disco scenes:  the Afro.  It is the only hairstyle I am aware of that is probably measured in diameter, not length.  In the 1960’s, the Afro was associated with the ripple effect emanating from the civil rights movement.  Today it is a classic hairstyle, immediately adding strength and character to almost any face that it frames.  The Afro is a beautiful thing, truly.

Billy Preston "the Fifth Beatle"

Billy Preston “the Fifth Beatle”

Almost as beautiful are the dreadlocks.  In many cultures, dreadlocks are sacred.  The association of dreadlocks with modern music is due to the emergence of Reggae.  Rastafari (part of the Abrahamic family of religions) emerged in Jamaica in the 1930’s.  Who in the whole genre of Reggae was more famous than Bob Marley?  Marley was Rastafari, and as his musical fame grew, so did his locks.  As far as pop culture is concerned, Marley is an icon, and the silhouette of his dreadlocked head is known all over the world.

I think somebody must have just invented hairspray at the beginning of the 1980’s.  That’s the best explanation that I can provide for what happened next.  Everybody lost their mind, and instead of measuring their hair in length or even diameter, they began to measure it in height.  It also began to take on bizarre shapes.  Like the wings of Mike Score, from the obvious example A Flock of Seagulls.  Cultures clashed.  Culture Club, a New Wave band, featured a cross dressing lead singer with braided hair!  It was glam meets Rasta in all the wrong ways.  Boy George today is happily bald.  Meanwhile, across the pond in suburban New Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi was attempting to break the 12″ height record.

The hairstyle closest to my heart is the one most associated with rock music:  the classic long-hair.  It’s the perfect hair in almost every way.  You can tie it back for the “I mean business” look, or just to keep it out of the way.  When you need to unleash the rock fury, long hair is superior.  The best part is, after a good solid thrash around, long hair usually looks better than it did before!  Only dreadlocks can rival classic long hair for headbanging money-shot images.

I never liked getting haircuts in the first place, but when I started getting interested in music in the early 80’s, it seemed as good a reason as any to stop getting them.  Besides, one kid at school named Ian used to chide me that I “didn’t look like a rocker” with my lame short hair.  I wanted so bad to look cool like a rocker.  Sure, there were some cool short haired rockers, like Rick Neilson, Alex Van Halen and Alec John Such, but they were a vast, sometimes teased, minority.  My hair started to grow down past my neck.  This caused clashes with my dad like you would not believe.  You thought Darren McGavin made for some foul language in A Christmas Story?  My dad can eat Darren McGavin for breakfast and ask for seconds.  My dad invented many of his own swears.  He even started singing in swears!  One of his biggest hit songs with us kids was always “Shittily, Shittily, La La La”.  And that is exactly how the lyrics went.  Over and over!  One day, he was singing “Shittily, Shittily, La La La” in public again.  He must have been overheard, because the next thing that happened was a Jehovah’s Witness approached him.  She handed him a Watchtower magazine, and told him, “I think you really need this.”  But I digress.  You can imagine how the hair battles in our house ended.  Usually with us not speaking to each other for the next three days.

Eric Brittingham

Eric Brittingham

That’s not due to my dad, mind you.  It’s due to me being a stubborn little shit.  To be fair, I learned the “stop speaking to your parents” schtick from my best friend Bob who frequently stopped speaking to his mother.  Bob too was attempting to grow long hair.  His goal at that time was to be a redhead version of Eric Brittingham from Cinderella during the Long Cold Winter era.  He thought that would have looked awesome.  It probably would have, but eventually he had to get a job and cut it.  He went with a classic crew cut, and a little bit of a fringe on the back:  the mullet.  This is what I ended up with as well, because instead of growing over my ears, my hair simply began curling and going back up again!  My dad hated this but more importantly, wanted me to be employable.  One day he came home to tell me that the manager of the nearby grocery store wanted to speak with me about a job opportunity.  This I was not going to be stubborn about, so I went to the barber, cut it all off, and went in for a brief interview.  I started that week.

The teasing at school was inevitable.  Most of those kids had never seen me without some form of attempted mullet.  The drastic sudden change also made my ears look (in my eyes) freaking huge.  To me, I looked like another kid in our school named “Trophy”.  Trophy was called that because his ears stuck out so far they made his head look like a big trophy.  I was hideous!  I was Samson without his locks.  I had nothing.  I attempted to grow a moustache.  This was abandoned in less than a week when a girl at the grocery store that I liked named Kathleen recommended that I lose the ‘stache.  It was hopeless.  I felt…naked.

When grunge hit the ground running in the early 90’s, rockers one by one began to shed their locks.  Many ladies of the 80’s fainted when Jon Bon Jovi went short in 1993 for Keep the Faith.  Three years later, some thrash acolytes nearly had heart failure when not one, not two, not three, but all four members of Metallica included James Fucking Hetfield cut their hair short!  The game was over.  While many rockers such as Ozzy, Alice, and Nikki elected to keep their hair, they were overshadowed by the folks who let it go:  David Lee Roth, Edward Van Halen, Tommy Lee, Paul Stanley (notably for Phantom of the Opera), pretty much all of Aerosmith except for Tyler and Perry….There were no magazine headlines that said “Alice Cooper Keeps His Hair Long”.  But there were headlines to the effect of “The World is Ending — Jon Bon Has Cut His Curls!”

As rockers age, so do our styles.  I thought Jon Lord looked very distinguished, with his silvery hair in a ponytail when he got older.  Some of us have cut our hair, some of us have lost our hair.  Some of us dye it and some of us shave it.  In this day and age, it is very difficult to tell one’s musical affiliation by hairstyle alone.  You can have long hair and be a DJ spinning samples on a laptop.  A guy shredding lead electric guitar is just as likely to have short hair as long.  Over there, that metal band has a bunch of people with dreadlocks, and that rap group does too!  Mohawk with dreadlocks?  Hello Doug Pinnick from King’s X!  Sub-cultures continue to clash in ways both new and retro, and as with any style, music will always have a part in it.

1993, return of the long hair.

 

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22 comments

  1. I remember the hullabaloo when Jovi chops cut his hair. To be honest, he looked like Linda Hamilton and probably got fed up being stopped in the street by strangers quoting lines from Terminator to him.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hahahaha great fun read Mike.

    Had a similar hair disaster in the late 80’s, being such a metal supporter and part time surfer at the time had grown a tasty mullet complete with golden tips (that was colouring for you young folk), very rock n’ roll and quite proud, but on the eve of my first all-important job interview, decided it best to cut it all of and suit up.

    I walk into said interview and meet my future boss who was sporting a kick ass mullet (minus the ‘tips’ so I woulda had him in the hair stakes), and first question he asks me was DO I SURF!? Then after perusing my resume he asks me to tell him a bit about myself to which I awkward go on to explain “Well until last night I had long hair and blah blah blah…” and burst into nervous laughter in disbelief LOL.

    Thankfully I landed the job but boy did I feel like a schmuck!

    We weren’t saving the world Mike but these things were important to us young metalheads \m/ Good fun reads these, make for a nice break from life’s daily routine thanks :)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I shaved my head in 1993 and have never gone back. No hat-head, no bed-head, and with my own clippers I’ll never pay for a haircut again. Works for me. Especially since I am now bald anway, so if I tried to grow my hair out now I’d need an O.P.P. hat a la Kim Mitchell.

    This is a great story, but I always thought hair was a vanity. Girls hiding behind it, spending hours spraying it and teasing it and who knows what else. Even dudes. It’s like a shield, something to talk about and mess with and deal with and think about and change on a whim instead of doing something else. In high school, for me, that something else was basketball, but we all have different priorities. I dunno, I never felt the pull to try to outwardly show whatever genre of music I was into at the time. Maybe a band t-shirt, that was it.

    Hair, though? My favourite was always the punks. We’re so counter-culture! We’re DIFFERENT! Now, if you want to join us, you have to look the same as us! Idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will admit to hiding behind my hair especially in my school days. Yeah there’s truth to that. Absolutely. Good point that went unconsidered for this post! Many artists too are, by nature, insecure.

      Like

  4. Also this post made me think of Sloan* and the amazing 500 Up:

    “Everybody knows that’s she’s goin’ nowhere
    Everybody always tells her, how much they care
    When all they really care about is growing their hair
    And getting it cut”

    and then later:

    “Everybody knows that she’s goin’ nowhere
    Everybody always tells her, how much they care
    When all they really care about is cutting their hair
    And letting it grow.”

    * Just about everything makes me think of Sloan. It’s great!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. For four years of my life 1979-83, I had to wear very short hair under very strict regulations. Plus, I faced disciplinary action if I didn’t have the approved haircut. That is precisely why when I was no longer bound by those restrictions. I didn’t cut my hair again for nearly 18 months!

    Like

    1. That would be about the only part of military service I’d enjoy! You wanna shave my head? Go ahead!

      I say the same thing about Zen monks. They shave their heads when they join up to symbollically shed the trappings of the world, right, and I say right frickin’ on.

      Aw, I don’t really judge if somebody wants long hair I say go for it. Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like the picture of you from 1993 – so hopeful-looking!
    Growing up, my mom had us have short hair because it was easy for her to look after. It wasn’t until around 9 or 10 when I took control. I wanted long hair down my back, but that took awhile to establish, because I took a turn down blunt-cut alley to perm town (hey man, it was the 80s!)…I eventually ended up with long hair down my back, and loved it. I don’t like going to the stylist, but my hair is fine in texture, and has gotten thin over the years, so I now go every 6 wks for a style and colour, and perpetually book those appointments. I think ultimately, I am a hippie at heart and would just let it grow all wild. But, I don’t because I work at a conservative institution, and need to keep somewhat kept and professional blah blah blah…

    Like

  7. Another hair story for you: I work with someone who grows dreads. Christine is from Jamaica originally, so this is a bit of culture creeping in…she is not rastafari in the pure sense (she smokes, eats fried foods…), but she grows the dreads for idea of perseverence. Sticking through something. I have known her 8 years, and those dreads just get piled up on her head. They are super long, and look like they weigh a ton. I have to hand it to her…I don’t think I could stick through that.

    Like

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