Sunday Chuckle: My Favourite Picture of Uncle Don Don

1975.  My Uncle Don Don had amazing hair.  Naturally red and with curls, and for a while my hair was similar but never as cool.  But what I really love about this photo is the checkered bellbottoms.  For that reason alone, this has been my favourite picture of Uncle Don Don for as long as I can remember.  You knew he was a rocker just by looking at him!


#802: Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

A sequel to #488:  Almost Cut My Hair

GETTING MORE TALE #802: Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

“No razor has ever been used on my head, because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” – Samson, Judges 16:17

The Biblical Samson drew his great strength from his hair.  He foolishly shared his secret with Delilah, who had his locks cut in his sleep.  True to his confession, Samson’s supernatural strength was gone.

As a young rock fan, I once identified a lot with Samson.

As soon as I discovered rock and roll, I wanted long hair.  Guys seemed to have so few options to stand out in a crowd.  Looking at the gymnasium during class, it looked like groups of clones.*  Different body types, different heights, but all the same.  No individuality.  I didn’t want to look like that.  Like them.  Like people I shared nothing else with.  I wanted to look like me.

I admired the long hairs that adorned my rock wall of fame.  I thought Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, the blonde straight mullet style, looked best.  I didn’t like Bruce Dickinson’s fringe, and Steve Harris’ curls would never come naturally to me.  That was the thing.  I wanted something that looked natural, not hair that seemed supported by an invisible superstructure like Bon Jovi’s.  Nothing flammable due to excessive use of chemical fixatives.  It had to look effortless – like you woke up that way.

I didn’t want my allegiances to be misidentified.  I wanted it to be obvious:  rock and roll, and only rock and roll.  I didn’t want to walk down the hallway, mistaken for somebody who listened to Duran Duran.  And so, starting in grade nine, I really tried to grow out my hair.

The major issue was, of course, parental guidance.  Dad didn’t like my “long” hair.  It never got that long; a couple inches tops.  Then he would order it to be chopped.  Bob and I sometimes went to the barber together, and we would always request to “leave the back long”.   They’d explain they had to trim the dead ends, and so what we were left with rarely looked “long”.  It did look very, very 80s.

Dad just didn’t understand.  This wasn’t about looking neat and clean and tidy.  It was about looking different from all the clones.  There were very few long-hairs at our school, and once they had some length going, each guy looked different and unique to me.  That’s what I wanted.  Nothing that said “conformity”, but maybe something that said “Def Leppard”.  Who, by the way, had not become the biggest band in the world yet.

The cycle went on for the first three years of highschool.  Grow it, cut it, “leave the back long”.  Eventually I developed a nice mullet that I considered a good start.  This came to an end in late 1989.

It felt like the end of the world.

In October of ’89, my dad insisted it was time to get a job.  He knew the manager at the local grocery store and put in a word.  An interview was set up.  I dutifully went to the mall and checked in at the barber shop.  “Cut it all off,” I said despondently.  None of this “leave the back long” stuff.  Not this time.

I walked out looking like everyone else, self esteem made worse by my new glasses.  Over at the grocery store, I was expected.  “Your hair looks fine,” said the manager.  He had already spoken to my dad, who told him I was just getting a hair cut before the interview.

It was only about 10 minutes before I was welcomed aboard and introduced to new co-workers.  My first day would be the coming Friday.  But before that, I had to make it through a day at school with my new hair.

For the last couple years, I had been co-authoring a sci-fi highscool comic book called Brett-Lore.

I was quite happy with my character, the evil Darth Banger.  Most of my classmates were being lampooned far worse than I.  David Kidd, who was obsessed with drama class, was Emperor Kiddspeare.  Later when we decided to go after him harder, he became the Phantom of the Opera.  My stalker Bobby was Bobby the Hutt.  I got off easy.  Whatever misdeeds he was up to, Darth Banger was always rocking a guitar.  In fact, his starship was a giant Flying V.  He was just a stereotypical metal head, but also leader of the Evil Empire, so I went with it knowing I could have had it so much worse.

When I showed up at school with the new short hair that I was forced to adopt, Brett-Lore had to reflect it.  I couldn’t be Darth Banger anymore.  Because I am Italian, and because I now resembled Mussolini more than Metallica, my character was briefly reborn as Il Duce, the Guido.  Later on, I tried letting my facial hair grow in and suddenly my new character became Beardo-Weirdo.

This was all very depressing to me.  I didn’t care that I had a job.  All I could think about was that I had seemingly lost the only thing that made me different.  Now my ears stuck out.  I looked like everyone else.  And now even my comic book was becoming something I didn’t enjoy anymore.

The one interesting thing about work:  for me, in my life, every job introduced me to new music.  The guys at the grocery store liked heavier music than Motley Crue and Bon Jovi.  They liked Sabbath, and Zeppelin.  As soon as I was able, I added We Sold Out Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll to my collection.  “Sweet Leaf” became my new favourite although I had no idea what it was about.  A girl named Leaf, possibly?

I worked at the grocery store for about nine months, leaving before the start of a busy summer.  The hair started growing back as soon as I could make it.  The Duce character never worked for Brett-Lore, and as soon as I was able, I forced Darth Banger back into the story.  The other authors agreed but under one condition.

Everybody in the comic got teased pretty mercilessly and so I had to pay more dues before Banger was allowed to return.  Il Duce had to be put through hell, and so I drew all sorts of embarrassing shit for him to go through, before he finally transformed back into Darth, this time with a nice single-seater Flying V spaceship to pilot himself.

As my hair grew back, I started to feel like myself again!  I was happier.

It reached record lengths by the early 90s.  But the landscape had changed.  Long hair was more common, and looking unique less easy.  One day my dad made a comment about how he’d pay me $10 per inch if I cut my hair off, so I went and did it.  He didn’t think I would, but I did.  Some of my biggest rocker heroes had shed their locks.  By this time I’d discovered something almost better than hair:  beards.

The fact was, try as I might, I never had “good” long hair.  It always wanted to curl up; get out of control.  Without investing in styling and products, it would never really look “good”.  And that defeated the whole “effortless” idea.  But it took grunge to get me to the point where it didn’t matter to me anymore.

It’s funny how something as superficial as hair took up so much of my time and energy, but the fact is, these things used to matter.  They used to matter a lot!  Maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re in highschool, the grand scheme of things was limited to the walls of the school.  I just wanted to walk my own path my own way.  I think I did OK.

* Later on I wrote a tune about this subject called “Clones”, a bitter examination of all the ball-capped lookalikes in school.

Sunday Chuckle: A hairy situation

I’ve been known to do dumb things on a dare.  Here’s the most recent one.


#767: Just Older

A sequel to Getting More Tale #332:  Getting Older Everyday



GETTING MORE TALE #767: Just Older

Unless you’re a teenager buying booze with your fake ID, nobody likes being mistaken for older than they actually are.

When I was in my 30s, people used to think I was in my 20s.  I looked younger and I dressed younger because I worked at a Record Store and I could get away with it.  I bleached my hair, had piercings, and flashy shirts.  I saw people working at hair salons looking like rock stars so I thought the same could work for me in a Record Store.  Eventually I had a collection of over 30 flashy shirts.  I don’t think my bosses were impressed with my new image, but it was a hit with the ladies.

I loved looking younger than my actual age but all good things come to an end.

After quitting the store I wanted to change my line of work and look more professional.  The fancy shirts went into a closet.  The pleather pants were saved for Halloween.  The hair was toned down.  Eventually it started to go grey.  My beard turned white and I got fat.  It can happen to anyone.

I own the “old man” schtick now, but there is still one thing that I hate.  And I do mean hate.

Mrs. LeBrain is a little younger than me (I’m a 1972 model and she’s a 1978), but not by a significant difference.  Where she wins is a natural youthful look.  People always mistake her for someone much younger.  She loves being asked for ID.  That kind of thing makes her day.  What pisses me off is when people mistake me for her father!  And it keeps happening!

I took Jen to the hospital to have some tests done (no worries, all good) and had about an hour to kill.  I had an mp3 player loaded up with Kiss.  Because Heavy Metal OverloRd had been talking about Hotter Than Hell (a personal favourite and among the first Kiss records I ever owned), I decided to take a nice morning walk while listening to that album.  When done I progressed onward to Rock and Roll Over.  It was a lovely morning filled with cool summer breezes, trainspotting, and Paul Stanley at his peak.

I got back in good time and soon a nurse called to tell me Jen was all set to go.  She led me to her bed, and I saw a big bright smile on her face.  It’s the smile that keeps me going every day.  “Hi ‘dad’!” she said grinning.  I was confused.  Did she have a seizure?  Was she really mistaking me for her dad?

No, she was playing around.  The nurse asked if she wanted them to call “her father” to come and get her.  Me being her father!  Jesus Murphy….

I hate, hate, hate being mistaken for her father!  I didn’t even have my big white beard!

I’ll let it slide because those nurses did a great job as always, but c’mon!

I looked exactly like the guy in the photograph below.  I don’t think he looks old enough to be Jen’s dad, do you?

The hat, maybe?  The day I took Jen to the hospital I was wearing a Van Halen T-shirt and camo shorts with shoes and socks.

I have since shed the locks; a mixture of “shit brown” (my dad’s words) and grey highlights.  I now rock the bald head again, but do I look any younger?  I don’t think so.

It’s a game I just can’t win!  Though it doesn’t really matter does it?  Jen prefers me with less hair, and it’s a lot less work.  I was just keeping it long just to have long hair at Sausagefest for once.  I enjoyed that (it also kept my neck from getting burned), but long hair doesn’t feel nice in the summer time.  It’s time to go back to what feels good!

I have a birthday coming up this week, but I’m not old.  Just older!


Sunday Chuckle: I Got Nothin’

Sorry folks, I got nothin’ for this week’s Sunday Chuckle. So instead here’s a picture of a goofy face and bed head.

#494: I Think I’m Going Bald

GETTING MORE TALE #494: I Think I’m Going Bald
(a sequel to #488: Almost Cut My Hair)

A short while back, we took a look at popular hair styles in different genres of music.  One hair style we ignored, because it really knows no boundaries, is the old fashioned bald head, or the “Jean-Luc” as the kids call it today.*

When I was a young fella discovering rawk at the dawn of the 1980’s, I hadn’t seen any bald rock stars that impressed me.  Now my first musical love truly was John Williams, and he was bald.  Hard rock at the beginning of the 80’s wasn’t like that.  There was…a uniform.  Unless you were Rob Halford, Paul Di’Anno or Udo Dirkschneider, part of that uniform was having long hair to thrash about.

The only bald rockers I had seen included one rare picture of Bob Kulick, brother of Bruce, and the bass player from Blotto. I didn’t like Blotto: they also had a short haired geek with thick rimmed glasses on guitar. So, by extension, I didn’t like bald heads in rock!

Then grunge came, and long hair was no longer a “thing”. Then, even worse, our mortal rock stars began aging! How was this possible? There was no time to consider the thought, as one by one, rock stars shaved their heads completely: Rob Halford, Kerry King, Scott Ian, Billy Corgan, Joe Satriani, hell even Billy fucking Joel has lost the curls and gone cue-ball!

There’s nothing wrong with the bald head, obviously I have learned this now. I myself have rocked the bald look on and off for about 15 years now. Most people don’t do it on and off, but I’ve been blessed with a full head of hair (thanks mom’s side of the family!), and I shave it for convenience and to look tougher than I already am. Seriously though, there’s nothing better than having a shower, jumping in your clothes and heading right to work without worrying about hair. There’s nothing better to beat the heat in the summer either.

Now, funny thing. My mom and my wife both think I am going actually bald. They tell me my hairline is receding. What they don’t know is that my hairline started receding at age 16. Then it stopped and never started receding again! I have the exact same hairline I had at 16, only nobody believes me, because at 16 I was trying to hide that by growing it out!  It has not moved one centimetre since highschool, and that’s a fact, Jack!

This being summer time, I have shaved it all off once again.  This is the closest you may ever see to a picture of “topless LeBrains” here.

Who are your favourite bald rockers? Do you favour Sinead O’Connor for her fearless 80’s buzz cut? Do you call it a tie between Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel? There are so many epically talented bald rockers (not looking at you, Chris Daughtry) today that it truly is hard to choose.

* Not really, but a better name than the “Bieber” which was the name of an actual fucking hair cut.



#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.