Suspicious Minds

The immortal question Who has the best hair in the history of rock 'n' roll? Part 2:

Jim DeRogatis, author of Kaleidoscope Eyes: Psychedelic Rock From the '60s to the '90s: "Forty years of rock history, 40 years of inimitable hair. Jerry Lee Lewis, George Clinton, King Buzzo, various B-52's -- how to choose one do? Ultimately, I subscribe to Lester Bangs' notion that 'Fashion is fascism, style is originality.' And so my vote goes to Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil -- lousy music, I know, but a great solution to having the right hair."

Stanley Booth, author of The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones: "The best rock 'n' roll haircut of all time was my grandfather's mohawk in 1928. He lived in a little town called Waresboro, Georgia, and he went to the Methodist church. He got the haircut maybe on a bet for the express purpose of driving those Methodists out of their skulls. I think it foreshadowed the punk movement and the whole trend in Western culture towards deliberate obnoxiousness."

John Corbett, author of Extended Play: "The contest is a draw between two great mounds of hair:

"1) George Clinton, master hair designer, himself one-time proprietor of Uptown Tonsorial Hair Salon, he of the fluorescent extensions and post-Mr. T. shave job. Just look at his head -- he knows how to do the do.

"2) Wayne Cochran, Harley-hoppin', blond-pompadour-stylin' rocker. Who else would have the follicles to immortalize their disembodied hairpiece on an album cover? None but King C.C. Rider."

Terri Sutton, critic for Spin and the Minneapolis City Pages: "I like Willie Nelson's unreconstructed wavy gray ponytail because it -- like his songs -- has survived any number of bizarre covers and fashionable trends and still retains an essential funk. That earthy do may also be the reason both me and my suburban mom (who's two years younger than him and looks older by a decade) think the guy's so damn cute: No need to free Willie."

Simon Anderson, professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago: "John Lennon, when he cut it all off himself. It must have been in '71, '72 -- it was after the Beatles broke up, anyway. One day he and Yoko appeared with the most brutal haircuts. Obviously, he'd just gone at it himself with a pair of scissors. And at that moment I understood the semiotics of hair."

Steven Martin, director of Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey: "After giving it a lot of thought, I figured it would have to be George Harrison because he was the first guy to have really long hair. I don't know if he has some sort of weird metabolism or what, but I've never seen anyone whose hair grew as fast as his. And having red hair when David Bowie showed up, I thought, 'Hoo-ray, red hair comes of age.' "

Rennie Sparks, free-lance writer and member of the Handsome Family: "I always loved the Bangles -- a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. There was something for everyone, which was kind of inspiring for all us girls. Everyone loves a choice."

Will Hermes, arts editor for City Pages: "While I've always been moved by pompadours -- not for their greasy togetherness but for the way a single slick clump or clumps will dislodge during moments of great rhythmic passion -- I plead a case for dreadlocks. Not those trendy pencil-length and pencil-thin jobbers, but the fat down-the-back skeins that look like braids of fine dried cannabis and which, on the head of a pro, can be made to swing in counterpoint to whatever groove the band may be working. Yeah, there's the cultural issue, and before I moved out to the Midwest I always thought white guys with dreads looked ridiculous; and of course back in my old stomping grounds in Brooklyn, dreadlocked Caucasians would've no doubt got stomped down on Utica Avenue. But cultural signifiers have a way of getting recontextualized fast in the music marketplace. Dave Pirner, for instance, always got a lot of mileage out of his hair, even when his anthems were failing, and managed to wear them without too much cultural dissonance. Too bad he's cut 'em back recently; hope it's not a Samson sorta thing."

By Sarah Vowell
svowell@aol.com

 
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