Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve looked at songs about clothing and shoes, and now I turn my attention to hair (and to a lesser extent, hats). The simple act of a haircut can drastically change an appearance, as can the wearing of a hat, of course.
/The World Was A Mess But His Hair Was Perfect
/Tuesday Ten/Ready to Wear
But in addition, the changing of such stylings can be a temporary thing. It could be just a wig, it could be cut again tomorrow. My own hair hasn’t really changed a lot for some time – it’s either short and generally spiked, as it is now, or shaved off as it was during the full lockdown earlier in the year, and I’m now well on the way to going fully grey. Once upon a time I dyed my hair various colours, but that was a long time ago, and I have no plans to do so again now…
There were some great suggestions for this post. 130 suggestions in total were made, with just six of those used before. There were 105 unique songs suggested by 63 people, and as ever, thanks to everyone who got involved.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Prince & The Revolution
/Around The World In A Day
Prince’s two albums between the colossi that are Purple Rain and Sign O’ The Times are oft-forgotten, but between them contain at least two of his greatest singles at least – Kiss, and this. Around The World In A Day had a curiously laid-back, psychedelic feel, and nowhere was that clearer than on this glorious single, where he tells a story of a leisurely shop-worker who is captivated by, and then has a brief summer love affair with, a striking woman identified by her ever-present raspberry beret. Hats are one of those clothing items that can transform an outfit, and often become iconic, of course, and this song’s item is very much one of those. (Talking of clothing, by the way, the blue-sky-and-cloud suit Prince wears in the video for this is something else).
Faithless have only ever appeared in this series the once (on 139/Music Daisy Loves…And I Don’t.), as they’ve never really been my bag, but it fits neatly here. A more laid-back sounding track than their big club hits, but the dark story it tells is interesting. A youth who gets jumped on a dark street, losing his baseball cap along the way, and then is pleaded with by family not to seek retribution by way of violence, just for the loss of a replaceable baseball cap…
It also reminds me that I’ve never been a happy hat wearer – having struggled for many years to ever find one that suits me. But in recent years, I have had a Chicago Cubs baseball cap that has come in useful in the summer. Thankfully, mind, I’ve never been mugged for it, at least.
/I’ve Got An Ape Drape
/Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
Hats come in useful for certain hairstyles, though. Like the mullet, where it’s all business at the front, and party at the back – sometimes known as hockey hair, too – and has been co-opted by some hipsters as an “ironic” statement. The ever-entertaining pop-punk band The Vandals did a hilarious song about the style, taking the view that they couldn’t give a fuck about what other people’s hairstyles looked like, while also giving us some new colloquial terms for mullets along the way…
/Cut Your Hair
/Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
The much-celebrated Pavement also had a glorious, summery song on the subject of hair, but here, it was all about validation, and whether it’s really required or not. Amid the vocal harmonies and sing-a-long moments, Stephen Malkmus protests to an unknown person that they don’t need to change – like a drastic haircut – just to impress someone else, as they are fine as they are, before pivoting the song into addressing accusations of “selling out” that the band were facing at the time – was the idea of cutting hair one of accusations of changing their image to fit MTV norms? That said, this song did have a fantastic and hilarious, memorable video…
/Never Fight A Man With A Perm
/Joy as an Act of Resistance.
One of the brilliant aspects of IDLES’ hyper-masculine, powerful punk-rock has been their determination not to just be like everyone else, instead addressing issues of toxic masculinity in particular as well as social change, and this song does this as well as being an entertaining character sketch. Here the scene is a bar, with the protagonist unwisely squaring up – and shouting his mouth out – against an apparently gigantic man who will likely beat him to a pulp. The hook and title is perhaps one piece of advice here – never fight a man with a perm. That said, male perms are long out of fashion, perhaps, having long been parodied by the likes of Harry Enfield…
The post-reformation album from LCD Soundsystem pretty much picked up where James Murphy left off the first time around, full of smart, entertaining songs that asked searching questions, and was, too, all-too-self-aware about the perils of getting old. The penultimate song on the album is this excellent, urgent song, where Murphy considers how you see yourself, and how others see you, especially when you make a major change like a radical haircut. Do others actually care as much as you think they do? I suspect not…
/Begin to Hope
Samson‘s reputed power and immense strength came with a catch – if his long hair were to be cut, he’d lose his strength, and after being betrayed, regains it and gains spectacular revenge in death. Regina Spektor has her Samson, and amid an apparently sweet-natured ballad, she spends time with her lover, who instead of allowing him to lose more of it, cuts his hair and…he still loves her. I’ve seen some comments to suggest that this is dealing with a partner with cancer, and I can see that. This is a song of deep, deep love, a tale of two people who get through everything together, whatever is thrown at them.
/Afro (Freestyle Skit)
This striking neo-soul voice has been a prominent feature of the musical landscape way back into the nineties, her debut album in particular, Baduizm, being an extraordinary, both forward and backwards-looking work that seemed to be just as comfortable being a foot into the future as it was digging deep into Badu’s musical past. Aside from a few mixtapes, mind, Badu hasn’t released much in recent years but made headlines for some poorly-received comments on a number of subjects a couple of years back.
Anyway, this smoky, short ballad deals with the Afro, a hairstyle popular in the Afro-American communities in the 60s and 70s, and has continued to this day. The song is reputedly about ?uestlove of The Roots, who was involved in producing this album and appears to be both a friendly nod and a diss in equal measure…
It’s amazing to think that the INXS album X could be considered a relative failure when it sold a few million, but against the mighty success of the predecessor Kick, which sold over twenty million in the end, it probably was. That said, it still had some outstanding singles, especially the striking Suicide Blonde (perhaps most notable for the sampled blues harp motif used in the song). I didn’t realise that the term suicide blonde is actually a pun: “dyed by her own hand”. Arf.
/Five Colours In Her Hair
/Room on the 3rd Floor
I make no apologies whatsoever for featuring this pop-rock boy band, as the song celebrates a subject I’m more than familiar with. This song – unusually for a boy band song, perhaps, celebrates the “alternative” type, in this case, a teenage girl who dyes her hair vivid colours, and doesn’t care that she looks “different”. I know an awful lot of people who’ve long left their teens that still have that kind of look, and indeed I married such a woman – and in the nearly-sixteen years we’ve been together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her hair look even remotely its natural hair colour. In fact, right now, her hair is a spectacular kaleidoscope of pinks, purples and turquoises, and just yesterday a young girl came up to her just to say how much in awe she was of her hair…