Thursday, July 14, 2016

Think about it. If Francois Hollande has a round- the-clock hairdresser, so does your rock hero

Mark Ellen, Paul Du Noyer, Zoe Howe and I were in Harrogate last week, plugging our books at the local literary festival (and, as you can see, admiring the display in the local Waterstone’s).

Over dinner the evening before we debated that greatest of all rock & roll mysteries, greater even than the unanswered question of who wrote the Book Of Love; how come all the senior superstars of rock still have hair?

There are exceptions. Pete Townshend. James Taylor. A few others. But they are exceptions.

The Rolling Stones, McCartney, Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart all appear to still have tons of the stuff and some of them won’t see seventy again.

It only makes sense if you recognise the fact that hanging on to their hair is not a question of preference; it's a professional imperative. Mark remembered asking Rod Stewart how long he would keep on doing it and he said “as long as I have the barnet”.

This wasn't just a flip comment. This was Rod speaking from the heart. You cannot sing “Maggie May” with a receding hairline. It simply can’t be done. The audience will take one look at you and know that both you and they are fooling themselves.

We were thinking about our experience backstage at big shows, how every last detail of the performance is the responsibility of somebody, how it’s planned better than a military operation (whereas no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, a rock show is a nightly battle where the outcome is guaranteed); is it possible, we thought, that there aren’t people back there whose job it is to make sure that the hair of the stars is not seen to its very best advantage, even if that means outright fakery?

We decided that was unlikely, particularly since we’ve been watching the hairlines of the stars of the sixties and seventies recede, halt and then mysteriously advance again.

And now that I’ve just read that Francois Hollande, the French President, put his ownhairdresser on staff, at a cost to the taxpayer of ten thousand Euros a month, I’m even more convinced that there has to be an entire army of colorists, camouflage experts, blow driers and titivators employed to keep us from seeing the uncovered domes of those we are pleased to call rock heroes.

After all rock, like football management, is a business that’s about one thing above all. Hair.


  1. Wayne Rooney never seemed to mind going a tad thin on top. Or am I thinking of somebody else?

  2. “Professional imperative”: yes.

    I realized only recently that Duke Ellington in his later years was managing a combover of near-Trumpian ambitions. You can see it in photographs from the 1960s on. Here he is in 1966 with Tony Bennett (whose hair even then was not his own):

  3. Re The Stones. Keith's hair is receding and he doesn't dye it any more.

  4. You find it curious, David, that a seemingly disproportionate number of senior rockers have generous locks but, in the picture that you've chosen to accompany the piece, all three gentleman are sporting fine heads of hair. I make that 100% of that particular sample...unless there's something you want to tell us...

  5. Nobody is more keenly aware of this than Rod. Chapter 3 of his book is given over totally to his barnet. ''The hair is part of the job. It's my signature: a convenient shorthand for me and what I do and, if you will, a logo for the business.'

  6. Can I be the first to note the wisdom in the old saying "hair today, gone tomorrow "?

  7. "Can I be the first to note the wisdom in the old saying "hair today, gone tomorrow "?

    Or as Popeye had it, "Hair today goon tomorrow".

    Does Phil Collins qualify in any of the "Rock" departments?

  8. it has been a long term theory expounded by myself and other friends that rock stars don't lose their hair in view of the huge amounts of drugs they reputedly took in their youth. OK, there are some exceptions there (that's why its just a theory) such as James Taylor and no doubt you will nominate others.....

  9. I think McCartney's remnants are very carefully coiffured. These guys should an Ian Anderson, and embrace the loss.

  10. Has there ever been a photograph of David Bowie taken without him having an immaculate barnet? yet further proof of rock god status!