Nov 172010

In a recent comment Townsman alexmagic, always one of the Hall’s finest conceptualists/commentators if not the Main Stage trailblazer we all know he could be (we’ll chalk it up to humility), hinted at his desire to discuss a Once and For All topic that developed from a “weird haircut experience,” in which, as he puts it:

…someone was playing a Stones collection that only had late-period songs on it…

The Once and For All topic is this: Reissues, remixes and live songs excluded, what is the best Rolling Stones single from 1984 on? It is crucial that we settle this issue, which has been implied on numerous rock discussion blogs through the years but not once tackled head on!

The broader, possibly more telling topic that needs to be discussed, however, is that of the rock-themed weird haircut experience. I’m sure I’m not the only one curious to know the details of The Magic Man’s rock-themed weird haircut experience, and because I’ve had two of my own rock-themed weird haircut experiences I know alexmagic is not alone in having such an experience. It’s likely you’ve had one too. These experiences usually aren’t discussed in polite circles, so FUCK YOU – let’s drop all pretense of being polite and come clean. I’m sure we’ll find the trading of our experiences extremely healing. Then we can go back to watching what we say at the dinner table.

I’ll start:

I know I’ve recounted one if not both of my rock-themed weird haircut experiences before. One was from my young teen years, circa 1977, involving the grooming of my then-feathered ‘do in a “unisex” hair salon that was decked out in shag carpets, love beads, velvet, and ferns and owned by a seemingly gay, bearded guy in skin-tight designer jeans whose raspy voice would eventually be stolen by Harvey Fierstein who, to my constant surprise, talked sotto voce to the other stylist about nothing but how much coke he snorted and how many women he banged the night before. Oh, the rock-themed aspect of that story had to do with his great taste in ’70s soul music, always playing either Philadelphia’s legendary soul station, WDAS, or the latest album by Teddy Pendergrass, Millie Jackson, or some other heavy-breathing soul singer of the time. Haircuts at that place were a real education!

In 1984, of all years, I used to get my hair cut at a shop in little shop in Center City Philadelphia with a neon sign with “new wave” lettering (the place may have even been called “New Wave,” come to think of it). The woman who cut my hair was a tall, red-headed goth girl with her hair teased out about as long as her legs. I don’t think I’d ever had a conversation with a hot goth girl before. This woman was smokin’ – very educational in her own right! All the while, as my heart’s pounding while she’s working on my kind of neo-’60s ‘do, music from that Adrian Sherwood scene is playing in the background. The stuff’s pretty cool, especially when I had the good fortune to get high prior to my appointment.  Further in the background, at the corner near the front of the shop, stood the shop’s owner, with a shaved head, silver-opaque horn-rimmed glasses, and wearing a grey Nehru suit. The character Dr. Evil did not yet exist, so I was reminded of a more severe version of Frippertronics-era Robert Fripp.  I’m pretty sure he was the woman’s boyfriend/master. Here I was high, horny, and digging this weird music with Evil Fripp in the corner, watching his woman’s every move, making sure our small talk got no further than I’d hoped it might get me. I would never get my kicks from dangerous sex acts, but if I did that scene had the makings of the perfect dangerous erotic adventure.

Anyhow, to tie this back to the Once and For All issue, the woman and I never had the opportunity to discuss our favorite Rolling Stones song from 1984 forward, but had we met up in 1989, I believe, I would have agreed with misterioso and said “Mixed Emotions,” from Steel Wheels.

All right, alexmagic, why don’t you help open the healing floodgates on the repressed rock haircut issue. Thanks!


  32 Responses to “Once and For All: What Is the Best Rolling Stones Single from 1984 (and While You’re At It, Why Don’t You Come Clean With Your Rock-Themed Weird Haircut Experience)?”

  1. misterioso

    Looking over the list of Stones singles since 1984 (and realizing that at some point the whole notion of a single becomes anachronistic), it seems to me that they have generally been chosen on the basis of what they think that people think sounds most like a great Stones song. Which is not the same thing as an actual great Stones song.

  2. Isn’t this issue too important to discuss solely in terms of singles? Shouldn’t we open it up to all new Stones songs released since 1984, excluding reissues, live songs, and scraps from Exile on Main Street?

  3. misterioso

    Um, not if that implies ever listening to Dirty Work again, no.

  4. I was at a Joan Jet show when I made a drunken pact to shave my head. The next day I went so some really busted up, old man barber shop to honor my commitment. At the end of the haircut, the guy took out some weird mechanical contraption, stuck it on his hand and started massaging my neck. He didn’t speak English so I just sat there, hungover and awkwardly waiting for it to be over. The head shaving turned out to be a particularly bad idea because, as luck would have it, my head is somewhat misshapen.

    I’ll go with the semi-retarded She Was Hot

  5. I tried listening to Dirty Work recently because of the Keef book — One Hit (To the Body), anyone? I tried to like that when it came out. “Too Rude” which they didn’t write is probably the best song on that record.

    Maybe Mixed Emotions? Really, I can’t get excited about anything since Some Girls, if I am honest. Just to put it on and listen, that’s where I stop.

  6. mockcarr

    Man, the soundtracks to the haircuts I’ve gotten probably featured Bobby Vinton’s greatest hits, 80s music featuring gated drums, and even more often Vietnamese pop music softly complimenting the little fountain all those places sport, but ain’t none of it been ROCK. I go about as long as I can between haircuts, since I no longer receive lollipops. Any “rock” sort of hair I’ve had was corrected by those folks.

    I cop out on the Stones, since I gave up on anything new by them thirty years ago.

  7. It will be disqualified, but nothing the Stones did after ’84 measures up to “Locked Away” from Talk is Cheap.

    Haircut? I once had to listen to all of William Hung’s ( CD while having a trim at the Chop Shop.

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    For me, all those late-period Stones trackkkkkssss are etched in my brain as videos. So, I’ll go with “She Was Hot” ’cause of the redhead with gigantic jugs in it — and that stupid song about revolutions in central America because it’s just about the dumbest Stones video ever. Which makes it required Stones trainwreck viewing.

    The only haircut story I have has nothing to do with rock — but I did once get a haircut from a Korean lady who, during the hairwash portion of the event, proceeded to massage my noggin LIKE IT WAS A BIG DICK. I mean that literally; it was bizarre — no *way* it could have been by accident. The question was, as I sat there crossing and uncrossing my legs, trying to hide, did this late-40s Korean woman have something special for *me*, or did all men get the rub-his-head-like-a-big-dick treatment?

    I’d make a joke about the big tip I left her, but you all would get the wrong idea.

  9. I don’t know how anyone can hope to follow that story. Wow.

  10. 2000 Man

    I can’t offer much in terms of haircuts, other than one of the girls that cut my hair when I was in high school turned up at a party we were having and I was the youngest person there, and all the guys that were there found her quite irresistible. When they pulled out the Pass Out game, she picked me to be her partner and told me, “Just don’t tell your mom!” It was really cool of her, and I got so many cool points with that older crowd thanks to her. I got invited to some really cool places, and no, she never did anything freaky to me on my head or anywhere else, though I certainly would have participated, willingly!

    I’ve given it some thought, and man, The Stones; post 84 singles are weak. I think I like Highwire the best of the bunch. It sounded like they meant it, the song has good sounding guitars, and since the first Iraq war lasted hours instead of years, it didn’t get overplayed, that’s for sure. Toss in the swell B side of a live version of 2000 Light Years From Home and you get a pretty good single.

  11. I know that extended remixes were disallowed, but I particularly like the 12″ version of that stupid song about revolutions in central America, Undercover of the Night, because it has a huge sound reminiscent of Sly and Robbie’s rockier side. I’d pick that one.

  12. I don’t know what I’m digging more: the haircut stories or the post-1984 Stones entries. Can I take the Wilson Choice? Keep ’em coming, and alexmagic, you better give us the details on your haircut story.

  13. jeangray

    Not even “Sleep Tonight” off of Dirty Work? Keef & Waits on vocals, a match made in Hell. Genius!

  14. jeangray

    “Mixed Emotions” while indeed not lacking in charms, sounds like the Starship version of the Stones. All of my fave post ’84 songs are Keef’s.

    “Undercover” came out in ’83. A technicality.

  15. Shoot, I never heard that. I love their vocal blend on “That Feel” from Bone Machine.

  16. I hope that you know that it was not your fault. You did nothing wrong that day. Perhaps we should start a Survivors of Cranial Abuse support group.

  17. alexmagic

    On the subject of the Stones – I was discussing this topic with Oats a few weeks back as a potential topic, and I was sure the answer was “Mixed Emotions”, as early voting here seemed to show (though we’ve had some late contenders). Oats, however, was adamant that I was wrong and all but said I was an idiot for thinking the way I did. I’ll note that his choice for the best post-’84 Stones single has yet to be mentioned.

    I limited the initial discussion to singles because, prior to this decade, the Stones did receive pretty heavy airplay and very heavy video rotation every time they put out a single, so it was something they were certainly aware of and put some work into. I specifically threw in the “no remixes, reissues or live songs” caveat just so nobody could cop out and throw in a reissue of a good older song or some archival material. I’d actually say that geo’s Undercover remix – which I don’t think I’ve heard – could be considered for contention, if we’re going by the spirit of the question.

    Two follow-up questions for my fellow “Mixed Emotions” backers: If we assume Mixed Emotions is the best post-’84 Stones single, how far back can it hold on to its title? I’d say Mixed Emotions is better than One Hit To the Body, Harlem Shuffle, She Was Hot and Undercover, but not as good as Hang Fire.

    Second, is there anything particularly good or “Stones-y” about Mixed Emotions that makes it relatively better than the likes of One Hit To The Body, Rock and a Hard Place or You Got Me Rocking? Or does it win the day, as it rightfully should, on the strength of Mick’s workout ensemble from the Mixed Emotions video?

    Finally, on the subject of weird haircut experiences, I suppose I may have just worded things poorly. My haircut experience was completely normal other than the confusion of hearing several late-period Stones songs in a row. I couldn’t then – and still can’t – figure out what they had on that was playing all of those songs, as I don’t think there’s even a compilation with all of them.

    I was going to come up with a fake story so I wouldn’t let the Mod down, but now I feel like that would be in bad taste since it seems like cdm is so close to a breakthrough on what sounds like a repressed abuse memory.

    cdm: Something happened at the Joan Jett concert. Something strange, something terrible, something that your subconscious repurposed as a “drunken pact” and “weird mechanical contraption” in order to protect you. But I think it would truly healing if you were able to dig deeper. Please know that we are all here for you.

  18. I can’t, I just can’t… the shame…

  19. mockcarr

    Perhaps she misunderstood the term “giving head”.

  20. The song i mentioned to Alexmagic was “Saint of Me,” which in my memory has a fun gospel-ish energy and fairly committed Jagger vocal. But this is a pretty dispiriting exercise. Pretty much every Stones single from this time period is uninspired yet competent hit craft at best. I’d definitely agree their output of this era is way below McCartney’s and Dylan’s. But that’s what you get when you release albums just for a reason to get back on the road and make shitloads of money.

  21. If we assume Mixed Emotions is the best post-’84 Stones single, how far back can it hold on to its title? I’d say Mixed Emotions is better than One Hit To the Body, Harlem Shuffle, She Was Hot and Undercover, but not as good as Hang Fire.

    My knowledge of Stones recordings other than singles past “Waiting on a Friend” is thankfully lacking, but I’d say you have to go back to “Waiting on a Friend” to find a better single.

    As for your second question, I honestly can’t recall all the details of how “Mixed Emotions” goes – the chorus, I know, is only OK. Why I rank it so high among the post-1983 competition is the way it hangs on that one chord (an E?) and the way the bass hangs with the chord and plays “above the rim” during the beginning of the opening verse. Those details alone kick ass in my book.

    Thanks for sharing all this stuff, Magic Man.

  22. misterioso

    First of all, these haircut stories are too much. What I was missing, I guess, all those formative years when my hair was cut by the same old Greek guy.

    Here is the (admittedly, far from strong or airtight) case make for Mixed Emotions–even acknowledging, painfully, the accuracy of jeangray’s point about this sounding like the Starship version of the Stones and Alexmagic’s reminder about Mick’s workout ensemble in the video.

    The song’s basic hook (not much of a riff there to speak of) works for me. The lyric is ok but scores points for not incessantly calling attention to the “rockiness” of the song (cf. Rock and a Hard Place, You Got Me Rocking) or some bullshit “bad boy” conceit (cf. She Was Hot, One Hit to the Body, Love Is Strong, etc., etc.) It must then be admitted that the video, especially, if not the song itself, plays on the no less bullshit notion of Mick and Keef, pally-wally soul mates even after all they’ve been through, etc., etc. The video is a plus and a minus in the overall assessment of the song: minuses have been noted, but the pluses, I suppose, are that it is one of the last times the band looked like a band (Bill Wyman, present!) and not yet hopelessly decrepit (which is funny in retrospect given how decrepit they must have looked at the time).

    Yeah, pretty compelling case I’m building here, I can feel everyone lining up behind this one. Sigh. Well, Saint of Me is okay, too.

  23. I have another rock and roll hair cut story, albeit one lacking a cranial molestation angle.

    I have gotten my haircut several times by Billy “the Percolator” Harner. Perk had a regional hit in the late 60’s with Sally’s Saying Something:

    He’s still in South Jersey if you need a trim and a story for this thread.

  24. Is the “Mixed Emotions” video where Keith’s “no-hands” move first appears? I also recall an especially high amount of Keith-and-Ronnie-smirking shots.

    the pluses, I suppose, are that it is one of the last times the band looked like a band (Bill Wyman, present!) and not yet hopelessly decrepit

    I actually seem to recall a little bit of controversy regarding how white Charlie’s hair was in this video. Wyman, of course, looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, doing something unspeakable and perverted. Possibly with a metal detector.

    My main issue with the song is its winking meta-corporate-rock-ness. The whole song is about, hey Mick and Keith don’t get along, but they’re gonna get the boys back together and make a go for it anyway! By the way, buy some extravagantly priced tickets to our elaborate, beer-sponsored stadium show. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some seats where you can see a tiny, florescent-colored stick figure that could be Mick Jagger!

    Hey Mr. Mod, can you post that classic picture of Billy Harner from RTH Chess?

  25. misterioso

    “My main issue with the song is its winking meta-corporate-rock-ness. The whole song is about, hey Mick and Keith don’t get along, but they’re gonna get the boys back together and make a go for it anyway! ”

    What can I say, that’s spot on. And yet it is my favorite post-1984 Stones single. Which says something.

  26. I pass his shop at least once a week. I’m so tempted to stop in, but I can’t sacrifice my hair, not even for rock ‘n roll, not even for Rock Town Hall.

  27. alexmagic, driving home from soccer practice tonight my son and I were listening to some nightly Stones feature on the Classic Rock station. First we hears a couple of oldies that I always love, then they played “Hang Fire.” As the song started up I complained, “They’ve gotta play this one?” My son said, “You’re too hard on the Stones. Their worst songs are better than most band’s best songs.”

  28. cherguevara

    Does the cover of Harlem Shuffle count?

    When I was in 2nd grade, my family went to the Folk Fair in Philly, not to be confused with the Folk Festival. The Folk Fair was at the Civic Center, with stands all over the floor, representing different countries, a food court of sorts and two dance performances a day. It was there that a hairdresser named Assunta was giving out coupons for free haircuts.

    A few days later, there I am in her chair, with my 70’s bowl haircut, she asks what to do, I tell her to trim it. She shows me some photo and says, “I could do that” and I say “ok.” Where was my mom during this? I don’t know. When the haircut was finished, my parents said I looked like Sid Vicious. I remember going to school and when my best friend saw me, he stopped about ten feet away, burst out laughing and pointed at me in disbelief.

  29. hrrundivbakshi

    Oats said:

    Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some seats where you can see a tiny, florescent-colored stick figure that could be Mick Jagger!

    I say:


  30. BigSteve

    Wise beyond his years.

  31. I’ll Go “One Hit To The Body”.. for single and would have said “Wanna Hold You” for album track, but Undercover came out in ’83…so it’s “The Worst” from Voodoo Lounge.

    I liked Mixed Emotions when it came out, but that Steel Wheels record does not hold up for me. (I prefer Dirty Work)

    New Answer! Like A Rolling Stone – the single from “stripped”

  32. ..or Love Is Strong

    I forgot about that one

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