Any long-term follower of discussions in the Hall will note the ongoing importance of discussing Look as a factor in the success of musical acts. Today, we’re exploring a lesser known but nonetheless important Look phenomenon: The Rhythm Beard.
The following images are not close to a comprehensive collection of rock ‘n roll beards, but see how you can do with the following identification game.
Which rocker sported rock’s most unexpected beard? I think it’s important to determine this…once and for all.
What if Bryan Ferry continued with his 1978-era beard? How might rock history have been changed?
Need more evidence of the potential effects of Bearded Ferry?
Mick Jagger, acknowledged by even straight guys as one of the Sexiest Men in Rock (and yes, even sexier than Chris Squire) – not to mention among the coolest, in his prime, has nevertheless committed some of the most egregious Rock Crimes in history, many of them involving poor choices in fashion.
Early Jagger, when his hair was merely shaggy and he was supported by an energetic Keef and a silken-haired Brian, was nothing but cool. Even when he looked like he’d just gotten the shit kicked out of him in one of those “kitchen-sink dramas” of England’s early ’60s film movement (eg, any film based on a story by Allan Sillitoe and/or involving Tony Richardson), he looked as comfortable in his clothes as in his skin. He was so cool, in fact, that he made an Oxford shirt and sweater smolder. In 1964, not even a proto-mullet could bring the man down.
I don’t think Jagger had a bad rock fashion day until he and his mates attempted to jump onto the psychedelia craze. Although this 1967 Look is not a terrible Look by any musician’s standards, it’s among the first signs of Mick’s worst fashion impulses. Although Mick’s flirtations with androgyny are a key facet to his Rock Superpowers, the bright colors, silken fabrics, and general blousy-ness of the psychedelic era would bring out his inner-Linda Richman. No one asked for a Rock ‘n Roll “Babs.”
Although psychedelia wasn’t the best fit for Mick, it was some of his stage wear for the initially aborted Rock ‘n Roll Circus event that first fully crossed the Egregious Fashion Faux Pas Line. Nothing says “smacked ass” like Mick Jagger in a top hat.
When he wanted to – or needed to – Jagger could always recover from his most egregious fashion faux pas to date by throwing on a stylish suit. In 1971, for instance, following this disastrous Look, Mick went formal to great effect. His new bride’s choice in bridal wear didn’t hurt matters. (It should be noted, however, that the ill-fitting, mustard jacket worn on his second wedding day to an equally oversized-bride may have been Mick’s most egregious fashion faux pas in terms of formal wear.)
Do you agree this is enough background reading? Let’s get to the heart of the matter!
Once and for all…What is Mick Jagger’s Most Egregious Fashion Faux Pas?
Contenders surely include the following:
The Beatles‘ “Penny Lane” b/w “Strawberry Fields Forever” single is rightfully acknowledged as one of the finest pairings of songs ever committed to 7 inches of vinyl. What’s less often acknowledged is the band’s landmark display of facial hair, as presented on the promotional films for each song. Although rock facial hair had already been in bloom in the rock underground, John, Paul, George, and Ringo busted out an astounding array of complimentary moustaches (and one Van Dyke) to support their dazzling new sonic achievements. Paul will forever get his share of grief for being the most ambitious and glib of the Fab Four to reach old age, but along with all the praise due to his musical abilities, let’s not forget to recognize the perfection of the man Sgt. Pepper’s-era ‘stache.
While The Beatles were experimenting with mind-expanding sounds and drugs – and fashion-expanding facial hair – The Rolling Stones were searching for an appropriate response. Their Satanic Majesties Request was such a poor attempt at psychedelia that they would be bested in their efforts to follow the times by the likes of The Four Seasons‘ Genuine Imitation Life. I’m not kidding, and Frankie Valli and the boys put their thick, dark Italian follicles to great use, helping to launch the overlooked genre of Goatee Rock. The best the Stones could manage was Brian Jones‘ fabulous mutton chops.
I say Levon Helm. Well groomed without looking fussed over. Variegated tones. The beard’s best feature may be its fantastic mustache-to-beard definition. Unlike some of the fine, gimmick-free beards that Eric Clapton, for example, has sported, Helm’s beard did not filter or otherwise aid or interfere with his singing.
Next, a look at Levon’s beard in its prime – in action! – getting a run for its money from Richard Manuel‘s pre-hobo beard.