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Coping With Hair Loss The Pop Star Way

Brave Brave Baldies

Article from Making Music, January 1987

Famous rock star people will go a long way to conceal their gleaming domes. These are the tricks, follicle fans.

Jon Lewin is our man with his finger on the follicle.

This pop music lark is getting on a bit now — 30 years if it's a day. And with the passing of the rock 'n' roll seasons, it's only to be expected that a few rock 'n' roll leaves should fall.

So how does the mature pop star cope with incipient hair loss? If we look at a few examples, we'll see there are many techniques that the musician uses to disguise a receding hairline, or spreading bald patch.

Many musicians take to wearing hats — Blackmore, Bono and The Edge among them. Hats are an almost foolproof disguise in anything but a high wind. However, only the truly paranoid baldie wears a trilby with a chinstrap. On stage.

Hats can aggravate the problem, though. They chafe the scalp, and can actually induce further hair loss. Mark Knopfler and Bruce Springsteen have both adopted a remarkably novel solution — the headband. This elasticated device is worn around the forehead, and effectively halves the expanse of forehead revealed by an upwardly mobile hairline.

The decoy has become increasingly popular in recent years — ploys like Francis Rossi's pony tail are employed to distract the eye from any defoliated areas. It is widely believed that Elton John's glasses and Pete Townshend's nose also originally fulfilled this function.

On the subject of Elton John, this normally intelligent man went to ridiculous lengths to have a few straggly chest hairs grafted onto his bonce, and ended up having to wear a hat because it looked so silly. Gary Numan also underwent a hair transplant, having 206 stitches inserted between his head and something that looks as though it's made from moulded plastic. Transplants are not recommended to the unhirsute player.

A further option, much beloved of Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Jimmi Somerville, Midge Ure, and numerous record company executives, is the number-two-cut-it-so-short-nobody'll-notice ploy. This is a sensible alternative to the Telly Savalas option (Sal Solo, Isaac Hayes, Bill Carter from Screaming Blue Messiahs), which is only feasible if the shaven-headed fellow is a 'character' (or is sponsored by a French polish company).

There are those, like Howard Devoto and Dave Formula from Magazine, Eno and Phil Manzanera (why does it always afflict two people in the same band??), who revel in the high foreheaded 'widow's peak' look, believing it bestows upon them the image of Mekon-like intellectual capacity. Sting has been known to use this style when he wants to be taken seriously.

If you were a singer called Fish, would you have receding scales?

However, he has also sadly been spotted brushing his hair forwards (a 'Bough-Charlton' rotated through 90 degrees) to cover his forehead, which is desperately uncredible. Fish combines this disguise with a headband, and Paul Simon has also recently adopted it, which makes him look even more like a college professor than ever.

Wigs, commonly perceived as the last bastion of defence for the hairless, are not a viable alternative for the working musician, as Bert Weedon has proved. The only exception to this rule is if the hairpiece is used as blatant decoration (cf Tony James from SSS) or as a visual joke — Tina Turner.

For those pop stars whose hair is thinning all over, there is a new hair thickener spray available at around £10 per can. This spray coats each hair, increasing its width tenfold — good for dreadlocks. This gives the tonsure the appearance of extra body. We have no figures as to the long term affects on the state of the follicles.

So we see there are many different ways for the pro and semi-pro musician to come to terms with hair loss. Under any circumstance, it's obvious that it's a perfectly natural phenomenon, and nothing to be ashamed of at all. Really. In most cases, it's simply not worth the embarrassment and expense of covering up the work of Mother Nature's little harvesters — you always run the risk of not being believed. Does anyone take dear old Phil Collins seriously when he says "I'm not really going bald, I've always looked like this"?

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Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Jan 1987

Feature by Jon Lewin

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> Akai X7000 keyboard sampler

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