Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Long Hair

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It seems ridulous now, but there was a time, in these here United States, when having long hair, if you were a guy, was dangerous. It all started with the Beatles, and some of those San Francisco bands, those pot smokin’ hippies, gettin’ stoned, growin’ their hair long, and singin’ songs about peace and love, what a bunch.

In Salem, Oregon, where several members of my old band, “The Morning Reign” had attended Willamette University, guys with long hair were few and far between. But in the band, not to be outdone by those Frisco outfits, our hair was going south. Toward the nape of our necks, and then further, God forbid, to shoulder length, seldom seen on the streets of the Capitol.

When we were all together, performing, or doing things bands do, like eating at Denny’s, or picking up guitar strings at the music store, it wasn’t a problem. But go to Denny’s by yourself, in Salem, or say, a smaller city nearby, like Silverton, or Gervais, and you were taking your life in your hands. Older men, especially, didn’t dig the long hair look, and derogatory comments were usual. And not always little digs like, “Hey girly, you need a haircut”, but a few times, “Hey Bob, II see you got your knife there on your belt, whad’ya say we take this little girly man out back and cut his hair for him”, that kind of thing, sorta scary. And during a meal at a Chinese restaurant with my former spouse, and my baby daughter Stacey, who was in a high chair, a man came right up to the table, and told me “you look fuckin’ ridiculous. Get that hair cut, before somebody does it for ya.’’


Once, during a recording session in Seattle at Jerden Records, the six of us left the studio for lunch, sporting our Beatle cuts. Walking under the monorail, looking for a lunch counter, we passed a middle aged woman, walking with a friend. She was well dressed, a shopper. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide, and she did a little back-step, and said disgustedly, seriously, loudly, to make her point, while spying us all......” Whellllllll! How close is this to the cannibals?” Now, something like that, you just don’t forget. It was funny, sure, but who likes to be put down like that, really?

It pissed me off. But what are ya gonna do? We were sort of into the tie dye, head band, pot smokin’ peace and love groove ourselves, so I guess we should have expected some flak. But truly, we were all very nice boys in our early twenties, educated, kind-hearted. I, myself, was already a concerned parent, and completely smitten by my baby daughter.

Many times, travelling around Oregon, Washington, California, or Idaho, we would arrive in some small town, to play a gig, early. Once, in Roseburg, Oregon, about 1969, we arrived early, and found a park, mid-town, to consume the Herfy’s Burgers we had just bought, relax, and toss the frisbee. A few other kids were in the park, just hanging out. Some were watching us play frisbee. Suddenly, two uniformed Roseburg Police officers approached. We first watched them tell a young couple who had been smooching nearby, “Okay, if you kids wanna trade spit, you’re gonna have to do it somewhere besides this public park”, and then, made the boy fork over his cigarettes. I believe one of our band members was just dumb enough to say something to one of the cops, about their treatment of those kids. It was, I think, what they were hoping for. And so suddenly we were engulfed in a very heated conversation with these two cops, both young, and as I recall, the most vocal of the two of them was a very small man. At some point, he barked, “Well, could your van there stand the vacuum cleaner test?”, meaning, he could vacuum out our van, looking for pot, and bust us. “Hello Mom, Dad, we just signed a recording contract with Capitol, and, uh, we’re in jail”. So we stood there, trying to make some ground with these cops, saying that we were just people like them, it’s not right to pick on us just because we have long hair, and telling them that they were wrong to harrass us, why would they? “Because you put on the uniform, so you have to wear it”, the small cop shouted, all lathered up, red-faced and angry “ and I have seen your kind lyin’ in a gutter and shittin’ on themselves and pissin’ on themselves”. It was unsettling.

But not quite so unsettling, to me anyway, as when a similar early arrival in North Bend, Oregon, could have resulted in injury. One of the guys in the group had driven to the gig in his convertible GTO, and so, after our requisite meal at some greasy spoon, we six decided to check out the town in his car, top down. No sooner had we left the parking lot, than we had a doorless jeep on our tail, loaded with youngish and drunkish North Bendians. “Hey, pull over hippies!” the driver yelled. We drove on. “Hey ya motherfuckin’ hippie faggots, pull the fuck over”, again and again. And when that didn’t work, “C’mon you guys, we just want to talk to you”. We kept driving. They would try to cut us off. They would jump out of the jeep when we would come to an intersection, or red light. But at every stop, we were able to drive on. Finally, when they’d had enough, they started to hurl the contents of the jeep at us, which included, among other things, several huge steel wrenches, which hit and damaged the car. It was a sight to see that shiny railroad adjustable wrench sitting on the GTO’s black trunk, inches from my head. We ended up driving to the Police Station, which one of the guys had spotted during our sightseeing, and we basically stayed there until we could get into the venue to set up our equipment.

That there was a time when long hair could get you in trouble seems so silly now, since one can’t go to the mall without seeing at least one person with full body tattoos, or someone drippin’ with body piercings. In my neighborhood, the Hawthorne area in Portland, anything goes. To tell you the truth though, if I had piercings and tattoos and maybe pink spiked hair, like you can see around here any day, I’d still drive right past Roseburg.