Friday, September 12, 2008

Some more random thoughts prompted by the recent manifestation of Kevin Godley's Other Beard. It's like stigmata, but hairier.

Beards have a distinct Old Testament flavour to them - a signifier of wrath and so forth - tho my own childhood beard associations are distinctly Pre-Christian: Neptune, Jupiter/Zeus, Odin, etc: basically Jehovah, but filtered thru Jack Kirby, himself a Jew.

My own dad was clean-shaven. But he had a dark, olive-skinned complexion that suggested some sort of distant Mediterranean ancestry. My mum's side was Jewish, tho they remained ignorant of this until extremely late in life when a distant relative got in contact with a family tree, photographs of relatives demonstrating some incredibly Jewish-looking 3:1 Mendelian inheritance-ratio characteristics, and the fact that her maiden-name was an Anglised version of a Hebrew tribe-name.

The study of beards is called pogonology.

Leviticus 19:27: "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard." Talmudic rabbis interpreted this to mean that a man may not shave by using the action of a blade against his skin. Halakha Law allows the use of scissors to trim beards as the two blades' cutting action is against themselves and not the skin.

Now this caught my eye: "The Zohar (for the benifit of you Yoks, it's basically a mystical commentary on the Torah or Five books of Moses) attributes holiness to the beard, specifying that hairs of the beard symbolize channels of subconscious holy energy that flows from above to the human soul. Awriiight!

(In dream shorthand, a beard often symbolises the untamed, the wild and the sexual. Dreams of having your beard shaved are manifestations of a castration complex, either real or metaphorical.)

Beards are usually symbolically associated with wisdom and authority, yet (paradoxically) also with magic and sex.

I wondered about linkages between the beard and creative urges. Interestingly, didn't various artists such as Dylan, Bowie, Leonard Cohen and (ahem!) Freddie Mercury grow beards when their creative mojos were on tha wane...? This feeds into the myth about Samson losing his strength (= virility) when his locks were shorn.

Found some interesting stuff about the Victorian Beard Movement by Christopher Oldstone-Moore:

"In the middle of the nineteenth century the face of masculinity suddenly changed in Western culture. In a few short years, full beards spread from the social margins inhabited by artists and Chartists into the respectable mainstream. This transformation of men's faces has thus far drawn remarkably little comment from historians or literary critics. The Victorians, by contrast, had a great deal to say about this renovation of the masculine image. In pamphlets, polemical books, and the periodical press, Victorians engaged in a lively discussion that sheds light on changing notions of masculinity and illuminates the decision of millions of British men to spurn more than a century of tradition by letting their beards grow. The timing of this change is significant. The current standard line on this great change was established by G. M. Trevelyan, who explained the new style as an imitation of the heroic and hirsute soldiers returning from the Crimea."

I found some similar stuff about the resurgeance in THE popularity of beards in the mid-60s being attributed to soldiers returning from Vietnam. Beards were popular amongst Beats n Bohos in the 50s...and that original late-40s drop-out generation that spawned US Biker-gangs and the original generation of surfers n beach-bums came mostly from pissed-off veterans returning from WW2 who found it hard to fit back into a 9-5 life-style.

Kerouac never had a beard, tho. Too working-class.

M.E.S. never had a beard either.

According to Balzac, the Bousingots ("Hell-Raisers" or Bohemians) of the 1830s n 40s could be readily identified by "their off-centre crevats, greasy coats, dirty fingernails and long beards." Thackeray recorded his initial impressions of the Parisian Bohemians, noting their "ringlets, stright locks, toupees, English, Greek and Spanish nets, and the variety of their jackets and beards."

I had a strange fragmented dream in which Graham Gouldman's solo quest to rediscover his musical muse became weirdly overladen w/ an animated comic-book version of Jason & the Argonauts, wherein Andrew Gold's beard (itself a substitute for Kevin Godley's) became a modern-day mythical-mystical-analogue of The Golden Fleece.



At 9:02 pm, Blogger Geoff said...

Clotted Creme.

Didn't Lloyd Cole have a beard for a while? Difficult to tell when his creativity was at a low, though.

At 9:02 pm, Blogger Gutter said...

Beards? Too fucking itchy, mate - they drive me nuts. Mind you, it suited Doppelganger during his 'new hairy' phase a couple years back - kinda Kevin Godley meets Frank Serpico with a gypsy twist. Shame his clever attractive wife veto'd it.

At 9:07 pm, Blogger Gutter said...

and hey - didn't all the beatles go to shit when they shaved off theirs beards? or was that the other way around...

Mike Oldfield never made another good record after he nixed the fizog-fuzz.

Ditto the entire krautrock genre.

At 3:59 pm, Blogger kek-w said...

"Difficult to tell when his creativity was at a low, though."


I thought Doppelganger looked like Kurt Russell in "The Thing" during his Hairy Phase.

"didn't all the beatles go to shit when they shaved off theirs beards? or was that the other way around" - actually, the Beatles invoke as much antipathy in me as as Lloyd Cole (surely, the most boring man in rock - so boring that I'd actually forgotten that he existed.) does in Geoff.

Point taken, tho (whatever it was!)

But Ringo had a really great run of singles when he was at his hairiest. (In fact he was a real Avatar of Cool, but I already posted on this a while back...)


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