10 Mustache Songs for Movember

The Beatles took separate projects in 1966 when they stopped touring for good that year.  John Lennon went to Spain to film Richard Lester’s How I Won the War.  George Harrison sped off to India for the first time to take sitar lessons from Ravi Shankar.  Paul dreamed up a way for the band to continue by having their next record sound like the work of a touring band, even if it was the Beatles once removed.  Ringo contemplated a film career too, which would come to fruition in the ensuing years.

But despite their individual pursuits, when the Beatles reconvened in November of 1966 for the recording of the ‘Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane” double-A side they shared one thing in common.

They had all grown mustaches.

Since then, mustaches have been a mainstay in rock from Frank Zappa’s signature ‘stache-n-patch, to the 1800s preacher-boy look of the Band, to Freddie Mercury who led pomp-rock gods Queen to glory, mustache-first.

David Crosby grew one after leaving  the Byrds, showing a commitment to a facial hedgerow that endures to this day.  U2’s the Edge experimented with a myriad of mo’s, appropriating and discarding them seemingly on a daily basis.

Motorhead’s Lemmy proudly wears his mustache-cum-mutton chops, and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos’ ‘stache has seen the fashions come and go too.  The list is endless.  I haven’t even mentioned Frankie Goes to Hollywood…

Here are 10 songs by 10 mustachioed rock and pop artists, some who have stayed true to their ‘staches, some who went through a phase and wisely abandoned it, and others who once wore the ‘stache proudly and the ‘staches of which are sadly no longer with us.  In any case, in honour of the Movember Men’s Health Charity, I give you ten unshaven upper lips of the upper echelon.

Jimi Hendrix – Red House

James Marshall Hendrix revolutionized the guitar, first serving time as a sideman to Little Richard.  From Richard, he learned that he couldn’t hang back like a sideman should. But, perhaps also, he learned the power of Little Richard’s ‘stache as a rock ‘n’ roll accessory of choice.

Gitarrlegenden Jimi Hendrix

And who knows?  Maybe the ‘stache was the key to Hendrix’s ability to shred?

Burton Cummings of The Guess Who – Hang On To Your Life

Among their skills as Canadian hit-makers who had some play in the States, despite hailing from the Canadian prairies (Winnipeg, actually), they had an advantage in lead singer and keyboardist Burton Cummings, who’s mustache has become a national icon.

You know that one relative who’s always had a mustache, and you can’t imagine him without it?  Think of that on a cultural scale,  and you begin to see what Burton Cummings’ ‘mo means to every Canadian, everywhere.

Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter of Steely Dan – My Old School

This man really is the Walrus, defining the ‘Dan’s early career as dual-guitared jazz-rock champions, and defining the extent to which one man might seek to entirely hide his mouth using his own hair.


And if you think the ‘stache is only for unwashed, peace-loving hippies, think again! Not only is this ‘stache still around today, it remains on the face of a man who’s had a second careering in designing guidance systems for missles.

Ron Mael of Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us

If Adolph Hitler stole Charlie Chaplin’s ‘stache in the 1930s, then Ron Mael has been trying to steal it back ever since he could grow one.


I think all would be well, if Mael looked any less insane than Hitler.  But, he doesn’t.  At all.

Bernard Sumner of Joy Divison – Transmission

Guitarist for Joy Division and later the same for New Order, Bernard Sumner’s brief flirtation with a ‘bumfluff’ mustache at the end of the 1970s has become legendary.

Even in his 1999 guest vocal on the Chemical Brothers “Out of Control” contained the telling line “is my mustache too much?”, proving that mustache shame (or is it envy) can dog you for decades if you play it wrong.  Bassist Peter Hook of course hedged (pun intended?) his bets by sticking to his unfashionable beard.

The Village People – YMCA

There were very few bands pulling this look off in the early 80s.  But, nearly every member of this unique disco-pop outfit, despite the differences in costuming, had a ‘tache they could be proud of.  Cop ‘tache?  You bet!  Cowboy ‘tache? Check. Biker ‘tache?  What, are you kidding me?

The Village People

The Village People showed that no matter what your walk of life, there was a mustache out there for everyone!

Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap – Rock n’ Roll Creation

It was a ‘first mustache’ for many a special friend on the road.


If Smalls was the lukewarm water between two creative fire ‘n’ ice forces in the ‘Tap, then he is smokin’ hot on the ‘representin’ the ‘tache’ front for his otherwise clean-shaven band mates.

John Oates of Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams Come True

John Oates was the mustache of the decade in the ’80s, his visual trademark during a very fruitful run of smash singles with Daryl Hall from 1976 to 1986.

Sadly, his mustache is no longer with us, even if (luckily) John Oates is.  He shaved it off!  Can you believe that!?

George Michael – Spinning the Wheel

There was a time when people thought George Michael was straight.  No, honest. At one point in his career around the time this song was on the radio, he rocked a Pancho Villa vibe when it came to his moustache, a look not many reached for in 1996.

Nick Cave, with the Bad Seeds – Dig!! Lazarus Dig!!!

Nick Cave has stuck by his haircut – sort of a gothic mullet affair – from the 1980s when he made his name as the frontman for the Birthday Party.  Yet, lately he’s sported a droopy outlaw mustache, kind of like he’s keeping it for a friend.

We’ll see if it and the haircut get along…

OK. It’s full disclosure time.  I am growing a mustache, participating in the aforementioned Movember event to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer research.  Should you wish to support said mustache, click here to do just that.


100 greatest guitar songs list from Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone have published their list of the 100 greatest guitar songs, which you can peruse for yourself here.

Electric guitarLists are funny things. People love ’em and hate ’em all at once. But, whether you think they’re a good thing or not, at least they get people talking, don’t they? Most likely, you’ll find the usual baby-boom era-centric selections on here, which may not be a surprise. After all, this is Rolling Stone. But, it could be argued that the vocabulary of rock guitar playing was established in the rock n roll and 60s pop eras. Having said that, a few tunes like B.B King’s “How Blue Can You Get” and Paul Butterfield’s “Look Over Yonders Wall” which features the largely unsung guitar-hero Mike Bloomfield‘s scorching slide playing, represents some of the lesser known tracks that makes the era such a rich vein of guitar innovation. I would have put something by Peter Green on there. But, you can’t have everything, I guess.

Still, it would have been nice to see the Smiths crack the top ten, instead of number 90 with “How Soon is Now” (I would have chosen “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, of course). Having said that, it’s nice that The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” scored pretty high at number 20. And I guess the Nirvana entry at number 10 (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”) was also meant to address the criticism that all of the other entries are firmly “classic rock” in their alignment. But I would have liked to have seen a few more from the new wave era too, an era which is perhaps not known for flashy guitar playing. But, have you heard Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze on their song “Another Nail in My Heart“? It’s not a flashy solo, but it’s interesting, making you wonder how he’s going to bridge the verse into the chorus, and then manages to do it brilliantly. And the solo is fairly oddly placed near the beginning of the song, instead of the usual place for the solo in the middle. This adds a bit of a pleasant surprise to the ear, and makes the song a more interesting listen. This is what a great guitar solo is supposed to do – make the song stronger.

It also would have been nice to see a bit of a less electrified list – a few more acoustic guitar entries might have made for a more balanced list – Nick Drake, Richard Thompson, Davy Graham, Kelly Joe Phelps – all would have made the list if I ran the zoo. But, so would Bruce Cockburn, who is regularly left off lists like this one. I think this may have to do with the fact that the list is aimed at the American rock fan, who is generally not interested in music out of which a lot of rock music is derived, or those songs by guitarists not well-known in the States. Fair enough. Rolling Stone have to sell magazines, right?

But, what is a good sign is that a lot of über-flashy players and songs are left off in favour of a few with a more minimalist approach. So, Steve Cropper makes it with “Soul Man” (although I would have listed Booker T. and the Mgs’ “Green Onions” over that one for Cropper’s playing – but I’m quibbling). And Link Wray makes it for “Rumble”. Nice. Maybe Rolling Stone deserves the credit for some of the inclusions to the list that go beyond the regular expectations of their readership. Heck – I’m just glad that Satriani and Malmsteen aren’t on there, bless ’em.

What do you think, good people? What’s not on the list that should be? What should have scored higher? What should have been left off of the list?

Guitar image courtesy of mikelao26.