Hairdresser on Fire - a social satire?

Neader

"Take me out tonight"
I've read many comments that Hairdresser on Fire is about Morrissey's relationship with his hairdresser. However, I believe that instead it is Morrissey looking at society and ashamed at how much people are concerned with their looks. Keep in mind lines such as, "Is it free of the home or what?" "You may be oppressed but you're remarkably dress, is it real?" and other such lines, how only a hairdresser can save or destroy a person.

Thoughts?
 

Avocado

New Member
I've had a few hairdressers I'd like to set light to. The results were more social embarrassment than social satire.
 
Interesting point, and quite possible- I've always seen it as commenting on and satirising how most people, and society as a whole, are very preoccupied with creating an image and maintaining a pleasing aesthetic. That is, he could be basically saying that basically everybody is obsessed with appearances, for better or worse. Perhaps using himself as the everyman in a tongue-in-cheek manner due to his notoriety and therefore recognizability, particularly focusing on his hair- undoubtedly the most famous part of the 'Morrissey image'.
 
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Silke

New Member
In the late 80s I went to London with school and there was this celebrity hairdresser who did a promotion across the street from Harrods. He said I had an extraordinary hair colour, my hair was all right as it was and gave something to me to add a little more volume.

Since the mid 90s I have wanted to have a certain haircut, but none of the hairdresses cut my hair like I wanted to. :tears: So I started to cut my hair myself. :lbf:

In July last year, on the day of the last Brixton concert, I walked past a salon of that hairdresser from over 20 years ago and decided to go inside and have my hair cut. From the moment I walked through the door I had the song "Hairdresser on fire" in my head. :lbf: They did an excellent job. Knew exactly what I was talking about and told me how I had to let my hair grow and have it cut to get the end result that I had wanted for decades. :thumb: The cut I got was as close as it could possibly get that day. :) Then they put the same product in my hair that their boss had given to me at the end of the 80s. :p What was most fascinating was how they used the hair drier! :D

The moment I left the building, the song was out of my head again.

The song... real life. ;)
 

Neader

"Take me out tonight"
When I was making this thread I was in a rush. Let me elaborate more.

Simon Goddard in Mozipedia says, "A very simple song about trying to get hold of a hairdresser' is how Morrissey described this frivolous autobiographical sketch: during the period the song was written the singer lived in a flat just off "Sloane Square" in Chelsea. The lyrics betray an erotic fascination with 'the power' the hairdresser wields at their fingertips - capable of destroying or saving his physical appearance with a causal snip - tempered only by his exasperation at being unable to book an appointment in their hectic schedule."

So it appears straight from the horse's mouth that the song is about his relationship with his hairdresser. However, the lyrics to me seem to apparently be pointing another way.

Here is London, giddy of London
Is it home of the free -
Or what?

Morrissey describing London and asking whether or not the people living their are truly free

Can you squeeze me
Into an empty page of your diary
And psychologically save me?
I've got faith in you
I sense the power
Within the fingers
Within an hour the power
Could totally destroy me
(Or, it could save my life)

How people are so dependent on their hairdresser and how concerned they are with their looks. How a hairdresser can psychologically destroy someone or save their life.

Oh, here is London
"Home of the brash, outrageous and free"
You are repressed
But you're remarkably dressed
Is it Real?

Morrissey's shock at how people are more concerned with their looks than their freedoms and rights. Note how when singing live he says "That's all you need" emphasizing that's all people care about and need, their looks, more than their rights.

And you're always busy
Really busy
Busy, busy
Oh, hairdresser on fire
All around Sloane Square
And you\'re just so busy
Busy, busy
Busy scissors
Oh, hairdresser on fire
(Only the other day)

Possibly how people are so busy doing things that have little effect in a long term period. The hairdresser on fire line can be taken as a double meaning, showing how busy the hairdresser is, and Morrissey humorously calling for the death of the hairdresser and what they've done to people

Was a client, over-cautious
He made you nervous
And when he said
"I'm gonna sue you"
Oh, I really felt for you ...mmm...

Once again how crazy people are over their appearance. That someone would actually sue a hairdresser, Morrissey at this point pities the hairdresser, knowing how much pressure they are under for such an abysmal matter.

Just my interpretation. Morrissey, appalling and humorously making a song on people and their obsession with their looks, even making fun of himself as he is just as crazy about his looks as well.
 

kimmy sticks

girl extraordinaire
I have definitely considered your interpretation, Neader. It makes a lot of sense, I'd think. However I've also definitely listened and felt it was maybe just to be taken at face value. Perhaps it's really some sort of combination of both? I do love the idea of it though, we all know a hairdresser really does have the power to make or break us!
 

Jones

Senior Member
I think a hell of a lot of Morrissey's songs are satire. There seems to be a general assumption that writing a song about something equates to approval. See the response to Last of the Famous as an equivalent example. It's not a glorification of gangsters at all to me, it's Morrissey saying what a shame it is that young kids look up to these characters.
 

Qvist

Active Member
Ultimately, who knows what Morrissey meant, and how does it really matter? Why not take it at face value and as satire? He's fairly adept at finding things that can simply be described and which is self-satirizing, so to speak.

You are repressed
But you're remarkably dressed
Is it Real?


This can be read as sarcasm or satire ending with a pointed rethorical question, or as stating a paradox, or voicing approval, or simply stating the obvious, followed by an anxious and earnest question. They're all possible.

In terms of style, it's obviously very camp (a song that is ostensibly about the importance of being hairdressed? What could possibly be more camp?) and that I think is a key to the song. Everything in this lyric is posed in terms that are way over the top. A characteristic of camp is to simultaneously mock and celebrate its subject matter, and it has to be experienced from within - you can't really separate what's being said from the way it is said, it's an attitude as much as a message.

To put it differently, the song offers several viewpoints, and simultaneously mocks all of them without retracting them. The awesome power of the hairdresser is acknowledged, but in terms that are so over the top that they can scarcely be taken with a straight face, and are also mocked by the unmistakeable jab at the shallowness of the lyric's own sentiment. The hairdresser is offered sympathy (for being sued), but is also gently mocked (having placed himself in the predicament by his over-nervousness). The verse about London can just as well be a ringing endorsement as a biting denounciation, seen against the rest of the lyrics it actually more or less serves as both. If parts of the lyric can be seen as a critique of pointless shallowness, then that is simultaneously undercut by the narrators flamboyant affirmation and acceptance of the importance of a good haircut and the cost of a bad one. The being-sued episode also offers a counterpoint to this - being tangible proof that it is real, and important; By threatening to land the poor hairdresser in the dock as a result of an unsatisfactory haircut.

It's a song to laugh with while you're thinking, and shouldn't be attempted reduced to something as dull and obvious as an essentially sombre critique of shallow values made by means of jokes and irony. That contradicts everything Morrissey is about, to me. Whatever this songs says, it says with an affectionate - and arch - smile. In the end, perhaps that's the main point.

cheers
 
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Raphael Lambach

Well-Known Member
I really like your viewpoint. I've always seen the obivious: an insane and stressed hairdresser who put fire on his own body. Perhaps Morrissey was a bit ironic and me - within my inocence - didn't understand what Morrissey trully wanted to say. I love the live version of that. This song has got power, it's really powerful. What a pity it was released as single only in Japan.
 
G

goinghome

Guest
An English friend of mine who knows both London - everyone rushing, no time to say hello - and northern England - laid back, time to kill - very well, makes a strong case that one of the main themes of this song is the contrast between the attitudes one encounters in the two areas. :bow:
 

Qvist

Active Member
Simon Goddard in Mozipedia says, "A very simple song about trying to get hold of a hairdresser' is how Morrissey described this frivolous autobiographical sketch: during the period the song was written the singer lived in a flat just off "Sloane Square" in Chelsea. The lyrics betray an erotic fascination with 'the power' the hairdresser wields at their fingertips - capable of destroying or saving his physical appearance with a causal snip - tempered only by his exasperation at being unable to book an appointment in their hectic schedule."

So it appears straight from the horse's mouth that the song is about his relationship with his hairdresser. However, the lyrics to me seem to apparently be pointing another way.
One more thing. It's hard to escape the feeling that Morrissey's brief explanation of what the song is about is scarcely less hilarious than the lyrics themselves, and seems entirely in its spirit.

cheers
 

joe frady

Vile Refusenik
Well all I knows is my hairdresser gave me a smashing cut today. I played this song on the bus home. I was very happy.
:thumb:
 

joe frady

Vile Refusenik
It is a great song to go to the hairdresser with, isn't it. :lbf:
Even better after you've been, with a perfect KillUncleQuiff! :D
 

Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
"Hairdresser on Fire" needs no explanation - it's a perfect song that veers from the ridiculous to the sublime, just like life.

My hairdresser has been a good friend for many years; she is thinking of moving to Spain, and I am bereft. Not only would I lose an old friend, but I'd lose the best damn hairdresser I've ever known. I'm sure no one will ever be able to take her place in my heart, or replace her busy scissors.

As usual, Morrissey tells it like it is.
 
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