The Joy of Hair: how England got over Beckham

The perestroika era arrives for England’s players

We all saw it. The goal had more than a touch of luck about it, with Steven Gerrard’s cross deflected off of the Ukrainian defender’s ballbags, past the keeper for Wayne Rooney to nod home from six inches.

But it was the celebration that caught the eye. Because it was in Rooney’s celebration that we saw an England team usher in a new age and finally move on from the tyrrany of the Beckham era.

To recap, Rooney celebrated his goal in unique fashion, by pretending to apply hairspray.

It emerged afterwards that Rooney, hugely enjoying the versatility of his hair implants, has been sharing product with Andy Carroll.

This was a simple act of hair-kinship between two strikers which would have been unthinkable during Beckham’s decade or so in the England team.

While Beckham was an excellent player, there can be no doubt that he would never allow anyone else to show creativity when it came to hair, and this hampered the team’s performances. With his lucrative contracts with both Gillette and Brylcreem, Beckham stamped out any meek, honest expression of grooming from any other England player.*

Even two years ago, Beckham was at the 2010 World Cup simply  as ‘player liaison’, a made-up role which ensured the subjugation of our players to ensure none of them made an attempt to, as they say in the rap game, ‘shine on his shit.’ And what happened? It was England’s most miserable tournament performance in living memory, perhaps ever.

It is only now, with Beckham occupied growing his luxuriant moustache in preparation for the Olympics – where, incidentally, it can be presumed Great Britain will perform atrociously – that this England Euro 2012 squad are beginning to express themselves hair-wise.

Rooney appears to be developing a quiff of which Elvis Presley would approve; Andy Carroll is there, ponytail full and in effect, flourishing the full mane towards the end of games; Ashley Cole, who has never showed any signs of freedom of hair expression previously, is now attempting a junior mohawk; even Jermain Defoe, while rarely seen on the pitch, is showing his support with his subtly effective peroxide dye job.

Clearly, this is a team just beginning to express itself. The dark days of the Beckham autocracy are still a very recent memory for many of these players and their confidence is, for some, including Gerrard, fragile at best.

It is true that England may not yet have enough style, team spirit and hair-quality to pull off a tournament win, or even a final appearance. However, this is already the most promising England performance since Euro 96 – the last major tournament over which Beckham’s malign influence did not loom.

Going into the quarter-final against Italy, when faced with Balotelli’s dazzling blond mohican, and Andrea Pirlo’s Steven Tyleresque layer and flow, England remain underdogs.

But what we do have is a group of players unafraid to openly experiment with different hairstyles with the full support of their team-mates. The choice of Krakow as base for England has been questioned by many, but perhaps being in the land where the Perestroika movement rose and eventually crushed the tyrannical Soviet regime, is exactly the sort of historical influence our lads need right now.

We are becoming a team of which England hair greats such as Kevin Keegan and Chris Waddle can be rightly proud. However far we eventually progress in this tournament our lads are doing it together and I, with my twin loves of football and hair, am immensely proud.

*Bar Glen Johnson who effectively acted as a foil for Beckham’s hairstyles down the right flank, giving him something to work off, and David James, whose constant pratfalls nullified his threat.

Have I become a boring, middle aged fool?

Why can’t I keep on hating you, Norah?

I have recently had an experience which has seriously made me question whether I am becoming middle-aged. Boring. Satisfied. Mellow. Less the angry person I used to be, and more a person my younger self would have bitterly, ironically, and derisively disliked.

For, this weekend, after listening to her new Little Broken Hearts album, I have become a Norah Jones fan.

Norah Jones. Norah fucking Jones. The one who did Come Away With Me. An album which might as well have been sponsored by Chill FM, in association with the Dignitas Clinic. An album which I couldn’t get past the first 20 seconds of, so filled with horror was I of its sheer, ‘let’s snuggle up, take sedatives and abandon all thought-ness’.

When she first released her ‘music to have an organic picnic to’ album in the early part of this century, I was a big fan of the Libertines. And Biggie Smalls. If I listened to a female artist it was PJ Harvey. I had a lot of anger and a short attention span.

So maybe I didn’t give Norah the chance she deserved.

But fuck that. Her album was a sweetly smelling pile of shite. Pitiful bollocks which John Peel would have said something about with a casual wit of which I am not capable.

I hated Norah Jones, her music and everything she represented. (You may have inferred this already, but I like to underline a point.)

And the good thing is, after the abortion that was her first album, it seems that a lot of people hated Norah, too. It appears that her nearest and dearest have undergone a concerted campaign to be as nasty as possible to the pretty girl with the pretty voice.

Because her new album is so full of malevolence, hate, and cruelty that it makes you wonder if the thing has been penned by Nick Cave.

Exhibit A is the song Miriam. The choice lyric here is:

“Miriam, you know you done me wrong, I’m gonna smile when I take your life.”

She sings it sweetly enough, which makes the murderous threat all the more twisted.

On She’s 22, she sings, “She’s 22, and she’s loving you, and you’ll never know how it makes me blue. Does it make you happy?” A very simple lyric, but delivered with a bittersweet attitude which is not far from Billie Holiday.

Norah Jones has gone from being background music of the worst sort, to music, if it were played at a dinner party, I’d tell people to shut up and listen (this is perhaps why I rarely get invited to dinner parties).

But maybe it is me. Maybe I have changed. I have been on the live performance scene for a couple of years now. I’ve witnessed performances which have made me cringe in horror (some, on reflection, by myself). I know what a revelation it is when you hear someone with talent, up close. If Norah Jones was in a small venue with an acoustic guitar, she would blow me away, saccharine lyrics or not.

I can now appreciate talent for what it is, rather than instantly seeking to denounce something which is not to my specific taste, however enjoyable that might be. I am, without doubt, more tolerant.

So, it seems, we’ve both changed. And from my new, slightly more mature standpoint I am happy to say Norah Jones’s new album is brilliant. However, just to balance things out, I also downloaded the new Killer Mike album, which hopefully will assuage my old self that I haven’t changed too much.