November 9, 2008

Ray Stevens: Let's Be careful with those Razors!!

Examining the 1985 comedy album from Ray Stevens titled I Have Returned we give our attention today to one of the popular recordings from this album. The Haircut Song is a every sense of the word. It is one of those special kind of Ray Stevens novelty songs that is filled with detail...bringing the listener along with him on his quest for a perfect haircut and a perfect barber, two things that usually are non-existent when one is traveling the country. The song is rather lengthy as Ray visits three separate barbershops and receives three very unique haircuts. His first stop is up in Butte, Montana. The barbershop up there that he visits is decorated in heavy-duty macho-man...hairdryers mounted on rifle racks. If that wasn't nerve racking enough, the barber happens to be a 300 pounder prone to smoking cigars. The image is cast as a construction worker as this barber wears a hard hat as well. The barber immediately sets the tone of the visit, gruffly asking Ray "what'll it be, pal??". The most revealing aspect, and the one perhaps causing Ray more anxiety, is the shirt the barber wears that states "I hate musicians". Ray meekly explains that he's a logger and he's been topping trees, trying to impress the mean barber with an ax to grind. Ray winds up getting all his hair shaved off...but things look up because the set back is only temporary because with his baldness he may get a job working with heavy equipment.

The second barber that Ray encounters happens to be is Los Angeles. The interior of the barbershop boosts the usage of black leather. There are whips, chains, and other domination toys hanging around the shop. That wasn't even half of the story...the barber walks out wearing orange hair...heavy black mascara, plus stainless steel teeth!! Upon seeing this display, you can bet Ray is just a wee bit nervous. Then, the barber seriously tells Ray: "I'm gonna tell you somethin' that might make you a little nervous!". At this point, Ray laughs it off and ponders what else could possibly make him nervous. The barber then comes out of the closet. Ray explains that he's a logger and that he was in the marines and had played football in high school. The haircut that the gay barber left Ray could be described as punk rock since this segment of the song was satirizing punk rockers. Ray had a wild hair-do and a facial make-over as well; for not only did Ray have shades of purple hair but half of the hair was in a white streak and the other half was like Mr T, with a purple strip down the middle, giving the image that his mohawk resembled a skunk tail he had safety pins in his cheeks.

The third barber that Ray comes in contact with is down in the south. A policeman actually demanded that Ray go get himself a haircut "or a dog tag!" and so into this southern barbershop Ray walks in. The shop was built in the shape of a church while an usher walked Ray up to his barber chair. The barber turns out to be a southern preacher, crying foul on all things sinful and speaks down on dancing, drinking, sex, and "the music business in general". The barber insists that Ray give out what he does for a living...with hesitation Ray admits that he's worked in bars and casino's and around liquor and wild women. Ray tells the barber that he runs a church for loggers.

The radio version of the song edited out the second barbershop visit. I have the 45 RPM single in my collection and it doesn't feature the second segment of the song. The music video he did for the song in 2000 doesn't feature the second trip to the barbershop, either, although it would've been hysterical to see Ray in that sort of punk rock look. The original long version of the song can be found on I Have Returned as well as the 1987 release, Greatest Hits, Volume Two.

One of the running gags of the song was the phrase "I just play my piano and sing my little songs" which is often used by Ray in real life whenever asked if he thinks his songs create controversy. The phrase was used in his 1995 movie Get Serious as well.

History lesson: Ray is dressed as General MacArthur on the album cover. MacArthur was noted for two sayings that were said during his military career, one was "I Shall Return" and the other was "I Have Returned", when he walked to the shore of Philippine Leyte Island, wading through the water in 1944.

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