Performer: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Songwriter: David Crosby
Original Release: Deja Vu
Definitive Version: CSNY2K, Portland 2-2-00, 2000. Actually, there’s really no such thing as a bad version of Almost Cut My Hair, as far as I can tell. I also would advocate for the version from CSNY’s Wembley Stadium show, 1974, as well as the full version of the studio recording, which showed up on the CSN box set, 1991.
I always liked the original version of this song and have visions of sorting baseball cards in the basement at Darcann Drive with this song playing, similar to that of Carry On, as I mentioned (good ol’ No. 153). After Scott got the CSN box set, I learned conclusively something I always suspected about the cut on Déjà Vu—it was edited. The CSN box set has the unedited version—all eight-plus minutes of it. It’s definitely the same version.
I love how at the start of that recording you hear Crosby saying softly, I want to slow it down a bit this time. Neil’s lumbering guitar cranks up at the pace of a glacier before Crosby stops the proceedings and says more audibly: “Well OK not QUITE THAT slow. Somewhere between that and the last one.” Whereupon they blaze into the version that we all know and love today.
The version from the Portland show took my love of Almost Cut My Hair up another notch because of the blazing guitar work by Neil and Stills. A few years ago, I found the version from what often is widely derided an abysmal Wembley show. Whatever problems existed with that show weren’t evident on this particular song. They just let it rip.
Two things distress a man when they start to go south on him—his Special Purpose and his hair. I’ve had issues of the urinary nature with the former. However, I’m pretty fortunate regarding the latter. As I approach 50—less than a week to go—I still have mostly a full head of hair with little gray in it.
I always was pretty conservative with my hair. My styles fit my age—buzzcut when I was a boy, longer and unwashed as I grew into my teen years, short and neat when I realized that long, unwashed hair doesn’t attract Upper Arlington girls. I parted my hair in the middle, as was the style, from 1979 to 1984.
At Wabash, I decided to change things up a bit and drove Beth nuts when I told her I’d changed my hair, something radical. She thought I permed it, but when I got home, she saw I’d just moved the part to the right side, where I seem to have a natural part and used to part it when I was a boy.
I kept my hair like that, more or less, for the next quarter-century. In the early Nineties, I Iet it grow a bit long in the back, not like a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet but more like Crockett in the fourth season of Miami Vice. I cut it in 1996 for Scott’s wedding—to his surprise—and then didn’t change it at all for another decade.
Laurie liked longer hair, so I started letting it grow out more before I’d get it cut, each time a bit longer than before. Finally, at one point in 2009, it reached the point where I could pull it back into a ponytail. Laurie loved it.
I made my ponytail debut at a reunion party for friends of The Posse who moved to Texas years before I came along. Everyone gave my new look a thumb’s up—particularly the hottest females of the crew. OK, that works for me.
So I haven’t cut my hair in five years. From time to time, when it’s gotten kinda long, Laurie trimmed it a bit, but that’s it.
During that time, I learned what any woman will tell you: Long hair can be a pain in the butt. It always gets in your face on a windy day or in your month while you sleep. I’ve grown tired of it, and I’m not sure I want to look like an aged hippy, so after my 50th birthday, I’m going to cut my hair. Even Laurie agrees it’s time.
With that in mind, I’ve let my hair go the past few months, without any trims, because when I want to donate it to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. However, Locks of Love requires at least 10 inches of hair length, and I’m at about 8. So I might keep my ponytail a bit longer than I expected, because I want it to go for a good cause.
That said, I’m looking forward to that first day I show up at work after I cut my hair. Everyone will think I did it for job interviews.
Actually, in what should come as no surprise given yesterday’s entry (good ol’ No. 8), I’d love for them to think that. Three years of distance from the time I spent all my hard-earned work currency hasn’t made things any better. Instead, I have become increasingly inconsequential, to the point where I wonder whether my presence around the office is even welcome any more.
I already was excluded from work on the website. The next thing to go was inclusion from job interviews. When we sought candidates for the new senior editor position that my June 2011 outburst created, I wasn’t included in the interview process.
Making matters worse, the editor applied the same scrutiny to the hire that he did with his articles and Web articles. It was more important to have a warm body fill the space than find someone good, so we hired the fourth choice of four candidates after the first three turned him down. I would have advocated going back to the job-candidate well, but my input wasn’t requested.
That hire worked out about as well as might be expected, and after six months of absolutely brutal work that I had to clean up, we were looking for another senior editor. This time I was involved, but the editor hired the candidate about whom I raised a major red flag instead of the person I thought we should hire. This senior editor was fired after six months of even worse work.
The crap tide finally ended after I suggested we promote our associate editor—whose hire I WAS involved in, back in 2010—who had been with us for three years. That decision has worked out thus far.
That changed nothing. Since then, we’ve hired two associate editors in the past year—the first one left one step ahead of the firing squad. Not only was I not involved in the process, I wasn’t even informed ahead of time. I found out both times we had a new associate editor at the same time as everyone else in the office.
Also, it used to be that whenever projects were handed out, the editor would call me into his office, where we’d discuss who should get what, coming to a mutual understanding that was best for the magazine. Now it’s just an email—here are the assignments, here’s who should get them. I’m strictly on a need-to-know basis, and, apparently, I don’t need to know anything.
Oh yeah, and when the editor finally handed off oversight of the online associate editor, which he did a year ago, it wasn’t to me, but to a senior editor. That made official what seemed clear to me back in 2011: I’m managing editor of the magazine, period.
Well, rapidly approaching 50-year-old me has handled this situation a lot differently (read: more maturely) than, say, 34-year-old me would have. I’ve kept my mouth shut and kept doing my job, increasingly limited though it may be, to the best of my ability. But even soon-to-be-50-year-old me recognizes that it’s time to move on.
I’ve looked at my 50th birthday as a time of great change—cutting my hair, sure, but also preparing myself for what’s left of my life. One of the things that will happen sooner rather than later is a new job.
It won’t happen right away. I was at The Dispatch for eight years, nine months. I hated most of my time there, and The Dispatch can’t be the job I hold the longest. Unless I’m shown the door—and, honestly, given my salary and increasing irrelevance, such a move wouldn’t surprise me—I’m staying where I am till at least February 2015 when I’ll surpass my Dispatch tenure. After that, all bets are off.
So, I have eight months—10 if I stay through my ninth anniversary—to figure out what I want to do next. I have a couple ideas, and they involve a career change. I slowly have reached the conclusion that my current job in all likelihood will be the last full-time job I have in journalism. Simply put, I make too much money, and publications aren’t interested in paying for quality any more. I’m a dinosaur marching off into the desert to the strains of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
But at least my hair still looks good.