Everything was bigger in the 1970s: the songs, the solos, the trousers, the appetites for frequently lethal amount of drugs. And then there was the facial hair.
Not since Neanderthal times have so many people – well, let’s be frank, men - rocked so many gravy strainers, chin carpets and jowl tassels with so much freeform abandon as 70s rock musicians. From the titans of prog to southern rock’s backwoods army, the beard was king and the moustache its queen. Well-topiarised or otherwise, face foliage meant freedom, not least from the concept of regular personal grooming.
So we’ve ranked the greatest bands of rock’s golden decade, not by the brilliance of their music but by the luxuriance of their fuzz.
There are rules, naturally. In each case, the profile of at least 60 percent of the line-up must be partially obscured by a face sweater of some description. And they must have maintained foliage for several years – none of your proto-hipster ‘Ooh, I fancy growing some whiskers for five minutes’ tomfoolery (yeah, we’re looking at you, Mick Jagger). Just as we demand commitment from our heroes for their musical abilities, so we demand commitment from their moustaches.
So this is it – the greatest fur muzzles in rock. Nasal hair trimmers at the ready…
9. ZZ Top
You thought they’d be Number One, huh? Nope. Houston’s favourite fuzz-farmers spent most of the decade sporting the kind of short-ish chin-holsters you’d see on any mid-70s urban cowboy. It was only when they returned from a lengthy break with 1979’s Deguello had Billy Gibbons and the late Dusty Hill sprouted the majestic pelts that would help turn them into unlikely MTV stars. If we were talking 80s, they’d be kings of the hill, but we’re not, so suck it up, shinyface.
8. Aphrodite’s Child
Progressive rock beards are a category of their own – everyone from Genesis to cult folk-proggers Gryphon sported growth of varying length, while Rick Wakeman was prog’s own Gandalf. But when it comes to primal sexuality, Athens hairballs Aphrodite’s Child swept all before them – a trio of hirsute Hercules who proved Greece wasn’t just the Cradle Of Democracy, it was the Nursery Of Sub-Nostril Carpeting.
7. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
OK, they were no Lynyrd Skynyrd or Allman Brothers, but when it came to lip warmers, country rockers The Ozark Mountain Daredevils were streets ahead of the competition. Not for them unruly mutton chops of a Duane Allman or the joke shop hat’n’beard combo of a Leon Wilkson: these Missouri moustache farmers carried their dirt squirrels with a grace and elegance that was rare in the world of 70s rock. Couldn’t name a single one of their tunes, but hey, that’s another story.
6. Blue Oyster Cult
Five men, three sets of fuzz – rock’s most arcane band scrape in on percentages. There’s some quality 70s mouthbrow action courtesy of Buck Dharma and Albert Bouchard, but it’s frontman Eric Bloom’s magnificent facefro that wins it here. Think Bob Ross: The Metal Years… then weep at the fact that you’ll never come close to matching it in a century of trying.
5. The Beach Boys
We’re making an exception to the ‘maintaining foliage’ rule here, purely because the Beach Boys’ journey from ‘toothy, clean-shaven surf kids’ to ‘dead-eyed, would-be cult leaders’ is unmatched in the history of rock. Their time in the sun, beard-wise, was relatively brief, but when they went for it, they went all in - not only displaying some prime mid-70s lumbersexual action, but notching up a full house in the process.
Boston mastermind Tom Scholz might have been the Amadeus of AOR, but his phizzog was as hairless as an eel’s arsecrack. Thankfully, the rest of his band made up for it – the vintage ’76 line-up featured more wizard-ticklers than a bunch of Groucho Marx impersonators. Towering above all, though, was late drummer Sib Hashian, a man whose face looked even hairier upside down.
Many Americans took Brit chooglers Foghat as one of their own, but the moustaches were a dead giveaway: they looked like renegade RAF Wing Commanders who’d let their snot mops off the leash. It’s the classic, walrus-’tached early 70s line up that takes the honours here, with guitarist Rod ‘The Bottle’ Price and drummer Roger Earl in a two-way struggle for supremacy. Go crank up Slow Ride and smell the lip-sweat.
2. Black Sabbath
A no-brainer. In facial hair as in music, Black Sabbath were the most consistently brilliant band of the era. The twin moustaches of Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler loomed over the decade like furry colissi, majestic in their malevolence, while Bill Ward’s ever-shifting approach to beardage proved that he was pioneer of 70s rock manscaping. Hell, even Ozzy muscled in on the action occasionally, even if he never fully committed like his Gillette-dodging bandmates.
1. The Doobie Brothers
Has any other band been so dedicated to the cause of pogonotrophy? The Doobs were one part one rock band, one part yeti convention. They made even the most hirsute of their contemporaries look like little pink baby pandas, though it wasn’t just the quantity of pelage on show. No, they killed it when it came to quality and breadth too: pornstaches, coke dusters, lumberjack scarves and, in the case of Michael MacDonald, a crash helmet of hair – they had it all.
But all that would have been for nought if they hadn’t had the songs. Can you imagine Long Train Runnin’ or What A Fool Believes made by a bunch of whelk-chopped mimsies? This was music made by people with facial hair for people with facial hair, and it has the beard dandruff to prove it.