Video of a 17-year-old David Bowie defending the right of men to wear their hair long.

On the fifth anniversary of David Bowie’s passing, here’s something from deep in his past.

When Bowie–still trading as David Jones, of course–was just 17, he appeared on a BBC program called Tonight. The segment dealt with the growing trend of men wearing their tresses long. This, after all, was 1964. Such a fashion choice was still considered ghastly, subversive, perhaps indicative of something worse. (Remember that homosexuality was still a crime in the UK.)

Bowie claimed to be part of a group of young men who were being persecuted for their long hair. To hear Bowie tell it, they’d had enough and formed a group called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men. Such a society did not exist; Bowie and his then-manager Les Conn. made it up so he could get on TV. But he was very convincing.

Such impudence must have had many in Britain clutching their pearls. Oh, if they only knew what was still to come…

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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