Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shatner - it's happened now...



The other day, we received a great tip via email regarding a line uttered by Bill Shatner in one of the songs in his 2004 album Has Been. The emailer also requested a full toupological analysis! Well, we are happy to oblige...

The line is "fear of losing my hair..." and is contained in "It Hasn't Happened Yet" which is the second track on the Has Been album.

The song's lyrics are written by Shatner (with Ben Folds) and are in many regards deeply personal expressions of his inner fears - indeed, the entire album can be described as very personal and forthright, with one song ("What Have You Done?") entirely about the tragic drowning of Bill Shatner's third wife Nerine.

The "hair" phrase in "It Hasn't Happened Yet" comes in the midst of a torrent of personal anxieties expressed in the song that echo amongst each other: fear of failure, fear of falling, fear of freezing up. Listen to the clip below:


Click on the image below to read the complete lyrics of the song:

You can hear the full song on YouTube or buy the album here.

Interestingly, Bill Shatner's live performance of "It Hasn't Happened Yet" (not sure where/when) simply omitted the "fear of losing my hair" line as the clip below demonstrates:



There are three possible explanations for this. The first is that Bill Shatner accidentally skipped the line - even though he had the entire lyrics printed in front of him as he performed the song (unlike his pal Leonard Nimoy, Bill Shatner has a bad memory and it is getting worse with age!). The second explanation is that the line was purposefully removed for non-toup related reasons; echoing voices can be produced in abundance in a recording, but presented live the situation is a little different and could clutter the delivery. The third explanation is that although he felt comfortable delivering such a line in the studio, Shats was not quite ready to do so in front of a huge audience.

But let's back up a little and try to analyze the significance and meaning of the "hair" line contained in "It Hasn't Happened Yet". Crucially, this is the only real example we have here at this blog in which Bill Shatner is reflecting on the hair issue in a non-comedic way. That is hugely significant in and of itself. No jokes, no rhetorical joviality - this is dead serious. Indeed, if one reads between the lines of the song, Bill Shatner has actually placed hair loss and the apparent horror that it represents as one of his most potent fears. As soon as we hear "fear of losing my hair" we hear the echoing line "falling, falling..." There is poeticism in this wordplay as "falling" is supposed to represent another fear related to the rock that the subject of the song, Shatner himself, is climbing. But the other meaning is clear: it is the hair that is falling, falling (out). And in so doing, the nirvana and serenity that the author so desperately seeks is again undermined. If only all these fears weren't plaguing me, expresses Shatner. I have the adulation; I have the success and am recognized by strangers in the street; I have climbed the mountain - so why won't these niggling inner fears go away?


In a sense, Shatner is reflecting upon something that many a celebrity finds - a truth so obvious that it has become a cliché, yet is still so often ignored by those who find fame and fortune. The adoring masses - even a million people - can all yell "We love you, Michael!" (for example) and yet the real and meaningful love that the subject of this popular adoration so desperately craves remains elusive. Screaming fans simply can't supplant that. Yes, money, fame and success are not the panaceas our society repeatedly claims they are. And, as Shatner notes, even self-prescribed achievements like climbing a rock at Yosemite don't really do the trick. Real contentment remains elusive, and unpleasant human fears remain.


Here, Bill Shatner's most famous alter-ego Captain Kirk may help with an answer. In the Star Trek episode "This Side of Paradise" Kirk noted: "Maybe we weren't meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through; struggle, claw our way up; scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can't stroll to the music of the lute, we must march to the sound of drums." In other words, that desperately sought contentment will likely never come - and if it does than that would actually be worse than death. "I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain!" noted Kirk in the mostly dreadful Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Yet, within this turkey, we again find a few explorations of Kirk that are pure Shatner: "I've always known I'll die alone," he says. That thought is taken to its logical conclusion in (sadly, another turkey) Star Trek: Generations, when Kirk really does die alone. "Oh, my" he says, reacting to the unfinished business of the newest distraction - I was so busy, I almost didn't notice that it's over. But even then, at the moment of finality, death is too horrible to really contemplate. Best to focus on earthly affairs until the very, very end. One suspects that that is the way Shatner himself hopes to go too.


As we have noted before, Bill Shatner, 78 as of this writing, is a human dynamo. There are very few people in the world that could release a succesful pop album in their seventies; then a ballet documentary. Boston Legal is over, but there is still Shatner's Raw Nerve and then the next project and the next. Shatner won't stop. He can't. But one day...the grim reaper will finally catch up with him and based on what he has expressed in his works including Has Been, he dreads that day and how alone he will feel. Will all the achievements and adoration mean nothing? Will he still find himself worrying about failure or losing his hair?

"At my age, I need serenity. I need peace. It hasn't happened yet," concludes Shatner in the song. It likely, and perhaps thankfully, never will.


Yet, the line "fear of losing my hair" isn't as direct as it may appear to be on the surface. As we have noted on two other occasions, Bill Shatner continues to employ some clever and elusive wordplay in this stage of his public statements related to the issue of his hair. And the example in "It Hasn't Happened Yet" is no exception. "Fear of losing my hair" actually implies that the fear is of a future event that has yet to transpire, whereas in reality, this was an event that was an issue for Bill Shatner more than fifty years ago. That is, unless we read yet another level of poeticism into the line - a literal fear of losing his hair. Meaning, the fear that Bill Shatner would have had for forty-three years before his hair transplant of his toupee being detached in public and the perceived humiliation that this would cause. Forty-three years of that kind of fear and terror is difficult for a non-toup wearer and non-public figure to imagine.

Finally, if we study the waveform of the "fear of losing my hair" line (cleaned up to enhance the voice), we see considerably less stress than in our previous analysis of Bill Shatner asking "do I wear a toupee?" in his autobiography Up Till Now. Whereas in that example, we detected a great deal of stress and discomfort, here we actually detect confidence and honesty:


Notice how the word "hair" is both elongated and increased in volume compared to the previous words in the phrase. The intonation given to the phrase exudes honesty - as if we were listening in on a private conversation with a close friend. Therefore, and despite the slightly elusive wordplay, we read this as being the most honest and genuine expression from Bill Shatner with regards to his hair that we have encountered. We applaud and salute it!

And on a very final note, we should also add that Bill Shatner appears to give the very last line of the entire album (in the final song "Real") over to his hair (at least, one can interpret it that way) - specifically his new transplant talking to us, the audience:

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm real!"

5 comments:

  1. I read an interview with Shat in which he declared he would have been happy and content if he'd written the book Neuromancer (by William Gibson). But perhaps Shat was deluding himself yet again and he still wouldn't have been satisfied (he'd want to direct and star in the film version as well, and compose the soundtrack, and do a special feature on the DVD where he pulls on his hair to demonstrate he's real, and win every Academy Award and so on and so on). Then he wakes up to remember he did Groom Lake.

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  2. Has Been is a great album. As for The Transformed Man, the less said the better.

    Shatner's not the only Trek star with memory troubles. I witnessed George Takei lose his way during a monologue at a concert at Blossom Music Center this past summer.

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  3. I can't hear the line in question. After "I whispered in the air," you hear an electronically deepened voice intone the word "failure" and then it goes on to "when is the mountain scaled?"

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  4. "Stallion Cornell" it may be an issue with your speaker setup as the line is only spoken in the right channel, so if you can only hear the left channel, the line won't be audible.

    -ST

    PS Thanks for your nice piece about our blog.

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  5. No problem! You guys are great!

    And, yes, I was listening to it through a set of broken earphones. Much better now.

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