Jheri Curl June: Rick James’ “Glow”

Rick James never actually sported a jheri curl, yet he inarguably made some of the best jheri curl music of the first half of the 1980s. By his 1985 album Glow, however, he had lost even his long glittery braids in favor of a curly, light dye job that made him look more like Rowlf the Muppet dog than a freaky punk funker. His music had become similarly faded, limp, and lackluster. But Glow‘s title track is still worth mentioning–mostly because the video is nothing short of amazing.

The video opens with a spoken introduction by Rick James, giving the audience somewhat of a fair warning about what they’re about to see. The next image we see is James in an all white suit, chasing the lady from the “Give it to Me Baby” video across a beach in slow motion. I guess that’s some kind of metaphor for something. Fade in to a shot of a light brown poodle laying on top of someone’s aunt’s laundry… Oh wait, never mind, that’s Rick James again, his head slumped on the table of his dressing room vanity next to a half-empty fifth of Jack Daniels. You know, like a rock star. His manager is worried about him, his girlfriend can no longer stand to see him “do this to himself,” and on top of it all, as the band plays the fanfare-like opening cords to “Glow,” James saunters out, swinging his bottle, and takes a very obvious spill in front of the microphone. This seems to be the last straw, because as the crowd jeers and his concerned girlfriend looks on, James literally kicks his alcohol problem clear off the stage with a thigh-high leopard print high-heeled boot. The crowd goes wild and the group bursts once again into “Glow.”

The whole thing just smacks of a really bad Purple Rain ripoff: James plays a tortured musician with a penchant for frilly shirts, although this time he’s struggling with alcoholism rather than just controlling artist tendencies like in Purple Rain (or with a cocaine habit, like in Rick James’ reality). Music video aside, with its background synthesizer noodling, the song is undeniably very jheri. Although “Glow” is barely worth mentioning when compared to James’ high points–such as everything on Street Songsit’s interesting to note that it was only his second (albeit also last) single to reach number one on the dance chart, the first one being “Super Freak.” One thing’s for sure, Rick James was robbed of the Academy Award for best actor in 1985.

Playlist after the jump!





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