There are some people involved in music and showbiz who love to court publicity and bask in the limelight. For them image is all important, rubbing shoulders with celebs, rock stars and film stars is something to boast - and occasionally bitch about. There are others who prefer to keep a low profile. One of those people is freelance hairdresser Peter Cannon.
Today Peter Cannon is a highly regarded freelance hairdresser and beauty consultant. He travels to a select, mostly female clientele around Manchester and the north west.
But twenty five years ago, Peter Cannon was at the cutting edge of early 80s music and fashion, and maintained a striking personal image, with spiky black hair, leather gear, studs, pointy boots and make-up, lots of it.
Striking and shocking
This image was part of the post-new wave youth movement that led to an explosion of creativity and self expression including burlesque styles, way out music and a clubbing lifestyle that involved going out four or five nights a week. A leading exponent of this style was Boy George. Pete Burns of Dead or Alive also achieved fame and notoriety with his boy-girl image.
Peter Cannon was a part of all this, and maintained a striking and some would say shocking style of appearance. I have to admit I was taken aback when I first saw him. But as soon as he opened his mouth, I found to my surprise that I got on with him very well. We both share fascination for the 1950s, particularly the fashions, movies, screen goddesses and cars.
|Beehive hairstyle created by Manchester-based hairdresser Peter Cannon. Model Hannah Curzon. Photographs taken by Aidan O'Rourke, Saturday 6 October, 2007.|
For Peter, this image wasn't a weekend thing - it was something he lived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The make-up and hair usually took 20 minutes every morning, but going out in the evening it could take an hour or more.
The look involved heavy use of eye make-up, mascara, foundation, spiky hair often using extensions, and elaborate, skin-hugging outfits in black leather, with accessories such as studded belts, pointed boots and furs.
Peter's image was highly professional and unique, and would put many women to shame. There was no smudged lipstick, no roots growing out, no badly applied mascara and the clothes were always impeccably well chosen. Peter had trained in hairdressing and beauty therapy.
Person of paradoxes
He was a part of the Manchester club scene, and was often seen at the most fashionable venues.
Peter was - and remains- a person of paradoxes. On the one hand he was the living example of a striking, androgynous and extreme fashion style, but at the same time he was a fan of a decade when to dress as he did in public would probably have had you locked up.
Fifties hair styles, fifties design, fifties film stars and especially fifties cars were and are still an object of fascination for Peter. His pride and joy was a 1961 Ford Consul. It started out dark green and he later had it resprayed in pale cream colour. He has also owned a Volvo 1800S, The Saint's car.
The Consul, just like the hair and the eyeliner, always looked perfect. He later sold the Consul and a few months later was disapointed to find the new owner had allowed it to deteriorate.
He came into contact with music and media people and through a mutual friend was introduced to the singer Mari Wilson. Soon he became the man behind the beehive hairstyle, crafting her amazing backcombed bouffant reminiscent of the late 1950s. In the 1980s Mari Wilson had hits with 'Just what I've always wanted', 'Cry me a river' and others. Today she enjoys a highly successful singing career. Peter and Mari remain good friends.
Peter was friends with many famous personalities: Wayne, alias Jayne County, the outrageous transsexual punk star, was a visitor to his flat in Salford, Sydney Masters was a close friend, and Joanne Whalley, the Hollywood star from Stockport was a pal from early days. Peter toured with bands doing their hair and make up, including Doctor and the Medics. More recently he has worked with photographer Cornell Lucas, and once met and was photographed with Diana Dors.
One hit wonder
Due to the contact with the rock scene and showbiz, Peter developed the idea of being a recording artist himself.
I collaborated with him and others developing a repertoire of original songs which were recorded first as demos. I did the arranging and coached Peter's singing voice, which was remarkably powerful and in tune, considering he had never sung before or had any musical training.
We hoped to launch Peter's pop career, but to cut a long story short, things ended in disappointment.
Peter was never going to be the next Bob Dylan or Elton John but a one hit wonder would have been a nice achievement, and allowed a wider audience to appreciate Peter's striking image and competent vocals.
At least we have the promotional video made in 1985. His sons aged 10 and 21 enjoy watching their dad in the make-up, leather and spiky hair. And by the way, that's me (Aidan O'Rourke) on keyboards with the dark glasses and leather cap.
As time went on, Peter's image mellowed with age, the hair became gradually shorter, but the look no less professional.
Peter continues to be an image-maker today, often doing hair for style-conscious 20-something females.
Peter is still fascinated with the 50s and 60s. When I told him about the idea for my nostalgic short film travelling back to 1965, he was very enthusiastic. This will be the first film Peter will have worked on and I hope it won't be the last.Written by Aidan O'Rourke