…And Ye Shall Know Them By Their MULLETS!

I’ve written before about how I’m not really enamored of the eighties after 1983, which I maintain is when the actual decade really began to manifest itself. I consider ’80-’83 the fallout of the seventies, which was much stronger, musically, than what followed. But it seemed that by the middle of that decade, music became very retrograde and self-satisfied; full of complacency and smug conservatism. Nowhere is this more vividly charted than on the length of the hairstyles that many erstwhile New Wavers were sporting by the decade’s mid-point. Where things get specifically tragic was in the embrace of The Mullet. Below, I attempt to show how it spread like a virus through the UK rock community ca. mid-80s.

Limahl/Kajagoogoo

Limahl’s proximity to Nick Rhodes was a Mullet Gateway Drug for members of Duran Duran

One of the earliest 80s mullets I remember spotting was on the scalp of Kajagoogoo’s lead singer, Limahl. Let’s say that phrase one more time,”Kajagoogoo’s lead singer, Limahl!” Those four words go far in explaining just how far the Post-Punk train went off its rails by 1983, don’t they? Kajagoogoo were the pet project of Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, who co-produced their inescapable single “Too Shy” right to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, acing even their mentors Duran Duran themselves! Surely, with his Ibiza tan and ridiculously overworked mullet, one gets the impression that members of Duran Duran were taking some serious notes!

Simon Lebon/Duran Duran

Mullet pioneer LeBon led the pack

By 1977, the notion of long hair on a rock star was part of the decadence that Punk, and even New Wave, had meant to bury. Long hair was on your father’s rock stars who were busy partying in stretch limos; not something anyone with artistic credibility would ever strive for! So short hair became de riguer for the artistic set. Let it never be said that following their debut album that Duran Duran were aiming for anything but the mainstream. Their attempt to become the new Japan [the group] backfired miserably as millions of teenaged girls [initially in Japan, the nation] deemed them worthy of fervid adulation.

By 1983, with the turgid [but bestselling] “Seven + The Ragged Tiger” under their belts, it was fairly inevitable, that Duran Duran were aiming to knock Rod Stewart off of his model-shagging perch. When the members of the band besides Andy Taylor began growing their hair long it was a gauntlet being thrown before a generation of Post-Punk artists. By the end of 1984, Simon LeBon sported a Mad Max Mega Mullet worthy of Rod The Mod at his most galling. Their contemporaries quickly followed suit.

Tony Hadley/Spandau Ballet

Where Duran lead, Spandau follows

It’s hard to imagine a soul boy Vegas crooner like Tony “The Man With The Golden Lungs” Hadley going down that rough-and-tumble rabbit hole, but by the end of 1984, that writ had been posted to the doors of the UK rock star club. If you wanted to stay in the game that mullet was mandatory! Duran Duran were The New-Ro Beatles to Spandau’s Rolling Stones, so naturally, where Duran led, Spandau followed. Spandau weren’t recording at that time, since they were suing their label for not promoting them enough, but when they reconvened to the studio for 1986’s “Through The Barricades,” the result was the rockin’est Spandau Ballet album evah! It was at that point that their star truly began waning in earnest as their casual fans realized how horribly wrong things had gone by that point.

David Bowie

It didn’t look like he was off the coke yet, did it?

It was the bitterest of ironies, that by 1987, even that perennial trendsetter David Bowie [without whom, none of the artists above would even exist] had ended up sporting a mullet. Even worse, in his case, was that he was at least two years too late! That, in a nutshell was Bowie’s chief problem by 1987. After a decade of leading the pack from 1972-1981, bereft of direction or inspiration, he had been reduced to follower status. The ultimate irony was that it was Bowie who had initially popularized The Mullet 15 years earlier as part of his career-making Ziggy Stardust look! Sacré cour! ‘Ow zee mighty had fallen. I’m sure there were even more mullet-sporting erstwhile Post-Punk artists who had lumbered down this fashion cul de sac. I have memories of Midge Ure sporting this look but couldn’t find any photos during lunch. In any case, this was all I had time for today. Can you think of any others? In all of these cases, the mid-80s mullet coincides with a drop in artistic quality.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to …And Ye Shall Know Them By Their MULLETS!

  1. Brian Ware says:

    Iva Davies sported a pretty serious mullet through the last half of the 80s. Not that “Measure For Measure” suffered, but of course “Man Of Colours” started the slide which ended in the “Code Blue” train wreck. Iva appears to be looking pretty sharp these days though.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Brian Ware – Curse me for the novice! Iva managed to slip me by even though he’s been on my mind lately. Perhaps it was the top quality of “Measure For Measure” and even the acceptability of “Man Of Colours” that threw me off the scent. Of course, the chickens came home to roost on “Code Blue” with a vengeance! You can’t outrun the price The Mullet extracts!

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  2. Echorich says:

    The premise is certainly born out in the relationship of mullet to output. Spandau is certainly the best example.
    Let’s give Mr. Davies the status of the exception that proves the rule – at least through Man Of Colours…
    Monk – you hit the nail on the head with Bowie…not full circle, more circling the drain. He followed his lack of ideas with jumping in with coke buddies the Sales brothers and creating Tin Machine which sounded pretty much as you expect a tin machine to sound.
    Finally I have to say that I have read and re-read the following section regarding Duran Duran and can’t stop chuckling every time – it’s just so true… “Their attempt to become the new Japan [the group] backfired miserably as millions of teenaged girls [initially in Japan, the nation] deemed them worthy of fervid adulation.” – Priceless!!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I have to say that I am not one of those Tin Machine naysayers. The first Tin Machine album was exactly the sort of musical enema he sorely needed in my opinion. He really needed to get far, far away from: drum machines, fretless bass, saxophone, Yamaha DX7s, and Peter Frampton and I felt that Reeves Gabrels saved his hide. I loved the debut Tin Machine album! Now the second one… we could dish some dirt. The hateful cover of “If There Is Something” in particular, exposes the vast artistic gulf between former peers Ferry and Bowie by this point in time.

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  3. Pingback: …And Ye Shall Know Them By Their MULLETS II: Electric Boogaloo!! | Post-Punk Monk

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