July 9, 2012
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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