Sometime around the turn of the century, circa 1999 - 2000, a website called Mullets Galore caught fire and was soon the subject of water cooler talk in offices across the nation.
If you ask me, this distraction was a contributing factor to the dot com bust. What could be funnier than that photo of the basketball playing midgimullet? How much VC was spent on paying whole departments to surf Mullets Galore? Ah, the flush years...
Anyway I digress, the mullet, for those in a coma since 1999, is simply a haircut that is short on the sides and long in the back. The style is strongly associated with the demographic most likely to attend a truck pull, be arrested for domestic violence and drive a hand-painted Camaro.
Billy Ray Cyrus in particular, helped the order of the crimson nape claim the mullet as their defining hairstyle. However, a little time spent revisiting photographs of 80's bands, especially new wave bands, reveals that the mullet was once embraced by a higher echelon of society. This playlist examines 21 of the greatest new wave mullets of the 1980s, and includes one stand out track by each.
Some believe the term "mullet" is derived from 19th century fishermen, who wore the hairstyle to keep their necks warm, hence the term mullet, also a type of fish. However, others believe it was the Beastie Boys who coined the term with their 1994 song "Mullet Head".
In 2001, The term "mullet" was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
So without further ado I give you the top 21 new wave mullets of the 1980s, with photographic evidence.
U2 is one of the few bands from the 1980's who were able to overcome their bad haircuts and continue to grow both commercially and artistically. Many don't remember the incredible mullitude this band possessed in the mid-80s, but this picture should refresh your memory. As you can see, the Edge had a pretty standard mullet before he went bald, but Bono's a different story! Just look at that hair! It was an in-your-face pompadour mullet that we'll probably never see again.
From the ashes of Bauhaus came the band Love and Rockets, sans Peter Murphy, and yes, even these gothic forefathers spread some mullet love around in the 80s. As this photo reveals, 2 of the 3 had well defined mullets, but Daniel Ash takes the cake not only for the hair, but for the way he is protecting his genitals as if someone is getting ready to throw a rock at him. I'm not really sure what's going on here, but the juxtaposition of the poses, white beachwear and mullets helps create a composition that just keeps on giving.
Okay, okay, I know that the David Bowie mullet came in the 1970's, but I had to include him. After all, he was the first rock star to sport a mullet with pride and conviction. He effectively removed the obstacles that opened the door for the cut, and it soon spread forth to dominate a generation. He first started wearing it as Ziggy Stardust, and soon after, other glam rockers followed suit. David Bowie is the grandfather of the rock & roll mullet. And don't you ever forget it!
Cutting Crew were a one hit wonder that struck gold in 1986 with "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight", a song that utilized strings and an aching undercurrent which instantly struck a chord with the masses. And especially so with the ladies. When the better gender got a glimpse of these guys with their black sport coats and volumized mullets, forget about it! Just look at that photo, think of the hours spent in the hairdresser's chair for this shot. Priceless.
I have to admit that "Forever Young" can still bring a tear to my eye. I remember listening to it at the age tender of 16 and thinking about how much it must suck to get old. Well, I was right. Alphaville is one of those 80's bands that you love, but can't remember what they looked like, most likely due to a bad publicist. However, as you can see, they dabbled in the mullet. And although I am not quite sure how deep into its clutches they fell, this glamour shot clearly shows that they were indeed on the road to damnation.
I could find legions of knowledgeable music fans who would agree with me when I say, "Songs From The Big Chair is the best album ever made that features mullets on the cover." This point is not debatable. In fact, this album is so good that I bet you overlooked the fact Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were both sporting Brillo-mullets in the black and white headshot chosen for the cover of this seminal release. Does it hurt yet? Are you starting to have more respect for Mr. Joe Dirt? Tears For Fears never owned a Camaro, yet here they are, in all their mullet-headed glory on the cover of an album that hit #1 in the USA and #2 in the UK.
Even though my friends used to laughingly refer to The Alarm's Mike Peters as "Bono Lite", I continued to buy their albums, and still secretly admire the wind-blown mullets that graced their skulls. Just look at that perfect coiffure. In the alternate universe I escape to from time to time, I have that hair, but I'm not a rock star. I'm Momumbo, the fearless, bare-chested warrior who rides into battle upon a great lion, with a spear between my teeth and determination in my eyes, completely prepared to lay waste to the invading hordes.
Before George Michael sold millions of solo records, and before he began to vacation at various highway rest stops, he was a member of Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley. The group made teenage girls swoon with their sensitive ways, upper-register vocals, white t-shirts with big black letters, and ultra-hip Euro-mullets. Admittedly, they were borderline mullets, but that's what makes them so important. Wham! proved that you could push the boundaries of mullet style and sell records at the same time!
The Dream Syndicate were a criminally under-appreciated rock band born of L.A.'s Paisley Underground in the 1980s. I wore out two cassette copies of The Medicine Show in high school and now the album is out of print, and impossible to find! I'll pay good money for it if anyone has a copy. But anyway, The Dream Syndicate is the most straight-up rock outfit featured in this mullet-centric playlist. I think the picture will clearly show why they made the cut.
Hall & Oates
Although Hall & Oates were the punch line for many jokes during the 1980's the duo had the last laugh. They have charted an unbelievable 34 hit singles on Billboard's Hot 100 and have 7 platinum and 6 gold certified records. Not bad for a couple of dorks with average mullets.
Below you will find photos and Y! Music links to the remaining 10 top "musical mullets of the 1980s". Enjoy.
Wang Chung - The "Ivy League Mullet"
Duran Duran - Duran Duran never fully embraced the mullet, but they were close, as this photo shows.