Bemoaning the Era of the Post-Modern Mullet

Forgive me.  Forgive me in advance for the truly intemperate, intolerant things I’m about to say.  Forgive me if I hurt your feelings or betray myself as being too old to understand.  I don’t want to upset anyone or hurt anybody, but sometimes the truth is a blunt instrument – probably a bassoon – and the kindest thing to do is simply to blow it and damn the consequences.  I speak, of course, of haircuts.

We were at a shopping centre.  You may disapprove, but we’re entitled as anyone to do our Christmas shopping without experiencing a wholesale assault of the senses.  We walked (as you do when you’re at a shopping centre) for what seemed like hours and time and time again were confronted by the sight of young men, often in groups, sporting a haircut known as a ‘mullet’.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a mullet is the ‘platypus’ of haircuts.  Just as a platypus looks like several different animals rolled into one, a mullet consists of two types of haircut that are diametrically opposed.  Like ‘fire’ and ‘ice’.  Like ‘oil’ and ‘water’.  Like ‘good taste’ and ‘Married at First Sight’.  Some things simply cannot co-exist peacefully.

A mullet consists of short hair, generally located at the front of the victim’s subject’s skull, combined with long hair at rear.  The logic – such as it is – being ‘business up front, party at the back’.  It was the haircut that defined the eighties.  If that sounds like a somewhat pathetic achievement, you need to remember how competitive haircuts were back then.  It was an era that featured titans like the ‘blow wave’ and ‘the man-perm’.  Ultimately, they were no match for the mighty mullet.

As someone who grew up in the eighties, I aspired to have a mullet. My dreams, however, were cruelled by a school rule that strictly forbade boys to have hair that touched the collar of their shirt.  Flouting this rule was all in a day’s work for some, who insisted on growing their hair out until a teacher intervened and threatened to cut it on the spot.  The resulting handiwork was proof – if it were needed – that hairdressing is a skill acquired through training and not at teacher’s college.

But as human beings, we evolve.  That is, if we’re lucky.  With the benefit of hindsight and, possibly, a mirror, we came to understand that the mullet was an incredibly ugly haircut that not so much failed to flatter the host as it did insult them outright.  Eventually, mullets went the way of acid wash jeans and were quietly retired at some point in the nineties.  Granted, there was the occasional resurgence, including one led by Billy Ray Cyrus and his magical carpet of hair; who brazenly boot-scooted to distract you from the tonsorial atrocity that was perched on top of his head.  The horror.

Quite literally, I thought all that ugliness was behind us.  Turns out I was wrong.  A mere thirty-five years later and it seems that young men have embraced the mullet with a disturbing level of enthusiasm.  Worse still, they have taken this most tragic of haircuts and made it worse with a series of new and horrifying additions.  These include a bowl-cut at the front; presumably to get the ‘demonic altar boy’ look that everyone’s been raving about.  What’s happening out back only makes it worse.

There are two models of modern mullet.  There’s the one where the long hair at the back is teased or curled to give the impression of some kind of ‘hair explosion’ from a flatulent skull.  The other is lank and creates the impression of having only recently been released from prison.  Both kinds are all kinds of ugly.  It’s as though young men everywhere are participating in some kind of competition, vying for the title of ‘world’s rudest head’. 

Perhaps I’m too old and don’t understand.  Maybe I’m jealous at not being able to grow so luxurious a mullet of my own.  For all I know, these haircuts are a part of a sincere albeit misguided vow of abstinence by these young men.  Or perhaps it hurts to see the mistakes of the past being so hideously repeated by the next generation.  I’m not sure.  All I know is that you ought not go out of your way to have a head that looks like a dropped pie.  You can do better.  Humanity is begging you.

Naturally, I said nothing as they sauntered past me in the shopping centre.  As much as I wanted to walk up to one of these young men, grab him by the shoulders and shake him whilst screaming, ‘IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS SACRED, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING??????’ I refrained, because I thought there was a slight chance that I might be misunderstood.  Instead, I said nothing.  Perhaps I subtly shook my head in disbelief and, granted, there was the slightest hint of a tear in my eye, but I kept my thoughts to myself. 

If you’re reading this and are sporting a renaissance mullet, I beg you to reconsider.  You’ll be glad you did.  But if, after reading this story and viewing footage from the eighties, you remain unconvinced, then I simply can’t help.  Just know that I’m disappointed by your decision and that you broke my heart.  My achy, breaky heart.

There Ain’t No Millisecond Prize

Time is a relative concept.  Not an especially close relative – probably a second cousin twice removed or an odd uncle who smells strange – but a relative nonetheless. But just as a malodorous uncle can muscle his way in on the queue for the Christmas pork crackling, fuelled equally by a sense of entitlement and brandy eggnog, so too can time throw an almighty spanner in the works when least expected.  Time, it seems, is speeding up.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate.  It’s the earth that’s getting faster by taking less time to rotate on its axis.  In June, our planet recorded its shortest day ever, clocking in at 1.59 milliseconds quicker than average.  No wonder I felt rushed.  This, of course, creates a problem much bigger than a millisecond.  For whilst the earth might play fast and loose with time, the same cannot be said for clocks who are incredibly stubborn about it.  As a result, things are ever so slightly out of step.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that it’s this kind of confluence  of circumstances that makes time travel a reality.  I’m tempted to take the Holden Astra up to eighty eight miles an hour in the Woolies car park and see if I end up somewhere other than in the back of the discount bottle shop.  All I need to figure out is which year I should return to.  In truth, the answer is obvious.

In the movie ‘Back to the Future’, Marty McFly is transported back to 1955 in order to help Chuck Berry invent rock and roll.  This must have come as something of a shock to Chuck when he saw the film. For me, however, I would use my time machine to return to the Year of Our Lord 1987.  

There are many reasons why I’d choose this particular year.  It was the year the Berlin Wall came down – crumbling as it did when subjected to a performance of ‘Jump In My Car’ by David Hasselhoff.  1989 was also the year that Microsoft first released ‘Office’ – which is the version I use to this very day.  It was the year of Milli Vanilli and ‘Pump Up the Jam’ by Technotronic. Of Cher and a revitalized B-52s. But my reasons for heading back to 1989 are not to be in Berlin as the Hoff sang or to encourage Cher to wear something more suited to standing astride a Navy destroyer but, in truth, to tell me to pull my socks up.

If I could travel back in time, it would be to cut my mullet off and explain that no good ever comes from acid wash jeans. Ever.  I feel this advice would have changed my life for the better.  Also, I would have encouraged my younger self to learn how to dance.  Footage from that era survives of me out the front of a band doing something that I thought, then, was dancing but know now to be something akin to wriggling like an electric eel after a nasty surprise.

As exciting as it is to consider that there’s now time unaccounted for that can be claimed back at will, there are questions of a more troubling kind that need to be answered.  Namely, if the world is getting faster, how much faster can we expect it to get?  I remember once taking my nephew to Luna Park and discovering that this quiet, unassuming eight-year-old feared nothing and insisted on experiencing the most terrifying theme park rides known to humanity.  One such ride involved leaning against a wall which then span around until somebody lost their lunch.  I don’t remember what it was called, but always think of it as ‘the Vomitron’.

I, for one, am not looking forward to the day I wake up only to find the world spinning at such a pace that my car keys are stuck to the wall and I want to lie down.  Soon will come the time when the entire planet is spinning like a top, until it falls from its axis and tumbles into space.  Chances are, it’ll happen before I’ve had a chance to use the last of my JB Hi Fi gift vouchers.  Typical.

Funny thing is, the world wasn’t always in such a hurry. Until a few years ago, the general consensus was it was slowing down, necessitating the introduction of ‘leap seconds’ to keep everything in line.  Now that it’s gone the other way, some are advocating that we ‘drop’ a millisecond.  This is new territory. Its impact on technology is, apparently, unknown.  All I can say is in the event of a negative leap second, there’s not a chance in hell that I’m going to try and synchronize the clock on my microwave. It’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

 It’s no surprise, really, to hear that the world is speeding up.  Most of us feel that every day.  But amongst all the chaos and noise and pressure, I hope there’s still time to slow down and appreciate things.  Time may change and so do we.  I think there may have been moments when I’ve resisted changed – which is why I still had a mullet and wore acid wash jeans until November 2013.  But it’s different now.  

Even if the world speeding up creates a wormhole through which it’s possible for a Holden Astra to slip, I won’t be going back to 1989 after all.  What’s done is done. I like it here, instead. And I’m more interested in what’s happening now than anything behind me.  Bring on the future. 

I Sing The Body Electric Guitar

Secrets – we all have them.  For some, a secret is an idea; a piece of information we carry in our souls.  Others hide their secrets in a deep, dark and inaccessible emotional cavern that, with any luck, will never be found.  That’s all right for some.  For others, however, a secret is less existential as it is physical.  And whether you hide that thing in a roof cavity or bury it in a backyard, someone’s going to find it eventually. For me, my deepest, darkest secret is on DVD.

I know how that sounds – as though I’ve been part of something truly salacious or, worse still, was once a contestant on ‘Married At First Sight’, but no.  My secret is much more disturbing than that.  It involves things that, all this time later, I find it difficult if not impossible to face up to.  But as dark as a secret might be, there comes a time when a secret must be shared with someone else, either in the interests of transparency or to give them one last chance to get out whilst they still can.  That time had arrived.

Have you ever seen that footage of the Loch Ness monster?  It’s grainy and weird and it’s hard to be sure you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing.  This footage is almost identical except that it includes guitars and a mullet.  Or, to be precise, my mullet; in all its bouncy, resplendent glory.  And a saxophone.  (It was, after all, the eighties, when the law required that every emotional apex and valley had to be accompanied by the honking rich sounds of a saxophone.)  Put another way; imagine if the Loch Ness monster had, rather than simply tentatively sticking his head out of the water, been a teenager fronting a band. Then you’ll get the idea.

I suppose I should just come right out and say it – I was in a rock band as a teenager.  If that doesn’t horrify you, then there are some additional pieces of information I feel I ought to disclose.  The first is that we were no regular teenage rock band.  Covers of ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Louie Louie’ weren’t for us. Nor did we bang out sketchy versions of Australian Crawl or Cold Chisel songs.  In fact, we didn’t do covers songs at all.  We only performed originals.

If that’s not enough to inspire you to spontaneously stuff marshmallows into your ears, I’m not sure what would.  As teenagers, we looked around at the other bands and the abysmal but crowd-pleasing covers they were doing and decided that we’d write our own songs.  It was a breathtakingly arrogant thing to do.  On a practical note (F# most likely), it wasn’t just that we were ambitious; some of us were limited in terms of our musical abilities and were incapable of playing the songs of others.  If you can’t imitate, you must create.  So we did.

The second key fact is this: we were a band that met at church and all our song lyrics were religious.  No, really.  To the extent that it was technically possible to accumulate cool points for being in a rock band, they vanished the moment we opened our mouths.  We wanted to be cool.  We thought we were cool.  But by any objective measure, we were not cool and this DVD is proof of that.

Originally, it would have been shot on video.  As a result, the images are somewhat unstable and, once in a while, a line of interference runs down the screen like a picture with a bad aerial.  We are playing in a church hall in Cheltenham.  Presumably, we were there to keep ‘the kids’ off the mean streets of Southland or similar.  That said, it is also possible that our music inspired some to a life of crime. I couldn’t blame them.  We were introduced by some incredibly uncool looking fellow who, most likely, was the leader of the local Youth Group. Then we hit the stage.

I was wearing a suit vest and had a mop of hair that might as well have been on loan from Princess Diana.  All our songs had long, serious neo-classical synthesizer introductions, to create a suitably joyless atmosphere.  We were a serious band with a serious message. That message should probably have been ‘block your ears’, but it wasn’t.  As the neo-classical synth intro came to an end, the guitars and drums kicked in.  As the lead singer, it was my job to be a focal point.  I achieved this by reacting as though a large amount of electricity had just been directed through my body.  It was not pretty.  

It’s inevitable – there’s a point in any relationship where you’ve got to drag out the skeletons lest they should be discovered at some future point and you’re accused of concealing something.  As I played the DVD, I’ll admit I found it difficult to watch.  That, primarily, was because I was incapable of removing my hands from my face.  Beside me, the footage was greeted with sensitivity. In particular, the kind of sensitivity that involves falling off the couch with uncontrollable fits of laughter.  Which is fair enough.

We leave our past behind for a reason.  But it’s still very much a part of us, no matter what we do.  And to share that with someone else and have them accept it is a mighty thing indeed.  It’s thirty-five years since that performance. It may well be another thirty-five years before I can watch that DVD again.  Here’s hoping.