Moustache Rock

28 Mar

(I first slapped this up on the internet in ’04 with kind input from Ally on her then-current, fashionable SCRUGLET webzine. Sadly, SCRUGLET has long since gone the way of the pulltop aluminum beverage can. But as I’ve now regrown my moustache, it’s hightime this piece got another airing.)


As a courtesy to others, leave your Frank Zappas and Geddy Lees at home with the sitter. Please check all Freddy Mercurys, Phil Lynotts and whoever else you might have brought with you at the door. You are now taking a seat at . . .


Introductions from left to right:

1) daveballDAVE BALL of SOFT CELL. Not in the history of mankind has DAVE BALL’s visage been given billing over that of singer MARC ALMOND – until now, that is. And that’s because New Romantics (circa 1981) didn’t know what the fuck to make of this heavy-set bruiser with a moustache. His anachronistic look brings to mind that of SPARKS’ RON MAEL, but it also gets me thinking English seaside holidaymaker – which makes sense, since DAVE’s from Blackpool. Hopefully, focusing in on his looks for this brief moment will also lead you reconsider this man’s uncanny knack of crafting anxious, desperate melodies & beats that sound the way drinking 6 consecutive shots of espresso alone in your shitty studio apartment feels.

2) sparksRON MAEL of SPARKS. RON’s moustache transcends mere fashion trend – it’s an integral part of what it means to be SPARKS, not to mention a potent musical force in and of itself. Take a listen to SPARKS’ Kimono My House LP again, and listen closely this time; you can actually hear RON’s moustache throwing in it’s 2 cents on damn near every cut. And it’s no coincidence that every change in SPARKS’ musical attack over the years (from dadapop to glamrock to powerpop to synthpop to . . .) has been heralded in by yes! you guessed it! a subtle moustache alteration. Just who or what is calling the shots here? Those of you who feel up to the task can explore Ron’s face in more detail here.

tav3) TAV FALCO of THE PANTHER BURNS. If you’re someone who doesn’t have alot of patience for things deemed “rootsy”, but always suspected things were waaaay cooler in them olden days than anyone’s grandparents are letting on – well then, TAV’s your man. TAV has an innate ability to recontextualize forgotten American musics in such a highly personalized and assbackwards sort of way that you, the listener, begin to truly understand the dark places in which our collective heritage first squirmed. In the 1990’s, he also focused his attention on tracing American musical forms back to their festering European origins, and reportedly spent a fair amount of time doing the tango in dimly-lit, turn-of-the-century Parisian brothels. Which makes his ghostly moustache all the more apropos.

kidcongo14) KID CONGO POWERS of THE GUN CLUB. I couldn’t really find a pic that does justice to this man’s upper lip, which is a shame. It’s often groomed in the Errol Flynn mold, but on the KID’s face it takes on a kind of seedy urban jaundice that speaks of acts of profound indiscretion. Those unfamiliar with his music should note he’s also played guitar in THE CRAMPS and NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS among many others – bands who have seen fit to infuse near lethal doses of drama and excitement into our milktoast world over the past quarter century. Plus, he bought a BURUNDI BLACK 12″ in the Hollywood record store I once managed and seemed really sweet, so he earns an honorary seat at the Real Moustache Rock Round Table.

deville5) WILLY DeVILLE of MINK DEVILLE. I can’t pretend to have followed much of what this man has recorded over the past 30 years. But I’d follow a moustache like this on the street in a New York minute. Perfectly sculpted, nicely thinned, trimmed to a point; in 1977, this sort of attention to personal grooming was a challenge to uptight, heterosexual American men everywhere. While WILLY was hardly the first to bring back the Errol Flynn, he was probably the first to plaster it on the face of downtown NYC punk rock clubland culture. A bold move, MR. DEVILLE. Bravo.

ritamitsouko6) FREDRIC CHICHIN of LES RITA MITSOUKO. The somewhat unexpected runway appearance of early 80s inspired fashion in this new millennium might’ve suggested all sorts of colorfully futurist possibilities, but make no mistake about it: this corporate visitation is a hesitant (read: unwilling) nod to those asymmetrically times, at best. The dearth of wacky retro 80’s gear for large size women in your local mall speaks reams of the dominance of hardbody culture over the past 20 years, and lost are the devil-may-care juxtapositions that made 80’s fashion so exciting. Which brings us to FREDRIC CHICHIN: one half of LES RITA MITSOUKO (hands down the best 80’s French new wave duo ever), and a fashion icon unto himself. Everything this man wore – be it hair, fur, silk, skin, metal, paint or plastic – he wore like a freakin’ demon. And it goes without saying that his long, beautifully manicured moustache has much to do with the ease with which he pulled it all off. If you need more visual stimulation do check out the 100+ photos of FREDRIC here.

kidcreole17) KID CREOLE of KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS. If you ever attended a high school grad night or New Year’s Eve party in the 1980’s, no doubt you were suckered into shuffling around the dancefloor to something by this man. However embarrassing those memories may be, I’d wholeheartedly suggest you re-explore the first couple KID CREOLE LPs, as well as everything he did with his earlier 70’s/40’s disco acts (DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND and GICHY DAN’S BEACHWOOD #9). Those records are stylistically clever, suavely over-the-top romps through a goofy, colorful terrain few but KID have ever sought fit to explore. And the sight of him here on this page – wearing that Cab Calloway moustache & zoot suit – still makes me giggle in a really good way.

lee8) LEE HAZLEWOOD. The twisted granddaddy of em all, LEE was first to take the flying leap and slide a big ol’ droopy moustache under the radar of the fashion police. On one hand, this was a not-so-subtle insult, a middle finger of sorts aimed at record company stiffs in suits and ties everywhere. But on another level, it was pure genius: the appropriation of something as sick as a goddamn Fuller Brush moustache under the rubric of cool! And make no mistake about it, he did make it cool. Holy fuckin’ A, man – this is the moustache of my worst/best nightmares.


13 Responses to “Moustache Rock”

  1. JB March 30, 2009 at 5:35 am #

    Does Bill Bartell count? I guess he was/is a cop so his ‘stache dont count, right.

  2. mrowster March 30, 2009 at 6:56 am #

    JB: Bill Bartell does indeed count. But I’d reckon he’d be too busy trying to get autographs and steal unreleased demos from the rest of these guys to actually sit his ass down at their table.

  3. mark March 30, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    How ‘bot Saxon’s bass player? I give him extra point for his funny cap, too.

  4. mrowster March 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

    Mark: If I opened the floodgates to let Saxon’s bass player in, no doubt marauding moustachioed hordes would descend and turn this civilized meal into an all-out food fight.

  5. mark March 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    Good point. Still, wow, what a ‘stache on that guy!

  6. Dennis Catron April 1, 2009 at 6:28 am #

    I saw Saxon’s bassist (San Bernardino Swing) with no shirt, white spandex pants and dripping in sweat place his finger to his nose mid-song and bend all the way backwards like he was taking a hit of coke. I still have nightmares over it.

  7. mark April 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm #

    Yes, that’s gnarly and nightmare worthy. Yuck.

  8. Dandy April 11, 2009 at 9:07 pm #
  9. mrowster April 11, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    Dandy – you understand me, brother.

  10. Damon May 16, 2009 at 12:51 am #

    Howzabouts these two awesome ‘staches: Tracy Pew from The Birthday Party and whats-his-name playing The Stranglers’ keyboards?

    (There’s always the obvious all-time great punk WAXED ‘stache belonging to chef Greg Norton of Husker Du.)

  11. mrowster May 16, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Damon: Yes I think you are on to something with Tracy Pew – it’s who Nick Cave is trying to look like these days. And a Strangler? Maybe, if I could get over the heavy sex criminal vibe that all exude. But to me Greg Norton’s ‘stache always smacked of restauranteur. So he’d be preparing this meal, not tucking into it.

  12. SDC August 7, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    Thanks for the props about “Uncle” Willy DeVille. It is with regret that I must inform you he passed away this evening from pancreatic cancer. Your thoughts and prayers would be most appreciated by the family at this time.


  1. Comp Time « Pig State Recon - April 19, 2009

    […] August Darnell Years 1976 – 1983 (Strut Records, 2008) – Recently blogged about this man’s moustache, but dammit if his music ain’t worth some attention too. Yes I realize this blog may paint me […]

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