I was an elementary school student in the early ‘90s so, yeah, I had a mullet. I’m not proud of it, these are just the facts. Almost immediately after my parents found me a better stylist, my sister became old enough to realize that her younger brother had been rocking a cultural punchline. The mockery was (and kind of still is) endless. I would argue that those who had bowl cuts shouldn’t throw … I don’t know, scissors? I’ve lost the thread of this metaphor.
The point is, by the time I was in high school, I was well-versed in mullet lingo. Or at least, I thought I was. And then I heard, “I’ve Got An Ape Drape” by the Vandals, an entire song dedicated to celebrating/mocking the mullet. It turned out my vocabulary had been lacking.
I had never heard the phrase “ape drape” before but here were the Vandals, singing about a haircut that “[made] it short in front and long in back.” That sounded familiar. “I’ve got hockey hair, yes I do.” Well, now we’re onto something because I had a couple of Jaromir Jagr hockey cards and that guy had hair. “You can drive to Hoboken and get one too, then you’ll have a mullet like I do.” Here we go. My ninth grade reading level pieced this shit together from context, baby: ape drape = mullet.
“Ape drape” is, I mean, it’s a hell of a phrase. (God help me if it turns out there’s some bigoted background here that my research couldn’t turn up.) Among gems of nomenclature like “Achey-Breaky hair” and “Norco neck warmer,” there’s no denying that “ape drape,” with its elegant simplicity and sharp rhyme, is the scene stealer. And all this dumb shit is exactly the kind of delightfully ridiculous nonsense that can turn an adequate punk rock song into a pubescent anthem. Which, for me, for a while, it was.
And look, I’ll level with you: This song isn’t great. But it’s memorable. Hearing it, I’m immediately transported to my high school auditorium where I had an occasional study hall during which I’d blast Hitler Bad on my Walkman as I pretended to study under those corrugated concrete walls. “Ape Drape” and I have history and that means something.
This post originally appeared in The Queue: A Songs & Stories Newsletter. It can be read with footnotes there.