Stars, Bars and Guitars
Putting the Nuge in New Mexico
Oh, say what you will about the dude’s right wing activism, but he sure can handle an axe. Just kidding! He’s okay on a variety of electrically amplified, six-stringed musical instruments, but he doesn’t compare to real US rock gods like Eddie Van Halen or Kirk Hammett.
Still, some of his oeuvre is worth a listen—if you can overlook the accompanying misogynist lyrics and the self-indulgent, tongue-wagging arpeggios. Please don’t try to compare him to homegrown artistes like Walter Becker or Frank Zappa: You’ll go insane.
In an event sure to have quasi-mystical significance to his true followers, Nugent brings his schtick to the Camel Rock Casino (US Highway 285/84—Exit 175) on July 4, starting at 8pm. I predict his show rider will call for plenty of meat and maybe some apple pie topped with melted cheese for the band.
Ted Nugent’s musical vision probably reached its pinnacle in the late ’70s with the release of Double Live Gonzo!. Since then, it’s been all about constant touring, bow-hunting and reactionary, often embarrassingly inaccurate comments about American politics and culture.
The guitarist, hunter and champion of American culture (in one of its more sloppy, flag-draped guises) initially lit up the nation’s radar in the late 1960s with an album and eponymous single called Journey to the Center of the Mind.
Ironically this psych-rock simulacrum appeared at about the same time Nugent performed at a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix. According to a claim Nugent made in a 1977 High Times interview (but later vigorously denied), the Nuge ditched the draft by reporting for duty after reportedly smoking copious amounts of meth and shitting his pants for a week and refusing to clean up.
Nugent used that amazing opportunity—whatever it really was—to avoid the war and further his career with a band called The Amboy Dukes. They signed with Zappa’s label and recorded a song called “Great White Buffalo,” a riff-filled, rumbling anthem to appropriated Native American values that gained popularity during Nugent’s solo career; strangely enough, the song’s lyrics seemingly became the basis for some of Nugent’s beliefs.
When Nugent dumped The Amboy Dukes and the psychy, pop-inflected predilections of rhythm guitarist Steve Farmer, some said he did so to make the heady transformation from hippie guitarist #200,000,711 to hard-rocking working man with a guitar eternally strung across his back.
Really he became a symbol of a puffed-up, strutting brand of arena rock that blossomed like a terrible flower in the mid '70s and fortunately helped birth—in disgust and irreverence—the massive cultural counter attack known as punk rock.
Nugent albums of this era, like Free-For-All, Cat Scratch Fever and the infamous Double Live Gonzo! featured a repertoire that included ramblingly sexist yet punchy numbers such as “Yank Me, Crank Me,” “Stranglehold” and “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.”
When his solo star began to fade after the release of Scream Dream in 1980—the album single “Wango Tango” only reached as far as number 86 on the American charts—Nugent temporarily fell into the same dreadful trap as some of his peers: the formation and expression of the so-called supergroup.
Along with rock luminaries (again just kidding) from giants of the genre like Night Ranger and Styx, the Motor City Madman recorded an album called Damn Yankees in 1990. This cringeworthy, backward-looking paean to everything that's wrong with rocanrol got plenty of airplay in the searching pre-grunge moments before 1991 erupted; it reinvigorated Nugent’s career, although in ways that were unexpected.
Upon the inevitable collapse of Damn Yankees—one supposes Mr. Roboto was whispering into Tommy Shaw’s ear the whole time—Terrible Ted’s writing took the lead in the mid '90s. The dude’s name began to appear in various specialty magazines; you know, the kind devoted to hunting, fishing, big game hunting and their underlying, deeply held Merican values.
Nugent's New York Times bestseller God, Guns, and Rock and Roll—as well as 2002’s Kill It and Grill It—speak volumes about Ted’s direction in the early aughts. Hey, after the end of the world failed to materialize on Jan. 1, 2000, what’s a guy’s guy supposed to do?
After considering another personal reinvention in the national political arena, Nugent chose instead to speak his mind, publicly revealing extremist views that, like the music of his golden era, are sometimes disgustingly and compellingly uncivilized but always frightening in their scope and presumption.
Recall then, as you head for Nugent’s patriotic date under the stars at the casino midway between Burque and Santa Fe, that Nugent is the fellow who told Romney supporters at an NRA convention a couple years ago, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
In the cruel aftermath of President Obama’s 2012 reelection, the Nuge has said all kinds of interesting things, including some comments he made at a Las Vegas, Nev., trade show this past winter. “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.”
Just saying. If you still wanna go, at least pray with me now that Ted Nugent performs “Great White Buffalo” as it’s his only really decent chunk of tuneage. Tickets are $40 and available at camelrockcasino.com. God bless America.