Look, I dunno why I am the guy who was tasked to explain what an asshole like Ted Nugent represents in our little slice of music pie, but here I am doing it. I’m not a huge fan of him, in fact I would say I down right hate the motherfucker, but you know what? He wrote “Stranglehold”, an amazing slab of some of the most lurching stoner rock of the 70s. Stoner rock from a dude who so abhors drugs and alcohol that he kills every animal he sees to soothe the frustration. But so it goes. The Nuge also happened to be featured in a band called Amboy Dukes known for their hit, “Journey to the Center of the Mind”, so it’s not like he didn’t have a chance to indulge. Probably helped milk that hatred, actually.
“Stranglehold” is a bit of an oddity for me. Here’s a song that I legitimately love made by a person who I just wish would fucking die already. The thing is that seemingly everyone feels this way. From hunting, to homophobia, to sexism, to republicanism, to his nazi stance on having a tasty chemical it seems like he’s made no friends outside of Fox News. Any of the Nuge’s TV show performances on that network do a better job making the argument for his corporeal departure than I am going to. But still.
Ted is hardly the only guy who has written a great song and also happens to be a horrible person, so it’s curious how he has so much power to get some useless shit like me to write something about him when Chris Brown, Dr Dre, John Lennon, and I dunno, uh, Varg Vikernes are just as viable. I think it’s in part the fact that he still has what some might call a career, though I recall no songs that he’s performed on past “High Enough” by the Damn Yankees. God, you remember that fucking stinker?
Before all that shit though, he was a dude in Detroit who would go fucking apeshit on stage. Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes was probably one of the best stage shows that the early 70s had to offer, and what’s more I bet that most bands today still can’t perform as well as he can. Loin cloths and flaming arrows and hunting fucking buffalo or whatever. He came from a time where, even as a solo musician, you could play huge stadium shows with no radio support. The word of mouth about his performance is the only fathomable reason as to his success. I mean, have you ever listened to the guy’s albums? They’re horrible! All filler and butt rock, but like, fucking duh, he helped create that whole bloated genre.
So let’s talk about everything that “Stranglehold” does right. The riff is pretty fucking tight, simple but with the little dee-da-lees that distance his ability from the dipshit vamping on it in the horrible 70s cover band that you know exists. His voice is so smooth, it blew my mind when I first heard that it was a Nugent song. I mean, what’s the other examples anyone has to go off of? “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Wango Tango”, two songs I’d still prefer less than listening to 90s Metallica, but more than “Rock N Roll All Nite”. Either way, not exactly the same kind of vocal here, much more focused on pushing the song towards the ultra groovy bridge solo thing. Bass has some flanger on it, kind of a weird move, but nothing out right horrendous. The meandering solo with two guitars and a lot of delay is so cool, and I don’t even like break downs like this. It’s the kind of thing that all bullshit bands think they’re doing when they riff, but never even come close to. It’s just… it’s really fucking good guys.
I guess the real question is, is it good enough to justify listening to something if the people who made it are scum? We have high expectations in our stuff, but tend to ignore the human rights violations that are abound behind the scenes. Fuck man, I’m writing this on an Apple computer, which along with my iPhone, was put together by a very sad and overworked factory person in China. Factories that have to install suicide nets and force their workers to sign a liability waiver about their attempts at suicide. Though I am conscious of this thought, I admit that it doesn’t cross my mind every time I reach down and check my messages. Same with clothes, which though some people generally have a higher standard attempting to buy American and what not, it is still by and large a business sourced from Bangladesh, India, and China. For fuck’s sake, Nestle is owned by a cartoonishly evil maniac who says that water isn’t a human right. I’m just saying that this issue extends far beyond the music we listen to.
What’s more is that most of the time it is easy to forget that someone is a complete waste of life when the party they’re throwing is so good. I am doubting the last time you heard “Rock N Roll Part 1” or, sigh, “The Bulls Hey Thing”, you consciously thought about the fact that it was written by Gary Glitter who has had an off and on fascination with looking at naked kids. I attribute this in part to the fact that in the heat of a game one is more enthralled by the spectacle of their team fighting the enemy than they are of the sound being pumped into the arena. Fine, whatever. The thing is that Ted makes no such effort to smooth this shit out. He straight up says racist, bigoted, sexist, horrible awful things on stage and is then cheered on. No excuse on the part of the listener in that sense.
So what the fuck am I doing talking about Ted Nugent? I don’t like the fact that I have actually devoted the majority of a piece on this fuck, at least unless I have made a larger point on the state of shit. I am guilty of listening to music made by horrible people, just as we all are whether intentionally or inadvertently, but I don’t think that necessarily means that we support the miserable fucks. One of the double edged swords of the mp3 generation is that I can just download the song and tell Nuge he can suck on his own machine gun, or whatever fucking horrible thing he told Hillary Clinton to do. I guess until all the awful fucks like Nugent, or Gene Simmons or whoever die that our only weapon against them is theft. Kinda weak sauce though, right? It’s not like anyone has bought a Ted Nugent album in the last 20 years.
As a struggling musician it can often be unnerving to hear about the elders of rock explaining that this generation doesn’t get it and blah blah as if we were responsible for merchandising and selling out this fucking charade. I think the genre has been declared dead by the same people who continue to rape its corpse, cough Gene Simmons cough. So, fine. Rock is dead, and hopefully these awful people go with it. There’s nothing more astounding than hearing some rich fuck telling you that we don’t buy enough of their shit. So, let us remember the rebellious spirit in which rock was founded; fuck what came before, kill your idols, and don’t give Ted Nugent any more money.
Oozing Wound’s Earth Suck is out October 21 on Thrill Jockey.