Critical Condition: Ted Nugent

September 18, 2016 at 7:27 am (Waxing Nostalgic)

The past few months I’ve been revisiting music from my teen years, stuff I listened to that formed my musical tastes. After not hearing it for forty years, I wondered how some of it would stand up over time.

I’ve covered the basics. You all know I like Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa. I’ve mentioned Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bad Company and others as they blip on my radar. I have a Hoopla app on my smartphone (fancy!) and can stream albums from the library.

One musical act I’ve always loved to hate is Ted Nugent. This is Ted at the heighth of his glory. It’s a good thing he’s is there to watch everyone play guitar and sing lead. I wondered how his riff-heavy knucklehead rock would hold up, so I caught a righteous buzz and investigated…

When I was a teen, starting in about 1973, I began collecting records and expanding my tastes. I liked soft, lyrical pretty love songs, but I also liked riffs that sounded like dad’s tablesaw hitting a wood knot. I demanded musicality no matter what. If it was what they called three-chord rock, I wasn’t interested. I’d figured out that a lot of these rock songs were just reworked blues templates with lyrics about being a whiny rock star. Removing those, I was left with the list above, and a few other bands. Simple translates well over a stadium PA, and groups like Sabbath and ZZ Top rose to the top of my list, favorites-wise.

I smoked weed for the first time in 1975, and my friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t immediately transform into a metal head. Lapsilly would play Led Zeppelin II and sit in stoned awe during the colorful noise sequence in the middle of Whole Lotta Love, not understanding why I wasn’t as enraptured as he was. I was used to colorful noise from listening to Frank Zappa; this was weak shit by comparison. He and a couple of my casual friends were big on Rush, Ted Nugent and Led Zeppelin. Rush was okay, but the high-pitched squeal seemed overdone. Since they were the originators, in my mind anyway, I spared Rush and despised Yes as a trade-off. (Wear looser underwear, guys!) Once I heard Zeppelin IV I was on board with them, and first in line to buy Physical Graffiti. But Zeppelin was musical. They weren’t repetitive riffs, squealing and feedback. They were playing songs, albeit translated through a drug haze and a giant amplifier. Zeppelin rose like cream to the top.

My Zeppelin friends also liked Ted Nugent. Anyone with a brain and a bit of music knowledge could differentiate between these two camps. I fit in more with the Nugent crowd than the disco crowd, and way more with Nugent than the gay disco crowd. But I would rather go to a gay disco in a heartbeat, as opposed to a Ted Nugent concert. Nugent fans are assholes. They are the fathers of Slayer jerks.

I have never seen Ted Nugent in concert. I would not pay money to encourage him. Sure, when he was at the height of his popularity, I would listen. There were three or four songs KGON would play; Hey Baby, Stranglehold, Wango Tango and Cat Scratch Fever come to mind. My friends would “get really really wasted and crank up the Nuge!”

I preferred to smoke some Panama Red and listen to Steely Dan. I’m daydreaming to sax solos from Aja while they’re headbopping to Wang Dang Sweet Poontang. I did use the Columbia House penny-record deal to buy two Nugent albums; the self-titled Nugent with Stranglehold and a song called Writing on the Wall, which wasn’t sung by Ted but a fellow named Marvin Aday, who would later become famous as a food product. (Meat Loaf.) Because I love Meat Loaf and hate Ted Nugent, I’m inserting a Meat Loaf video saying what I would say if I ever buy another Ted Nugent album.

mildred-schwabmcreadyRumor has it city commissioners Connie McReady and Mildred Schwab decided to attend a rock concert at Memorial Coliseum after the Cincinatti Who tragedy. (“I’d walk over you to see The Who.”) Supposedly they saw the mad crush of festival seating, as well as kids drinking and open dope-smoking. The deal-sealer, offensewise, was that they observed a teenage couple having sex in the breezeway near the stage. There is just too much fun going on here! Festival seating for huge events as we knew them went away for a very long time. And Ted Nugent was banned from The Coliseum.

So he played the Paramount, and I got another taste of his lovely fandom. Dragging drunk people out by their heels and leaving them on the sidewalk for their friends to scrape up. About this time the Wango Tango album came out, which was even stupider than his previous knucklehead noise. Fido, the girl I was banging at the time, loved the album, which gave me even more reason to hate Ted Nugent.

Nowadays, he’s a politician and reality TV star. Good for him. Every time he opens his mouth something stupid dribbles out. I am surprised Donald Trump didn’t ask him to be vice president. I decided to listen to a couple of his old albums, but couldn’t find them streaming and am not interested enough to fetch CDs from the library. So I downloaded a recent concert, and he sounded pretty good, for someone who doesn’t play much guitar and doesn’t seem to sing much either. (You and Steve Miller go to the same guitar class?) It sounded like he’d pre-recorded the live parts so he wouldn’t blow the notes or lyrics, and the guitar had a sort of packaged madness to it.

He did an album with triplet hillbillies, and here’s the best song off that album.

Now shut up, Ted.

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