Music News

Bedtime for Gonzo

This interview, conducted by Bob Mack, is excerpted with permission from the Beastie Boys' 'zine Grand Royal.

You remember the "Thrilla in Manila"? The third and final superfight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? Well, what follows is more like the "Illa in Vanilla," the worst, wettest, whitest exchange between two grotesque gringos that you're ever likely to come across. Inthis corner, the Challenger, the conveniently reactionary libertine and libertarian, Grand Royal media assistant Bob Mack. And in this corner, right-wing Robin Hood, onetime shill for Energizer, butt of the best joke in Fletch, former rock star and undisputed Lightweight Champion of the World, Ted "The Nuge" Nugent.

This non-title fight came about after Grand Royal received a press release from Levine and Schneider claiming that Ted was finally at work on a potentially credibility-salvaging solo album with Derek St.Holmes, the dude who played guitar and sang on the classic mid- to late-'70s Nuge albums Ted Nugent, Free-for-All, Cat Scratch Fever and Double Live Gonzo. That is, way back in the day before Tedosaurus rex was caught unaware by punk, a phenomenon he still felt compelled to badmouth as late as 1980, when he emptily boasted to Britain's NME that Police drummer Stewart Copeland would be "choppin' wood for me someday" (presumably after "New Wave" blew over).

Needless to say, things didn't work out that way: The Police went on to international superstardom while Ted has only kept his name in the mix by forming the atrocious second-tier soopergroup Damn Yankees. We wanted to speak with the Nuge because (Beastie Boy) Mike D has a couple of beefs with him. For one thing, Ted charged an exorbitant amount for the sample of his song "Homebound," which the Beastie Boys used for "The Biz vs. the Nuge." Such haggling reminded us of other gripes we've got with the Nuge.

Obviously, we also felt obligated to prod Ted about his aggro endorsement of bowhunting (and simultaneous taunting of animal rights groups). But more important, we felt it was time to finally call him out once and for all on the Big Issue. In short, why had he sold out and gone so soft? You know, like: Nuge, what happened? What are you givin' us? What's really goin' on? On April 8, 1994, the date Kurt Cobain's death was announced, we tried to find out. We heard about Kurt when Levine and Schneider's sexy secy Kimberly screamed as the news came over the fax, literally seconds before we were ushered into the lion's den. Actually, it was more like Lion Country Safari because at this point Ted is more Snagglepuss than King of the Beasts. We didn't bring up the news about Kurt because we knew Ted would just use the opportunity to go off on some heartless, tasteless tirade (as, of course, he ended up doing on fellow blowhard Howard Stern and his radio show only days after the following Crossfire-on-crackesque confrontation).

BM: What was up with Damn Yankees? They were pretty lame.
TN: (Incensed) Pretty lame? You got--did you see us live?
BM: Why would I want to see you live when the album was so lame?

TN: Oh, well, tell us more, Mr. Expert Never Saw Us Live But We're Lame! What's your middle name, Bob, "Insulated"? I've got the night off, I'm gonna sit home in a hot tub? Fuck you!

BM: (Singing) "Woah, oh-oh, Damn Yankees"--fuck that! And that video with all those guys shooting at you but not one hits you?

TN: Goddamn right! I'm the fuckin' Nuge, man!
BM: (Laughs) You're basically admitting that Damn Yankees were wack byhooking back up with Derek St.Holmes and trying to cut your first decent solo LP in 20 years. Tell us about that.

TN: No, let's talk about the Damn Yankees first.
BM: Okay, because everyone was disappointed with that--
TN: No, they weren't.
BM: Yes, all your old-school fans were!

TN: We sold four and a half mil--that's a beautiful thing, my friend. Don't be jumping from edge to edge--the Damn Yankees was genuine, a musical adventure.

BM: Oh, c'mon. It was a cash-out.
TN: Get the fuck outta here! I jam with Tommy Shaw, he played R&B, it hit a nerve with me--

BM: But why--
TN: I got the floor here! When I get moved by a piece of music, it doesn't have to be Motor City Madhouse to get me excited. I have a panorama of emotion. From angst to lullabying my children to sleep. (Bob laughs) And when I get moved ...

BM: Right.
TN: ... on any emotion that genuinely intrigues me, I jump on it with both sets of teeth clinging to the fuckin' jugular. (Belches)

BM: The second album tried to cash in on the first album's MTV success.
TN: MTV success? What MTV success? They played a little bit of "High Enough."

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Bob Mack