If you had to throw a dart at one year to pinpoint the height of “redneck chic” in the US, you probably couldn’t do much better than 1987. Quasi-cowboy Ronald Reagan was in the White House. At the movies, audiences were guffawing at the Coen Brothers’ trailer-trash comedy Raising Arizona. American’s sport of choice in ‘87 was not baseball or football, but rasslin’; Wrestlemania III set indoor attendance records that March with more than 93,000 filling the Pontiac Silverdome to watch greasy shirtless dudes pretending to hit each other. Also, Bon Jovi began their reign as the ultimate working man’s band that year with their first mega-hit, the low-income anthem, “Livin’ on a Prayer”.
Yessir, Americans were unabashedly enjoying the less refined elements of their culture in 1987. However, there was a musical force more wild n’ wooly than Jon Bon that year, a crazed backwoods lunatic who better embodied the hot blue collar trend. I’m talking about the ornery hillbilly who became the toast of MTV after spouting rants about barbeque sauce water slides and lowering the legal drinking age. He was born Neill Kirby McMillan Jr., but would rechristen himself Mojo Nixon after an alcohol-induced epiphany one night deep in the heart of Texas. Along with his washboard-playing partner Skid Roper, Mojo would conjure up some of the decade’s best rockabilly raves, and 1987 saw the release of the duo’s masterpiece, Bo-Day-Shus!!!
The dulcet guitar that opens Bo-Day-Shus!!! is quickly interrupted by Nixon’s robust holler, setting the tone for the toe-tapping hootenanny that unfolds. Nixon informs listeners with gusto that the omnipresence of Elvis cannot be ignored. Thus begins “Elvis Is Everywhere”, Mojo’s bouncy tribute to the King (and Nixon’s biggest hit). Elvis is “the perfect being”, you see, an otherworldly entity for which Vitamin E and evolution were named. Presley, according to Nixon’s ravings, built the pyramids and Stonehenge, and is the cause of the mysterious goings-on in the Bermuda Triangle (“Elvis needs boats, Elvis needs boats!” Mojo matter-of-factly chants). If you find these ideas extreme, you best back your foreign import up and stay on the beaten path.
Mojo doesn’t always necessarily stay on topic during his musical sermons, which is a good thing. In the middle of his grave-robbing rocker “I’m Gonna Dig Up Howlin’ Wolf”, he ponders, “Why do middle-aged women have so many knick knacks? / Where do middle-aged women get all them spice racks? / Baskets on the wall, don’t do nothin’ at all!” In less than 30 words, Nixon nails the futility of suburban life, rendering the Ozzie and Harriet white-picket-fence lifestyle absolutely moronic. Living in a shotgun shack high atop a mountain and killing bobcats for dinner, on the other hand, doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea.
Other topics addressed on this rootin’ tootin’ record include the joys of booze (“Gin Guzzlin’ Frenzy”), the indecency of urine samples (“I Ain’t Gonna Piss in No Jar”), and rebellion against modern hairstyles (“Don’t Want No Foo-Foo Haircut on My Head”). Every song is an indictment of some aspect of the nonrural world, a world Mojo has been dragged into kicking and screaming. The irony, of course, is that the liberal, book-readin’ college crowd Nixon professes to despise embraced him after the success of Bo-Day-Shus!!!. This newfound popularity led to numerous MTV gigs and a handful of roles in big-time Hollywood pictures (including a cameo as the Spirit of Rock n’ Roll in 1990’s Rock n’ Roll High School Forever).
Indeed, it was the boisterous Mojo who garnered most of the attention, while his goateed partner Skid Roper was left on the sidelines. This is a shame, only because Skid had plenty of talent, too. His smooth vocal delivery is highlighted on two great Bo-Day-Shus!!! cuts—“The Polka Polka” and the playfully wistful “Lincoln Logs”. A rift grew between the two performers as Mojo’s star took off. Three years after Bo-Day-Shus!!!, they parted ways following an argument concerning the formation of a backing band (Mojo for, Skid against). While Mojo’s career was seemingly unaffected by the split, Skid fell off the map completely. His two solo country albums came and went. These days, Skid Roper can best be summed up by the title of a 1995 Nixon effort: “Whereabouts Unknown”.
Mojo forged ahead, penning such modern day classics as “Don Henley Must Die” and “Tie My Pecker to My Leg” completely on his own. He never quite recaptured the blissful vim and vigor of his 1987 masterwork with Skid, though, which he must have realized in 2004 when he retired from musical hell raising. Two decades later, Bo-Day-Shus!!! stands as the ultimate musical document of our 1980s love affair with redneck culture. Hopefully, today’s mulleted hipster masses recognize its importance as they guzzle warm beer in their parents’ driveways.
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// Marginal Utility
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