“No shit? No shit? No shit? Well, welcome to fuckin’ B.B. King’s, my friends. God bless the attitude. I feel it right up my ass, I appreciate the spirit, ya always make me feel at home when I come to the Big Apple; I appreciate yer fuckin’ spirit, God bless ya. No shit!”
“Alright motherfuckers, strap it on, here we go . . . [cheers] . . . yeah, no shit! Alright, this one here is for the hillbillies here tonight, all my buddies, all my redneck motherfuckers out there. I’m gonna play one country & western song—can you handle it? A Ted Nugent country & western song? [feedback wailing] This is it . . . that’s a country & western song. Sing it, you hillbilly motherfuckers. Sing it! Sing it! It’s country! It’s a country & western song! Eat me! And by the way, clusterfuck me!” [And the band rips into “Klstrphnky”, the first track off Ted’s latest CD Craveman.]
This is Ted Nugent in 2003. A certifiable rock and roll legend. A sonic skullblaster. A 54-year-old guitar maniac who looks healthier than your mates down at the gym. A manic redneck, armed with the undying spirit of rock and roll and the wizened attitude of a self-made man who does whatever the fuck he wants, when he wants to and how he wants to. Thirty-five years have passed since the Nuge first played those blistering guitar leads on the 1968 Amboy Dukes’ psych-rock track “Journey to the Center of Your Mind” (Google it, kids). And you know what? He’s playing faster, louder and with more redneck punk spirit today than ever before. Because he can. Because he wants to. Because he has to.
On a rainy night after Labor Day at B.B. King’s nightclub in NYC, Ted Nugent played a two-hour-plus show to the Nuge faithful, numbering around 850 and overwhelmingly made up of males aged 25-55. Coming onto the stage to the strains of Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful”, the Nuge ripped into the ringing E chord that opens “Free-For-All” with all the subtlety of a flying mallet. If the crowd had skewed more to the mid-20s demographic, there would’ve been an instant moshpit.
In fact, Nugent opened the set with more energy in his first five songs than the Mooney Suzuki, the Datsuns or the Donnas will ever muster in their lifetime. His guitar playing is insanely electric, loud, ferocious and wailing. The Nuge has stocked his rock closet with a pair of young stud rockers (“the fuckin’ Funk brothers . . . “) to kick up the noise. Bassist Barry Sparks did an admirable job on bass and took lead vocals on “Hey Baby”, “Just What the Doctor Ordered” and other classic Derek St. Holmes-sung classics. But it was 24-year-old drummer Tommy Clufetos who nearly stole the show with a ten-minute, rip-roaring, hard-hitting, atomic drum solo during “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” Seriously! He’s that good. Check his website, the guy’s been drumming since he was seven years old, and was playing out five nights a week by the time he was fourteen. Sick, I tell ya. He never let up. His left arm shot up on every beat like old hardcore drummers, and his sound was thunderous. Fantastic.
Sure, some of Ted Nugent’s neo-conservative, flag-waving, “I’m a fuckin’ AMERICAN!” in-between song patter gets a little old. And shooting a Saddam Hussein cardboard cutout with a bow and arrow? Nutty! But Ted’s wack, profane brand of humor still sizzles. Ted’s best rant? It went like this: “You got some more time? We can play all fuckin’ night long. Who’s gonna fuckin’ stop me? Your mayor? Fuck him!” with a sneer worthy of Denis Leary. “Dumb motherfuckers . . . I’d like to recommend hunting season in Central fuckin’ Park. I mean it! I mean it! You’ve been hiking all fuckin’ summer, it’s time to go hunting in the fuckin’ park now. You got too many fuckin’ squirrels in the park, gotta kill ‘em all. Shoot the motherfuckers. You’ve been hiking and goin’ on picnics all fuckin’ summer—get the fuck out, it’s hunting season!” And Boom! The Nuge launched his band into “Fred Bear”, his theme song to American bowhunters.
All the cool 1970s classics were there in the set, with highlights being “Just What the Doctor Ordered”, “Paralyzed” and “Stranglehold”, which Ted began by leaning right up to the crowd up front, and showing the guitar lick to all the guitarists in the house. (The secret, he said, was in the attitude.)
He ended the show with an encore of “Great White Buffalo”, complete in full Indian headdress, and a feedback-drenched “Star-Spangled Banner” that made the famous Hendrix version at Woodstock sound like Elliott Smith on Quaaludes.
“You motherfuckers! [cheers] Is everybody having a good fuckin’ time or what? [cheers] How could you not have a good time with Uncle fuckin’ Ted? [more cheers] This motherfucker just won’t go away, you know what I’m talkin’ about, doncha? [cheers] No shit! I’m an old fuckin’ guy, how about this old fuckin’ guy? I’m an old sonofabitch, but I’m gonna stick around just to piss off the fuckin’ assholes, alright! Let’s hear it for my fuckin’ attitude! I love my attitude . . . “
Ted Nugent. This is his reality show in 2003. He just can’t help himself. It’s us (Ted) against them (government, politicians, assholes, etc.). The spirit of rock and roll still carries him away. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the very, very few rock and roll originals left (along with Iggy Pop and John Lydon) who still embody all the snottiness, anger, bullshit and noise of the best punk rock. And ya gotta celebrate that spirit! No shit!