Friday, February 21, 2014

Wasting more bandwidth on Ted Nugent

I can't help myself. I'm a straight white guy who grew up in the Midwest in the 70s. Even though he hasn't been pop-culture relevant since Damn Yankees broke up 20 years ago, when Ted Nugent says something stupid, I react.

The latest Motor City Malaprop is Nugent's description of President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." That's an especially offensive remark to direct at a biracial person, with all the ancient southern taboos about "race mixing" which we all know was code for Negroes Lusting After Our White Womenfolk.

But the phrase "Subhuman Mongrel" also has a certain... feel to it, in keeping with the Nugent persona that he would call Gonzo (I reserve that sacred term for the mighty Dr. Thompson, who at his best was far more offensive than Nugent). "Subhuman Mongrel" sounds like an outtake from his 1981 album "Intensities In 10 Cities," which included "My Love Is Like A Tire Iron," "The Flying Lip Lock," and the all too autobiographical "I Am A Predator" and "Jailbait." (By his own admission and behavior, Nugent likes 'em young.)

The "subhuman mongrel" remark was made a while ago but spiked in the news late this week as Nugent campaigned with Texas governor candidate Greg Abbott. The Nuge was quickly Denounced! by Abbot's Democratic rival Wendy Davis, but also, yesterday, by GOP Sen. Rand Paul. Good for Rand, but I suspect his motivation is less about doing what's right and more about his 2016 rivalry with Texan Ted Cruz.

I looked way too much like this when I had hair.

Nugent's persona back in the day was always ridiculous on purpose and over the top (see David Lee Roth and Kiss for other, better examples). You don't wear a loincloth as your stage costume to be taken seriously as an artisté.

The 21st century politicization of it is only part about the politics. I'm sure he means it and he's got the same First Amendment right as anyone to say dumb shit. But the WAY he does it is all in keeping with the act. Which makes me think his "activism" is more about tweaking his schtick to extend his career. Old White Guy Music meets Old White Guy Politics on the county fair and casino circuit, but the marquee was supposed to say Spinal Tap and THEN Puppet Show.

There's a certain level of FAIL in this strategy; Nugent's entire image is based around being a "Madman" yet we're now supposed to take him seriously even as he still plays the same act. It's as if Al Franken had run for the Senate while in character as Stuart Smalley. When Franken got serious about the politics, he got serious period. Which, again, tells me that for the Nuge, it's about the biz.

And Meat Loaf? That's your fault, Ted.

Some of my generation never outgrew their Disco Sucks phase. (I remember the exact day I did: B-52s on Saturday Night Live.) In part that was about the music, though Nile Rogers of Chic could match Nugent on guitar any day. But in part that was about the black and gay people who danced to the music, just like the PMRC's attacks on Prince were attacks on the people who listened to Prince. Who could MORE than match Nugent on guitar.

I remember discovering Prince on a hostile dorm floor and seeing my copy of "1999" unstrung down the hallway, with a few comments about n***er music on the side. In Wisconsin there were three kinds of guys: guys like me from outstate who knew almost no one of any diversity and guys from right in Milwaukee who had six black best friends. And then there were the guys from outer suburbs who were close enough to see only difference but not close enough to see people. They didn't like Prince.

And those guys, probably those exact same guys, are still driving the politics of Wisconsin, and probably still listening to Ted Nugent. Joan Walsh today:
Scott Walker is the product of suburban Milwaukee backlash politics, which buoyed Republicans in what had become for a while a Democratic stronghold – think Gaylord Nelson and William Proxmire — and also helped make the Milwaukee metropolitan area the single most segregated place in the country. White flight to the suburbs and exurbs explains why, and so does the failure to develop any kind of regional transit system connecting the inner city and those suburbs – and Scott Walker helped block the light rail proposals of Milwaukee’s mayor and other city leaders as Milwaukee County executive.

As University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Marc Levine told Salon’s Daniel Denvir in 2011: “Most of our history is very similar to Chicago, Cleveland or even Baltimore. Every place has had the zoning ordinances, then restrictive covenants, the practices of realtors. The standard history. What makes Milwaukee a little bit different than these other places, which explains why we’re consistently in the top five and often No. 1, in segregation? We have the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any of these larger cities.”

Of the 30 biggest metropolitan areas, Levine’s research found, Milwaukee also had the largest vote gap between city and suburb in 2008. City residents supported Obama by more than 30 points over suburbanites.
That’s the context in which Nardelli and Kindfleisch chuckled over comparing welfare recipients to dogs, and shared nightmares about waking up black, Jewish and gay.
Not so different from Ted Nugent. Neither of them have had a new idea politically or musically since Reagan. But at least Nugent has to his credit "Cat Scratch Fever," which 1) raised public awareness of subacute regional lymphadenitis 2) kicks MUCH ass which is really the only rational measure of his work and 3) got the phrase "I make the pussy purr with a stroke of my hand" on the RADIO without Tipper Gore noticing. Which is more than Walker has ever done. All Walker did was ruin the month that the Packers won the Super Bowl.

EPILOGUE: Nugent fake apologized today: "I do apologize–not necessarily to the President–but on behalf of much better men than myself,"i.e. his candidates. Keep it classy, Nuge.

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