Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ted Nugent

Long time ago, in my high school years, it was cool to have Ted Nugent's first album on Epic in your collection.  The opening riffs to Stranglehold still remain a call to arms and great lead to his best album ever.  Since then he's never topped that although Cat Scratch Fever got him the hit that defined him through the years.

Nugent has always been a badassed guitar player but he's also been one big outspoken right winger to which his mouth gets him more into trouble than good.   His recent remarks about Obama for a second term would lead Ted into jail has made waves but it's different than the Dixie Chicks bashing the last president.  He takes his freedom of speech and uses it a lot it seems.

A long time ago I had a neighbor lady who my folks were friends with and we went up to Michigan in 1975 for a beer can hunt, back then I was into collecting beer cans and figure Michigan would have some special ones. Outside of Jackson on a somewhat gravel road and there was this open field about a half mile down the road from their Grandpa's place, I made my way up around there and my friend told me to get the hell off that property, that's Ted Nugent and he's been known to shoot at folks who trespass.  He was well known even back then.

Ted started out as part of the Amboy Dukes, a band of some of Detroit's finest rockers.  John Drake was the cool lead vocalist on Journey To The Center Of Your Mind and although the band was garage rock, they had a bit of prog rock and a bit of hippy dippy, even though Ted Nugent was the Tea totaling (no wonder he was Tea Party member later) and did no drugs.  He also was lucky enough not to get into the failed Vietnam War.  But then again the rumor was that Ted would crap himself to get that 4F rating. Nevertheless, The Amboy Dukes have never been much of critics favorites although I still play and love some of their music (Surrender To Your Kings, Prodigal Man, Flight Of The Byrd) and the best overall album for me was the DCC Ted Nugent And The Amboy Dukes Best Of.  Legacy's Loaded For Bear deletes some of the DCC Stuff for others (Surrender To Your Kings replaced by Mississippi Murderer) and for me the lesser of the two.  But it has the 5 minute freakout of Baby Please Don't Go and Nugent's Scottish Tea which shows off his guitar talents in their full glory.  The Amboy Dukes would see another vocalist change, Rusty Day in  for Drake and the band becoming more and more Nugent focused.  Never heard their Polydor effort Marriage On The Rocks/Rock Bottom.

Nugent was beginning to get things going when he signed up with DiscReet (the label of Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen) and made two albums that would be more high energy rock and roll than the garage hippy dippy of The Amboy Dukes and Call Of The Wild (with a minor hit Sweet Revenge) .  In fact, the bass player Rob Grange would figure into the Epic beginnings.  Call Of The Wild was good, but Tooth Fang & Claw is the Ted Nugent that we were beginning to know and love (or hate) with the hard charging Great White Buffalo and the feedback laden Hibernation.  Great White Buffalo is the price of admission.

Ted's classic stuff is the Epic years and it begins with the first album, Stranglehold was a underground FM classic (now played to death on classic rock radio more so than the hit singles Hey Baby and Snakeskin Cowboys).  There are no weak tracks on Ted Nugent, the B side stomper Stormtroopin, the boogie based Hey Baby, Just What The Doctor Ordered, and the whacked out Motor City Madness, one of the few songs that Nugent sang on.  Most of the time it was Derek St Holmes doing the vocals and it made the album lots better for it.  Free For All, was still a powerforce, with another minor hit with Dog Eat Dog and notable hits in Street Rats, Writing On The Wall (Sung by a then unknown dude by the name of Meatloaf) and perhaps one of the better unheard songs ever I Loved You So I Told You A Lie.  By then, Nugent's band was St Holmes, Rob Grange from the DiscReet Amboy Dukes era and Cliff Davies playing mad drums.  No disrespect to Ted's drummer who used to play in Dokken, but Cliff Davies was the overdrive that made the Epic recordings rock out.

Cat Scratch Fever is his second best album ever.  But it also begins Nugent's dissent into the goofy lyrics that make some of his music laughable.  Nugent, on the first two albums was very democratic in terms of who sang what but he begins to take the band over a bit on the title track and Wang Dang Sweet Pootang. St Holmes still sang the most and is on the best ones (Live It Up, Out Of Control, A Thousand Knives).  And then the 1978 live double Double Live Gonzo which pretty much sums up what you get a Nugent concert.  He does a fired up Great White Buffalo on this one but the band was breaking up, St. Holmes and Grange would leave and formed St. Paradise which made one boring album for Warner Brothers in 1978, with Denny Carmissi on drums (Montrose).

The second phase of Nugent Epic years that he got a St. Holmes soundalike in Charlie Huhn and continued to make some decent albums.  Weekend Warriors with failed hit in Need You Bad, the blues busting One Woman.  State Of Shock was better, although Nugent was going more for a pop sound, he blisters the wallpaper with Paralyzed.   Wango Tango, was the end of the road for decent new Nugent, by then Huhn's vocals were getting less and the banshee wail of Flesh And Blood and Wango Tango is Ted's.  Intensities In 10 Cities, is ten new songs getting recorded live, and although I like it fine, it turned out to be Ted's poorest selling album for Epic and after that he moved over to Atlantic.  By then Nugent dismissed his band Cliff Davies, the sole constant member for the Epic albums replaced by Carmine Appice but Derek St. Holmes was back (after a failed liaison with Brad Whitford with Whitford/St. Holmes who made one album for Columbia in 1981).  Problem with Nugent the 1982 Atlantic debut suffered from a lack of quality songs and Appice was no Cliff Davies.  St. Holmes would leave again but over the years has returned to Ted's live band from time to time and as of this writing, he is touring with Ted.

Since then, Ted's albums have been dull as he tries to fit in what the kids were into.  The next album Penatrator features a up and coming vocalist in Brian Howe and he turns Ted into Foreigner and after that Howe would join Bad Company.  Little Miss Dangerous, Ted's last notable album has more keyboards and dated sound, and the rest of the albums, just plain goofy.

The only two albums I ever brought from Ted was the 1994  Spirit Of The Wild which Ted had perhaps his best band since the Epic years, of St. Holmes, Michael Lutz of Brownsville Station on bass and Denny Carmissi on drums and there's some fun stuff on this (Fred Bear, Tooth, Fang & Claw comes to mind and Kiss My Ass is actually funny when Nugent tells Courtney Love to do just that) but problem was there were too many songs that went nowhere.  Love Grenade (2007) was just plain silly and juvenile especially the degrading album art and the all time worst song he's ever done (Girl Scout Cookies).  Musically, he still delivers but if you're not a big Ted fan, this is not where to start.  Craveman his other studio album of the 2000's was his most metal sounding but I have never heard that one all the way through.

Still in the end, Nugent's Right Wing Tea Party comments has not endured him very well to the mainstream.  Nor does he work well with others, case in point that Rock Star VH1 show that he did with Sabastian Bach, Jason Bonham showed of his my way or the highway that has been a cause for many of his band's breakups.  He'll never top St Holmes/Grange/Davies lineup, he may get better musicians down the road but they were the best for his type of in your face rock and roll.  But with Derek St. Holmes always, you get to see what made Ted Nugent a force to be reckon with back then. 

And now, if Nugent keeps his tongue in check.
Which is never, but amazingly his 2014 album Shut Up And Jam, Ted does just that and keeps the right wing policies down to in his case very minimal.  Sammy Hagar pops in on She's Gone and Derek St Holmes does sing on one track  to offset Nugent's singing and screaming.  Overlook the politics and this just might be Terrible Ted's best since State Of Shock. At least he's not singing about Girl Scout Cookies on this. ;-)

Albums of note:
Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes (Dunhill Compact Classics) B+
Tooth, Fang & Claw (Bizarre Planet 1975) B-
Ted Nugent (Epic 1975) A-
Free For All (Epic 1976) B+
Cat Scratch Fever (Epic 1977) B+
Double Live Gonzo (Epic 1978) B-
Weekend Warriors (Epic 1978) B
State Of Shock (Epic 1979) B+  (Later reissued on American Beat)
Live At Hammersmith 1979 (Epic 1979) NR
Wango Tango (Epic 1980) B
Intensities In 10 Cities (Epic 1981) B-
Nugent (Atlantic 1982) C
Penetrator (Atlantic 1984) C
Little Miss Dangerous (Atlantic 1986) C
If You Can't Lick Them, Lick Them (Atlantic 1988) C
Spirit Of The Wild (Altantic 1994) C
Craveman (Eagle 2000) B-
Love Grenade (Eagle 2007) C-
Shut Up And Jam (Frontiers 2014) B

Note: The Atlantic albums were reissued via Eagle Records in 2008.

Best ofs

Great Gonzos, has always been a spotty best of, although it does have the hits.  The Ultimate Ted Nugent does the best job in perserving the the best songs from Ted Nugent's first album and does have Need You Bad from Weekend Warriors but doesn't have Great White Buffalo on it.  However, the cheapo throwaway Playlist Series does have GWB so if your looking for a one CD best overview, I would go with that.  Great Gonzos is the lesser of the best ofs here.  The Essensial Ted Nugent is the same as The Ultimate Ted.


  1. Hey Crabby: Thanx 4 posting this. I had an old roommate right after highschool who useta swear by Ted, had all the biggies -- TN, DOUBLE LIVE GONZO, CAT SCRATCH FEVER, WEEKEND WARRIORS, INTENSITIES, FREE FOR ALL. I LIKE Ted's silly stuff, & the last time I heard "Stranglehold" on the radio it almost sounded like a forgotten classic.
    If some1 would put all the silly wango-tango-park-the-Masarati stuff on 1 CD, I might even buy it.
    I said MIGHT.
    At Amazon.
    Never in public.
    Talk about guilty pleasures....

  2. Crabby: Over at my blog I nudged Nugent fans 2 come read this & linked 2 it -- hope you don't mind. This post is 2 good 4 you & I 2 B the only 1's who've read it. You otta do these catalog overviews more often, they're really good. You already know I liked the 1 on Pavlov's Dog. The ELP writeup was pretty cool 2.... Cheers!

  3. Hi TAD

    The Consortium has been a well kept secret since I don't promote it much. I have a few other bands in mind but been pretty LZ in blogging about them. Don't want to upset the folk like I did with Pure Prairie League *wink*. It comes down to planning and execution. Plus I don't get much spam over here than I do on the Crabb site.

    Ted Nugent tends to piss a lot of folk off and although he still brings it to his shows, I find most of his later day stuff a bit juvenile.

    As always check back once in a while and I'm sure there'll be another band of interest forthcoming. Ta!