How’s that for a change of pace around here? A post about the “Motor City Madman” by the only German that doesn’t even have a driver’s license?
As is always the case around here, the memory tag is securely attached to this double-LP, which I invested a whole summer’s earnings into.
If you have at all been reading along here on a regular basis, you know that the story is never as simple as that. It’s not one of shelling out hard-earned shillings for a double-LP.
It’s a lot more than that.
Try to bear with me.
For starters, a disclaimer: I do not need to be made aware of the fact that Ted Nugent is not only a nutcase musically, but especially one that is also all over the map in regard to verbally assaulting anyone he doesn’t like, personally or politically, one that is so extreme in some/many of his opinions that I myself am quite sure that I would be unable to spend more than 30 seconds in the same room with him when things turn to politics in general, gun control, hunting, and other issues in particular. I do not at all agree with him on any of his constantly trumpeted issues and the older I get, the more I strongly dislike anything that comes out when he opens his mouth. As most of us are fortunate enough to live in somewhat democratically organized systems, we are also allowed to dislike what people say while enjoying other things they do, and, for me, Ted Nugent is a nausea-inducing fellow when I have to read or listen to what he has to say.
But, there’s that other side to the guy, the side that made me seek him out live at the peak of his career (which I would place flatly somewhere around the end-70s, even though he did produce a number of good tunes since then … and continues to do so until today), the one that made me bang my head and pump some serious adrenaline. The side that screamed “Raw! Power!” and the one that instantly screamed “Berserker” the second the needle hit the groove of any of his LPs of that time. Live, he was one wild MF (and, I guess, he still is), one which was all show AND attitude and one that could get an audience’s blood pumping with three power chords. What really fascinated me about Nugent at the time was that despite is comparatively limited abilities, he was one musician who made sure to get the most out of those, with a super-huge ego that landed wherever he touched ground.
It was the first summer in which I initially regretted having to go on summer holidays. Every single year before that, because I had basically hated school as long as I could remember, I started the summer holiday (indeed, any holiday) countdown approximately 12 months before the actual event.
In 1978, things were different.
The year before we had moved from Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark, and I had just completed my first school year at the Copenhagen International Junior School … which was also my last one there because after that summer I was going to move my sorry butt about 30 meters across a courtyard into the Copenhagen International Senior School.
That first year in Denmark brought with it a myriad of new impressions but, mostly, also a fundamental change in my life. In retrospect, that change was more fundamental than any other in my life and to this day I often joke about the rest of my life having been very boring because, well, nothing ever came close to those 12 months which turned me from a loser into a winner. Sounds corny, but that was it really, in a nutshell.
After a mere 12 months abroad, I had turned from someone who despised school, teachers, learning and everything else connected with that environment into someone who was actually beginning to – dare I say it – enjoy it.
Two factors turned me completely around from a future possible delinquent into a somewhat sane and “normal” person: Teachers and new friends.
The first group is the surprising one, especially taking my former experiences into consideration. I was suddenly confronted with a whole slew of teachers who were actually interested in making sure that I learned something. People who were enthusiastic about what they were doing, people who cared and who didn’t see teaching as merely another job (which ended either at 1 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the afternoon). Sure, I was privileged as this was a private school and a larger amount of money – I presume – was invested into getting decent teachers to the school, but at the time I never once had the impression that we were a privileged group. But, more about that at a later time, perhaps.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that we weren’t allowed to say “sh*t” … but used *shoot!” To this day it’s probably the funniest exchange I’ve ever had with a teacher, especially because I thought she had misunderstood what I had said and repeated it about 5 times until I figured out that her five “Shoot?” replies were supposed to teach me something.
What really threw me then was when Mr. Atkinson, our social studies teacher, who represented subjects I had abhorred shortly before, one day turned to me and threw a single line at me as a response to some antics I was displaying: “Don’t be an asshole AND don’t act like you’re dumb.” He then pointed at my forehead and said: “There’s a lot more in there than you could possible cover up with your stupid attitude. Grow up!”
No matter how often I reflect on my youth today, and with increasing age one tends to do that more frequently, this – to outsiders – corny and stupid moment threw a switch in my head.
I’m not going to expand on all of it, but it was the first time that anyone had successfully broken through some rather impenetrable defenses and had told me a) that I was acting like an ass and b) might perhaps not be that dumb.
In retrospect, Mr. Atkinson was the first of the larger number of teachers at that school who not only hammered that notion home but also planted my later wish to become a teacher, simply because I had learned that small things could help a person along on the long path to learning and growing up.
So, after one year I was beginning to feel a lot more secure with myself and my surroundings, also because of the comparatively huge group of new friends I had found, all tightly-knit together by a common situation, that of being removed from former homes and experiencing what it was like to be a foreigner in a more or less strange new country.
We boarded the train one afternoon at Copenhagen Central Station after I had said goodbye to some friends who were going to move on to other countries and fortunes that summer and who I would never see again. I remember traveling in a huge compartment (actually two that my dad had reserved for us and which could be turned into a larger one with beds and all by removing a dividing wall), traveling in style for a whole day and night, from Copenhagen to Davos, Switzerland. It was a sad trip for me because for the first time I would have liked to spend some more time that summer with good friends I had found and was not going to see again.
I don’t know when that tradition had developed, but whenever my family had been on holiday together (which was rare enough as my dad had to work most summers through), one or more of the children were responsible for getting bread in the mornings. That meant walking shorter or longer distances to the next bakery and filling the various orders from various family members, usually returning to the holiday abode with a huge paper bag of freshly-baked bread rolls and whatnot.
And here comes the good bit.
Wait for it.
My dad paid us for that “work”.
Money, a book here or there, an ice-cream later in the day. Reimbursement varied, but we usually got something for walking across fields, down long roads and traversing the boonies to get … fresh bread. Of course, we didn’t say that we would have done it without getting paid.
That summer was also different because I was the only one “available” for that chore. My younger brother wasn’t too healthy around that time and my older brother, who himself had grown-up rapidly in Denmark and had money of his own, didn’t need any cash, apparently.
So, every morning – from the first day of the holidays until the last – I walked to a bakery relatively far away and, upon my return, cashed in on a relatively small amount of money. It was symbolic, really, and not comparable to what I got in form of pocket money, but at the end of the holidays it had added up to over 20 Swiss Francs.
The first week in Davos, we took a walk down “Main Street” which cut right across Davos and which itself stretched for quite some time at the foot of some impressive mountains, effectively cutting the city into two long halves.
My instincts pulled me into the only central record store on that first walk. I cannot remember if my family was impatient again, as was customary when their weird son started flipping through long rows of LPs; all I remember is that I came across “Double Live Gonzo!” by Ted Nugent and decided to give it a listen.
Mostly forgotten and relegated to the sidelines of history, exclusive LP shops like the one I found myself in that day used to have more or less decent equipment, allowing customers to sample the wares. You had to walk up to the counter, perhaps wait until other people were finished listening to whatever they were checking out, hand the LP over to a sales person and wait for it to be placed on the record player. It would be ceremoniously slid out of an inner sleeve, placed on the platter, cleaned and … played.
Although there have certainly been a million more important memories since then, for some reason I remember that the shop had four Thorens record players and, most importantly to this fan of the company, KOSS headphones to isolate the listener’s preferences from the rest of the customers.
So, on the first of two LPs went and on came “Just What the Doctor Ordered.”
To be quite honest, the first 47 seconds of band wanking almost made me take off the headphones and give this double-LP a pass, especially because upon first listen I could already tell that the sound quality wasn’t the hottest (to say the least), but for some reason or another I sat it out.
And then came the singer’s drawn-out “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh baby, oh baby …”, the crowd erupting into thunderous applause … and … I was hooked.
The sound was still crappy, but that wall of energy just hit me square between the ears. Although the rest of the family was (probably) beginning to get seriously impatient, I squeezed another few minutes out of them by varying my face expression from annoyed to insistent, and after that opening tune and the second serious smoker, “Yank Me, Crank Me … But Don’t Wake Up and Thank Me” (yes, Ted Nugent has always been a true poet of rock), I decided that I had to get that double-LP.
On the last day of those holidays in Switzerland I had to virtually run to that record shop to pick up the LP – which was thankfully still there – and run home in order not to be left behind, and all throughout the return journey for another day and night, I was looking forward to hearing the rest of the recording. See, I had never had the chance to hear the other 9 tracks.
So, when we finally got back to DK I ran up to my room, as was customary, fired up my stereo and proceeded to blast all four sides of “Double Live Gonzo! across the entire neighborhood. I can’t recall if I was reprimanded for not helping carry in suitcases, unpacking, and coming late to lunch, but I listened to all the tracks once, a few of them at least twice and despite the continuing shitty sound on my own stereo, the weird pinkish/reddish flip-cover with Ted Nugent holding his head went up on my wall with a lot of other record covers and stayed on or near my stereo … until I got rid of any record player at my place 10 years later.
I think I’ve said it several times before. The sound on that LP sucked, any CD version thereafter sucked and any future release will also suck. I don’t think that remastering engineers of the highest acclaim can get any more out of that comparatively bland sound soup (it’s lacking that punch needed for a recording like that), but with Nugent that isn’t really called for either. This is neither audiophile music nor will it ever be a hit with more analytically inclined people around the globe. I would even go as far as saying that you absolutely have to automatically reduce your IQ points by 50 percent if you want to really enjoy this stuff, and you should only play this LP to that crowd that still has its jeans jackets with band patches stowed away in a secure location. You know, the people who like to get down and boogie.
Hell, today I can’t really explain why I love that LP aside from having all those memories attached and being a person who occasionally experiences serious relapses into a youth long gone.
Whenever I put that double-LP on, which I still do frequently today, I can still smell that summer of ’78.
And with that smell come a myriad of memories and emotions.
Isn’t that what music is all about?
Nugent, Ted. “Double Live Gonzo!”. Epic Records, 1978. (Remastered Edition, 2006)
Producers: Ric Browde, Lew Futterman and Tom Werman
Engineers: Don Puluse and Tim Geelan
Photography: David Gahr
Lettering: Gerard Huerta
Design: John Berg
Digital Remastering: Mark Wilder
Derek St. Holmes – Guitar, Vocals
Ted Nugent – Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
Rob Grange – Bass
Cliff Davies – Drums, Vocals
01. “Just What The Doctor Ordered” – 5:26
02. “Yank Me, Crank Me” – 4:29
03. “Gonzo” – 4:00
04. “Baby Please Don’t Go” – 5:55
05. “Great White Buffalo” – 6:21
06. “Hibernation” – 16:55
07. “Stormtroopin'” – 8:43
08. “Stranglehold” – 11:11
09. “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” – 6:19
10. “Cat Scratch Fever” – 4:50
11. “Motor City Madhouse” – 10:35