Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Track of the Week: Ted Nugent, "Stranglehold"
I was shocked and surprised as anyone else over Ted Nugent being invited to the State of the Union address. I wasn't at all surprised that it was a Texas Republican who invited him, since Texas Republicans are so brazen that they will go out of their way to bring a man to hear the president speak who has threatened his life on multiple occasions. As much as the "you lie" travesty, it represented to me the complete lack of respect for the president to the point of insane hatred common on the hard Right.
Then I got to thinking. When did Ted Nugent go from being a hard rock guitar hero to a Right-wing whack job? I had no inkling of the man's politics when I was first exposed to him through the Damn Yankees power-ballad "High Enough." In the video, the long-haired Nuge played the guitar-god to the hilt (Patton Oswalt has hilarious commentary on this) and his searing solo was the only thing that kept the song from being completely mundane crap.
Soon after I got into the rock music of the 60s and 70s, and spent many a night listening to the local classic rock station, where I was exposed to Nugent chestnuts like "Cat Scratch Fever." I always thought he was third tier at best, making the kind of unsubtle, riff-heavy cock rock that Bad Company at least managed to pull off with some panache. (And I thought they still sucked.) However, I made an exception for "Stranglehold," whose first three minutes are a kind of Platonic form of a genre I call Trans-Am Rock. There's the churning bass line, crackling drums, and inescapable riff that hold things together until the second half of the song becomes the type of overdone, overindulgent Edgar Winter-style jam that Spinal Tap was created to parody.
The more I think about it, this song actually gives us some clues regarding Nugent's future as a conservative fanatic. The "stranglehold" of the title might be metaphorical, but it sounds like the boastful abuse of a woman. I was curious about his personal life, and found out that he has openly admitted to having sex with underage groupies. I find it curious that this fact hasn't had more airplay, considering Nugent's prominent position on the Right. Then again, if the abuse scandal in the church taught us anything, it's that this crowd will rend their garments over the "holocaust" of fetuses, but turn a blind eye to sexual abusers of living, breathing children.
Other telling contributions abound. "Stranglehold" sounds to me like the perfect accompaniment for drifting off into a weed-smoke filled haze, which I am sure many a young man did to this song back in the mid-1970s when it was released. Despite this fact, Nugent is vocally anti-drugs and anti-drinking. I take this as another confirmation of my steadfast policy never to trust a teetotaler. A man who doesn't drink but diddles teenagers has got some issues. And yet he still has an audience, and the audacity to threaten the president, then show up at the State of the Union, which is why I can't enjoy this song anymore, despite the hardcore rocking.